The Value of Animals
How much is an animal worth?
This is a tricky question. It could be asking for the monetary value of an animal or it could be asking whether the life of an animal is worth something it its own right. Animals matter to humans because they’re useful … but do the lives of animals matter in the way that human lives matter? What do you think?
Here is a fun way to see how you rank the value of different animals. Put these animals into order from most valuable to least
How many of each animal for one human?
Students at Oldfield School tried this activity as part of a workshop organised by the RSPCA. Having ranked the animals, the next step was to say how many of each animal is worth one human. Have a go yourself and then see how your answers compare with the ones that these students came up with.
Why do Animals Matter to YOU?
What is important in this activity is not just what decisions you made about the value of each animal, but also the reasons that led you to each decision. Before you forget them, jot down your reasoning for each animal. Now have another look – are your reasons related to characteristics of the animals themselves (such as whether they communicate, their rarity, their strength and their nature) or were you more interested in the usefulness of the animals to humans (such as how much money they are worth and whether they make cute pets).
Animal Welfare Science
Scientists working in Animal Welfare study animals closely. Their aims are to discover the characteristics and needs of animals so that they can tell pet owners, laboratory owners and farmers how to treat animals well. Rabbits for example are the third most popular pet (after cats and dogs). The advice from welfare scientists is that the biology and behaviour of pet rabbis is similar to that of wild rabbits. Rabbits are naturally sociable and usually prefer to be with another rabbit. Keeping a rabbit in a small cage is cruel because it cannot carry out the behaviours that are typical for its species. Pet rabbits need regular opportunities to run around and to stand on their back legs.
Where do you stand on the question of how animals should be treated?
There are many reasons why humans should treat other animals well. Many animals are useful to humans and it is in our interests to look after them: Pets provide us with companionship; Farm animals provide us with wool, meat and eggs. But should humans feel a duty to take care of all the other animals that share our planet? What about the fact that money which is spent on non-human animals is money that could have been spent to improve the lives of humans – does that make a difference to what you decide?
To wrap up …
Science is very important in animal welfare – scientists provide information about animals’ needs and this information can help humans to know how to treat animals well. But science cannot tell us what to decide when we are faced with difficult choices like whether human lives should be made more difficult so that the lives of non-human animals can be improved. Each of us has to go beyond science to decide how highly we value animals and how much we think should be spent to make their lives better. Professor Alister McGrath is a theologian and in this video, he brings a new angle into the debate. He explains that when we decide to treat animals well, it makes us into better people. See what you think of what he says.