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ESL Debate – Should Animals be Used in Sports?

Friday, April 27, 2012 @ 08:04 AM
posted by Jo

Should humans be allowed to use other animals as objects of sport and entertainment?

CONTEXT

This topic is about various other uses of animals for sport, pleasure, and entertainment. A wide variety of examples from different cultures around the world might be brought into this debate: 'blood sports' such as fox and stag hunting, and fishing; forms of entertainment using performing animals, such as circuses; and sports in which animals perform for human enjoyment, such as horse racing. Views on these issues are often very culture-specific - e.g. some British people may feel more sympathy with fox hunting - these practices can form part of a national culture. Nonetheless animal rights advocates find these to be the most indefensible ways that humans treat other animals. There are two parts to the proposition case: first, it is wrong in principle to exploit non-human animals in any way; secondly, there are many concrete examples of how animals are made to suffer in the context of sports and entertainment.

AUDIO

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ARGUMENTS

Pros Cons

All forms of sport and entertainment that exploit non-human animals should be banned; animals, like us, can feel fear, stress, exhaustion, and pain. To use animals for our own amusement, whether hunting them for sport or making them perform for us, is demeaning to ourselves as well as to them. Being a species with a great amount of power and control over other species brings with it a responsibility not to abuse that power. Using animals in sports and entertainment is an abuse of our position of responsibility and brutalises society towards animals and nature. All cultures throughout history have used animals in the context of sport and entertainment, from Roman chariot racing up to present day hunting, racing, and circuses. The issue here is not whether or not we can use other species for our own purposes - we can and it is only natural - the issue is animal cruelty, which everyone can agree should be ended. The proposition needs to demonstrate that the practices they are referring to are cruel. There are two categories of activity that are acceptable: first, killing animals that are pests or that are going to be eaten; and secondly, using animals in enjoyable human sports in ways that do not involve cruelty.
It is very easy to take up the opposition's challenge to provide concrete examples of cruelty to animals - there are many. Take the case of 'blood sports'. All sorts of hunting, shooting, and fishing boil down to slaughtering other animals for pleasure. If the prey is a pest (e.g. foxes), or needs culling (e.g. hares, deer), there are always more humane ways to kill it than hunting it to the point of terror and exhaustion with a pack of hounds- e.g. killing it with a rifle shot. If the prey is being killed for food it is entirely gratuitous. In modern society people do not need to kill food for themselves but can buy it from a source where animals have been killed humanely. Hunting and fishing are natural activities - many other species in the wild kill and eat each other and there is no reason why we should be any different. These sports are always undertaken for a rational reason and are never gratuitous - they are either to exterminate pests or to provide food. In the case of foxes they are pests. In the case of killing animals to eat - such as fish, or game birds such as pheasants and grouse - the justification is even more straightforward; it is the most natural activity in the world to hunt and eat. And given the controversy surrounding the welfare of animals in modern farms, it would seem preferable to eat an animal that had had a free and happy life in the wild than one that had been reared in a factory farm.
Horses and dogs are among the principle victims of exploitation in human sporting activities. The main purpose of horse- and dog-racing is for human beings to indulge their penchant for gambling. The welfare of the animals involved is at best a secondary concern. Horses are frequently injured and die in horse races, especially races over hurdles such as the infamous British 'Grand National'; they are also blinkered and whipped to make them run faster. It is unconvincing to claim that the animals can enjoy being subjected to this. As for the conditions the animals are kept in, these may be good for the top dogs and horses, but in the main conditions are poor, and once the animals cease to win races they are likely to be neglected, abandoned, or slaughtered. We need to strike a balance between human pleasure and animal welfare. Putting the animal welfare case at its strongest, we should ban all sports in which animals are treated cruelly, or are at high risk of injury or death. Anyone who works in horse- or dog-racing will tell you that it is in their interest to ensure that the animals are healthy and happy, or else they will not perform well. They will also tell you that most of these animals enjoy racing and enjoy winning.
The circus is another arena in which human beings abuse other animals. Animals are trained to perform tricks using whips, electronic goads, sticks, food-deprivation etc. Wild animals such as lions, tigers, and elephants are kept in shamefully inadequate conditions in tiny spaces. The necessity of regular transportation means that the circus can never provide an appropriate home for wild animals. These animals are forced to travel thousands of miles in cramped and squalid conditions and frequently end up physically and mentally ill. And what for? Purely for the entertainment of we arrogant exploitative humans. What sort of lesson does it teach our children about non-human animals to take them to the circus and see these great creatures demeaned and controlled by force to perform silly tricks? The circus is where children first learn to love animals! The proposition are right to draw attention to issues of animal welfare but again, they do not need to take such an extremist approach. There is evidence that animals enjoy performing and can form close relationships with their trainers and with an audience. Closer scrutiny of circuses and better enforcement of animal welfare laws are desirable, but once those conditions are met the circus can be seen as a celebration of wild animals and the relationships they can form with animal-loving human beings. If the reality falls short of this ideal then reform is called for, not abolition.

What is your opinion about hunting? You are welcome to share your opinion by adding a comment to this article.


Debate topic © International Debate Education Association (http://idebate.org), used under Creative Commons license.

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