Since the early 1990s, the animal rights question has moved from the periphery and towards the center of political and legal debate. The debate is fully international. In 2002, Germany became the first European nation to vote to guarantee animal rights in its constitution, adding the words “and animals” to a clause that obliges the state to respect and protect the dignity of human beings. Not withstanding its apparently growing appeal, the idea of animal rights has been disputed with unusual intensity. Advocates of animal rights seem to think that their adversaries are selfish, unthinking, cruel, and even morally blind. Those who oppose animal rights seem to think that the advocates are fanatical and even bizarre, willing to trample on important human right interests for the sake of rice, rats and salmon (Hul Diana).
Animal rights advocates
Animal rights advocates support the rights view. A lawyer and animal rights advocate Gary Francione, says that to say that an animal has a right to have an interest protected means that the animal has claim, or entitlement, to have that right protected even if it would benefit us to do otherwise. They also say that humans have an obligation to honor that claim for voiceless animals, just as they do for young children and the mentally disabled. If a dog has a right to be fed, humans must make sure that she is fed, and they are obligated not to do anything to interfere with feeding her (Sunstein Cass, 17-21). Likewise, if a dog has a right not to be subjected to unnecessary suffering, you have an obligation not to do anything, such as research that would cause her pain and research, even if the research would benefit humans. Animals are not property or things, but rather living organisms, subjects of life, who are worthy of our compassion, respect, friendship and support. Rightists expand the range of animals to which we grant certain rights. Thus animals are not lesser or valuable than humans. They are also not property that can be abused or dominated (Bekoff Marc, 10).
Animal rights opposes
On the other hand, welfarists do not think that animals have rights. Rather, they believe that while humans should not be abuse or exploit animals, as long as we make the animals’ lives comfortable, physically and psychologically, then we are taking care of them and respecting their welfare. Welfarists are concerned with the quality of animal’s lives, but they do not believe that animal’s lives are valuable in and of themselves, that just because animals are alive, their lives are important (Nibert David Alan). They believe that if animals experience comfort, appear happy, experience some of life’s pleasures and are free from prolonged or intense pain, fear, hunger, and other unpleasant states, then we are fulfilling our obligations to them. If individual animals show normal growth and reproduction, and are free from disease, injury, malnutrition and other types of suffering, they are doing well (Kistler John M. 257).
The welfarist’s position also assumes that it is alright to use animals to meet human ends, as long as certain safeguards are in place. They believe that the use of animals in experiments and slaughtering if animals are for human consumption, as long as these activities are conducted in a humane way. They do not want animals to suffer unnecessary pain, although there have been disagreements on what pain is unnecessary, and what humane care really amounts to. The ends, human benefits, justify the means, the use of animals even if they suffer, because their use is considered necessary for humans benefits.
The issue of defending the right of animals could bring major problems. Practically, it would be hard to abstain from killing animals, as at times, this is done for the benefit of the humans, even the rightists. For example, it would be very difficult for scientists to do medical research without using the animals: the fact is that this is almost impossible. Rightists cannot ban the use of animals for research, as human beings can neither be used for the experiments.
Those who do not care for the rights of animals should also be human enough. Many dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and other animals have suffered in the hands of their owners. Animals like donkeys have been overworked and beaten for failing to meet their owner’s demands. They do not care to know whether they are tired, hungry or sick. Likewise, people have mistreated and left hungry, or even not been human enough to take care of sick animals (Scruton Roger).
It is clear from the research that the fate of the animals clearly lies in the hands or the humans. Animals do not have a voice, so their owners are responsible for their safety. But as much as we should care for the animals, we should consider that human life is more important than that of the animal. Therefore, using animals for the benefit of the humans should not be viewed as abuse against the animals. However, mistreating animals by failing to feed them or ignoring them when they are sick is totally inhuman and should be preached against as much as possible (Regan Tom).
1) Bekoff Marc. Animal passions and beastly virtues: reflections on redecorating nature. Temple University press; 2006, pg 10
2) Hul Diana, 22/4/2009. FBI sends a message with animal rights activist’s ‘terrorist’ listing; Mrin independent journal. Retrieved on 4/29/2009 from http://www.marinij.com/sanrafael/ci_1220317
3) Kistler John M. People promoting and people opposing animal rights: in their own words. Greenwood Publishing Group; 2002, pg 257
4) Nibert David Alan, Animal rights / human rights: entanglements of oppression and liberation. Rowman and Little field. 2002. pg 79
5) Regan Tom. 2nd edition. The case for animal rights. University of California press; 2004.
6) Scruton Roger. 2000. Animal Rights. City Journal. Retrieved on 4/29/2009 from http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_3_urbanities-animal.html
7) Sunstein Cass R., Nussbaum Martha C. Animal Rights: Current debates and new directions. Oxford University Press. 2005, pg 17-21