The connections between child and animal protection have been prioritized in the US since the nineteenth century when Henry Bergh, the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), used New York State animal protection legislation to successfully argue on behalf of an abused and neglected ten-year-old girl named Mary Ellen.
Like Henry Bergh, we believe that protections for children and animals need to be advanced together since their vulnerabilities in society often stem from the same problems.
We advance protections for animals in areas where we can bring to bear our expertise and experience in the fields of medicine, public health, and international affairs.
Animal Trafficking and Exploitation
While some forms of trafficking are illegal, animal trafficking is broadly permitted by existing laws, and public subsidies commonly fuel industries engaged in animal exploitation and trafficking.
Animal trafficking is part of an exploitative global economic system that harms both people and animals.
For example, about 10 percent of the world’s children are forced to work, and many of them are trafficked to provide cheap labor for the industries that also exploit and traffic animals, including those that produce meat, wool, and leather.
Likewise, refugees and other immigrants are trafficked internationally to work in industries that exploit animals for food and fiber under conditions that are often considered modern slavery.
Since animals are generally considered legal property, most have little or no protection from trafficking.
Watch and share our video about why we need to end child and animal trafficking:
Ending Animal Trafficking and Exploitation
It’s impossible to count the times we’ve heard the word unprecedented used to describe the events of 2020, 2021, and 2022. But the conditions that caused the COVID-19 pandemic have many precedents: Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, and earlier SARS outbreaks all had similar origins. Approximately 75% of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans come from animals. These diseases originate in live animal markets, factory farms, or other environments that hurt the health and wellbeing of animals, workers, and communities.
Experts at the World Health Organization, the UN Environment Program, and other international organizations know how to prevent these deadly outbreaks. Countries must address animal trafficking and exploitation.
That’s why we are working with partners in support of a pandemic prevention treaty through a Just One Health approach.
Bipartisan bills in Congress would also heed this advice and set us on the right path.
If passed, the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2021 would direct the US State Department to work with international partners to shut down commercial wildlife markets, stop the associated wildlife trade, and end the import, export, and sale of wildlife for human consumption. The bill could prevent another pandemic, which, in one year, cost more than 3 million human lives worldwide and uncounted animal lives in international farms, laboratories, and the wild.
The Global Wildlife Trade Biosecurity Act would also help combat the spread of future deadly infectious diseases through the establishment of a global task force and diplomacy and a multisectoral strategy to curb the animal trade and improve biodiversity protections and food security for the 820 million people who are undernourished and 1.9 billion people worldwide who are moderately or severely food insecure. This bill would also lend support for sustainable, nutritious plant-based protein interventions.
Please help us support these efforts, and help us call upon policymakers to go further by addressing the pandemic potential that is created in factory farms, slaughterhouses, and other food production industries that exploit people and animals.
Reach out to support this work.
Advancing Research Protections
Today, almost all animals, including dogs and cats people know, love, and care for in their homes, can be used in research. Almost anything can be done to an animal in the name of science. There is no real threshold for protecting animals from severe physical and psychological harm.
Fortunately, we now have real research protections for humans, including for vulnerable populations such as children. But these protections weren’t always in place.
Despite an unjust history plagued by racism, sexism, and ableism, human research has become more ethical. In 1974, the US Congress established the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which published a document called The Belmont Report five years later.
At the time, The Belmont Report changed the conduct of human research and it led to informed consent requirements, mandatory assessments of the risks and benefits of research, and special protections for vulnerable populations such as children and prisoners.
Using a broad framework of justice, The Belmont Report highlighted the importance of avoiding actual and potential harms—particularly in research involving individuals who cannot provide consent or those who could be targeted because of their vulnerabilities in society.
The Belmont Report revolutionized human research, although its call for justice and avoiding harm have yet to be fully realized—often because of an over reliance on animal experiments rather than human-centered advances in technology.
Today, some of the most problematic research practices involve animals. Millions of animals—including dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, and many other species of small and large animals—are used in research each year.
A growing number of doctors, scientists, and policymakers question the validity and reliability of applying knowledge gained from animal experiments to human ailments, as well as the risks such poor science poses to vulnerable human patients and populations. Fortunately, although they have yet to be fully implemented, there are more ethical, human-relevant tools that can be used to study disease and therapeutic interventions.
Still, approximately half of the budget of the National Institutes of Health funds animal research. Members of the tax-paying public have scarce access to reports on how those public funds are spent, and whether these investments contribute to improved medical science or the prevention and eradication of major diseases and disorders.
As part of a commitment to a Just One Health approach, we believe it is time to extend the ethical framework set forth in the Belmont Report to animals, and we are working toward this goal. Our efforts to reexamine the principles outlined in the Belmont Report and related documents also prompt a reevaluation of human research, including the need to further enhance protections for those who are most vulnerable to exploitation.
We advocate for
- increased transparency in medical research;
- preferential funding for ethical, patient-relevant, non-animal research methods; and
- a clear roadmap toward the replacement of laboratory animal research with more ethical, human-centered methods in accordance with the principles established in the Belmont Report.
Interested in learning more? Check out our Transforming Medical Research Event.
Questions about our work on behalf of animals? Please reach out.
Watch and share our video about why we need a Belmont Report for Animals:
Support our work on behalf of animals.