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Animal rights

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Animal rights is the concept that animals have some rights, in a similar sense to the concept of human rights, although not necessarily equivalent. For example, though animal rights activists do not advocate for an animal's right to vote in an election, they may advocate for an animal's right right to own its own body.

Which rights?[edit]

Depending on the person talking about it, these rights can vary widely, and range from "we should try to minimize the harm we inflict and not engage in needless cruelty" to "animals are people and should have basically the same rights"[1]. There are disagreements about whether animal rights should apply to creatures, or only those which are capable of experiencing suffering — or, as cynics might point out, those that are fluffy and cute. It is notable that the activities of animal rights activists tend to focus more on the treatment of mammals and birds, for example, rather than insects, although there certainly are some who object to the silk[2] and honey[3] industries. Many animal rights activists are also some degree of vegetarian.

"Animal welfare"[edit]

A differing, less dramatic form of animal care is the concept of “animal welfare”. While many people and groups use the terms "animal welfare" and "animal rights" interchangeably, there is a significant different between the two.

The concept of “animal welfare” holds that humans have a duty to protect animals and that cruelty and suffering inflicted on them should be minimised wherever possible. The animal welfare position holds that it is morally justified to use animals for food, clothing, entertainment or scientific research as long as their care is good and needs are met. Groups like these believe that human interests ultimately come before animal interests, but care should still be provided towards them. Examples of animal welfare groups include the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS), and, in the United Kingdom, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

The "animal rights" position however, claims that this is not good enough. Animal rights proponents will argue that animals to be given equal consideration that is given to humans, that animals should be free to live their own lives and that they should never be used to benefit humans for any purpose, regardless of how well they are treated. They believe all animal use to be exploitative in and of itself. A comparison these groups will often use is slavery, stating that slavery itself would not be justified just because the slaves were treated well. Examples of animal rights groups are Animal Aid, PETA and In Defense of Animals.

Nevertheless, the two terms are often used synonymously. Indeed, philosophers such as Baruch Spinoza would have disagreed with the widespread use of the concept of animal rights; he equated the concept of right with a power to do something and therefore would have thought that the term animal rights was misleading since animals lacked power to do things like vote intelligently, carry on a conversation, or purchase a candy bar. Most likely, he would have preferred the term animal welfare instead.[4]

Animal testing[edit]

See the main article on this topic: animal testing

Despite the many potential benefits of animal experimentation, many animal rights activists are actively opposed to it and protest any use of animals in research, claiming it is a form of speciesism and therefore morally unjustifiable. They argue that the claims that animal testing has significant benefits for humans and animals are not justification enough for animal testing to take place. Their argument is that since humans are not used for “the greater good” in these tests, equally sentient animals should not be either, emphasizing the similar abilities to feel pain and emotions. The argument from marginal cases is often put forward in cases like this. The difference in intelligence between animals and humans they view as irrelevant, as in certain cases, some young babies or severely cognitively disabled people may be less intelligent than the animals that are being used in experiments, but nobody would argue that they should be used for scientific research instead of the animals because they are less intelligent. [5] [6] [7]

As a result of this, many animal rights activists have earned the ire of some in the scientific community by trying to put an end to animal testing — even going so far as threatening to kill scientists who engage in animal testing, as well as those who benefit from animal testing.[8] This ignores the real contributions animal testing has made to our understanding of drugs and disease — including drugs and diseases that impact animals.

Pet ownership[edit]

The animal rights view regarding keeping animals as pets is often distorted and exaggerated. Traditionally, right-wing groups have claimed animal rights activists as wanting to kill, steal or "liberate" people’s pets because the animal rights position is opposed to animal use by humans in any way. However, the approach of most animal rights groups is often more complicated than that. Most animal rights groups such as PETA do indeed think pet ownership is wrong, but instead ask for current pet owners to spay or neuter their pets, to reduce the cat/dog population. Essentially neutering the animals to extinction, so that overtime, the industry of keeping pets will be phased out. They argue that the pet industry causes way more harm to animals than it does good. The desire for humans to have pets has created a massive overpopulation problem and it is claimed that even in good homes, animals cannot live full lives. [9] [10] PETA for instance, argues that for every cat or dog who has a good home, many others are homeless on the streets, waiting in animal shelters or with incompetent and/or abusive owners. [11]

It should also be noted that animal rights groups tend to prefer the terms “companion animals” and “guardians” to “pets” and “owners”, respectively.

Arguments for[edit]

There are several arguments for animal rights.

Evolution[edit]

See the main article on this topic: evolution

Many have tried to use evolution to defend or attack animal rights. Some people claim that "animal rights" is a logical inference from the theory of evolution, since evolution says that people and animals are somehow "equal." There are some who claim that we should be able to kill and eat all the fluffy animals we want because, hey, we're the evolved species. They don't really understand evolution either.

Sentience[edit]

Core to the argument for animal rights is the concept of sentience—the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively.[12] Since almost all animals are sentient,[13] it follows that such animals have rights. For example, such animals have the right to not be unnecessarily harmed, descending from the moral principle that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering.

Personhood[edit]

Many animals are best viewed not only as sentient beings, but as conscious beings or unique individuals. The 2012 Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, for example, concludes that “the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness” and that many “nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”[14] Tom Regan, in his 1983 classic, The Case for Animal Rights, argues furthermore that almost all mammals, aged one year or more, are subjects-of-a-life endowed with “perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; an emotional life together with feelings of pleasure and pain; preference- and welfare-interests; the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals; a psychophysical identity over time; and an individual welfare in the sense that their experiential life fares well or ill for them.”[15] Animals possessing such characteristics may claim further rights such as the right to autonomy.[16]

Arguments against[edit]

There are several arguments against animal rights.

Understanding[edit]

Some philosophers, such as Carl Cohen, deny that animals have rights since animals can neither understand nor act on such rights.[17] However, one need not be a moral agent to have rights; otherwise, infants, the senile, and the severely intellectually disabled would lack rights altogether. To be fair, infants will (usually) eventually become able to understand or act on such rights as they mature to adults and those that are senile typically had that capability at some point in their lives.

In response to this accusation, Cohen grants exemptions to all and only human beings, no matter how disabled. However, there is no justification for this position other than species membership, which is largely morally irrelevant.[18]

Amorality rights argument[edit]

In his 2001 succedaneum, Defending Animal Rights, Tom Regan formulates one of Cohen’s arguments as follows:

1. Animals live in an amoral world, where nothing is either right or wrong.
2. Those who live in an amoral world cannot have rights.
3. Therefore, animals do not have rights.

Regan counters that, though animals, as moral patients, may have no rights claims against each other, they can still have right claims against moral agents.[19]

While it is philosophically questionable who is correct, it would be fair to also extend this argument and counter to humans, as there are quite a few places where humans live in an amoral world (such as in the Western Sahara, Somalia outside of Somaliland etc.).[20] The question then could become more among the lines of "Can a Somalian appeal to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?", which is much more clear as a question.

Inconsistency[edit]

See above section. The concept of animal rights has taken root chiefly in northwestern Europe and North America. Cultural attitudes and traditions as to the appropriate treatment of animals vary widely among cultures. An argument against animal rights would be its inconsistent application, lending to "some animals are more equal (to humans) than others" situation. For example, arguments against consuming dogs and cats can stem from xenophobia and hypocrisy, based on strong cultural differences and flawed arguments that try to put dogs and cats on a different pedestal than other animals. These arguments include dogs are meant to be "companions" (though we daily kill chickens which can also be kept as pets), dogs are "intelligent" (pigs are on par with dogs with intelligence), dogs are suffering (it disregards our lifestock at home. This is the best argument, though it isn't enough to call for an outright banning of consuming dogs). Nevertheless, there is a huge controversy in China in the Yulin dog meat-eating festival[21][22], where animal rights activists and dog lovers fight to put an end to eating dog partially because they think eating dog in of itself is wrong, though other more valid reasons include the massive mistreatment of dogs and kidnapping of family of dogs. Why there isn't a mass international outrage against how we mistreat chickens, cows, pigs, and others in our countries just underscores the inconsistency applied to each animal and can be an argument against animal rights or at least the enormous difficulty of applying it consistently.

Other examples include Spain and some areas of Latin America, where blood sportsWikipedia's W.svg such as bullfightingWikipedia's W.svg continue to be practiced and are considered integral parts of the culture. CockfightingWikipedia's W.svg has an even broader appeal, not only in Latin America, but also throughout South and East Asia and Southern France; in places like Bali and southern India it has religious overtones. Animal sacrifice is an important religious ritual in many non-European cultures, from Hinduism and Islam to Santeria and Vodun. Animal rights activists have lobbied for the persecution of Santeria in the United States.[23][24] Animal rights activists have also sought to interfere with the exercise of hunting and fishing rights promised to Native Americans under treaties.[25][26][27]

At its most extreme animal rights activists may advocate the social injustice of an entire population for their inhumane treatment of animals and in some cases even outright genocide, as exemplified by the antisemitic rhetoric that was employed by animal rights activists in the 19th century, which ended up being supported by Richard Wagner [28] and being a talking point of Adolf Hitler. Even now, you may still find Golden Dawn enthousiasts using the argument that some people deserve to die because they abuse animals.

Religious views[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Religion

Many religious people, who believe that humanity was created superior to animals, reject the concept of animal rights, but support animal welfare campaigns because they do not wish God's other creatures to suffer.

Compared to religions where you might be reborn as an animal, the Bible spends comparatively less time concerned with animal welfare. One of the Noahide laws which prohibits eating parts of an animal while still alive, however the Bible says nothing of how long one can keep an animal or in how small a cage. Also, according to the Bible, animals are supposed to be allowed rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10) and can't be muzzled to prevent them from eating while working in the field (Deut. 25:4), just as human field workers are supposed to be allowed. Animals are supposed to be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible (Shechita). It is also a violation of Jewish law to spay, neuter, dock, or to otherwise surgically alter an animal without a valid medical reason (tza'ar ba'alei chayim, or causing suffering to animals). The Torah specifically prohibits castrating males of any species (Lev. 22:24), although this law does not specifically mention neutering female pets, allowing room for misogynist misinterpretation. Similarly circumcising animals isn't specifically prohibited either, as it's generally presumed circumcision is an exclusively human part of the covenant, and that humans non believers aren't covered as a protected type of animal, having evolved from them. Some religions, like Buddhism and Jainism, forbid harm to all creatures (as do certain Hindus), which could be held as supportive of animal rights. Vegetarianism is common among members of these faiths as a result.

Ag-gag laws[edit]

Evidence of factory farm abuse of animals promotes support for animal rights and all the evils associated with it, such as vegetarianism. And that impacts profit. So, the First Amendment be damned. By 2015, seven U.S. states had passed "Ag-gag laws," statutes that criminalize sneaking recording devices into industrial farming operations that raise animals for consumption, food products or fur. Idaho's Ag-gag law was declared unconstitutional, but the statutes in the other states remain on the books.[29] The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is part of a coalition of 70 organizations working in opposition to these laws. The ASPCA states:

Ag-gag laws are a direct threat to animal welfare. We know that animals are often cruelly treated in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Documentation of this treatment not only helps educate the public about farm animal abuse, but also influences industry and government entities to make real changes for farm animals.
[30]

Ever since Upton Sinclair revealed horrific abusesWikipedia's W.svg in Chicago's slaughterhouses in the early 20th century, the farm industry has sought to prevent whistleblowers from documenting conditions in their operations. Ag-gag laws represent a vigorous new attack on the damage such revelations—especially videotapes—cause to their business. In Idaho the industry actually drafted the bill that was passed in that state[31], and was in response to:

[A]n activist-film[ing] undercover video that showed cows at an Idaho plant being beaten by workers, dragged by the neck with chains, and forced to live in pens covered in feces, which activists said made the cows slip, fall and injure themselves. The facility, Bettencourt Dairies, is a major supplier for Burger King and Kraft. The workers who were filmed were fired.

Don't become a vegetarian—it's bad for some people's business. And for Goat's sake, don't even think about going vegan!

Animals, righted[edit]

In a latest incident which shows animals should be considered at par with humans is the election of Ms. Beatha Lee as the president of Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association in Virginia. What this has to do with animal rights? Well, Ms. Lee is a Wheaten Terrier.Wikipedia's W.svg[32][33][34]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Animal Rights, Human Wrongs: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy Tom Regan
  2. Cruelty-Free Silk or Peace Silk
  3. Honey
  4. Spinoza's Political Philosophy,Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,...see discussion on rights...,Apr 21, 2008 [1]
  5. [2]
  6. [3]
  7. [4] Question 4
  8. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/30/animal-rights-activists-bully-dying-italian-girl.html
  9. http://www.peta.org/about-peta/why-peta/pets/
  10. http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/pets/#.V78Yuo-cHIU
  11. https://www.peta.org/issues/companion-animal-issues/
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience
  13. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201306/universal-declaration-animal-sentience-no-pretending
  14. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf
  15. [5]
  16. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/personal_autonomy
  17. http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/phil1200,Spr07/cohen.pdf
  18. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/
  19. [6]
  20. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvqVxgw1Eck
  21. BBC news(22 June 2015).. China Yulin dog meat festival under way despite outrage. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  22. Huang, S. (June 9, 2016). New York Times. China’s Dog Meat Festival Is Again at Hand, and Opponents Are Lining Up. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  23. Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993).
  24. Merced v. Kasson, 577 F.3d 578 (5th Cir.m 2009)
  25. Matthew Weinbaum, Makah Native Americans Vs. Animal Rights Activists, Univ. Michigan
  26. Treaty Rights, Indians of the Midwest.
  27. Lighting the Seventh Fire, PBS.
  28. Offenes Schreiben an Herrn Ernst von Weber Verfasser der Schrift Die Folterkammern der Wissenschaft, 1879, R. Wagner, Gesammelte Werke, Leipzig 1888.
  29. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/04/429345939/idaho-strikes-down-ag-gag-law-raising-questions-for-other-states
  30. https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/factory-farms/what-ag-gag-legislation
  31. https://theintercept.com/2015/05/28/emails-reveal-dairy-lobbyist-authored-ag-gag-legislation-outlawing-pictures-farms/
  32. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/nrl/hillbrook-tall-oaks-civic-association-elect-dog-ms-beatha-lee-as-president/story-e6frfgbo-1226008968448
  33. http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20110218/NEWS13/110219404/1181
  34. http://www.thedogfiles.com/2011/02/24/dog-elected-as-president-of-civic-association-in-annandale-virginia/