The Animal Rights Controversy

Updated on March 28, 2018

Animal rights continue to be a highly debated topic. Hopefully sharing a few of my thoughts here will promote better judgment rather than add to the controversy.

The rights of animals to be protected from human use and abuse is an innovative concept that began around the time of the Scientific Revolution in Europe. The concept slowly developed primarily in the Western World. Though the movement gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, it is still not clearly defined or widely accepted.

We agree that animals should not be abused, but often the definition of abuse is challenged even among law makers and self-proclaimed animal rights advocates.

Animal rights, also referred to as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings. Advocates approach the issue from different philosophical positions, but agree that animals should be viewed as non-human persons and members of the moral community, and should not be used as food, clothing, research subjects, or entertainment. They argue that human beings should stop seeing other sentient beings as property—not even as property to be treated kindly.

The idea of awarding rights to animals has the support of legal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, while Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby argued in 2008 that the movement had reached the stage the gay rights movement was at 25 years earlier. Animal law is taught in 119 out of 180 law schools in the United States, in eight law schools in Canada, and is routinely covered in universities in philosophy or applied ethics courses.

Critics argue that animals are unable to enter into a social contract or make moral choices, and for that reason cannot be regarded as possessors of rights, a position summed up by the philosopher Roger Scruton, who writes that only humans have duties and therefore only humans have rights. A parallel argument is that there is nothing inherently wrong with using animals as resources so long there is no unnecessary suffering, a view known as the animal welfare position. There has also been criticism, including from within the animal rights movement itself, of certain forms of animal rights activism, in particular the destruction of fur farms and animal laboratories by the Animal Liberation Front.

A common fear is that animal rights is a threat to human civilization. (Which essentially means people who defend animal rights are a threat.) In the book "A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement," Wesley J. Smith argues that although human beings owe animals respect, kindness, and humane care our obligation to humanity matters more, and that granting "rights" to animals would inevitably diminish human dignity.

On the contrary is the book "Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation" which offers a look at the history of Western "civilization", one that brings into focus the interrelated suffering of oppressed humans and other animals. David Nibert argues that throughout history the exploitation of other animals has gone hand-in-hand with the oppression of women, people of colour, and other oppressed groups. He maintains that the oppression of both humans and other species of animals is inextricably tangled within the structure of social arrangements. Nibert asserts that human use and mistreatment of other animals is not natural and does little to further the human condition. Nibert's analysis emphasizes the economic and elite-driven character of prejudice, discrimination, and institutionalized repression of humans and other animals. His examination of the economic entanglements of the oppression of humans and other animals is supplemented with an analysis of ideological forces and the use of state power in this sociological expose of the grotesque uses of the oppressed, past and present. Nibert suggests that the liberation of devalued groups of humans is unlikely in a world that uses other animals as fodder for the continual growth and expansion of transnational corporations and, conversely, that animal liberation cannot take place when humans continue to be exploited and oppressed.

It's evident that we have a long way to go with this issue. We have much more to learn about animals and the value of our relationship with fellow earthly creatures. I believe that open and candid discussions is a step in the right direction. The issue can be considered a threat to our current social order in that it forces us to examine our systems and ourselves. But perhaps it can lead to an improved social order.

I respect animals. I can't bear the thought of exploiting animals for sport or profit. Or hunting wild animals to the point of extinction. I wish I could be completely vegan but I know I can't, unfortunately I am a product of my environment and upbringing. I dream of a planet without animal testing though realistically I don't see that happening in my lifetime.

As with other issues about rights and welfare (gays, women, race), until we realize what needs to be corrected and why, we won't be able agree on what is right and what is wrong.

Further Reading

  • Basic Tenets of Animal Rights Animal rights is the belief that animals have an intrinsic value separate from any value they have to humans, and are worthy of moral consideration. They have a right to be free of oppression, confinement, use and abuse by humans.

    At the heart of the animal rights movement are two basic principles: the rejection of speciesism, and the knowledge that animals are sentient beings.

  • Why It’s Wrong to Test on Animals Vivisection and Animal Rights
  • Companies That Still Test on Animals (and associated brands) Many manufacturers of personal care and household items still test their products on animals, despite the growing number of alternative methods for evaluating product safety. The list contains all such companies known and their associated brand names.
  • Luxury Fashion Brands That Are Anti-Fur The hottest trend in fashion right now is going fur-free. Michael Kors and Gucci recently made the decision to stop using fur and joined the ranks of other notable labels including Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Giorgio Armani. And one more influential designer joined in — Donatella Versace.
  • Demand For Seal Products Has Fallen—So Why Do Canadians Keep Hunting? The seal business isn’t booming any longer, but the Great White North is reluctant to give up the controversial pursuit.

Questions & Answers

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      • bgamall profile image

        Gary Anderson 

        7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

        I subscribe to the animal welfare view. I think that animals are part of a creation that will be redeemed but that animals on earth are given to us for our use, including food. That means we have a responsibility to treat them well.

        I do not oppose hunting if the use is for food and it bears repeating that some of the largest wildlife preservation takes place by hunters.

      • profile image

        Bea Elliott 

        7 years ago

        Hi... I do know what you mean. I was the only vegetarian in my house for about 5 years before I became vegan. I kept at it though - I increased the information about the animal cruelty, the health and environmental issues. Goodness knows there's enough information on the web to convince everybody willing to use good sense and compassion. I kept eating "my way" - avoiding all the animal products that were served. Eventually, things changed... People do listen when you stay at the correct message. Sorry you don't have more say in your family unit. I'm assuming you don't contribute to the economic structure... Otherwise you would have a voice. Anyway - You might persuade them by helping prepare animal free meals and letting your wife know those meals can be as nutritious (and economical) as the SAD(Standard American Diet)- Good luck

      • Tranquilheart profile imageAUTHOR

        Tranquilheart 

        8 years ago from Canada

        Hello DzyMsLizzy, nice to meet another animal rights advocate. This cause needs so much support, doesn't seem to be enough of us.

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        8 years ago from Oakley, CA

        Great hub! My sentiments exactly. I've also written a hub for this hub mob. ;-)

      • Tranquilheart profile imageAUTHOR

        Tranquilheart 

        8 years ago from Canada

        Hi lilibees, thanks for stopping by to read my hub. Nice to meet you.

      • lilibees profile image

        lilibees 

        8 years ago

        Wonderful hub, thank you so much for sharing!

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