Animals and other living things were created by Allah, the Lord of the Universe. They have their own independent existences and modes of living. (55:10) Allah has said in the Holy Qur'an that every animal has its own communal life and its own way to do 'Ibadah, or service, to Allah. Every animal praises Allah, the Exalted, in its own way. (6:38)
It is Allah who gave every animal its ability. He enabled birds to fly, fish to swim and horses to gallop. Animals were here on Earth long before humans. The first man and woman on Earth were Adam and Hawwa. Allah gave them the responsibility to be caretakers on Earth, or, as the term used in the Qur'an states, a Khalifa in the world.
Humans, who have been created with a greater intellect than animals, have a special responsibility to be fair, just and kind to all other living things. The Blessed Prophet Muhammad (p) once said that every injustice will be paid back on the Day of Judgment, even if one goat hits another with its horns it will be taken account of. Therefore, in our use of animals for our own survival we must do justice.
Allah gave us the free use of the plants and animals of this Earth. He said, "Eat and drink of the good things of the Earth." He also said, "It is Allah Who has provided you livestock of every kind. You can ride some kinds and others you eat..." (40:79) But we must balance our use of animals and plants with our primary role as a caretaker on the Earth.
For example, we are not allowed to harm animals or plants for no reason. The Blessed Prophet forbade people from capturing baby birds, burning ant hills and whipping animals cruelly. All the people he stopped from doing these things were doing them "for fun." Well, as the Prophet pointed out, it wasn't fun for the animals.
If we use animals for our work, we must feed them and not over work them. If we eat animals we are supposed to slaughter the animals according to Dhabiha rules which prevent all cruelty to animals and if we have them as pets we are to feed them and care for them. The Prophet once told a story in which he noted that a woman who starved her pet cat to death will be tormented by that cat on Judgment Day by way of revenge.
So as we can see, we have a responsibility to all living creatures around us and even though many non-Muslims assert that animals have no rights, Islam says otherwise.
The Prophet on Humane Treatment of Animals
1. Allah has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease.
2. If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, "O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose."
3. Any part cut off a living animal is dead flesh.
(Unlawful to eat. The implication is that it is not allowed to mutilate a living animal.)
(Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Hakim).
4. The Prophet said, "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." The listeners asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He replied, "That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away."
5. When you set your dog (for the chase), mention the name of Allah, if he catches the game, and you reach it while it is still alive, cut, its throat quickly (so it won't suffer)."
6. If you send your dog after the game, and it eats part of it, you should not eat of it, for the dog has hunted for itself and not for you; but if you send the dog and it kills the game without eating it, you can eat it, as it has caught it for its master.
(Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim).