Islam has comprehensive guidelines governing animal rights. These laws revealed more than 1400 years ago - are uniquely detailed.
Publish Date: 2015/08/20 The widespread and expensive use of animals in medical and non-medical research is a well-known phenomenon. Even though some modern scientific methods could be tested on humans, research on animals is still the preferred method. From a historical point of view there is no doubt that research under-taken by scientists using animals such as that carried out by Louis Pasteur, who was able to immunize animals affected by contagious diseases, has produced invaluable knowledge. Why do we need to experiment on animals? A typical justification provided by those who conduct experiments on animals is that it is preferable for scientific reasons. However most would claim their decision is dictated by financial and ethical considerations for human life. Some scientists support the idea that small laboratory rodents such as mice, rats and hamsters are the species of choice because of their small size and rapid reproductive cycle and continue to justify use of these animals on the grounds of necessity. This implies that if we really want to change this reality we would need a paradigm shift in the way we perceive animals. This can start at a lexical level by using words that reduce the differences between human and ‘non-human animals’. After all since antiquity man has been considered a ‘thinking animal’. There is no denying that clinical procedures using laboratory animals have made significant contributions to biomedical research as well as to the safety and effective evaluation of chemical products of various kinds. But are there any alternatives we could consider? Considering the cost involved in the use of animals in biomedical laboratories, it is surprising that research institutions have not looked elsewhere. There is a clear analogy with what has happened in the agricultural world where companies like Monsanto dictate to farmers which products they should use. There is evidence to show the influence on scientists of dominant companies that breed and supply animals for laboratory experimentation such as the Scott Marshall Farms Group. These companies have a vested interest in preventing any alternative forms of testing being developed, such as testing on in-vitro microorganisms, and cellular cultures that could be produced in the future.
Is there any change in sight?
Today, according to the regulatory frameworks, governing animals’ living environment, nutrition, and hygiene, researchers are ethically and legally obliged and accountable for the rights of animals under their observation. The first prerequisite when experimenting using laboratory animals is to observe the rules of breeding, keeping and treating animals correctly. Legislation enacted during the 1980s in many countries and regions in line with concepts put forward by W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch in1959 requires that laboratories work towards implementing the use of three concepts:
A: Reduction alternatives as methods for obtaining comparable levels of information from the use of fewer animals in scientific procedures, or for obtaining more information from the same number of animals.
B: Refinement alternatives as methods which alleviate or minimise potential pain, suffering and distress, which enhance animal’s well-being. C: Replacement alternatives as methods which permit to achieve the same purpose without conducting experiments or other scientific procedures on animals (Smyth, 1978). In this regard researchers are prohibited from using methods which are considered painful or disturbing for animals, and numerous committees such as UAWC (University Animal Welfare Committees), LEACC (Life and Environmental Animal Care Committee) supervise any research on animals at different universities.
Islamic Directives on ‘Animal Rights’
Islam has comprehensive guidelines governing animal rights. These laws revealed more than 1400 years ago - are uniquely detailed. A look of the Qur’an and related narrations on this topic sheds light on the legitimate boundaries of human manipulation of animals according to Islamic laws. “There is no animal on land, nor abird that flies with its wings, but theyare communities like you. We have notomitted anything from the Book. Thenthey will be mustered toward their Lord.(6:38) “There are [manifest] signs [of truth]in the creation of [humanity andnumerous types of] animals scattered[on the earth] for those who believe [inGod]” (45:4). These Quranic verses’ state that animals are natural signs of God’s Might and live in their own specific societies according to divine rules. Like humans, animals have their own individual and social make-up and always act to survive and protect themselves and their offspring from extinction. Building societies is not simply an instinctive and deterministic aspect of animals’ lives in the same way as nutrition, growth, and reproduction, but has another goal outside their earthly existence. God says, “we have not createdthe earth and sky and whatever among them for fun, but because of justice[wisdom and necessity]; however mostof them are not aware of it” (44:38-39). These two Quranic verses clarify the point that all parts of the universe have their own purposes and nothing is created in vain. Several Quranic verses invite humans to learn from animals, birds, ants, and honey bees. Believers learn from studying animals as Divine Signs which in addition to opening up new horizons of knowledge and science allows them to deepen their faith. “Do they see how [useful] a camel iscreated?” (88:17).
The Legitimate Boundaries
Islam stipulates restrictions on exploiting animal life in all areas. Some of these restrictions are as follows: A: Restrictions on collecting honey. According to Islam, the amount of honey left in a honeycomb should be enough to feed honey bees and in winter it is praiseworthy to leave more than sufficient honey to feed the bees of a honeycomb. B: Restrictions on riding and carrying loads, as quoted from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s): “there is no beast of burden that does not pray to God every morning so that the Lord may bestow it an owner who would give it enough forage and water and would not overload it”. Also, Abu Hurairah quoted the Prophet as saying: “Ride animals as much as is necessary for your needs and do not use animals as your sedan chairs.” Ali ibn Abi Talib (a) instructs his agents: “do not ride an animal more than it can no longer bear your load, and be fair to animals…If an animal is exhausted, it must take some rest.”
C: Prohibition on Verbal Abuse and Beating.There are numerous traditions forbidding insulting and beating animals, particularly hitting them in their faces. Moreover, Islam prohibits slaughtering animals in view of other animals. D: Instructions on hunting. Hunting of wild animals and birds should be avoided as much as possible especially at night, possibly because the darkness militates against identifying quarry and dispatching it swiftly, and maybe because hunting in the dark could be dangerous for the hunter himself. Hunting devices are also recommended to be sharp so as to minimise pain. From an Islamic viewpoint, hunting as a hobby is forbidden and deemed a great sin, and anyone who kills for fun has committed a sin. E: Prohibition on Separating Baby Animals from their Mothers. Islam forbids hunting chicks before they have flown the nest, or separating young animals from their mothers.
F: Prohibition on Sports. Although Islam encourages sports such as horse and camel riding, it forbids sports which violate animal rights. Prior to Islam, some tribes used to run their camels as long as only one camel would survive. Some others made animals like dogs and roosters fight one another. These acts are strictly forbidden by Islam. Humans are responsible for whatever animals they have in their possession. ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib(a) says: “Be obedient to God regarding His subjects …. at your disposal, for you are responsible even for the survival of animals.” According to Islam, when someone takes possession of an animal, he/ she undertakes the responsibility for its living conditions, preparing suitable food and water, mental, physical wellbeing and good hygiene. Animals should be treated well, especially when ill. Islam even goes as far as saying that if the person does not perform his/ her responsibility well then it is the government’s duty to compel him/her to observe animal rights. It is certainly true that some modern scientific experiments could be tested on humans if it were not possible to perform the tests on animals. However clinical procedures using laboratory animals have made significant contributions to biomedical research as well as to the safety and effective evaluation of chemicals and products of various kinds. Therefore some procedures, such as the use of vertebrate animals for the interests of human and other animals will continue for the foreseeable future. In light of the traditions of Islam, some basic and applied research in the biological and social sciences on animals is justified if the laboratory animals are not caused pain or disfigured, and only if human or other animals stand to benefit from that research. The selection taken form "Islam Today Magazine"