Grant pets rights as living beings
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We call upon the UK Government to give a new legal status and 'Grant pets rights as living beings'. A change in animals status from “personal property” to that of a “sentient being" will bring the civil law into line with the penal code, which sets tough penalties for cruelty to animals. This should make it easier to prosecute cases of animal cruelty.
Britain could claim to be something of a world leader in animal welfare, but as a nation, however, we have failed in bringing progressive positive change to improve the welfare of animals. While countries all over the world have updated or enacted effective animal cruelty legislation, England remains behind.
European animal welfare legislation is based on the recognition that all animals, from pets to farm animals, are sentient beings – i.e. they have powers of perception and feeling. A legally binding protocol attached to the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam recognised animals as "sentient beings" and this recognition was strengthened in the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 which included animal sentience as an Article in the main body of the Treaty.
Some countries have already (even before the treaty) transformed animals from things to non-things, such as Austria (ABGB 1998, Constitution 2004), Germany (BGB 1990, Constitution 2002), Switzerland (BGB 2000, Constitution 2004), and most recently France (2014).
Scientific research is constantly revealing new evidence of animals’ intelligence and emotions. There is also increasing evidence that many animals can learn new skills and some appear to show emotions similar to human empathy. Animals are capable of feeling pain and experiencing distress,they can also be reduced to a state resembling human depression by chronic stress or confinement in a cage. This new understanding of the sentience of animals has huge implications for the way we treat them and the policies and laws we need to adopt.
Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI.
• This is the first comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate species and humans
• Functional analogies were found between dog and human nonprimary auditory cortex
• Voice areas preferring conspecific vocalizations were evidenced in the dog brain
• Brain sensitivity to vocal cues of emotional valence was found in both species
We demonstrate that voice areas exist in dogs and that they show a similar pattern to anterior temporal voice areas in humans. Our findings also reveal that sensitivity to vocal emotional valence cues engages similarly located nonprimary auditory regions in dogs and humans.
Neuroscientist Gregory Berns
What fMRI Can Tell Us About the Thoughts and Minds of Dogs
One neuroscientist is peering into the canine brain, and says he's found evidence that dogs may feel love.
As Berns’ team begins to scratch the surface of the canine brain, they’re finding something surprising—in several ways, its activity mirrors that of the human brain to a much greater extent than expected. We cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.
As part of their first paper published on the work in 2012, they trained dogs to recognize two different hand signals: one that meant the animal would be given a piece of hot dog imminently, and one that meant no hot dog. As they hypothesized, the first signal triggered elevated activity in an area called the caudate nucleus, which is rich in receptors for dopamine (a neurotransmitter involved in the sensation of pleasure). In humans—and in dogs, the research indicated—caudate activity is related to the desire to have something that causes pleasure, and the satisfaction involved in obtaining it.
Subsequent work revealed more unexpected findings. As part of a second experiment, they had dogs sit in the scanner and exposed them to smells of humans (from either their owners or strangers) and other dogs (from either dogs they lived with or unfamiliar dogs). “We wanted to understand how dogs recognize other people and dogs in their households,” Berns says. Again, they saw increased activity in the caudate, but only as a result of one of the scents. “In this case, the reward system only seems to activate in response to the smell of a familiar human, which is pretty amazing,” he says.
To further probe how the dogs’ brain activity correlates with the actions of humans they know well, they put the dogs in the fMRI and had their owners leave the room, then walk back in. This, too, triggered activation in the caudate.
Berns interprets these results as indications that, in some ways, the mental processes of dogs may not be so different from those of humans. They’re close enough, he suggests, that we can safely describe them with words we don’t often apply to animals: the mental activity represents emotions, and perhaps even constitute love. “At some fundamental level, we believe the dogs are experiencing emotions something like we do,” Berns says.
The research suggests that the human brain and canine brain aren’t as radically different as we might have imagined.
Why Support Change
As society changes and evolves, so too do the views and values of its people. A challenge of law-makers is to identify shifts in values and expectations, so that they can pass new laws and amend existing laws. Changing social values are the fundamental ideas we have about other people and society in general. They include ideas about race, gender, families, children, violence, personal responsibility and the law itself. Changing morality and ethics are concerned with what is right and wrong, though on a social level rather than what offends the individual. As previously mentioned, our laws on animal abuse have changed very little, but society has.
True law reform occurs because society has changed and the law needs to change with it. No longer do we as a nation want to tolerate animal abuse. We want the laws changed and the penalties to be more severe and we want the Courts to take it more seriously.
We need to make the changes. To lead it, and to mould it to fit with the changing views and values of our society. These are views shared by a very large proportion of the electorate and should be acknowledged.
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