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Animal Rights Introduction

    • Animal rights are benefits people give to animals to protect them from human use and abuse. Rights can take moral, legal and practical forms.
      Animal rights are benefits people give to animals. Benefits include the right of protection from human use and abuse and rights can take moral, legal and practical forms.
      Animal testing is used to protect us humans from a wide range of chemicals and products, including drugs, vaccines, cosmetics, household cleaners, pesticides, foods, and packing materials. The safety testing of chemicals and consumer products probably accounts for only about 10% to 20% of the use of animals in laboratories, or approximately two to four million animals in the United States, yet this relatively small amount has caused quite a bit of controversy. It raises issues such as the ethics and humaneness of deliberately poisoning animals, the decency of harming animals for the sake of marketing a new cosmetic or household product, the applicability of animal data to humans, and the possibility of sparing millions of animals by developing alternatives to a handful of widely used procedures. I personally am against animal testing due to highly questionable ethics and practicality issues. You may or may not agree with me, but by the end of this paper I hope you at least understand my logic.

      People who support animal rights believe that animals are not ours to use as we wish, for whatever purpose, be it for food, clothing, experimentation or entertainment. Animal rights supporters also believe that we should consider the best interests of animals regardless of whatever value the animals may have for us.
      "To spread the concept [of animal rights] beyond our species is to jeopardize our dignity as moral beings, who live in judgement of one another and of themselves." Roger Scruton. Animal Rights. City Journal. 2000.

      "...animal rights must not only be an idea but a social movement for the liberation of the world's most oppressed beings, both in terms of numbers and in the severity of their pain." Steven Best. Essay: Animal Rights and the New Enlightenment.
      But what are animal rights specifically? How do animal rights compare with human rights? Are rights a remedy for all moral problems?

      Background to Rights

      One of the first to distinguish rights was the English philosopher John Lock (1632 - 1704), who thought that people were entitled to the rights of life, liberty and property. People often base their concept of rights on a belief in ‘natural’ rights that they are given by God or were somehow enjoyed long ago, when people lived in a ‘state of nature’ before they became civilized.
      Although mostly considered to be a modern topic, philosophers such as Descartes and Kant and the philosophical theory of the social contractarians have expressed opinion in this matter. Rene Descartes held the belief that animals are no more than highly complex machines, therefore lacking all consciousness as well as the ability to feel pain, pleasure, etc. And because of this fact, they do not deserve our respect. He believed that when we kick the dog and it yelps, the yelping is not because we kicked the dog and it is in pain, but simply an act harmoniously coincided with our action of kicking it. A similar view is held by social contract theorists. Since their moral theory holds the idea that one gets rights by agreeing to an unwritten social contract, animals are not entitled to any of these rights as they are incapable of agreeing to this contract, or even understanding it. The philosopher Kant also agreed that we as humans have no direct duties toward animals; although he did believe in our indirect duties toward them, meaning to respect them in regard to their relationship with other people: I have a duty not to harm your dog because it is your property, and harming it would therefore harm you in some way.

      Furthermore, they assume that these rights are universal, that is that they apply to everyone automatically, indisputably and irrevocably. Alternatively, you could claim that human rights are neither natural nor universal.
      Today, animals still do not have the rights they deserve. We still hunt them as a source of food, perform animal experimentations to advance our medical research, and harvest farm animals for our food and food products. Apes are also used to give humans blood (Romas 1). If animals had rights we would not use them for our selfish purposes. They could live a better life without us using them to advance our way of living. They should not be in zoos in the city or in cages in some scientist’s laboratory. They should be free in the wild. They should be free because if humans did not tame animals, then they would be living wild and untamed.

      Rights are only what people are willing to confer as they see fit on others, being the granting of particular benefits by people to people.

      Modern human rights have four features in that they are said to be:

      Natural - rulers do not invent them.

      Universal - they apply to everyone.

      Equal - they are the same for everyone.

      Inalienable - no one can lose them.

      Rights are usually contracted between a country's government and its citizens, like the right to vote, the right to fair trial and the right to free speech, and vary from country to country. Many states make utterances about giving their citizens rights but do not fully grant them.
      Peter Singer was the first person to bring public awareness to the issue with his book, Animal Liberation. The book stated that because humans have special qualities (talking, reasoning, feelings, ect.), they have more power over animals. He described this as “speciesist” or “discrimination against animals.” (Ertell 1) Singer thought that society should recognize all beings, not just humans. He wanted to terminate the idea that human life matters more than other species. He also started the ‘Great Ape Project,’ in 1993, with the objective of gaining a worldwide testimony that the ape family is equal to humans. The Great Ape Project was intended for giving these animals rights and would break the barrier of human philosophy. This idea would create a new approach of equal moral worth. This in return would break down Christian morals and open doors to more animals being accepted as equals (Ertell 1, 3, 7, 9).

      Major Dates for Rights

      1776 The Declaration of Independence of the United States recognised the right to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. This was the world's first major published statement of human rights.
      Animals are a major part of the environment. To protect the rights of animals is must to every human in the environment. Animal rights are also known as "Animal Liberation", meaning that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be treated the same way as the similar interests of human beings. Animal law is taught in 119 out of 180 law schools in the United States, in eight law schools in Canada, and is routinely covered in universities in philosophy or applied ethics courses; still we are far behind in understanding the animal rights.

      1789 The National Assembly of France approved rights for the common man, including equality before the law, equal opportunity, freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, freedom of speech and religion, security of property, and taxation commensurate with ability to pay.

      1948 The United Nations affirmed their Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting out over two dozen rights, including the right of individuals to life, liberty, education, equality in law and freedom of movement, religion, association and information.

      Animal Rights

      The justification for conferring rights on animals is that animals are in many important ways like humans. Animals are sentient creatures who are subjects of a life: they feel pleasure and pain, experience emotions, remember, anticipate, learn, and what happens to them is important for them, unlike what happens to a rock or a stone.
      Animals are a part of our environment and are living creatures. They breathe; need food, shelter and love. As a good human and a member of this environment we should take care of the animals and put every effort forward to protect them from abuse and over killing. The use of animals in experiments, testing and clothes should be minimized. Research should be done to find alternatives to animal parts like skin.

      So, if you argue that humans deserve rights, it is rational that animals also deserve rights.

      Animal interests, however, are not always the same as human interests. Thus the range of rights that animals need is not always the same as the range of rights that humans need.
      A person who is against animal rights would suggest that animals do not reason or contemplate the same way as human beings; therefore, they are not entitled to the same rights. Also, they would propose that just because we are relatives of animals it does not give them any more civil liberties and that we would also have to give rights to deadly diseases that can harm humans. Animals do not perform the civil duties of human beings, making them unentitled to our societies rights. These rights are given to us because we have responsibilities. It is seamlessly normal to use animals for our desire and nourishment. Animals that are wild are in distress all the time. They are always being hunted in the wild and put through the survival of the fittest. Humans have been successful in our survival so we deserve our rights. Lastly, they would argue pro-animal rights activists can be compared to terrorists and extremist groups making them irrational and unreasonable (Dixon 1-5). Animal rights activists do irrational crimes and threats to society, for example in Sweden two animal rights activists’ allegedly poisoned meat in a super market. (Avery 2).

      Animals are not in need of equality before the law, or freedom of speech and religion, or of fair taxation. Nor do animals have an interest in voting or being literate. Hence, it would be meaningless and silly to give animals rights to these affairs.
      All the major religions prevailing in the environment like Islam, Christianity and Buddhism also recognizes the rights of the animals. These three major religions teach us about animals and help humans to know about the rights of the animals (Louis, 2008).

      However, this should not prevent people from bestowing relevant and appropriate rights on animals.

      Relevant rights for animals can be any benefits appropriate for them that people wish to bestow on them. Relevant rights for animals can include:
      • The right to live free in the natural state of the animals' choosing.

    • The right to express normal behaviour (eg food searching, grooming, nest building).

    • The right to life (ie not be killed for human food or other human use).

    • The right to reproduce (ie pass on their genes to the next generation).

    • The right to choose their own lifestyle (eg not for people to coerce them into experiments or entertainment).

    • The right to live free from human induced harm (eg hunger, thirst, molestation, fear, distress, pain, injury or disease).
    If you believe animals have such rights then you would have a doubtful basis for exploiting animals.
    Animals should be in the untamed wild and be as free. It is wrong for us to exploit them for our entertainment and amusement (PeTA 6). We should not use animals in movies or television because we corrupt their minds to do unnatural things. Animals do not do tricks or stunts in the wild. When movies and television shows say “no animals were harmed in the making of this show” it can be misleading. If the animal is harmed or dies accidently, they can still get approved for that message. In the movie Ben-Hur, they have a climatic chariot race. When they were done with this scene they ended up with nearly one hundred dead horses (VeganMeans 10). Also in the movie Zookeeper, they had a scene with a giraffe. During the scene the giraffe collapsed and died during the filming (PeTA 1).

    You would have a moral duty to support those rights and would be morally corrupt if you did not. If animals have these rights, how could you justify, say, eating animals, using them for sport or keeping them in zoos? In practical terms you would have to live your life accordingly, such as become a vegetarian or vegan.
    However, I do not believe these arguments stand up to scrutiny. To begin, it has been shown on numerous occasions by secret filming in laboratories via animal rights groups that animals feel as much pain as humans do, and they suffer when they are kept in cages for long periods. In addition, a substantial amount of animal research is done for cosmetics, not to find cures for diseases, so this is unnecessary. Finally, it has also been proven that humans can get all the nutrients and vitamins that they need from green vegetables and fruit. Therefore, again, having to kill animals for food is not an adequate argument.

    Fundamental Animal Rights Positions

    As for the actuality of giving rights to animals there are three fundamental positions: abuse, welfare and liberation.

    1. Abuse
    Animals have no moral status.
    I agree with Utilitarian approach, which states that animal ethics should be morally considered. It means that this is the duty of humans to protect animal rights. If a community is rejecting animal rights it suffering from 'speciesism', which means the community is following racism and is sexiest (Louis, 2008).

    We owe nothing to animals except to make use of them as and how we like. This is the position many people held in past centuries and many people still hold today, especially in China and surrounding countries.
    Asian countries especially India, Pakistan, China among other countries animals are humiliated and used as labor. Governments of these countries do not really care about what is happening with the animals.

    2. Welfare
    Animals should have welfare. We should treat animals kindly, but humans always come first when there is a conflict of interest, because humans are superior and animals are a resource for humanity.
    Cruelty to animals is an indication of an uncivilized society. Cruelty shows that our society is barbaric and that America supports violence. When we use animals to advance our medical research we are hurting them. (Dixon 4-5) We need to find a way to advance our medical research without animals. We should use volunteers instead of animals for testing our medical indications. The difference between animal testing and human testing is that animals do not volunteer themselves to be tested on. Human testing would be better for our medical research anyways because animals and humans rarely get the same diseases. Animals and humans only share less than two percent of diseases and illnesses. The success percentage rate of animal testings working on humans is five to twenty-five percent (Lynch 1-2).

    Welfarists acknowledge the need to use animals but try to alleviate 'needless' animal suffering. This is the position most people in the West support today.

    3. Liberation
    We should liberate animals.
    Islam is very close to Christianity in respect of Animal Rights. Muslims are allowed to eat meat which comes from animals and they can use all the dairy products. In Islam animals are slaughtered in such a way that the animal bears the minimum pain and all the blood of the animal flows away. This slaughtering of the animal prevents humans from diseases and bacteria. Example of such kind of meat is Kosher Meat. But still Islam tells its followers to be kind to animals. If one is raising a pet like a cat, dog or any other animal, one should take care of the necessities of the animal. Islam doesn't allow anyone to be cruel with animals.

    This is the avant-garde position: animals deserve moral status similar in some way to human moral status. There are two types of animal liberationist and both want to abolish the use of animals on moral or other grounds.
    Canada and United States of America has strict laws against animal cruelty. In Canada there is zero percent tolerance towards animal cruelty, which is written in the Contemporary Canadian Criminal Code.

    ‘New welfarists’ regard abolition as a long-term goal and meanwhile try to ease as much animal suffering as possible by introducing practical welfare measures. The 'hard-line abolitionists’ believe welfare is a waste of time and pitch straight for abolition of animal use on the grounds that if there is no abuse then there is no need for welfare.
    With regard to the exploitation of animals, people believe it is acceptable for several reasons. Firstly, they think that humans are the most important beings on the planet, and everything must be done to ensure human survival. If this means experimenting on animals so that we can fight and find cures for diseases, then this takes priority over animal suffering. Furthermore, it is believed by some that animals do not feel pain or loss as humans do, so if we have to kill animals for food or other uses, then this is morally acceptable.

    Liberationists have a lifestyle quite different to the majority of people, being vegan or vegetarian and reject goods and services based on animals.

    Variations on Animal Rights

    The concept of animal rights has different levels of definition. So to make any discussion meaningful and avoid talking at cross purposes you need to clarify what people have in mind when they speak about animal rights.
    Throughout recent history, although mostly in contemporary American society, a general topic for moral discussion is the ethical treatment of animals. Much debate has resulted from this topic, with the major question being, "should animal life be given the same respect as human life." In this essay, I shall argue to defend the view that all life is worthy of respect, life including those species extending beyond that of Homo sapiens.

    For example you can distinguish three basic views: absolute, equal and relative.

    1. Relative Animal Rights
    We should avoid causing animals 'unnecessary' suffering, but human welfare is more important than animal welfare and we should overrule the interests (rights) of animals if we have good reason to do so. Animal welfarists hold this view.
    Lord Brain, "Presidential Address," in C.A. Keele and R. Smith, eds., The Assessment of Pain in Men and Animals (London: Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 1962).

    2. Equal Consideration
    We should give equal consideration to the comparable interests of animals and humans. When making a moral decision about the suffering of a dog and a human, neither want pain inflicted on them, so we should give the same weight of consideration to the dog as we would to the human.
    In our human existence, it is well understood that there exists a basic principle that the only limit to a person's rights should be the where the rights of another are infringed upon - most critically, when a person's life, health or freedom is at risk. From our own experiences, we know that these things are priceless to us; we are familiar with the fear that arises from any of them being threatened. Slavery, murder, and rape are measured as among the nastiest crimes conceivable; execution and life imprisonment are the two harshest sentences that U.S. courts have the power to hand down. We prohibit people from hurting, killing, or enslaving other humans because we know that the inborn urge we have to retain our health and freedom exists not just in ourselves, but in all humans; when these urges are violated, we all suffer. Therefore, we strive to build a society in which individuals are not subjected to these crimes. However, when it comes t...

    If we are not prepared to make a human suffer then we should not make a dog suffer. People of a utilitarian philosophy may hold an outlook like this.

    3. Absolute Animal Rights
    We should always protect the rights of animals, even when doing so is troublesome personally and difficult for society.
    A growing number of people feel that animals should not be exploited by people and that they should have the same rights as humans, while others argue that humans must employ animals to satisfy their various needs, including uses for food and research.

    People should not experiment on dogs to develop a possible life-saving drug (other experimental methods should be found) even if it might mean delaying the drug's development by some years. This is the view that animal rightists hold.
    In America over 99% of slaughterhouses are upheld in a traditional regard, leaving only 1% to organic and free-range slaughterhouses. A traditional upholding usually means that things are kept in a manner where animals aren’t being given the rights they deserve. Rights like: freedom to clean quarters, rights to death with anesthesia and the rights to be steroid free.

    You need not confine yourself to these three levels when discussing animal rights. Make up nuances as you like, such as broadening animal rights to apparently non-sentient animals, or to the whole of inanimate nature, or by coming up with different definitions of animal rights.
    Animals should have a Bill of Rights just like humans. They should be treated as any other human being on the planet. Animal rights are defined as “rights (as to fair and humane treatment) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all animals” (

    Are Rights a Cure-all?

    Rights should be absolute if they are to protect individuals; they cannot be suspended or hacked about to fit in with what someone may happen to want. Yet there seem to be cases for overriding rights during moral dilemmas, such as killing some individuals to save others.
    To sum up, although some people argue killing animals for research and food is ethical, I would argue there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that this is not the case, and, therefore, steps must be taken to improve the rights of animals.

    This might be when mice are spoiling a harvest and setting off a famine, or when coyotes or foxes are eating the last individuals of an endangered species. How should we react to conflicts of interest like these? We might respond by temporarily adopting another philosophy, like utilitarianism - that you should act to bring about the greatest good to the greatest number of individuals.
    Some people believe that animals should be treated in the same way humans are and have similar rights, whereas others think that it is more important to use them as we desire for food and medical research. This essay will discuss both points of view.

    Therefore rights may not be a panacea that can cope with all moral conditions all the time; now and then we may have to look outside rights for other solutions to guide us when dealing with moral issues.
    In this type of essay, you must look at both sides. In other words you need to discuss the arguments FOR animal rights and AGAINST.

    Another problem with rights is that sometimes people say animals have intrinsic value: an importance in themselves irrespective of their value to humans. You might claim that all sentient beings are entitled to rights because they have equal intrinsic value.
    In this essay you are being given two opposing opinions to discuss.

    But does intrinsic value really exist in itself? Intrinsic value might simply be subjective, what people say has value to themselves. If you do not believe in intrinsic value then you might have to pursue animal liberation via utilitarianism, not through animal rights.
    When we eat animals it is possible for us to get fatal diseases. We can develop diseases such as: heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many additional illnesses. Giving animals a Bill of Rights would stop humans destroying the universe. If we give them rights we can get rid of companies with machineries that destroy our rainforests. Letting animals have rights would stop the world from brutalization and inequality. Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc says giving animals their rights would abolish businesses that would destroy land. “Animal rights will end poverty” (Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc. 4, 8-10).

    As a utilitarian you could claim that sentient animals have interests and thus no species (that is humanity) is more important than any other; therefore, we should give equal moral consideration to every creature's relevant moral interests.
    The three major prevailing religions in the society that are Christianity, Islam and Buddhism also recognize the importance of the wild life and teach humans how to deal with animals.

    For & Against: argue your case

    Listen to people's arguments for and against animal rights. Break down their arguments into simple statements and add them to these common outlooks to help argue your own case.
    But however well these points are argued or related, I am inherently inclined to disagree that humans are the only beings to merit respect of life. Peter Singer, an ethicist supporting this idea, (although perhaps somewhat extremely), conveys his beliefs through his argum...

    1. Drawing the Line
  • Claim: If we grant rights to animals then eventually even insects and plants will have rights. That would be ridiculous.

  • Claim: Animal rights encompass animals who are sentient (chiefly mammals and birds, but also advanced invertebrates like the octopus, Octopus vulgaris). It is Deep Ecology that makes the case for giving rights to all of nature.
    Today in America the average person consumes anywhere from two hundred and sixty pounds to three hundred pounds of meat a year, according to a Cha-Cha search engine. That is despicable and extremely hard to fathom! This is exponentially more than any other country on earth! That is despicable and extremely hard to fathom! Why, what makes meat so accesable here? What drives us to consume fatty meats more than any other food group? The answer lies in the cheap manufacturing skills of many slaughterhouses.

  • 2. Dependency on Animality
  • Claim: Giving rights to animals will severely disrupt society. We would have to undergo enormous changes if we give rights to animals. Every use of animals would have to stop and we would not be able to live normal lives.

  • Claim: Most people may want to give absolute animal rights where they can and relative animal rights where they cannot. We must do this with good intention and careful consideration.
    One way to organize an essay like this is to consider both opinions, then give your opinion in a final paragraph or dedicate a whole final paragraph to your opinion.

  • 3. Moral Sense
  • Claim: Animals have no sense of morality. So they do not need moral rights.

  • Claim: People should support animal rights because people are moral. Whether or not animals have a sense of morality is not the issue.

  • 4. Comprehension
  • Claim: Only creatures who comprehend rights can benefit from them.
    According to Bible, Man is to take care of and use the earth. Humans have been given the authority over all the creatures God has created. All the resources of Earth are created for the use of humans. God also included some animals in the diet of humans, which means one can use animals for his use. Still animal cruelty and over killing of animals is prohibited in Bible. Man is asked to take care of the animals and protect them from diseases.

    Only humans understand rights so only humans can have rights.

  • Claim: Children and severely mentally impaired people cannot understand rights, yet we do not deny them rights. Therefore we should not hold back from giving rights to animals because they cannot comprehend them.
    If you have a separate paragraph with your opinion you may find you cannot think of any new ideas or you may end up repeating the same things as in your previous paragraphs.

  • 5. Reciprocation
  • Claim: The giving of rights implies reciprocation. You have the right to life so you must respect the right of others to life. But animals cannot reciprocate so they should not have rights.

  • Claim: Animal rights are about how humans should treat animals, not about how animals should treat humans. In any case, we respect the rights of our future unborn generations and they cannot reciprocate.

  • 6. Biology vs Rationality
  • Claim: Humans kill and eat animals because we evolved to survive by exploiting our environment. It is therefore senseless even to consider giving animals rights and we should continue to exploit them.

  • Claim: Unlike other animals, we are not now constrained entirely by biological evolution. We can reflect on how we should act and choose how to behave. Therefore we can behave morally and give animals rights.

  • 7. Food & Territory
  • Claim: We are all part of the natural food web: animals eat each other and we eat them.
    Another way to write an essay like this is to also make one of the 'for' or 'against' opinions your opinion as well.

    Being part of the natural food web we should not give animals the right not to be eaten by us.

  • Claim: Animals kill each other because they have to, either for food or to protect their food supplies, or they would die. But we can rationalise and decide not to eat animals. Vegetarians do not die for lack of meat.

  • 8. Mental Capacity
  • Claim: People have grater mental capacities than animals and cannot measure up to us. Therefore giving animals rights would demean humanity and we must reject animal rights.

  • Claim: We do not use or abuse people who are severely mentally retarded or in a permanent vegetative state. Many animals have mental abilities far better than these people. So we should not withhold rights from animals.

  • 9. Species Differences
  • Claim: Animals and humans are obviously different. So we should treat animals differently from us.

  • Claim: There is no acceptable difference (whether intelligence, shape, posture or colour) that distinguishes animals from humans on moral grounds. So there is no moral line you can draw that separates animals and humans.
    The advantage of doing it this way rather than having a separate paragraph is that you do not need to come up with new ideas for a new paragraph.

  • 10. Pain & Suffering
  • Claim: Animals can experience pain and suffering. But this does not mean we have to give them rights, only that we should not be cruel to them. We can treat animals well and give them adequate legal protection without giving them rights.

  • Claim: All children have rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by nearly 200 countries. Mentally handicapped people have rights as people. Now we must broaden our circle of compassion to animals by giving them rights.

  • 11. Sentience
  • Claim: Animals are not sentient: they cannot speak, have no thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions or interests.
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    Therefore we should reject animal rights.

  • Claim: We should not make our ignorance of animals a basis for insensitivity. But we know that some animals at least have ideas and a measure of speech, and that animals have feelings, like a need to care for their young, remain with their group and feel safe and well. Therefore we should give them rights.
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