Is it okay to put our needs before those of animals?

A video showing a group of schoolboys tackling and flipping a sheep at a farm as part of a training

A video showing a group of schoolboys tackling and flipping a sheep at a farm as part of a training exercise for their rugby team has sparked outrage and the school has been accused of encouraging animal cruelty.

The footage depicted boys from the prestigious The King’s School in Sydney, one of Australia’s oldest schools whose past students include MPs, judges and current and former Australian rugby players.

Farming groups and animal welfare organisations were quick to condemn the activity as “cruel and inappropriate”.

Interestingly, it comes just days after questions about the current animal welfare regulations and whether animals should be given formal legal rights were raised at an Intelligence Squared debate.

The debate brought together a number of participants including a shark attack survivor, an ethicist and a grazier. They argued the pros and cons of whether or not animal rights should overtake human interests.

The New South Wales Farmers Association says the activity was dangerous and “plain stupid”.

“You’d never treat your stock like that and I would say most concerned farmers would view that with a bit of horror,” Derek Schoen from the association told ABC News.

Those views are echoed by lawyer and animal rights advocate Ruth Hatten, who told the Intelligence Squared debate, “Australian law does not recognise animals’ abilities to feel, at least not in a way that respects their inherent value or protects them from harm at the hands of human beings.

“Our laws permit suffering — they don’t sufficiently penalise and they are not properly enforced.”

However, against the idea that animal rights outweigh human interest is author, commentator, ethicist and activist, Dr Leslie Cannold.

“We all want to look after animals but let’s look at the facts … accepting the doctrine of animal rights means we must accept that animals have a right to life and cannot be used solely as a means to human ends no matter how worthy those ends may be,” Cannold told the debate.

“We’re still pushing people and making them believe wrongly that the only way they can meet their obligations to animals, and we have those obligations, is that they must become vegan. We’re telling them to do something that most people will not, cannot, won’t, whatever the question is, do.”

In relation to The Kings School incident, the RSPCA has reportedly been to the school to investigate.

Head of the NSW branch of the RSPCA, Steve Coleman says, “You’ve got young impressionable teenage boys who seemingly are under the direction of an adult who saw fit to film it.

“How anyone can justify that kind of behaviour is beyond me.”

Is what the school did animal cruelty? Should animals be given official legal rights?

  1. Having been a sheep farmer in my youth I have some fond memories of sheep and their ways, including a pretty gentle social life, albeit it minus the rams. No, I don’t think it’s ok to treat sheep as objects of fun. Sheep and humans have this arrangement in Australia. We provide for their diet and health needs and then leave them alone as much as possible and in return they provide us with wool and meat. It’s always been a good deal for both. They are shorn and crutched and sometimes drenched and they put up with that, but that’s quite enough. I say leave them alone.

  2. Merilyn Stewart  

    I just can’t understand why this was ever thought of as a good idea…the worst behaviours often occur when multiple males are together. Why this is I don’t know. Groups of women do not engage in these displays of aggression masked as fun….

  3. What is wrong with people that they cannot understand that animals have the right to go about their lives safely and not be abused? what idiot thought this would be a good idea? whoever it was should be charged with animal cruelty.

    The office of animal welfare should NEVER have been abolished by Tony Abbott when he came into power and needs to be reinstated. There is far too much cruelty to animals and it nearly always goes unpunished. The penalties are there for people convicted of animal cruelty but time and again magistrates and judges let the perpetrators off with a slap on the wrist. For example, a couple of years ago, several teenage boys broke into a school and beat two of the alpacas owned by the school to death. A CCTV camera caught them doing it, and they laughed their heads off as they killed two defenceless animals. THEY GOT AWAY WITH IT – because the magistrate said they shouldn’t have their lives ruined by a little mistake! I guess by now these reptiles have gone to to bigger and more exciting things.

    This attitude that animals are chattels is not good enough and changes need to be implemented.

    • Humans kill for fun, shoot for so called fun, hunt for fun, I can name one animal at the moment that kills for fun, the domestic cat, all others kill to eat..We are even allowing animal to be tortured before they die, it’s called halal…Sick people who do this….Can’t some people understand that animals feel pain, they smell death coming and are far more intelligent than what people will have us believe

  4. Donna  

    What some people do to animals is beyond the realms of cruelty! They’re very sick individuals.

    A well treated animal is a joy to behold, & with a domestic pet, the unconditional love, & trust that is given is priceless!

    Animals sense same as humans, regarding many aspects. Treat them kindly, as we are their guardians’. They’ve nobody else!

    Many years’ ago, a horse had fallen at a hurdle, & broken his shoulder. Long story short, whilst he was being treated by Vet, I had the horse’s head resting on my lap, calming him as much as I could with hand, & soft brush strokes, & the look in his eyes’ told me he appreciated it greatly.
    I sat with him like that for a few hours’, not worrying about my discomfort, but just making sure he was as comfortable as possible, in the circumstances.

    He recovered, but was never able to jump over hurdles again. He lived out his ‘retirement’ to a ripe old age, in beautiful grassy paddocks, near a picturesque creek.

    I often think of him, & that look in his eyes’ is something I’ll never forget.
    I consider it a great privilege to have been able to look after him.

  5. Colours  

    We love to talk about the duty of humans to animals. Let us try to remember that we ARE animals – just a form of hair-deprived ape. If we are to have rights, then all animals must – those rights are not all the same of course (dogs are not interested in voting, nor are most Australians apparently), but they revolve around minimising suffering and consideration of interests.

    Does learning to crash tackle justify terrifying and traumatising these sheep? Most people would say no. I would add that wanting to eat their flesh or wear their skin does not justify confining, tormenting and killing them either.

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