Animals do not possess legal rights when one talks about it in the context of human rights. They are more likely called the property of their owners. Their situation is akin to human slaves during the 19th century—disposable anytime. Even if there are a lot of laws that call for the protection of animals, these laws are mostly in favor of the humans who own them or who control their existence. Thus, one of the objectives of the animal rights movement is to try to remove the status of non-humans as property. This paper looks into the issue of animal rights and maintains that animals should be thought of as persons under the law with corresponding rights and privileges. This is a big leap from the many years when people would abuse or treat animals like an inanimate object.
Present Issues on Animal Rights
First of all, it is important to “present law in unique ways to ensure both that animals are secured and to stimulate discussion inside and outside the legal system about the need to provide justice—and not just charity—to the non-human with whom humans share this planet” (Francione et al).
Today there are several universities that have included Animal Rights Law. Rutgers University School of Law focuses on training law students in taking up cases involving animal rights issues. Professors Francione and Charlton of this University present the moral and legal materials involving human/non-human relationship. Discussions involve on the types of problems that are addressed by existing law and creative approaches to the predicament of non-humans to bring issues of animal protection into the courts. They also help produce materials to try to help those who cannot afford legal assistance in their efforts to help non-humans (Francione et al).This paper upholds and supports the ban on animal fur usage. These premises prove that animals have the right to exist with humans, without being skinned alive for their fur.
1. Animals have rights because research and human experience prove that animals exhibit human qualities and emotions. They have a right to live and survive.
Animals are sentient beings, beings that experience happiness and pain. They are also autonomous beings, and they also possess many mental capacities comparable to those of human children (Murti, 1997, “Similar Principles”). Doctors and researches have supported this claim of “humanness” in animals. Doctor Tom Reagan, in The Case for Animal Rights, described that: “ animals have beliefs and desires; perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; 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, logically independent of their utility for others and logically independent of their being the object of anyone else’s interests” (1983, p. 243, as cited in Murti, 1997, “Similar Principles). On a more personal level, do not animals, like dogs and cats demonstrate happiness, fear or sadness? Do these animals not exhibit kindness, helpfulness or madness? Are these emotions and characteristics truly a private human species domain?
Animals experience pain
2. Animals go through pain, suffering and death in order to provide for our clothes, mainly for the namesake of fashion.
One can just imagine animals being drugged, or hit in the head, or electrocuted, and then being skinned, whether conscious or unconscious? Do animals not feel excruciating pain, even when rendered subconscious, more so when they are conscious of their impending death, as much as a fetus feels threatened, as it is being aborted (Noonan, 1981, The Experience of Pain”)? Have these people, who support using animal fur, watched videos of animals being tortured and killed for their fur? Even a former and famous NBA player, Dennis Rodman, shrank and was disgusted by this display of human brutality over weak, helpless animals. He is now a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He urged people, whose fashion and livelihood depend on fur, to watch actual videos of the animals killed for their furs. He remarked, “If I was a fur lover, I think I would actually switch on the spot” (Rodman, CNN Entertainment, Feb. 12, 2005). When people buy fur products, they should “think of the suffering, torture and death behind it” (Stella McCartney, 29 Oct 2002).
Again, this paper compels compassion to stir in others: Why would they buy or support goods that bore out of cruelty to weaker species? It is considered unethical and immoral to subject other species to cruelty so that human beings can use their fur for clothing or, even for vanity purposes.
Usurpation of Animal rights
3. Animals and humans must co-exist together, with no one lording over another. We do not have the right to usurp animal rights, in order for us to preserve our own human rights. Human and animal rights should reinforce each other, not cancel out.
The earth is not created with humans only in it. We are but a morsel of the world’s huge biodiversity. Mr. Chen Ru Shen, Secretary General of the Beijing based China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), a Chinese Government Department of the State Forestry Administration, pointed out: “We humans have only one planet – however the planet does not belong to us, it belongs to the animals as well. We should treat animals better” (December 21, 2002). Treating animals better does not implicate killing them for their furs.
Moreover, if people cannot accept that animals have rights on their own, then they are saying that human species are over and beyond other species, meaning that they can exploit and kill other inferior beings? Is this not what white people once thought and believed of black people? That black people do not have rights because they are animals (Singer, 1975, ix, as cited in Murit, 1997, “Similar”)?
Equality to animals
Indeed, giving equality to animals might seem very optimistic or moral. Yet, humans cannot just ignore the sufferings of animals for they are also breathing creatures that share some similar qualities with humans. Equality may not appeal to animals, or may not even be understood by them, yet we have a moral obligation to extend equality even to these creatures. Since humans have the ability to judge and to act upon what is moral, we are morally responsible to extend equal rights to animals.
Some contend otherwise. A highly respected eighteenth century philosopher named Immanuel Kant described why animals should morally be treated differently than humans. In summary, Kant believes that humans have dignity, while non-humans have prices. It would be wrong to hurt someone’s dignity, an irreplaceable factor, but it would not be so bad to wrong non-humans, since price is a tangible factor that can always be replaced. This would justify human’s testing chemicals on animals, for they can be replaced, but we can not test on human beings, for using another human being means we are going against the person’s dignity.
As seen, most common arguments against animal rights are based on the differences between human beings and animals: why should equality, a principle of human morality, be extended to animals? Many favoring animal rights argue that Kant is being too broad when he divides the world into humans and non-humans, and that animals are the closest things to human beings. However, no matter how smart an animal is, or how similar its characteristics are to human beings, there seems to be a very definite line separating the two. Because of this separation, humans do not feel obliged to treat animals with the same manner as they would each other.
One factor that divides humans from animals is language. People’s argument via languages can be summed up when Descartes notes, “Now it seems to me very striking that the use of words, so defined, is something peculiar to human beings” (Rosenthal 36). Some animals, such as parrots, could be taught to say certain words. However, Descartes mentions that words used to express passion is not language: teaching a parrot how to say “hello” is not the same thing as teaching it how to greet people, for the parrot must be repeating the words “mechanically” (Rosenthal 36) for it has a purpose of getting the reward in a form of treat.
The only obstacle that stands between animals and their rights would be the human will. As humans, we have a long tradition of eating meat. Thus, disregarding equal rights to animals would be a lot more comfortable than changing the eating habits of humans. For this comfort, humans make up unreasonable arguments such as lower intelligence being the reason for not receiving equal rights. However, if humans are really of higher intelligence than animals, one of the most crucial ways of proving it would be to have a quality that no animals have. Though there may be a list of qualities, morality might be one of the most crucial factors. By giving up our own self interest for the moral value of equality, humans might just find the key to identifying the subtle but definite difference between humans and animals.
Animal rights must be considered as part of the civil rights movement. Animals and humans must co-exist with each other, and humans should show a higher dimension of compassion for fellow sentient beings. Efforts must be done not only in the regulation of the use of animals but more on the recognition of their basic and intrinsic rights.
Francione, Gary and Charlton Anna. Animal Rights Lae. Rutgers Law School Accesed 22, November at: http://www.animal-law.org/center/mission.htm
Kant, Immanuel. “Why We Have No Obligations to Animals.” The Right Thing to Do. Ed James Rachels. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999. 205-206.
Murti, V. (1997). “Similar principles: The animal right’s movement, feminism, and abortion opponents.” Feminism and Nonviolence Studies, 1 (4). Retrieved November 22, 2005, from http://www.fnsa.org/v1n4/murti.html
Reagan, Tom. (1983). The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: University of California Press. In Murti, V. (1997). “Similar principles: The animal right’s movement, feminism, and abortion opponents.” Feminism and Nonviolence Studies, 1 (4). Retrieved November 22, 2005, from http://www.fnsa.org/v1n4/murti.html
Singer, Peter. (1975). Animal Liberation. New York: Avon Books. In Murti, V. (1997). “Similar principles: The animal right’s movement, feminism, and abortion opponents.” Feminism and Nonviolence Studies, 1 (4). Retrieved November 22, 2005, from http://www.fnsa.org/v1n4/murti.html