Recent Parliamentary debates about fox hunting remind us of ethical issues around our treatment of animals – animal ethics. There are clear cut treatments of animals that are unethical. For example, beating a dog or horse, starving animals or keeping them in dreadful conditions. This unethicalness is  reflected in the law where people who do these things are rightly punished.

Our treatment of animals shows just how ethical  we humans have become. We no longer allow bear-baiting. Indeed, no longer do we allow any activity where animals are  forced to fight each other (dog fights and cock fights). Surely most people see it as unethical to obtain enjoyment from sending out 20 dogs to find a fox and rip it apart.

However, there are some ethical issues that are not as clear cut.


It is ethical to keep wild animals captive in a zoo, so people get pleasure from seeing them and the zoo owners gain income? On the one hand the animals cannot roam free and enjoy life in the wild. On the other hand people will ask “What is so great about the wild .. you go hungry and get killed by other animals?” Also, keeping some animals in a zoo may be the only way to ensure the species survives.

Is it ethical to keep pets for our pleasure? On the one hand, a dog is kept in a house all day while the owner works. A goldfish must surely go out if its mind swimming around in a 20 inch bowl day and night. On the other hand, if a pet is treated well it can have fun and some people find great companionship from a pet

Is it ethical to use animals for our entertainment at theme parks (dolphins and killer whales), aquariums and circuses? Again there are two sides to the coin. The animals  are enslaved, not in their natural habitat. What does that do to them. On the other hand, the research carried out may help both people and animals.

It is ethical to breed, train and keep horses simply to race them for our pleasure and gambling instinct? Some might say that the horses enjoy it. How do we know. They certainly do not enjoy a heart attack or a broken neck when they fall.

Is it ethical to use animals in medical experiments? On the one had it saves human live and  saves much pain. On the other hand it may cause animals pain and even death?

Is it ethical to eat animals? When there is plenty of vegetable type food, fruits and nuts why do we keep and then kill animals to eat – pleasure of taste? What is people’s crops fail and the only food is animals … should they not eat them and die? Is it ethical to eat dogs?

Of course, each of these questions on animal ethics, is a study in itself and has been written about extensively. Still, it makes us think. Think how far we have come in treating animals well and doing our utmost to help them avid pain. Perhaps in 100 years, we will have become more ethical regarding animals.