Treating Animals Ethically

Penguins, perhaps my favorite part of my visit to Sea World with my family when I was on vacation this month. It is difficult to explain what it is about these creatures that I find so interesting. Some fun facts: they cannot fly and they are located in the South Pole, mostly Antarctica, not the North Pole.

I like how they waddle. There were cameras under the water allowing you can watch the penguins swimming in the water. The exhibit was nice and it was also very cold, a great break from the hot temperature outside. I find the arctic ecosystem to be fascinating and perhaps I might visit the real Antarctica someday. Maybe.

Of course, there were sharks, and I had to see them. They aren’t so scary behind the glass!

The killer whales are incredible creatures. Yes, you can teach them neat tricks, but didn’t care as much about the tricks as I did watching them swim with such grace and fluidity. Ironically, when we returned from Sea World, the South Park episode about the boys freeing a killer-wale and sending him to the moon was on.

While at Sea World, I was reminded about the controversies that the park has had in the past. There are those that believe that zoos and attractions like Sea World are too confining and that animals are better off in their natural habitat. There was a wonderful episode of the Twilight Zone *spoiler alert* that was about some Earth astronauts who landed on a planet, I forget which one, but it might have been Mars. The survivor ends up in a zoo for Earthlings *end spoiler alert.* I thought about what it would be like being in a zoo. I’m not sure I would enjoy it, though it would still be better then being in a prison. Yet, though my habitat would be simulated, I would have a false sense of freedom. I couldn’t leave or do everything I want.

I am not necessarily a fanatic when it comes to animal rights, though I do think we have a responsibility as humans to respect our fellow creatures. Even though we are highly evolved life forms, we are still animals ourselves, and we share similar DNA to many different species (specifically apes, which our DNA are a 98% match). Other creature share commonality with us. For example, rodent brains are very similar to human brains. Therefore, there is some validity to asking whether animals should have more rights then they do now.

I should note that there are many organizations that have ethical standards when it comes to animals. Animal research generally must pass a review board process much like any other project that seeks to test on living beings. Corporations can likely get around this, since they have lots of money. But, credible studies will have had to take into account ethical treatment of animals. While ethical standards will vary, a true scientist respects the participants of a study whether they be animal or man.

The Native American had it right. They respected nature and only killed what they needed for survival. I think that’s a good perspective. I won’t go around telling people to stop eating meat, because it’s wrong to eat animals. I stopped because I felt that cows and chickens are being treated unethically by the major food industries. It also seemed to be natural evolution for me. Frankly meat isn’t that tasty when compared fruits or veggies, in my opinion.

Hopefully what we can agree on is that animals do have a right to life and that conservation is necessary in order to keep the balance of nature. This shouldn’t be a political issue, but a moral issue.

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