Animal Rights


According to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security” (United Nations). The term “right” is defined as a power or privilege given to every person, which has to be respected (Merriam-Webster 1073). The human rights’ movement began in the 18th century. Since then, the international community has succeeded in guaranteeing basic rights and freedoms for animals, including the elimination of slavery, torture, and violent behavior. At the same time, the cruel treatment of animals takes place all over the world. The debate over the importance of granting the moral rights to animals began in the 1970s. The necessity of the recognizing and protecting animals by the human society is a philosophical and controversial issue. In particular, if animals have the right to life, they should not be killed. In case animals are given the right to liberty, people cannot keep animals in the captivity. Finally, if animals have right to security, no one should interfere in their natural environment. However, in order to eliminate the negative consequences of the inhumane behavior, people should accord to the certain freedoms of animals.

The Necessity to Introduce the Animal Rights

Goodwin and Jasper define animal rights as a moral norm that cannot be argued (238). However, the concept of animal rights differs considerably from the concept that determines human freedoms. The attitude of people towards animals is often influenced by the religious beliefs, philosophical approach of the individuals, and even the level of education. As a result, people often deny the fact that animals should be granted basic rights due to several reasons. First, animals do not have souls. Thus, they are not considered to be equal with humans. Second, people have a dominion over animals, given by God. Third, people are intellectually higher than animals. As a result, animals do not think and feel in the same way as people do. Fourth, animals are considered to be one of the natural resources, which are used by the individuals. Finally, animals are characterized by cruel behavior, as they kill each other. In addition, the attitude of the animal rights’ activists to the animal freedoms also varies. It can be proved by a simple fact that individuals may protect domestic animals from abuse but eat the meat of chicken or pork. Thus, there is an issue of selectiveness in regard to animals’ rights.

At the same time, there are people who consider that using of animals for all human purposes is not acceptable. Similarly to human beings, animals should be granted basic rights to life, liberty, and security. There are also people who think that animals should be given rights and freedoms depending on the certain conditions. For example, it is not moral to abuse animals. However, animals can be used as a source of food or entertainment. The animal rights fundamentalists state that the selective attitude towards animals is unacceptable. All animals deserve equal treatment and ensuring of rights and freedoms.

The first attempts of people to grant animals with basic rights date back to the 16th century. For instance, the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci mentioned that there would be a time when people would consider the murder of animals to be the same crime as the murder of people (Crosman 12). The rights of animals were also advocated by the Indian religious leader Mahatma Gandhi. During the 1930s, he underlined the necessity for people to protect animals and take care of them. At the same time, the concept introduced by Gandhi did not take into account all kinds of animal treatment. For example, Gandhi assumed that the monkey that did damage to the crop fields had to be punished. However, the people had to look for both ethics in expediency in their attitude towards animals. As a result, he opposed the conduction of experiments on animals (Dasgupta 62).

Gandhi denied the statement that humans were considered to be lords and masters of every kind of lower creation, including animals. Thus, he made attempts to ensure the better life for animals through conducting of public activities. Despite the fact that efforts of Gandhi were mainly aimed at the protection of holy cow, an animal was considered to be a symbol of all the species. According to Gandhi, “the cow is merely a type for all lives; cow protection means protection of the weak, the helpless, the dumb and the deaf; man becomes then not the lord and master of all creation but he is its servant” (Dasgupta 62).

The issue of moral treatment of animals did not attract the attention of public till the 1970s. In particular, in 1970, British psychologist Richard Ryder introduced the concept of “speciesism”, aimed at eliminating discrimination attitude towards animals (Ryder 25). Despite the fact that ideas of Ryder did not receive the approval of the public, other scholars began movements to protect the rights of animals. For example, Singer discussed in details the inhuman treatment of animals at farms and laboratories (117). According to the scientist, cruel treatment of animals is equal to racism and sexism due to immoral and illegal behavior. In addition, the human express their supremacy over animals. In the late 1980s, the animal rights movement expanded to cosmetics production. It is determined by the fact that at the end of the 1980s, animals, such as mice, rats, pigs, and sheep, were used for the purposes of medical engineering and cosmetics production (Botting 17).

Darwin’s theory of evolution became a driver that facilitated animal rights protection. According to Midgley, Darwin proved the absence of difference between humans and animals due to the people’s evolution from animals (53). Thus, cruel treatment of animals is equal to discrimination.

According to Regan, the reason animals suffer from the cruel human behavior is determined by the fact that animals play role of resources for people (121). At the same time, the process of providing animals with the bigger variety of rights requires the changes in people’s attitude towards them. The attitude foresees that animals should not be used for any purposes, not just the kinds of activities that cause pain and suffering for animals (Regan 82).

The public opinion on the issue of the animal rights differs greatly. According to the results of surveys held in the United States of America on the necessity to introduce the concept of animal rights, 25 percent of responders indicated that animals should be given particular freedoms. At the same time, 75 percent of responders mentioned that animals should be protected, but still can be used in order to benefit people. Only 3 percent of responders stated that animals should not be given any rights (Gallup & Newport 215). On the one hand, people realize that animals should be treated humanely and not experience suffering or abuse. The attitude can be explained by the sympathy of people who have certain experience towards animals. On the other hand, there are legal frameworks for the treatment of animals, which in the majority of cases are considered to be a human’s property (Francione 187). As a result, the treatment of animals is often compared to the treatment of slaves. In particular, despite the fact that in the United States there were legal acts aimed at protecting the rights of slaves and eliminating of slavery, the owners continued abusing the slaves. The concept of property rights, which includes the owning of animals, foresees that the owners should have proper behavior and protect the economic value of the property. However, the slavery received legal support, and the cases of abuse were not recognized. The same principles are applied when it comes to the treatment of animals. As a result, the people justify their attitude towards animals abused at farms and research laboratories. Animals should be given “respect-based” rights. In order to achieve it, the people have to refuse from considering animals as a utility or economic value. Modern legislation is more likely to protect animals because they represent a value to people, rather than taking into account the fact that animals have the value themselves as living beings. According to Regan, every being, which can be defined as a “subject-of-a-life with an experiential welfare” has to be guaranteed respectful treatment (54). The necessity to introduce animal rights is also determined by the religious beliefs or moral repugnance to the acts of the animal abuse. In particular, the US citizens do not use cats and dogs as a source of food and do not kill animals that have national significance, such as bald eagles.

Besides, animals have to be protected from the exploitation. Indeed, the relations between people and animals are determined by the fact that people use animal labor to produce commodities necessary for the everyday living. Animals are used as a source of food, a material for clothing, and way of entertainment. Moreover, animals are used for the conduction of medical experiments, and the invention of the cure. However, people need to change their attitude towards animals and consider them as living beings. People have to transform the system of exploitation, as well as deny the value of the producer and to recognize the animal rights (Torres 57).

Moreover, animals should be given the right to welfare. The scholars recognize the fact that they are used by people for different purposes. However, the purpose of the welfare rights is to reduce the amount of pain and suffering experienced by animals. The welfare rights are based on the compassionate behavior of people and providing proper care and treatment.

In addition, animals have to be given an opportunity to reduce the suffering and cruel attitude caused by people. The right can be implemented in the form of anti-cruelty laws adoption. At the same time, the legislation will not be able to prevent the killing animals for food or testing medicine on them. However, the consequences of the actions can be reduced by the applying of more human methods of killing and preventing the excessive suffering of animals during the medical experimentation.

Other rights, which should be provided for animals, include the right to life and freedom from bodily injuries. Indeed, one of the basic animal rights should be aimed at the prevention of cruelty. The United States and some of the European countries have already introduced laws aimed at the animals’ protection. For instance, beating and injuring of the pets is forbidden (Sunstein & Nussbaum 6). In addition, underfeeding or inability to provide necessary protection for a pet is also considered to be a violation of the legislation. In general, the animals should be provided with good food, water, air, and shelter (Sunstein & Nussbaum 6). At the same time, there are limitations to the legislation, as it mainly refers to the pets. As a result, the hunting, as well as usage of the animals for medical purposes, remains allowed. The rights to life and freedom from bodily injuries include the providing conditions that will prevent animals from acts of exploitation and suffering. According to the animal rights advocates, the ability to suffer makes animals worth treating with the equal consideration as humans (Regan 269). Indeed, similarly to people animals feel fear, pain, and happiness. Thus, people need to ensure that suffering of animals as a result of cruel domestic attitude, medical expirements, or process of the killing at the farms is minimal.

Implications of the Animal Rights

At the same time, the recognizing of animal rights can have certain implications. For example, providing of the welfare rights foresees that animals should not be kept at the farms, fur plants, medical research centers, and different kinds of entertainment establishments. The process can not only result in the economic loss but requires the complete transformation of the people lifestyles and habits. In addition, the unitarianism principles, which foresee the minimization of negative consequences due to particular attitude, cannot be applied to the relations between humans and animals. It is determined by the fact that historically animals were not considered to have any interests and rights at all. Moreover, the animal lives and human lives are not equal due to moral issues. There is also a perception that as far as animals do not make a decision on the basis of morality, they cannot enjoy the moral rights. Thus, animals are not able to enjoy the rights fully.

The position of activists for animal rights is also argued from the perspective of the freedoms that have to be granted for animals. For instance, Amato and Partridge state that animal rights do not have biological ground and are only based on the moral principles (37). Indeed, animals can be similar to the humans in biology. However, they are completely different from the moral aspect, as animals do not possess the capacities of personhood, including the ability to think and act rationally, and have a sense of self-consciousness (Amato & Partridge 37). As a result, the lack of such moral qualities deprives animals the opportunity to possess rights, similarly to people. Besides, scholars also deny the connection between violent attitude towards animals and racism. For instance, while racism is unacceptable due to the absence of moral difference between the representatives of various races and ethnicities, there is a moral difference between animals and humans (Cohen & Regan 27). Thus, animals cannot enjoy the same rights as humans do. According to Frey, animals should not be given any moral rights (Taylor 74). The scholar underlined that animal lives could not be treated in the same way as people’s lives due to different moral values. For instance, animals do not have the same emotional and intellectual experience as people. Additionally, the complete refusal from the consumption of animal products will result in massive social disruptions, as well as the collapse of animal-based industries and national economies.

In addition, animals cannot have rights similar to people. According to Cohen and Regan, the concept of the rights and freedoms belongs exceptionally to people, as “it is rooted in the human moral world and has force and applicability only within that world” (30). Indeed, animals experience some of the emotions, similar to the people, including impressions, the experience of pain, and suffering. However, such traits do not make animals equal to people. As a result, people do not have to stop every kind of activity that causes pain and suffering for animals. For instance, medical researches on animals represent an outmost importance for the discovery of the new types of medicines. Moreover, the scientists have moral obligations to discover the cure for the diseases. In such case, animals are considered as a way of goals achievement.

Besides, granting animals with rights to life, freedom and liberty would mean that animals could no longer be used for research, entertainment, and other purposes. Billions of domesticated animals would have to be released into the wildlife. As a result, granting animals with rights will cause massive changes in the society. First, the economies of the countries will experience losses. Thus, the opposition of the people to the granting animals with rights is also determined by the financial value they represent to humans. It is determined by the fact that animals will not be kept in the captivity, as they experience abuse and being killed there. Consequently, livestock and fur farms, as well as entertainment business will be closed. It will lead to many people lose their jobs. Consequently, on the one hand, people can be deprived of the opportunity to receive income. On the other hand, they will also lose a possibility ti entertain themselves as a great amount of leisure activities include animals. Second, the introduction of animal rights will have an impact on the scientific development. Modern scientific research is mainly based on animal tests. In addition, students at schools and universities use animals for training practices. However, the adoption of animal rights will force the scientists to introduce new ways of conducting research. Third, the habits and lifestyles of people will experience considerable changes. In particular, people will have to refuse from the consumption of meat, attending of recreation and leisure facilities that include animals. The right to life and freedom will mean the prevention of personal usage of animals, including hunting, fishing, and keeping pets. Finally, keeping pets will also be forbidden in case animals are given rights of freedom.


Thus, it is necessary to distinguish the concept of rights and obligations. In case animals will be given basic rights to freedom and life, the farm, zoos, and laboratories will be closed. At the same time, if people will take an obligation to treat animals humanely and with respect, the situation can be improved with the disruption of the animal abuse. As far as animal rights will have an impact on the economic sphere and scientific discoveries, people all over the world need to recognize the importance of adequate treatment of animals. People have to become animal guardians and caretakers. While it is impossible to refuse from the usage of animals in the farming and medical research, it is possible to limit the suffering of animals exposed to their killing and experiments on them. Moreover, treating animals as property is unacceptable, as people genetically have much common with different species. In addition, from the moral perspective it is wrong to express cruel behavior towards other living beings.

Thus, in order to protect animals, they should enjoy basic rights. Despite the fact that animals look completely different from people, they possess many human characteristics. Animals can be compared to the vulnerable categories of people. As a result, they should be treated respectively with the kindness and consideration. Moreover, the animal rights have to be recognized. Among the basic rights that have to be granted with, there are the rights to life, freedom and liberty, and protection from abuse. People have a universal obligation to act humanely and treat every living being with respect. The same attitude should be applied to animals. People need to adopt the practice of refraining from treating animals in a way that will cause them unnecessary distress and suffering.
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