Not quite sure why but World Animal Day crept up on me; maybe it was the careful stealth of its approach – like a cat stalking its prey.
Anyway, here it is. Today, 4th October, is World Animal Day, chosen because it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. Perhaps we should remember, too, that the Pope chose Francis as his name in honour of St Francis.
So, why do we have a world day for animals? In short, to get people involved in getting a better future for animals.
The lives of animals are profoundly affected by the actions of individuals, businesses, and nations. It’s therefore essential that, as sentient beings, their rightful status as recipients of social justice is established and translated into effective animal protection.
And it is at this point that I feel it is necessary to state my utter distaste for the recent comments made by Princess Michael of Kent when she said that animals do not have “rights” because they cannot pay taxes.
Speaking at a literary festival in the UK, she said: “We’re always hearing about animal rights. Well, I’m a great animal lover, and involved in a lot of conservation, but animals don’t have rights. They don’t have bank accounts, they don’t vote.
“We have an obligation to animals but to say they have rights? You only have rights if you pay your taxes. You earn your rights.”
As a self-professed animal lover who once hand-reared a cheetah, Princess Michael seems to have missed the point. She is saying that as animals cannot do certain human things, they cannot enjoy the same rights as we do. But they surely do have animal rights; they are sentient creatures and they need to be cared for with kindness and fairness as well as being provided with all they need.
World Animal Day organisers say: “Through increased awareness and education, we can help develop a compassionate culture which feeds into legal reform and social progress to make this world a fairer place for all living creatures. A world where animals are recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.
Hopefully, increased awareness linked with better education, for both adults and children, will gradually but steadily influence attitudes of people towards treating animals in the humane and compassionate way in which they deserve and to which they have a right.
*As writer of this blog, it is necessary to make it clear that I am in favour of the humane treatment of all animals but am not a vegetarian. I have years of experience in agricultural journalism and believe that animal farming for the provision of meat can be carried out with compassion and kind treatment. I am, however, opposed to the killing of any animals for their skins, furs or any other parts. Similarly, I reject the need for the use of animals in laboratory testing of cosmetics or any other product developed for mankind. There may be justification for limited animal use in the field of medicinal research.