Animals don’t want to be artists. However they are often enslaved to entertain Men be it in water parks, circuses or bullfights. The abuse is obviously concealed from the spectators, nevertheless it’s still there, since it’s the only way to get the animals to do what we want them to.
In circuses animal cruelty is everywhere. They’re crammed inside dark rooms and cages, perform in loud, over the top and overwhelming shows, and endure violent training and have difficulty forming any kind of relationship with the other animals. Their training has to be violent since the blows are meant to be more painful than the trick itself.
In most circuses, the conditions that the animals live in don’t abide by the law: In the Muller circus, Jumbo the hippopotamus has spent the last 30 years deprived of water that would normally be his natural habitat. Jumbo is isolated and locked in the dark except for 30 mins a day when he is allowed out. For Vladimir Deriabkine, a retired bear trainer “cruelty starts with the trainer”.
28 countries have already banned circuses with wild animals, such as Belgium, Danemark, India and Peru.
A 2019 IFOP survey shows that 67% of the french population would also like to see this ban in place in France, and since november 2019, Paris no longer allows shows with wild animals. Since 2010, Bolivia has banned all circuses from having any kind of animal, whereas in France the subject of domestic animals in circuses is a delicate one, why would they abolish the torture of animals but not their murder, all because we like the taste of steak too much.
Tradition shouldn’t be an excuse for cruelty, and neither should the trainer’s supposed love for the animals excuse their barbaric methods: can we really call it love if one beats and withholds food from the other who is forced to obey. Abused animals aren’t happy and their health, physical and mental,is in danger, some end up going insane which can lead to self harm for most primates.
However there are alternatives : the german circus Roncalli is the first to offer animal holograms which has put an end to some animal cruelty. They are also the first circus to remove all single use plastic and offer vegetarian and vegan meal plans.
But on the other hand there are water parks like Marineland that are overly violent towards their animals: The killer whales live in captivity in a tiny space that fails in comparison to their natural habitat. A family of killer whales can travel for miles in a single day yet they are confined in small tanks. There is also an astonishing amount of chlorine in the water that could potentially be lethal, but without it visitors wouldn’t be able to see inside the tanks, even though the product burns and causes the whale’s skin to peel off. Here again the training is based on depriving the killer whales of food so that they become docile and accept to do things they wouldn’t usually do. After a while these intelligent animals start to lose their minds due to the shows but also due to the total lack of space and complete boredom.
The only place where animal cruelty isn’t hidden is in bullfights. People have been opposed to bull fights for a while now but most of the concern was for the matador and not for the bull.
However in light of this barbaric display of animal cruelty, a new slogan has been making it’s way around Spain which is “tortura no es cultura”.
In Europe between 1950 and 2003 only one matador died compared to 41 500 tauruses, which wouldn’t be the case if the tauruses hadn’t been starved, parched and disoriented because of the vaseline used on their eyes to stop them from seeing clearly. This cruel massacre has nevertheless been a part of France’s cultural heritage since 2011, and as for the three european countries that allow bull fights public funding has collected an estimate of 500 million euros for these fights.
There is only one reason all this brutality is made acceptable: speciesism. This principle relies on a hierarchy between different species where the human race is often seen as superior and can therefore legitimately dominate all the others.
The only philosophical ideal that defends animal rights is antispecism, which is the idea that all species are equal.
In the face of humanity’s remarkable impunity toward animal cruelty, religion is one of the first things to blame : “ Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” ( Genesis 1.26 written by Man).
The Judeo-Christian-Muslim world has established that mankind shall dominate over all other creature, whereas Buddhists believe that all animals are sensitive creatures and are just as important as mankind.
Animals are seen as ressources to be exploited, their worth only determined by how useful they are to us: If they are entertaining enough, maybe they’ll live.
All these monotheistic religions have only legitimized the already existing and overwhelming dominance of mankind over all other species. Mankind being at the top of the hierarchy has allowed us to grant ourselves superiority over all living things indefinitely.
Rousseau was one of the first to question this “ domination of the fittest” in The Social Contract. Being the strongest doesn’t entitle us to special treatment, it’s not a “right” as he put it, especially since the dominated don’t have a choice in the matter. “Giving way to force is something you have to do,not something you choose to do; or if you insist that choice comes into it·, it is at most an act of prudence. In what sense can it be a duty?”
Moreover, strength can never be a right, because what kind of right disappears when we cease to be the strongest. This right is superficial, it can never guarantee superiority, the strong impose their dominance on the weak and are dethroned when they encounter someone stronger than them. In reality strength is its own right.
But, because Mankind exploits innocent animals there is a need to feel legitimate hence the odd legal status that qualifies animals as being something between objects and people.
Nevertheless it is a difficult task to make cruelty – that everyone can clearly live without- just.
Furthermore our decency- be it consequentialist ( only concerned with the final results) or ethical ( questions our duties towards others)- should protect animal rights.
First of all we have Kantiens, who are against any kind of animal cruelty because anyone capable of harming animals could also be capable of hurting people, “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals”.
There is also the American psychologist Kenneth Shapiro who proved that animal abusers are more likely to commit domestic abuse, be cruel to children and just be quite abusive in general.
For Kantiens defending animal rights is also a way to defend human rights, but it’s also a way to keep a feeling of human decency. “ Our duties towards animals are also our indirect duties to humanity”.
Secondly, utilitarians believe that a morally just action is one that spreads the most happiness. Animals feel pain and pleasure just as we do, and because of all the animal cruelty the amount of pain is far superior to the amount of pleasure people get out of all these shows. “The day may come when the rest of animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” ( Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1789)
Animal cruelty has never been art and it never will be. Instead let’s make art about people and stop considering mankind as some sort of God.
« Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Sexists violate the principle of equality by favoring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is identical in each case. Most » (Peter Singer, Animal Liberation 1975)