While there is much depressing news regarding animals to talk about, a dead tiger cub being found in a driveway perhaps one of the most heart-breaking, but it is, thankfully, not all doom and gloom. Two encouraging stories that I’ve come across are CITES committing to provide greater protection to rhinos and elephants as well as extending protection to sharks and the EU banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, regardless of where the testing took place.
On a slightly more subdued note, though, it seems that some in South Africa would like to legalise trade in rhino horns. The thinking is that the rhino can drugged, have horns harvested and then sold, both saving the animals and breaking up the criminal gangs that run the smuggling roots. It seems similar to decriminalising drugs, a policy which I do support, but I think there are some notable differences.
I’m not sure whether removing the horns would have any biological effect or not but my problem with the proposal is the message it sends out. When I say I support legalising drug use/trade I say that because I believe that should be the choice of the individual and only if those choices are harmful to others that we should restrict it. Legalising rhino horn might help save more rhino but I do not want to see them turned into farm animals to placate some people’s delusions about their magical properties. If removing the horns is viable then I would suggest that we do so but still don’t allow trade in rhino horns, that will still protect the rhino. With the rhino safe we can then worry about educating the consumers of rhino horn to the end that they can live wild and horny once again.
Trading in rhino horn, even with the intention of helping them, has the nasty side-effect of normalising that sort of action. I would say that those thoughts, were we can own and use animals, are ones that we need to start to look at closely and see where we can move away from that attitude. We share the planet with other animals, not own the planet and other animals.
So my answer to the question put by The Point, “What are animals for?” is: animals are not for us to use, however “humanely.”
For the curious, the quoted sentence above comes from On Killing Animals by Gary Francione. It is one of several essays published in The Point addressing the question, “What are animals for?” Admittedly I have only read two of them but I would suggest reading at least one as a trigger to help you think harder about what you believe, why you believe it and where you would like the world to go.