Animal rights subject is a controversial issue that has been argued by many people. The most plausible argument for animal rights generally states that animals have the same value as human beings. Thus having this equitable value, animals should be afforded certain rights such as not being used for experimentation by humans. The strongest objection that animals have certain rights the same as humans is that through the contribution to the good as a whole is what is most important over individual rights. Both arguments have valid points to them and thus the cause for controversy when it comes to the topic of animal rights. The strongest argument for animal rights is the rights view. The most plausible objection to animal rights is the utilitarianism view. Balance between views needs to be found for the treatment of animals.
To understand the issue at hand, one must understand the difference between animal rights and animal welfare. In general, animal welfare pertains to the care given to an animal such as food, water and shelter. Animal rights refer the belief that animals are different then property and thus should have certain rights that are afforded to humans. Although, the quality of animal welfare is important in the debate of what type of rights animals are given, the primary focus of animal rights discussions is which rights, if any, animals should be allowed.
The most plausible argument for animal rights is that animals have the same value as a living organism as do humans. No matter what species that an animal falls under, the animal has the same value in the world as does the human species. “Inherent value, then, belongs equally to those who are the experiencing subjects of a life.” (Regan) This view of animal rights is called the “rights view”. (Regan) Using this argument it is immoral to treat animals any differently then one would morally treat other humans. We would do not harvest human eggs for food as we do on poultry farms. Likewise, humans are not involuntary subjects for new medications or surgical procedures. No human can be experimented upon without prior consent and given information about the experimental procedure to make a sound decision to participate. On an even stronger level is the virtually universal principle that cannibalism is not acceptable. Humans do not hunt other humans for food. With the exception of sociopaths, humans do not hunt and trap other humans for sport. Humans do not kill one another and then wear human skin for clothing.
The animal rights view does not distinguish between species. All species are equal and of the same value. The same very behaviors that humans use a universal morals and principles should also be applied to animals, regardless of species. Behaviors that are acceptable under certain conditions are accepted by the majority of people without a second thought. There are many people that are lacto-vegetarians. These people will eat items with egg products and milk products. Yet, these same people would more then likely not eat products that were made with human eggs and human breast milk. On a much stronger level, there are millions of people that eat meat on a regular basis. Applying the view that all animals are of equal value would mean that meat eaters should have no objections to raising and eating other humans for food consumption. The only moral and acceptable behavior toward other animal species is to treat the animals no differently then one would treat another human.
The best arguable objection to the rights view of animal rights is the utilitarianism view of animal rights. The core principle of this view is that animals have rights as long as the rights are for the good of the whole. “… everyone’s pain or frustration matter, and matter just as much as the equivalent pain or frustration of anyone else … do the act that will bring about the best balance between satisfaction and frustration for all affected by the outcome.” (Regan) Using the utilitarianism view of animal rights, animals of other species can be treated differently then humans because the outcome will be more satisfaction for humans which outweigh the frustration factors that arise for the animals. Emphasis is placed on offering better conditions for the non-human species to minimize the frustration factors. Lab rats have value but as along as they are being housed in large cages and provided socialization by other lab rats, then scientific research and experimentation is moral because the outcome will be a balance between the satisfaction and frustration factors. The lab rats might experience pain or even death during the procedures but at the same time many will benefit from the results of the experiments and research. Another key example is the use of non-human animals for harvesting food products. Chickens that are provided spacious cages, adequate lighting and nutritious diets provide unfertilized eggs for food consumption. The chickens are having satisfaction with comfortable lives of not having to hunt for food, establish pecking order or battle with environmental conditions. With the utilitarianism view, the balance between satisfaction and frustration factors is achieved and under certain conditions makes it plausible for non-human animals to be valued but at the same time be treated significantly different then humans without crossing any universal morals or principles.
Using the rights view for animal rights would result in absolutely no creature of any species being killed or treated any differently then humans. To follow this rationale would mean the complete restructure of human civilization as we know it today. In addition, to strictly follow the rights view would mean that welfare of animals would not be equitably distributed. In our treatment of other humans, societies are restricted with resources to address the welfare needs of all individuals. Animals would have to find a way to compete with humans for welfare needs. However, the fundamental beliefs of the rights view support the ethical and moral treatment that humans give to one another. Human value is no longer a subjective variable but a strictly followed rule of equality. Because of this humans that have differences are protected and afforded the same moral and ethical treatment as others within society.
If one follows the utilitarianism view there are situations that arise that would strike a balance between the satisfaction and frustration elements that are not addressed by the universal morals and principles that humans follow. Under this view, as long as animals are having their welfare needs met any type of experimentation and treatment would be moral because the satisfaction of humans is always going to outweigh the frustration of the non-human species. The utilitarianism view is very subjective as to which needs create the highest value of satisfaction for the good of all.
A balance should be taken between both the rights view and the utilitarianism views. Non-human species should have a higher value placed upon them. Humans cannot simply view all animals as “expendable resources”. (Regan) At the same time, it is important to be able to have food, clothing and medical resources. To follow any view to its extreme would simply be an imbalance resulting in mass confusion of universally applied morals and principles. Non-human species should be afforded rights but at the same time a balance needs to be found for the continuation of the good of mankind as a whole.