As an avid lover of animals and nature, animal rights is the issue I am most passionate about. From a young age I have always believed animals have as much a right, if not more of a right, on the planet as humans do. Animals—domestic, wild, common, exotic—are companions to humans and to the earth. To humans, they provide comfort and entertainment in the form of furry or feathery creatures with unconditional love for their caretakers regardless of how their humans may treat them. To the planet, they provide structure, natural processes, and resources that help maintain a balance and work for the sustainability of the earth.
In recent news, the upcoming film “A Dog’s Purpose” tells the tale of a dog that is repeatedly reincarnated in the form of different breeds of dogs as he tries to learn the true purpose of a dog. At a glance, the movie is pure appreciation for the hard work animals, specifically dogs, do for their companions. Their loyalty is unmatched and they feel a sense of purpose as long as their humans are happy. However, the problem arises in the production of the movie; a video has been leaked the film crew and a trainer forcing an obviously terrified German Shepherd into turbulent water for a single scene in the movie. The video was met with outrage, appropriately so, because it contradicts the meaning behind the movie: dogs are to be cherished, protected and loved, because they cherish, protect, and love their owners. As people defend the production studio, saying the dog is trained for those stunts and the trainer is comforting the dog as he is pushed into the water, it cannot be forgotten that animals are not props and should not be put in potentially life-ending situations in which they have little to no way to oppose or rebel.
On a larger scale, animals vital to the balanced system of the planet and its resources. Though extinction is natural and happens at the pace designated by the adaptable characteristics of each species, humans are accelerating the rate at which species mainly by excessively hunting for luxuries, sport, or out of fear. A prime example is the hunting of sharks for their fins. Mainly in South Asian countries, sharks are brought onto shore or onto hunting boats where their fins are chopped off and their bleeding, still-living bodies are tossed back into the ocean to fend for themselves for as long as they can. Though this is a problem for the sharks themselves, it is a problem for the environment as well. Sharks are a major population control in the ocean; eating fish smaller than them and ensuring they don’t overpopulate and suffocate other species. Without sharks, several fish species below them in the feeding system will overpopulate and deplete the sources available to them, many of which are the smaller species and resources human use as well.
A beautiful example of helping and protecting example is Eduardo Serio, the man who left his “normal” life behind to build a wildlife protection foundation dedicated to rescuing and caring for wild cats of all kinds. In October 2013, Eduardo, now known affectionately as Eddie and Papa Bear by his faithful followers, received a life-changing phone call. His cousin, an animal expert with 25 years of experience, called him and informed of a pet store trying to buy a baby black jaguar in order to drug it and make it pose for paid photographs with customers. Eddie rushed to the jaguar’s rescue and named her Cielo (sometimes called Cielis); this was the beginning of the Black Jaguar-White Tiger foundation in Mexico. Over the past 3 years, Eddie and his team, composed of trusted family members, friends, and the occasional celebrities with what he deems kind souls and pure hearts, have rescued over 300 felines–lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, lynxes, leopards–from circuses, zoos, pet stores, and households who thought an “exotic pet” would be a good idea. Each new soul is christened with a name that holds meaning to Eddie and becomes part of acres of open land they are able to call their home. Despite the affection Eddie and his team show the animals, and the affection the animals show them in return, they emphasize that the felines are not pets and should be treated with the respect they have earned in the wild. Eddie has repeatedly refused to breed the felines, sell them, stay quiet when people say they want one as a pet, or partake in any activity that diminishes their natural worth and strength.
Animal rights are about more than protecting our pets and allowing them into more public places or keeping them from being locked in cars. It is more than protecting and rescuing the animals trapped and abused in zoos or circuses. It is more than protecting animals from laboratory testing. It is more than protecting animals from extinction with hunting restrictions. Animal rights is the overall umbrella for protecting the planet we live in. Without animals, humans are left without companions, without resources, without a natural balance in the system, and all these changes can lead to the destruction of the human race.