To what extent should humans use animals? Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/Gulf News

Last week, the UAE federal government announced that it is set to pass new measures on animal welfare on farms and in the wild. While animal welfare is essential, there is still the big question: Is it right for humans to use animals for our needs and wants? If so, where do we draw the line? How can we improve? Readers debate.

Expense
Consumers must be willing to pay price for compassion

There are many stories on either side of the right or wrong line regarding the human-animal interaction. I do not think it is wrong to use animals to human advantage, for example, to eat. To slaughter animals just for the sake of beautification is for me unacceptable. However, I have no issue with use of animal by-products in fashion or other usage, when animals are already used for food production. However, I do believe that if we keep animals in captivity for later consumption, we should ensure that during this period they are held in a more responsible and caring way, even if it means their products will sell at a much higher price. It cannot be that the egg we eat today, still costs the same as in the 1960s. This means that we forego the fact that prices have increased at the expense of animal wellbeing to keep our consumption cost low and the industry thriving. Unfortunately, the consumer forgets that they are the ones that can influence this process most effectively. Governments apply strict environmental rules to farms which require investments made by farmers, but markets do not allow price increases, which means the animal ends up being the victim. This example is just a small pick out of an enormous sea of sorrows on animal wellbeing, which needs addressing. It is up to us, humans, to make the change.

From Dr. Ellen Kruijning
Veterinarian, based in Dubai

Choices
Explore cruelty-free alternatives

Although I’m still an omnivore, I’ve been increasingly inspired by the positive effects veganism has on our planet and health. The transition to a more plant-based diet can certainly seem daunting at first, but I think it’s important to just take it one step at a time. I suggest finding a few, easily achievable ways to decrease your animal consumption and just go from there.

As a nurse, it is important for me to be an advocate for health and that’s why I started exploring healthier choices. I discovered there are plant-based versions of most animal products like milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, honey and even meat!

Seeking out cruelty-free cosmetics and fashion accessories is also another easy way to make more compassionate choices. I’ve also never been a big fan of circuses, zoos, aquariums, elephant rides, or anything that exploits animals merely for our entertainment. Trophy hunting is also an issue that I think most omnivores and vegans can agree is unnecessary and detrimental to our environment. Driving some of these wonderful creatures to extinction will disturb the balance in our ecosystem in irreparable ways. And as a traveler, I’ve learned the value in respecting nature and being thankful for how it gives back to us unconditionally.

If we want to say we care about future generations, we need to start by being better stewards of our planet and the sentient beings that inhabit it. We need to be willing to continually educate ourselves on how modern-day animal agriculture exploits our environment, innocent animals and even our own well-being. In the end, we’re faced with the choice of being selfish or selfless. Change isn’t always the most convenient or comfortable choice, but sometimes breaking from tradition is necessary for us to evolve.

From Ms Ross Santos
Nurse, based in Abu Dhabi

Sentience
Animals have feelings like humans do

Animals deserve respect just like human beings. They don’t exist to be tortured and slaughtered for food and fashion. Understandably, not everybody can convert to veganism. But that doesn’t mean our minds shouldn’t be open to it. Over 56 billion farmed animals are slaughtered each year just for human consumption, which is alarming. This is only bound to get worse as the global population is rapidly increasing. Currently, there are limited options in a vegan diet, so it does not appeal to most people. However, with more research, we can develop more alternatives to meat and becoming a vegan will become a gradual transition.

In the meantime, instead of choosing the cheapest products, we must check for food labels that say ‘Certified Humane’, or ‘Animal Welfare Approved’. These labels indicate that the animals did not suffer for prolonged periods up until the slaughter. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) regularly updates a list of companies that don’t torture animals and we should boycott the brands that aren’t on that list.

When it comes to fashion, it is unfair that a poor animal had to be skinned to death just so a person can appear ‘trendy’ for a short time. Animals have feelings and emotions, they feel pain like humans do. If you hurt them, they will cry just as we would. Only difference is they don’t get a consent form to sign when it comes to being tested on for make-up, etc. They already have a shorter lifespan than us, and we do not need to make it unbearable for them. The food chain is not a hierarchical pyramid it is an ecosystem with all of us cohabitating together on this planet. Human beings aren’t superior. It is ignorant to think that animals aren’t sentient.

From Ms Shipra Roma
Graduate student, based in Dubai

Consumption
Animals can be used for food within a safe and humane framework

When it comes to using animals for food, we must ensure the health of the animals first, to guarantee that they are safe to consume or use for medicine to improve human health. That means we sustain the animals’ well-being for people’s well-being, making it a win-win for both.

Let’s assume that humans were to stop consuming animals, and our dining tables will consist of vegetables, cereals, and fruits. What happens to countries like India, Brazil, and China? India leads the world’s cattle inventory by 33 per cent, followed by Brazil at 22 per cent, and China 10 per cent. What will happen to these animals if we stop production of meat? What strategy is in place to ensure health and shelter to increasing volumes of livestock, if not eaten? What about food for the animals? What disaster management plan do these countries have for animal epidemics? Halting meat consumption would prove to be too drastic of an approach that will not only make survival difficult for the underprivileged, but will also create an imbalance in our ecological demography.

Alternatively, it is scientifically proven that humans derive high levels of nutrition from healthy livestock such as cows, chicken, and lamb. Example, 26 per cent of beef contains proteins, which is the building block of the human body. Meat provides other vitals like vitamins, potassium and magnesium. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to use healthy animals to improve the health of humans than to lose both?

To all those vegetarians, a number of studies have proven that plants too have life and feel pain. They’re often eaten while they are still alive. How about plant rights? If meat-eating is socially unacceptable, how does one justify using milk from the animal? Isn’t that abuse?

I condemn animal slaughter for fashion, which is purely a luxury for the wealthy and does no ethical or social good. I also condemn slavery of animal for mere entertainment. However, when it comes to human consumption, animals can be used within a safe and humane framework.

From Ms Taqleed Sayyed
Senior HR professional, based in Dubai