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On this momentous day – the first in South Africa to celebrate the call for Animal Rights, let us also celebrate the first prototype of an Animal Right that has made its way into the Human Rights domain, almost unnoticed.

On 18th September 2023, without the fanfare it deserved, the United Nations officially adopted an addition to the Charter on the Rights of the Child: For the first time in history, as part of their right to environmental health, the UN decreed that children are to be protected from exposure to all forms of violence – be it domestic, societal or inflicted on animals.

Thus the protection of animals from abuse, cruelty and violence, has been brought directly into the domain of Human Rights, as part of the right of children everywhere to protection from exposure to such behavior. This is an acknowledgement at the highest international level that our children are emotionally harmed by witnessing violence, including violence inflicted on animals. This protection of children has been brought into being so as to prevent the scientifically-proven erosion of empathy that witnessing violence inflicts on children’s psyches – for life.

Humans are born with empathy, an innate emotion that must be nurtured into adulthood. The erosion of empathy, by exposure to violence, including violence against animals, is a gradual process that can eventually result in a callous disregard for suffering. Erosion of empathy brings about the very society where gangsterism, domestic violence and other forms of inter-personal conflict, flourish.

As multi-award winning Cambridge Professor Simon Baron-Cohen puts it: “The erosion of empathy is a critical global issue of our time.” (The Science of Evil by Simon Baron-Cohen)

For example, the innate empathy with which the children in this photograph below, were born, is being eroded and replaced by habituation to suffering, cruelty and violence.

They are being taught that ‘this is the way it is.’ They are at risk of becoming inured to violence, and as time goes on, are more likely to become participants in it.

The UN’s decree is not just words. This addition to the Rights of the Child presents a legal obligation on all member countries to set about changing their policies, regulations and laws in order to accommodate this new understanding of our world, and countries are obligated to report back on progress as it is achieved.

Animal Voice believes that, step by step, we can uncover other ways in which the right of an animal to expect care, respect and decency from us, as humans, can be brought into the Human Rights domain. After all, we are ALL ONE and cruelty to animals is a grotesque and agonising blight imposed on the lives of many millions of us. It is time we did more to shake off this blight on our collective conscience. The world is changing.

To read more about the new Right of the Child and to motivate further discussion on what new steps could be taken to bring the Rights of Animals into the Human Rights domain, please go to our websites.

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