Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Animals Don't Have Rights

The phrase "animal rights" sounds pleasant enough on the surface. Kind-hearted people the world over love animals and wish to see them treated humanely. Abuse and neglect of owned animals is illegal in every state of the union. We as a society value and promote the welfare of animals.

However, upon close examination, we find that the concept of "animal rights" is invalid.

"Rights" is defined as "a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral".

What specific "rights" are animals entitled to claim, under a system of justice? This must be determined in order to discuss the situation intelligently.

Here is a listing of some commonly-accepted "rights":

·        right to life
·        right to liberty (freedom from slavery or serfdom)
·        right to own personal property
·        right to equality of justice
·        right to vote
·        right to free speech
·        Freedom of religion
·        Freedom from torture


We can't reasonably expect for animals to participate in free speech, or in a political system whereby they vote, or in the selection of a religion.

Rights are civil and political concepts. In order for animals to have rights, they must have an established system of government. They must have laws for which there is punishment for infractions, determined by a system of justice.

Animals don't have laws. The concept of justice does not exist for them. They don't live by a moral code.

In order for rights to exist, corresponding responsibilities must also exist. For instance, if one expects the right to vote, then one must abide by societal rules and laws that have been instituted in order to maintain that right. The right to liberty must be balanced with a respect for the rights of others. Animals do not have a respect for the rights of others, and therefore the liberty of wild animals is balanced only by the forces of nature such as predation and the food chain. Animals may have a concept of possession of property, but no reciprocal idea of theft being "wrong".

There are also social rights concepts such as sexual equality, racial equality, rights to education and to health care. These rights are agreed upon by the members of society as beneficial and just for the group. Animals have no understanding of or participation in abstract concepts like equal rights based on gender, race or age.

The concept of "animal rights" ignores the very nature of animals. Animals fight for territory or partners. They hunt, kill and eat each other. They rape, pillage and plunder at will. Humans have established official codes of conduct that prohibit such activities impinging on the "rights" of others. While the very nature of "humane" treatment prohibits any human-caused torture of animals, there is no such natural prohibition against torture in the animal world. 

Animals are incapable of moralizing; and even if capable, should the lion be told that he may not eat the lamb? Should the very process of natural selection and evolution be altered in consideration of the "right" of prey to avoid being someone's dinner? Of course not. 

Most people do, however, believe in the concept of humane stewardship toward animals. The very use of the word "humane" tells us that compassionate treatment of animals and each other is an ideal inherently related to human values, ethics and morals.

 
We believe that the animals we own should be treated with compassion and mercy. We believe that animals in the wild should be conserved from the effects of mankind that might serve to decimate their populations. This ideal of stewardship of animals (or animal welfare) is vastly different from the concept of animals having "rights".

Animal rights activists have waged a campaign to convince the public that animals ownership is akin to slavery; that breeding is no different than rape; that animals on farms are the moral equivalent of Nazi holocaust victims. Such comparisons are deeply offensive to anyone who cherishes genuinely "humane" ethics and values.


 
The idea that animals must be "free" from human use ignores our human biology. We are not herbivores, with multiple stomachs and lengthy intestines, who ruminate a grassy diet; we are omnivores who rely on some meat and animal products in our diet to maintain our health. We have evolved in this manner. We co-evolved with dogs, who hunted alongside us and helped us to herd our flocks, so that both our species could enjoy our natural diets. 

Those who believe that the concept of "Animal Rights" is worthy of support may obtain self-satisfaction derived from a sense of moral superiority, but their logic and intelligence is certainly questionable.

26 comments:

  1. Very well thought out - thanks you!

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this concise and logical article on Animal Rights. I think your points were well made and exhibited a "common sense approach" to the debate that is often missing in most AR propaganda.

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  3. great artical now if we could only get it to our politician and get them to understand it

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  4. Amen. The attempt to explain animal behavoir as sentience [the human-like consciousness from back in the day when people also believed the earth to be flat] is the central tenet of animal liberation. Revival of the flat-earth nonsense that animals think as humans do will lead to the abolition of animal ownership and increased poverty in the US, which is IMHO the goal.

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  5. Starbreeze you nailed it.
    Excellent talking points of which they cannot have a sound argument against. Only their usual emotionally based rhetoric as you so aptly pointed out.

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  6. Interesting and thought provoking! However the statements "They rape, pillage and plunder at will" and "there is no such natural prohibition against torture in the animal world" seem to gloss over behavior checked by Pack dynamics. Pack order exchanges free will for group benefit and grants/impinges on individual "rights".

    Great article - a lot to think about - thanks!

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  7. Great article! I've received it from four different sources already, so it's making the rounds. :) Definitely one to bookmark and pass on. KC

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  8. Seemingly the writer has not studied biology nor animal ecology. The writer just goes on with the same old master of nature - option. Yes, that's said already in the bible old part , written about 2000 years ago.

    But cultures & science - also our views about our animal relatives are about to change. These are the signs.

    I can't see any intellectual nor "new" point in this writing. Sorry.

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    1. Just goes to show how LITTLE you really know about animals.

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    2. Of course the points are not 'new' . . . not much has changed regarding biology in the past 2000 years. What has changed is our understanding of nature and spiritual insight. It's a fact that most of our elementary education teachers today were raised on Disney, and have only rudimentary science education themselves. They are working with tight school system budgets that prioritize in favor of technology, not much on philosophy or in-depth science study. Humans are animals, but animals are not human, cannot make decisions based on morality. Altruism in animals may exist, but it still isn't based on morality. I know many people who do not eat meat because they feel guilty about killing animals. There is nothing wrong with that, but there are personal consequences for physical and mental health in living this way. (I always remember Father Ray reminding us college kids during Lenten season that 'sacrifice' must be painful, the true meaning of the word. If it feels 'good', self-righteous, it ain't 'sacrifice'.) Belief in Animal Rights dogma must remain a personal choice, not societal rules for all. Denying biology has been done all over the world, but it is interesting to note that the cultures who practice these beliefs are self limiting through biology. I actually suspect that Starbreeze HAS studied biology and animal ecology.

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    3. Correct, there is nothing "new" here. It's long been known that the difference between humans and other animals is one of kind, and not degree.
      The many books within the Bible are considerably older than 2000 years, but you'll notice I did not cite biblical authority, just natural law. Sorry.

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  9. >>>>>>>>> The concept of "animal rights" ignores the very nature of animals. Animals fight for territory or partners. They hunt, kill and eat each other. They rape, pillage and plunder at will. >>>>>>>>

    Oh, that's awful ! Luckily we humans don't do anything like that !

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    1. Please re-read the post as you seem to have missed the point entirely. Humans institute written proscriptions against activities deemed immoral or "wrong", and punish offenders who have been convicted in court after a carefully-conducted process of trial. Animals don't.

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  10. Many humans are unable to exercise 'corresponding responsibilities' or have an understanding of justice and laws - this would include some of those with Downs Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy, or some people affected as a consequence of strokes or accidents,- are they to have fewer 'rights'. That in fact is precisely what the Nazis said when they tried to exterminate "the feeble minded".
    The whole question is far more complicated than presented here.

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    1. There are LAWS for PEOPLE LIKE THAT.....dogs are NOT PEOPLE in fuzzy bodies.

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    2. Actually, no, it's quite simple. Humans as a species differ from animals by nature, and not by degree. We employ reading and writing, appreciate music and art, study history, calculate mathmatics, kindle fire, cook food, practice law, formulate religious beliefs, and engage in a myriad of other practices that animals do not.
      Members of our human society are not denied rights due to incapacity, illness, or injury because they are members of the human race, and have inherent human rights. The one possible exception I can think of to this rule would be the killing of fetuses via abortion, and again, this is another practice unique to humans, which is itself a hotly debated moral issue.
      Debate....another uniquely human trait.

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    3. I think you fail to understand the argument. I was pointing out that humans are not all the same in their abilities so the question of rights for humans has to take that into account ie it is not simple. Interesting that you use the expression 'the human race'. Who exactly should qualify as a member of 'the human race' is seen differently at different times by different people, remember racism?
      The question for me is not that non human animals should have the same rights as humans but what are our obligations to them?

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    4. Oh for heaven's sake "THE HUMAN RACE" is NOT a racist comment, it refers to mankind as a SPECIES.....RACE and SPECIES are interchangeable in this context. Human is human is human. Notwithstanding your feeble attempts to prove otherwise.

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  11. Hi Starbreeze,

    Love the article! I think you might like this one I have posted on a bunch of different boards and news outlets. Would love to correspond with you regarding the issue and maybe we can help each other get the message across to the ill-informed masses!

    http://angryamericanman.blogspot.com/2012/01/rats-among-us.html

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    1. Thanks Angry Man, I share your outrage at the misplaced priorities! Thank you for your comments and for the link to your blog, it looks interesting. Keep the faith!
      I must resist making a crack about "anger management." Hehe. Yoga or some other good form of stess-relief will help maintain your health. Take care now.

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  12. Here's a great article with the same title written in 1986....

    http://people.ucalgary.ca/~powlesla/personal/hunting/rights/cohen.txt

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  13. It's not like they treat animals with human rights
    Euthanasia,sterilization,locking innocent animals in cages...
    Anyways if animals have human rights,that means that any animal that kills another animal is locked up or killed? If its for food is it allowed,if not their punished? Also do insects count as animals? Would other laws apply to animals such as theft,assault,rape,sodomy,adultery,abuse ect.
    Or more likely they'll just let lose all domestic animals and let them do what they want,or kill them cause some how that's more humane.
    Many people who say they support animal rights actually just think its another name for animal welfare,and never researched Peta.

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  14. "scientists" have gone from anthropomorphic concepts to "animated machine" concepts and now are back at an extreme anthropomorphic "animals are the same as us" concept. I live with animals and have never doubted that dogs (or sheep) have fear, love, hate, grief, etc. On the other hand, using this to assert that animals deserve "human rights" is absurd. There is no absolute dividing line. TREES have been shown to respond to insect attack, yet no one has ever found anything that could be identified as even a centralized nervous system in them. Do insects love? honeybees certainly "respond" to threat and loss of the queen. More to the point, if lions and zebras are both "persons" does the zebra get to sue for assault or insist that the lion be incarcerated for multiple homicides?


    Animals (used in the lay definition) ALL have senses and responses to stimuli. Some have more sophisticated responses (no wolf has ever engaged in creating pyramids as monuments to death), some less -- but they are degrees of mark, not clear dividing points. My objection is not to finding that animals respond and have emotions (as you say, most owners found that self evident, just as many knew dogs could see color when we were told they couldn't). My objection is taking that and using it as an argument that animals are "people". No, they aren't. Even if, somehow, we found a true Australopithecus or Homo Florensis, both of which are FAR closer to H. Sapiens than any living species, they wouldn't be "people", and we might find that their needs / wants were such that living "amongst us" as if they were would be detrimental for both parties. The reason for arguing that Chimps (who share, supposedly, 99% of our genes) have to be in zoos, sanctuaries and in the wild is that they don't DO well if you treat them as if they were Human children, and the humans who try often find it quite dangerous in very ugly ways. In other words, they are NOT "people". Asserting that they are is, frankly, not even non scientific. It is just plain stupid.


    You can recognize that animals think and feel. You can respect an animal, you can recognize that unnecessary pain, cruelty, etc is wrong when inflicted on any living thing, without according them "human rights".


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  15. There's a deeper flaw: Some modern fanatical vegans and (perhaps) some
    others claim a completely black/white view on a
    subject for which shades of gray not only exist but are unavoidable.

    1. Defensive wars involve much killing.
    2. Your body must kill microorganisms by the billions to recover from
    infectious disease.
    3. You face a violent attacker, armed, clearly intending your death.
    4. Many other species regard man as tasty food.
    5. Vermin species -- flies, fleas, mice, cockroaches, etc. -- injure other
    animals and man.

    No other species except man -- and not every man! -- sees life as any more
    than a competition to survive long enough to reproduce. Surely there are
    very few people who actually think we're obligated to go along with the
    plans/desires/natural behavior of all these opponents. (Ingrid Newkirk
    would perhaps say so but we don't know if she practices what she preaches.)

    If a human or our species is justified in killing in some of these
    situations then we're past 'all killing is wrong' and need to discuss
    exactly what killing is wrong.

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  16. "Imagine us humans being kept for others’ entertainment, caged up in cages, losing our lives so other people can enjoy .." --Comedians make their living based on entertaining others- as do movie stars, musicians and artists. We require people to wear seat belts while driving --caging them in their car. Soldiers, police & firefighters have all lost their lives so others can enjoy life. We have mummified, burnt, buried and autopsied our own dead. Using mice to develop a vaccine for smallpox or ebola is worthwhile. Being a vegan or vegetarian doesn't mean no impact on animals -- to grow that corn or wheat or barley, we have to plow over lands other animals live on and prevent those animals from eating the food we want from eating it. We don't eat hay, but pastures with cows also support other animals -- who might not live there if we eliminated the cows and grew corn instead. Respect for life doesn't mean they are people or should have the same rights..


    If animals are "equal" then we need to prosecute lions for abuse and murder. We don't let little kids run in the streets during traffic and in fact, usually employ fencing to "cage" them safely in yards. Before humans developed weaponry to prevent it, lions, leopards and even eagles ate us -- as the archaeological record shows (one of the most famous fossils was probably the result of a leopard kill and another that of an eagle). The assertion that somehow the existing laws aren't enough -- no law prevents crime. Laws only provide a penalty if one commits a crime.


    The majority of dogs, if forced to live like wolves, would have much shorter, less pleasant lives. Being "crated" or confined in a yard is a major beneficial trade off for the species -- the wild version only exists because of human intervention to prevent extinction..

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