Some experts try to focus their attention on negative aspects of human-animal relations. Sarah Knight and Harold Herzog discuss this issue in their book. They refer to the publication of 1993 The Role of Animals in Human Society in which it is possible to find a discussion on visibility of human-animal studies among different scholars in sociology. It is found that animals play a significant role in the lives of many people in this world. For example, companion animals can be regarded as the main source of psychological support in today’s stressful environment. According to Sarah Knight and Harold Herzog, “attachment to pets is often intense”ť as it was exemplified by many pet owners who simply refused to evacuate their homes in the face of natural disasters and accidents (2009:454). A number of different studies have found that, as a rule, pets have an ability to improve psychological well-being of their owners. In addition, the researchers state that the presence of a pet (cat or dog, etc.) can be more effective than the presence of a friend in some stressful situations.
Moreover, it is known that over the last three or four decades the treatment of animals has been changed from an ordinary issue into a significant social issue. Although today there is still a considerable disagreement concerning the moral status and acceptable methods of treatment of nonhuman beings, the situation has been changed. Today there is a widely spread agreement that animals should not be intentionally mistreated by human beings in our society. Nevertheless, hundreds of researchers in the United States continue to use animals in their biomedical purposes. According to the statistics, each year a great number of animals is killed for their flesh not only in the USA, but also in other countries of the world. In the last three decades this number has been tripled. However, there is “a fairly small yet highly committed segment of our society that believe that the present day use of animals is a true moral tragedy for the present and future generations (Knight & Herzog, 2009: 454). Â The representatives of this group try to persuade others of the necessity to protect animals, but not to kill them. For example, the Animal Liberation Front is a well-known organization that uses domestic terrorism threats to protect animals from ill treatment.
In addition, it is found that due to the advancement of technology and industry, animal use procedures have been changed in the last decades. For example, such issues as family farming, genetic engineering and breeding animals for medical purposes, such as human transplants, have been discussed differently, from the extreme responses to the indifferent ones. It means that the use of animals for human needs creates a conflict between the opponents and the proponents. It also means that the morals status of animals in our society depends on the behavior and attitudes of the public and scientists. These facts have enormous impact on the lives of all animals in our society that are kept in captivity for different purposes, including farming, companionship, research work, and for a number of other purposes. Sarah Knight and Harold Herzog state that the major problem is that “the use of animals can greatly benefit human beings, but comes at great cost to the large numbers of animals involved”ť (2009: 456). It means that there is a dilemma: on the one hand, human beings are interested in the use of animals for their needs, and, on the other hand, they are fond of them. The attitudes towards animals in today’s society influence the way they are treated by human beings. Moreover, the views of the public have enormous impact on the certain changes in law and legislation, policy and practice.
The other important fact that characterizes human – animal relations is connected with religion, Christian ethics and morale. It is known that animals appear thought the Bible in which it is possible to find the answer on how human beings ought to treat animals in human society. Animal rights are discussed in a number of religious sources, including not only the Bible, but also the encyclopedia on science and religion. The following quote of St. Thomas Aquinas (an Italian Dominican priest who made great contributions in the Roman Catholic Church) on animal right gives an explanation of “the effects of Christian belief on human views of animals: It is not wrong for a man to make use of them either by killing or any other way whatever”ť (Aquinas Â 10). This means that, according to the natural law, human beings may use animals for whatever purpose they want. However, there are many passages in the Bible which forbid human being to kill animals, because through cruelty to animals human beings become cruel to other human beings. For example, the Bible forbids killing a bird with its young.
From the human point of view, it is difficult to agree with the statement of St. Thomas Aquinas because animals are weak creatures that need care and protection. Today millions of people on our planet are animal advocates. They protect the rights of animals and want all people to be kinder to the nature. Animal protection organizations can be found in all parts of the world, including Canada, the USA, Australia, China, Japan, the UK, etc. For example, one of the well-known animal protection organizations in the USA is World Pet Organization that is run by dedicated animal protection supporters. The members of this organization try to change the lives of the abused, homeless and ill animals. The other organization is the World Society for the Protection of Animals, a well-known international non-profit animal welfare organization with members in more than 50 countries. The major goal of this organization is to reduce animal suffering in human society and to advance animal rights (Francione, 2000: 81).
Taking the above mentioned facts into consideration, it is necessary to conclude that Jane Goodwell touches a very important question in present day society in which human beings face a dilemma: whether to use animals in their needs, or to treat them with care. She wants all people to think about the nature of human animal relationships, about animal rights and morality, about kindness and pity for animals. When she says: “Who are we to say that the suffering of a human being is more terrible than the suffering of a nonhuman being, or that it matters more?”ť, she means that animals can suffer the same way as human beings. They feel pain, but they cannot protest against it, because animals are weak creatures that require human care and support.