Animal welfare and the law : towards legal regulation of the welfare of laboratory animals in South Africa
The current legal framework pertaining to animals does not sufficiently address the welfare of animals. The Animal Protection Act 71 of 1962 does not specifically regulate the welfare of animals contained in research laboratories. Animals utilized for experimental research purposes endure tremendous “unnecessary suffering” due to legislative inaptitude. Experimental animals suffer inherent abuses associated with experimental research because of the methods, procedures and processes relevant to the experiments. The most controversial method of experimental research is vivisection. The method of vivisection is not only invasive but also causes “unnecessary suffering” to animals. The non-inherent abuses animals suffer during confinement in a laboratory solely relates to uncontrolled and unregulated conduct of staff. Continuing the application of the current legislative framework may also be detrimental to the health and well-being of humans. Animals are specifically utilized as objects of science in research laboratories. The data obtained from research experiments conducted on animals are for the benefit of humankind rather than the animals. Scientific research concluded that not only are invasive methods of research conducted on live animals generally regarded as useless but extrapolating data from animals to humans can also be misleading, unnecessary and dangerous. False results and questionable methodologies are some of the other problems that seem to require urgent attention. Ethically, neither human nor animal should be utilized at the expense of the other and therefore it would be reasonable to recommend that legislative reform takes place. The human perception of animals in terms of the relationship we have with them is the reason why legislative inaptitude in terms of animal welfare exists. The current approach followed is the philosophy of Utilitarianism. Utilitarians believe that neither humans nor animals have rights but interests. Utilitarianism focuses on the permissibility of an act (the use of animals) by weighing the benefits of such an act to the costs suffered because of such act. If the benefits outweigh the costs suffered, the act is permissible. The application of Utilitarianism seems to be the crux of our legislative inaptitude. The human perception and view of animals must therefore be re-directed to develop a sufficient legal framework in terms of animal welfare. A solution offered is to apply an alternative interpretation to the concept of “dignity” (capabilities approach) and progressive realisation. In terms of this solution a species capabilities in terms of its value, capabilities and worth are considered. Inherent to its value, capabilities and worth, is its “dignity”. Once the alternative interpretation of “dignity” is acknowledged, the progressive realisation of its interests can be achieved.
- Law