New Delhi: Like humans, animals too enjoy good food, feel pain and express emotions. To drive home the point that animals have the basic right to life and freedom from cruelty at the hands of humans in abattoirs and laboratories, Jonathan Balcombe, an American animal behaviour research scientist, is here these days delivering lectures at various medical colleges and universities across the country. Dr. Balcombe, who works with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington D.C., wants to create awareness about atrocities committed on animals. India with its large population and widespread tradition of vegetarianism can be a "key player" in transforming humans and improving their relationship with animals, he feels.
Highlighting the plight of hapless animals in slaughterhouses of the United States at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday, Dr. Balcombe said: "Until recently scientific dogma rejected animal consciousness and emotions but now we know better. In the U.S., abattoirs pigs are kept in dark cells and don't enjoy fresh air. No doubt quality of life is grim. As far as cows are concerned, calves are taken away from their mothers so that their milk can be consumed by humans." Recent studies have shown that mice empathise with familiar mice who are suffering, pigeons navigate on roads constructed by humans and rats accustomed to being tickled will come running for more, adds the scientist, who has penned a ground-breaking book titled "Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good".
Noting that the once long list of uniquely human traits was fast dwindling, Dr. Balcombe, who has been a vegetarian for the past 23 years, said crows make their own tools.
"Animals' pain is akin to yours and mine and their will to live is just as strong as ours. As such, animal experiments, their meat production and harming them for entertainment are blatantly unethical. Therefore, I recommend a vegetarian diet, particularly a vegan one," he adds.
Stating that animals deceive, tease, pretend and celebrate, Dr. Balcombe said they also exhibit a broad range of emotions like grief, gratitude, jealously, joy and embarrassment. Despite all this, 56 billion land animals are slaughtered by humans annually.