But progress for animals is not achieved with “rings of power”
BOSTON, Massachusetts––Any resemblance between mild-mannered World Federation for Animals founder Wim DeKok, a longtime exemplar of peaceful cooperation, and Sauron, the vengeful Satanic wizard of the Lord of the Rings trilogy authored by J.R.R. Tolkien, would be difficult to discover.
Yet there is a parallel.
The fictional Sauron sought to unite the holders of three rings of power given to elves, seven rings of power given to dwarves, and nine rings of power given to men, nineteen in all, shared among the species, with “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.”
Intent is to shed light
The World Federation for Animals, debuting on February 7, 2021 with nineteen influential members, after more than a year of Facebook existence, has no intent to bind anyone in darkness.
Quite the opposite, the goal DeKok has worked for through helping to coordinate more than a dozen international pro-animal coalitions since 1978 has consistently been to shed light on the many ways in which non-human species are bound in darkness.
Collaborative efforts leading to global legislation on behalf of animals are the way forward, DeKok has always believed, and hardly alone.
No “Holy Grail” has eluded more animal advocates for longer than the notion that the endlessly diverse array of hopes, dreams, philosophies, religious teachings, and personal motives driving animal rights, welfare, aid and rescue campaigns might somehow be brought together as a unified political force.
This, many and perhaps most animal advocates fervently wish, could move the whole world away from animal exploitation and cruelty, by simply making avoidable harm to animals illegal.
Eluding most of those wishing for “movement unity” toward this end is the reality that accomplishing anything through politics, rather than through voluntary cultural change, tends only to codify the status quo, at the lowest common denominator.
Any standard set higher than whatever most people already do will not be met by the 95%-plus of the public that is necessary to successfully identify, isolate, and respond to deliberate scofflaws.
Creating a governing structure, meanwhile, that effectively codifies the status quo amounts to erecting an institutional barrier to making further progress.
Eurogroup as precedent
Along with DeKok, whose online World Animal Net directory has for 23 years now facilitated communication among animal advocates worldwide, the World Federation for Animals steering committee includes Britta Riis, acting chair of Animal Protection Denmark, and Reineke Hameleers, chief executive of Eurogroup for Animals.
Founded in 1980, Eurogroup for Animals represents animal protection organizations in 26 of the 27 European Union member states in lobbying at the European Union headquarters in Brussels.
Probably the most successful of the many models for the World Federation for Animals, Eurogroup for Animals has won passage of much pro-animal European Union legislation. Most of that legislation, however, is unevenly enforced, if at all, weakened by many national exemptions claimed for both cultural and economic reasons.
Veg marketers more valuable
Any number of vegan and vegetarian marketers have accomplished more of practical value to animals than Eurogroup, simply because a successful marketer can induce far more people to make voluntary lifestyle changes than a lawmaker can compel to change against their will.
People choosing to change their shopping habits do so immediately; others catch up as tastes, styles, social norms, and prices gradually follow market interest.
Eurogroup is not useless, but it is at best engaged in updating laws to conform to what most Europeans already favor.
Of note, meanwhile, is that DeKok, originally from the Netherlands; Hamleers, also from the Netherlands; and Riis, from Denmark, culturally represent a region about the size of Maine, with a mostly shared language and culture, including about three million more human residents than Florida but three million fewer than Texas.
Despite their long personal involvement in international affairs, DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis scarcely represent among them more than a fraction of the leading global pro-animal perspectives, let alone any minority positions.
“For many years a true global representation for animals that binds all animal protection organizations together has not existed,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis lamented in their February 7, 2021 self-introduction.
“The reality at the United Nations,” where World Animal Net has been almost alone among animal advocacy organizations in holding what is called ‘consultative status,’ “shows not much attention is paid to animal welfare.
“That will change in this month,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis promised, “when the World Federation for Animals is introduced at meetings of the 5th United Nations Environmental Assembly,” an online event, “moderated from Nairobi, Kenya.”
The 19 dwarves, elves, & men
The 19 founding World Federation for Animals members include:
- The Africa Network for Animal Welfare, headquartered in Kenya;
- The Philadelphia-based American Anti-Vivisection Society, the second oldest institution represented, founded in 1883;
- Animal Protection Denmark;
- Animals Australia International;
- Asia for Animals, headquartered in Hong Kong with major projects in China and Vietnam;
- The Brooks Institute, an obscure Colorado-based “think tank” comprised of lawyers and academics;
- Compassion in World Farming, headquartered in Britain;
- Cruelty Free International, formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection;
- Deutscher Tierschutzbund of Germany;
- Djurens Ratt, of Sweden;
- Eurogroup for Animals;
- The Fondation Birgitte Bardot, of France;
- Vier Pfoten, or Four Paws, headquartered in Austria with major projects in South Africa; • GAIA, of Belgium;
- Mercy for Animals, headquartered in the U.S.;
- The Royal SPCA of Great Britain, founded in 1824;
- World Animal Net;
- World Animal Protection, formerly the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The World Society for the Protection of Animals initially claimed a mission similar to that of the World Federation for Animals, but is now just another British-based advocacy group.
- World Horse Welfare, also of Britain.
Only one member organization not headed by a honky
“We now invite other organizations across the globe to join and share our common goals,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis said.
No doubt others will join; but for now, the World Federation for Animals legitimately represents leading organizations in just 13 of the 193 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations, entirely omitting India, the Islamic world, the former Iron Curtain nations, most of Asia and Africa, and the whole of Latin America.
Only one of the 19 World Federation for Animals member organizations is not headed by a Caucasian of western European ancestry.
“The World Federation for Animals will take the place of World Animal Net [at the United Nations] and will be a democratic organization with its membership consisting of animal protection organizations from around the world,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis said.
“Our vision is a world in which animal sentience is respected and all animals live a good life, with their well-being protected. We will deliver on this vision by anchoring animal protection in the global discourse,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis said, as if the past 200 years of increasingly vigorous animal advocacy worldwide had not already done so, albeit with varied success from region to region.
“In its work,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis specified, “the World Federation for Animals will focus on global institutions like the United Nations and its Conventions, that affect the welfare of billions of animals.
“We do not aim to replace the work of other organizations or coalitions,” DeKok, Hamleers, and Riis specified, “but rather to reinforce it through cooperation, exchange, and a global approach. We will be focusing our efforts on filling the existing gaps in international policy advocacy.”
The Animals’ Manifesto
If any of this sounds familiar, it should.
The World Federation for Animals is the latest of a succession of entities that for more than a century have each tried to do essentially the same thing.
Such efforts have usually focused on somehow winning global acceptance of a statement of principles, the details of which soon become bogged down in endless debate.
The World Federation for Animals statement of principles appears to be The Animals’ Manifesto, a 40-page document published online in mid-2020 with the opportunistic subtitle “Preventing COVID-X.”
The Animals’ Manifesto opens with a preface by primate anthropologist Jane Goodall, whose own organizations’ records on animal rights and welfare are not nearly as positive as most of her followers imagine.
The “Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare”
Despite the many evident differences, The Animals’ Manifesto appears to have evolved from the most recent edition of the “Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare.”
Long promoted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Wim DeKok’s employer from 1987 to 1995, the “Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare”––like the World Society for the Protection of Animals itself––all but vanished from view soon after winning ratification from the 169-nation World Organization for Animal Health (Office International des Epizooties) on May 25, 2007.
The World Organization for Animal Health endorsement was, at the time, presented by “Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare” boosters as a major step toward winning United Nations approval.
In reality, “the Universal Declaration,” in an earlier format, was probably just as close to ratification more than half a century earlier––and that was not really very close at all.
1952 “Charter of Rights for Animals”
Editorially favoring hunting, trapping, fishing, ranching, logging, rodeo, and animal use in biomedical research, the Spokane Spokesman-Review has probably never been mistaken for an exponent of animal rights.
Yet on September 15, 1952 the Spokesman-Review became perhaps the first and only daily newspaper in the U.S. to editorially endorse “A Charter of Rights for Animals,” drafted by the original World Federation for the Protection of Animals, a distant and indirect ancestor of the World Federation for Animals of today.
The World Federation for the Protection of Animals, founded in 1950, was the oldest of the three organizations whose mergers eventually produced the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
The Dutch-based World Federation for the Protection of Animals then represented humane societies in 25 countries, the Spokesman-Review editors noted. This was nearly twice as many nations and organizations as are currently represented by the World Federation for Animals.
“Most civilized countries already have laws”
“Most civilized countries already have laws to cover most of the protection for animals that the federation asks,” the Spokesman-Review continued.
“Beating animals, forcing them to do work beyond their strength, transporting them in a manner to cause pain or without adequate food, all are punishable now in the U.S., for example,” recounted the Spokesman-Review, justly proud of the progress that humane laws represented.
“Some others of the articles [sought by the World Federation] would prove rather difficult to enforce, the Spokesman-Review continued. “They ask, for instance, that offenders be deprived of the right to own animals, and ask laws against forcible feeding for monetary gain and against using dogs, sheep, or goats for draft purposes.
“Although the ‘animal rights’ charter provides no ban on vivisection or cropping of ears or tails, it suggests limitation of these practices by requiring that they be performed only with government permission, by licensed veterinarians and for medical reasons,” the Spokesman-Review added.
1952 charter would have protected fish
“On the other hand, the charter goes beyond what most friends of the animal world would consider necessary, with an article protecting the feelings, if any, of fishes,” the Spokesman-Review said. “It would ban the ‘carrying of live fish with hooks and displaying live fish or crustacia in restaurant show windows.’”
Most of these issues are still controversial, to the extent that most major animal advocacy organizations ignore some of them entirely, and some ignore all of them. There is no longer any visible controversy over “using dogs, sheep, or goats for draft purposes,” meanwhile, simply because these once common uses of animals have fallen into obsolescence.
The “Charter of Rights for Animals” that attracted the interest of the Spokesman-Review was scarcely the first such effort. Henry Salt, in Animals Rights (1905), traced efforts to define and enumerate the natural rights of animals back to The Rights of Beasts, a 1796 essay by John Lawrence.
1896 version packed it into just two lines
Before the League of Nations was chartered in 1920, there was no international body to codify such exercises and present them as law, even without enforcement.
Lawrence, Salt, and others who tried to define animals’ rights before 1920 therefore sought only to draft succinct moral statements which readers might easily internalize.
This approach culminated in a two-sentence statement presented to the world in 1896 by the British-based Humanitarian League:
1) The recognition of the actual kinship of man with the lower races implies the extension of the sphere of moral duties consequent on this sense of relationship.
2) It is, therefore, iniquitous to inflict suffering, directly or indirectly, on any sentient being, except when self-defense or absolute necessity can be justly pleaded.
The League of Nations
Attempts to create a declaration of animals’ rights that might be endorsed by the League of Nations apparently began with a 9-point “Animals Charter” authored at an unknown date by Stephen Coleridge (1854-1936), longtime president of the British National Anti-Vivisection Society.
The Coleridge edition was then expanded into “An Animals Bill of Rights” by Geoffrey Hodson (1886-1983), who was president of the Council of Combined Animal Welfare Organizations of New Zealand. Hodson’s version was amplified by the American Anti-Vivisection Society, which is now part of the World Federation for Animals.
The French author Andre Géraud meanwhile produced “A Declaration of Animal Rights” in 1924, which in 1926 inspired an “International Animals Charter” drafted by Florence Barkers.
This Florence Barkers is apparently not to be confused with either the actress Florence Barker (1891-1913), Florence Barker the photographer (1911-1960), or Florence Barker the swimming medalist in the 1924 Olympic Games, though what became of both Florence Barker the swimmer and Florence Barkers the animal advocate is obscure.
First try at the United Nations
But animal advocates were no more successful in persuading the League of Nations to support rights for animals than the League of Nations was in preventing the smoldering grievances left by World War I from rekindling in World War II.
After World War II, when the United Nations military alliance formed to fight the Nazis and other Axis powers morphed into the United Nations world assembly, efforts resumed almost immediately to translate a theory of animal rights into global law.
The early participants included 13 organizations based in Britain, all long since merged into others or defunct; nine from India, mostly still existing; and two each, mostly vanished, from Sri Lanka, Germany, Austria, and Japan.
The U.S. was represented by the multinational World University Roundtable and the Western Federation of Animal Crusaders. At least two small regional descendants of the latter survived, barely, into the 21st century.
W.J. Piggott & Charles Darwin
The high rate of attrition among the groups that pushed the “Charter of Rights for Animals” these organizations favored, mentioned by the Spokane Spokesman-Review, may reflect the esoteric nature of the enterprise.
While the effort to advance the “Charter of Rights for Animals” stalled, a retired Presbyterian minister, the Reverend William .J. Piggott, marked “World Day for Animals” in 1953––yes, there was one––by publishing in India an “Appeal for the International Animals’ Charter,” apparently based on the Florence Barkers charter.
Piggott also incorporated the 1896 Humanitarian League statements as the opening lines.
Remembering that The Origin of Species author Charles Darwin was both a fellow minister and a fellow animal advocate, Piggott introduced his proposed charter of animals’ rights with an argument accepting evolution as a fact. This proposal would have failed in many U.S. state legislatures and Congress both then and now.
Piggott would have protected “pests”
Piggott in 1954 presented his appeal and a revised “International Animals Charter” to a World Congress of Animal Welfare Societies held in London.
Though the structure and wording of the charter has subsequently been amended many times, enough phrases survived to identify the Piggott version as an early draft of the later editions promoted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and by the World Federation for Animals today as the Animals’ Manifesto.
Wrote Piggott, “The full application of the following points can only be attained gradually, as man spiritualizes his mind, realizes the oneness of life in its essential process, and ascends to a truly higher civilization.
“When it is necessary to take the life of an animal (after considering possible alternatives), it must be done in the most humane way known to science and by licensed persons who have been fully trained in humane techniques. This to apply also to so-called pests.
“Animals should not be made to participate in warfare”
“Transport of animals should be made as humane as possible and in occupations where the use of animals involves suffering, unnatural conditions, and incarceration below ground [a reference to the use of ponies to pull mining carts], they should be replaced by mechanical devices.
“Cruel sports; the use of animals upon the stage, screen (except for educational purposes, the object of which is to benefit the animals) and in circuses; the cruel trapping of animals for zoos, menageries and other purposes, should be outlawed.
“Animals should not be made to participate in warfare,” Piggott stipulated, having witnessed the horrors of two world wars, “nor in those practices which set one animal to make war upon another [such as dogfighting and cockfighting]; nor should they be killed in religious sacrifices.
“Decent necessities of life”
“Vivisection and all cruel experiments, whether atomic, pharmaceutical, psychological or other should be prohibited; pain only to be inflicted for the benefit of the animal concerned, with the maximum use of anesthetics and methods of natural healing.
“Hospitals and traveling dispensaries, free for animals of the poor, should be provided in all areas, with arrangements for strays,” Piggott wrote, anticipating by decades the late 20th century and early 21st century extensions of humane outreach to vaccinate and sterilize street dogs and feral cats.
“All animals should be given the decent necessities of life,” Piggott continued, “namely, good food to maintain them in health, good living quarters and companionship, and the maximum amount of freedom practicable, animals suffering from incurable diseases and crippling old age to be humanely destroyed.
“In healthy old age,” Piggott suggested, echoing the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain teachings he had learned in India, “homes of rest could be provided, as a gesture of prepayment of the debt to the animals for their part in building up our civilization.
“The public should be instructed in the advantages to health and evolution of a more humane diet,” Piggott said, stopping just short of endorsing vegetarianism.
“Study of the life of animals and of their proper treatment should be included in the curriculum of all schools and youth organizations,” Piggott recommended. “Religious and cultural bodies should realize their responsibility for the humane education of adults and children alike.
“A Ministry of State for Animal Welfare,” Piggott continued, “ including persons of known humanitarian sympathies and carrying a record of service, should be set up in every country and kept fully alive to all matters relating to animals.”
The Animal Welfare Board of India was created in 1960 in partial acceptance of this proposal, which had been earlier voiced by Mohandas Gandhi and first Indian prime minister Jawarhalal Nehru.
To this day, however, the only national minister for animal welfare to hold cabinet rank in any nation, independent of any other role, was Maneka Gandhi of India in 1998-2003.
Included all vertebrates
Piggott saved his most radical proposal for last:
“For the purposes of this Charter the term ‘animals’ shall include all birds, mammals, fishes, and reptiles.”
The U.S. Animal Welfare Act, by comparison, covers only mammals, and at that, excludes rats and mice from protection.
“Between 1953 and 1956 a number of other preliminary charters were drawn up by the World Federation for Animal Protection Associations,” recalled Jean-Claude Nouett in a 1998 volume entitled The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights: Comments and Intentions, published by the Ligue Francaise des Droits de l’Animal.
Treaty of Rome
The most noteworthy outcome of the flurry of activity in the 1950s was that a brief acknowledgement of improving animal welfare as a goal was eventually included in the declarations supporting the 1957 Treaty of Rome.
The Treaty of Rome formed the first legal framework for the European Community.
“Activity to further the charter resurfaced,” Nouette recalled, when “In 1972 a declaration comprised of 10 clauses was published in Norway. In the same year Georges Heuses drew up a “Universal Declaration of Animal Rights” and submitted it to the United Nations Education, Scientific, & Cultural Organization [UNESCO].
“The following year the text was adopted by the National Council for the Protection of Animals [in France] which, after making a number of changes, adopted the text, distributed it, and collected two million signatures from supporters.
Egyptian Society of Animal Friends
“Contributions by different associations and changes proposed by a number of leading figures, in particular by scientists,” Nouette continued, “ultimately produced the text that was adopted at an international meeting held in London in 1977. In 1978 it was made public and presented to a packed audience in the main hall of the UNESCO House in Paris.
“The full title of this document was ‘A Universal Declaration of Animal Rights,’ adopted from the International League of Animal Rights & Affiliated National Leagues in the course of an International Meeting on Animal Rights in London, September 1977.”
Reprinted more than twenty years later by the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends, the only organization from a majority Islamic nation to push such a document, the 1977 “Universal Declaration” mingled legalistic structure with sweeping claims which either did not translate well or simply had not been thought through.
“Shortcomings became apparent”
The two-sentence Humanitarian League declaration of 1896 became a five-sentence formal preamble.
Wrote Nouette, “As the years went by, a number of shortcomings became apparent and modifications were made.”
The International League of Animal Rights & Affiliated National Leagues in October 1989 at last ratified a draft for submission to UNESCO in 1990.
Nouette proudly noted that the 1989 “Universal Declaration” was “not written in a solely protectionist perspective, but endeavors to offer man a new moral stance based on respect for life as a cosmic phenomenon.”
As such, it went well beyond the scope of existing international regulation, and went nowhere, despite the efforts of the Ligue Francaise des Droits de l Animal to incorporate it or at least some of it into the Treaty of Rome.
Animals recognized as “sentient beings”
The Treaty of Rome member nations ratified an updated version of the treaty in October 1997, which took effect in May 1999.
Through the efforts of Eurogroup, the updated treaty did include a rather windy “Protocol on Animal Welfare.’
Eurogroup celebrated that the Protocol created “clear legal obligations to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals and, for the first time, refers to them as sentient beings.”
However, Eurogroup acknowledged, “Animal welfare-related legislation by the European Union must [still] be based on other specific objectives of EU policy, such as the common agricultural policy, the internal market, and the environment.”
Expanded definition of “animal”
The World Society for the Protection of Animals thereupon dusted off the “Universal Declaration,” retitled it to dispose of any association with animal rights activism, and in June 2000 presented an extensive redraft to the membership.
A new preamble replaced the former direct reference to evolution with an indirect reference to the Gaia concept that earth itself functions as one living entity.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals also expanded the definition of “animal” to include “any non-human mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish or invertebrate capable of feeling pain or distress.”
The June 2000 World Society for the Protection of Animals declaration was the first to pay explicit attention to factory farming.
“Animals raised under the control of humans or taken into captivity by humans should be afforded the provisions of the basic Five Freedoms,” the World Society for the Protection of Animals “Universal Declaration” stated, incorporating a concept first voiced in 1967 by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
The “Five Freedoms”
This committee was formed by the British government in response to the 1964 book Animal Machines, by Ruth Harrison.
The Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee became the present Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979. It outlined the “Five Freedoms” in present form in 1993:
• Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
• Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
• Freedom from pain, injury and disease: by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
t• Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
•Freedom to express normal behavior: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of animals own kind.
Closest approach yet
The Five Freedoms have become by default the closest approach yet to a working charter of animal rights.
Though not codified into international law as such, the Five Freedoms are the foundation concept behind the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Animals During International Transport (1968), Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes (1976), and Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter (1979).
Portions of these conventions have been enacted in binding form by the European Union.
Also reinforced by EU legislation is the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals Used for Experimentation and other Scientific Purposes (1986).
Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals
Yet to be fully ratified and reinforced by law, either nationally or internationally, is the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals (1987).
Unlike the 25-nation European Union, the 45-nation Council of Europe does not have the authority to adopt binding legislation, but it does represent the agreement in principle of the members that the topics addressed by the conventions it adopts should be internationally regulated.
Clearly inspired by Piggott and predecessors, the Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals opens by stating that, “Man has a moral obligation to respect all living creatures.”
It continues with provisions pertaining to breeding, boarding, age of pets at acquisition, training, trading, advertising with animals, entertainment, exhibitions, population control, killing methods, vivisection, and sheltering.
Street dogs and feral cats
Unlike Piggott’s succinct draft, the Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals omits any explicit extension of the right to life to street dogs and feral cats.
The June 2000 World Society for the Protection of Animals declaration included some provisions similar to those of the Convention on the Protection of Pet Animals:
a. Owners of companion animals shall be obliged to take responsibility for their care and welfare for the duration of the animals lives or to make arrangements to pass them on to a responsible person if they can no longer care for them.
b. Appropriate steps should be taken to promote and introduce the neutering of companion animals.
c. Appropriate steps should be taken to implement registration and identification of companion animals.
d. The commercial trade in companion animals should be subject to strict regulation, licensing and inspection to prevent cruelty and the breeding of unwanted animals.
e. Veterinary surgeons and other qualified persons should be authorized to humanely destroy companion animals that are abandoned and cannot be re-homed or provided with adequate care to ensure their welfare.
f. Destruction of companion animals by inhumane and indiscriminate methods, including poisoning, shooting, beating, drowning and strangulation should be prohibited.
Animals in sport & religion
The June 2000 World Society for the Protection of Animals “Universal Declaration” omitted any mention of either animal sacrifice or the use and abuse of animals in quasi-religious festivals, which usually have no direct relationship to the teachings of the religions being celebrated, but have typically become enshrined in tradition.
But the June 2000 World Society for the Protection of Animals “Universal Declaration” did provide that, “Where animals are used in legitimate sport and entertainment, all appropriate steps shall be taken to prevent them being exposed to cruelty. Exhibitions and spectacles using animals which are deleterious to their health and welfare should be prohibited.”
Inclusion of the undefined term “legitimate” significantly weakened the statement, but that was only the beginning of the weakening that would follow.
The “Three Rs”
At a March 2003 “Manila Conference on Animal Welfare,” the World Society for the Protection of Animals presented a redraft that harmonized the “Universal Declaration” with the Treaty of Rome language.
Among the major changes, instead of stating that captive animals “should be afforded the provisions of the basic Five Freedoms,” the Manila declaration suggested that “The Five Freedoms, along with the “Three Rs” (reduction in numbers of animals, refinement of experimental methods and replacement of animals with non-animal techniques) provide valuable guidance for the use of animals.”
The “Three Rs” principle to govern scientific use of animals was first articulated in 1959 by British authors William Russell and Rex Burch.
The “Animals Charter” authored by Stephen Coleridge of the British National Anti-Vivisection Society and the “Animals’ Bill of Rights” by Geoffrey Hodson, promoted by the American Anti-Vivisection Society, had both attempted to halt invasive experiments on animals.
When subsequent charter authors accepted that such provisions would not be endorsed by international treaty within a foreseeable time, the vivisection societies backed away from involvement.
Russell and Burch offered a compromise framework to which both scientists and anti-vivisectionists could agree in principle and mostly have.
More animals are used in laboratories now than ever before, reflecting a manifold increase in the numbers of working scientists and ongoing studies, but the numbers of mammals used other than mice and rats have never been lower, according to data from the nations that track use by species. The ratio of animals used to experiments performed and scientific papers published also appears to be relatively low compared to the ratios of earlier decades.
Incorporating the “Three Rs” therefore strengthened the “Universal Declaration,” codifying a useful tool.
Unfortunately, replacing the idea that the Five Freedoms “should be afforded” to captive animals with the notion that the Five Freedoms merely “provide valuable guidance” amounted to replacing the concept of law with unenforceable suggestion.
The same would be true of the inclusion of the “Three Rs” as mere “guidance” rather than as a regulatory framework.
The Manila declaration concluded with four statements of principle:
1. The welfare of animals shall be a common objective for all nations;
2. The standards of animal welfare attained by each nation shall be promoted, recognized and observed by improved measures, nationally and internationally, respecting social and economic considerations and religious and cultural traditions;
3. All appropriate steps shall be taken by nations to prevent cruelty to animals and to reduce their suffering;
4. Appropriate standards on the welfare of animals [should] be further developed and elaborated such as, but not limited to, those governing the use and management of farm animals, companion animals, animals in scientific research, draught animals, wildlife, and animals in recreation.
Hardly anyone other than those involved in drafting the many versions of charters and declarations seemed to care much about the Manila charter language, at the time.
It became controversial after 28 animal advocacy groups in the Netherlands and several in France successfully urged fellow citizens to reject a proposed new European Union Constitution at national referendums during the first week in June 2005.
“Religious, cultural and regional traditions in which animals are abused, such as slaughter without stunning, bullfighting, pate de foie-gras production and circuses would have been granted constitutional protection under the proposed text,” objected Ton Dekker, chair of the Dutch anti-fur group Bont Voor Dieren.
Bont Voor Dieren, from 1982 to 1986, had been headed by none other than Wim DeKok.
Supporters of the proposed new European Union Constitution defended it by pointing to the World Society for the Protection of Animals inclusion of almost identical words in the Manila charter.
“Pragmatic and incremental view” gave up major goals
Dekker, Marius Donker of Action Against Poisoning, and others responded, after the EU constitutional revisions were voted down, by calling on World Society for the Protection of Animals to scrap Article 2 of the Manila declaration.
“To have any chance of success,” responded then-World Society for the Protection of Animals director general Peter Davies, “a proposed ‘Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare’ would need to gather support from as many countries and from as many continents as possible.
“Whilst we entirely recognize and share your reservations regarding the wording of one of the principles relating to the acknowledgement of ‘religious and cultural traditions,’ we believe, albeit reluctantly, that to achieve such a groundbreaking agreement at global inter-governmental level, we have to take a somewhat pragmatic and incremental view of what can be achieved at each stage of negotiation.”
Real-life progress is made by persuading people, one at a time
Animal advocates are perennially divided in trying to pass animal protection legislation between seeking the ideal, which will advance the status of animals, and accepting the pragmatic, settling for whatever can be gained here and now.
Animal rights conferences often host heated discussions of reform vs. abolition philosophies and tactics, typically expressed as “larger cages vs. no cages,” while in legislative and regulatory negotiations, just getting larger cages is often an elusive goal.
In reality, though, real-life progress is rarely if ever achieved through formally adopting sweeping compromise agreements between either/or propositions.
Real-life progress is made by persuading people, one at a time, to do something different. Some race ahead; others lag behind, regardless of what unevenly enforced laws say.
“Here & now” vs. “pie in the sky”
ANIMALS 24-7––Beth from the perspective of many years spent in law enforcement, Merritt from the perspective of decades reporting about animal issues––believes that the endless effort expended over more than a century in attempts to achieve ratification of a “Universal Declaration” or “Animals’ Manifesto” in any form would have been much more usefully spent in practical here-and-now efforts.
Examples include encouraging veganism, promoting humane education, vaccinating and sterilizing street dogs and cats, stopping cockfights and pigeon shoots, and preventing pit bulls from tearing tens of thousands of other animals and humans apart bodily, each and every year.
There is no need for a “Universal Declaration” or “Animals’ Manifesto” if humans are persuaded to live humanely; and if humans are not so persuaded, no “Universal Declaration” or “Animals’ Manifesto” will change their minds.
Meanwhile, worth remembering is that all of the holders of “power rings” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy––except Sauron––eventually discovered that making progress without cooption required doing without them.