Arguments For & Against Animal Rights
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.
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.
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.
3. Moral Sense
Claim: Animals have no sense of morality. So they do not need moral rights.
Claim: We support animal rights because we are moral. Whether or not animals have a sense of morality is not the issue.
Claim: Only creatures who comprehend rights can benefit from them. 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.
Claim: Conferment of rights implies reciprocation. If you have the right not to be killed then you must respect the right of others and not kill them. 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 pointless 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 can make choices on how to behave. Therefore we can behave morally and give animals rights.
7. Food & Territory
Claim: Animals eat each other, so we can eat them. We are all part of the food web.
Claim: Animals kill each other because they have to, for food or to protect their food supply, or they would die. We can 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 be compared with them. Therefore we should 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 better then these people. So animals also need rights.
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 can distinguish animals from people morally. People are also different from each other, so where do you draw the line?
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.
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.
Claim: Animals are not sentient: they cannot speak, have no thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions or interests. 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.