BBC - Ethics - Animal Ethics: Animal Rights (2023)

animal rights

BBC - Ethics - Animal Ethics: Animal Rights (1)

There is much disagreement about whether non-human animals have rights and what is meant by animal rights.

There is much less disagreement about the consequences of accepting that animals have rights.

The consequences of animal rights

Animal rights teach us that certain things are fundamentally wrong, that harming animals is morally wrong.

Humans must not do these things, no matter what it costs humanity not to do them.

People shouldn't do these things, even if they do them humanely.

For example: if animals have the right not to be raised and slaughtered for food, then animals must not be raised and slaughtered for food.

It doesn't matter if animals are given 5-star treatment for life and then killed painlessly and fearlessly; it is fundamentally wrong and nothing can fix it.

Accepting the doctrine of animal rights means:

  • noanimal testing
  • Forbidden to raise and kill animalsFoodthe clothes or medicine
  • Prohibition of the use of animals for forced labor
  • Selective breeding for reasons other than the benefit of the animal is not allowed.
  • nohunt
  • nozoosor use of animals inEntertainment


The case for animal rights

Philosophers generally avoid arguing that all non-human animals have rights because:

  • the consequences are so limiting for humanity
  • would give creatures rights so simple that the notion that they have rights seems contrary to common sense

The second problem is not addressed by arguing that all animals have rights, but that only "higher" animals have rights.

One of the main authors limits the right to mentally normal mammals that are at least one year old (hereinafter “adult mammals”).

The case for animal rights

Advocacy for animal rights often stems from advocacy for human rights.

(Video) Should Animals Have Human Rights?

The argument (more or less simplified) is as follows:

  • Human animals have rights.
  • There is no morally relevant difference between human animals and adult mammals.
  • Therefore, adult mammals should also have rights

Humans and adult mammals have rights because both are "subjects of the same life."

This means that:

  • They have a similar level of biological complexity.
  • They are aware and aware that they exist.
  • You know what's going on with them.
  • They like some things and dislike others.
  • You make conscious decisions
  • They live to give themselves the best quality of life.
  • They plan their lives to a certain extent.
  • The quality and length of their lives are important to them.

When a being is the subject of a life, it can be said that it has "inherent value".

All beings with inherent value are equally valuable and have the same rights.

Their inherent value does not depend on how useful they are to the world, and it does not diminish when they become a burden to others.

Adult mammals have rights, then, for the same reasons and to the same extent as humans.


The case against animal rights

Various arguments are put forward against the idea that animals have rights.

  • animals don't think
  • Animals are not really conscious.
  • Animals were put on earth to serve humans.
  • animals have no soul
  • Animals do not behave morally.
  • Animals are not members of the "moral community"
  • Animals lack the capacity for free moral judgment
  • animals don't think

Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that animals act purely on instinct, while humans think rationally.

This distinction formed the boundary between humans and animals and was considered an adequate criterion to evaluate the moral state of a being.

Animals are not really conscious.

BBC - Ethics - Animal Ethics: Animal Rights (2)

The French philosopher René Descartes and many others taught that animals are nothing more than complicated biological robots.

That meant that animals weren't the sort of thing that had rights, or any moral considerations.

Animals were put on earth to serve humans.

This view is originally from the Bible, but probably reflects a basic human attitude towards other species.

Christian theologians developed this idea: Saint Augustine taught that "by a more just arrangement of the Creator, both life [of animals] and their death are subject to our use."

(Video) Should zoos exist? | BBC Ideas

Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the universe is built as a hierarchy in which beings exist at a lower level to serve those above them.

Since humans were above animals in this hierarchy, they had the right to use animals however they wanted.

But when C. S. Lewis noted:

We may find it difficult to articulate a human right to torment animals in terms that do not equally imply an angelic right to torment humans.

CS Lewis, Vivisection

animals have no soul

Christian theologians used to teach that only souled beings deserve ethical consideration.

Animals did not have souls and therefore had no moral rights.

This argument is no longer considered viable as the idea of ​​the soul is highly controversial and unclear even among religious people. Furthermore, it is not possible to validly establish the existence of the soul (human or animal) experimentally.

It also makes it difficult to argue, as some theologians have, that animals should have rights because they have souls.


Animals are not "moral"

Some of the arguments against animal rights center around whether animals behave morally.

Only human beings have rights

  • Rights only make sense within amoral community
  • only humans live in a moral community
  • Adult mammals do not understand or practice living by a moral code.
  • Differences in perceptions of the world between humans and adult mammals are morally relevant
  • Therefore, rights are a uniquely human concept and apply only to humans.

Animals do not behave morally.

Some argue that animals do not deserve moral treatment by other beings because they do not behave morally.

It is argued that animals tend to behave selfishly and look out for their own interests, while humans tend to help other humans, even if it is to their own detriment.

Not all scientists agree: Jane Goodall, a chimpanzee expert, reported that chimpanzees sometimes exhibit genuinely altruistic behavior.

Animals have no rights over other animals.

Another reason to believe that animals do not behave morally is that even the most ardent animal rights advocates only argue that animals have rights over humans, not other animals.

(Video) Should cats and dogs have equal rights? - BBC London

For example, as Mary Warnock said:

Can [animals] be hunted? The answer to that is no, not by humans; but presumably their rights are not violated when they are hunted by animals other than humans.

And this is where the real difficulties begin. If all animals had the right to the freedom to live their lives freely, someone would have to protect them from each other. But that's absurd...

M Warnock, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Ethics, 1998

Why this might be relevant to the question of whether animals should have rights becomes clearer if you rephrase it in terms of duties or obligations rather than rights and ask: Why should humans have obligations to animals when animals have no obligations to other animals or people?


moral community

This argument asserts that animals are not members of the "moral community."

  • A moral community is
    • a group of beings who live in relationship with one another and use and understand moral concepts and rules
    • The members of this community can respect each other as moral persons.
    • Members of this community respect the autonomy of others.
  • Human beings exhibit these characteristics and are therefore members of the "moral community."
  • Animals do not exhibit these qualities and are therefore not members of the "moral community."
    • Most people would agree: after all, we don't consider a dog to be morally wrong if it bites someone; if the dog dies from the bite, it is to protect people, not to punish the dog.
  • only members of a "moral community" can have rights, so animals have no rights
  • Members of the "moral community" are "more valuable" than beings who are not members of the moral community
  • there is nothing wrong with valuable beings "using" less valuable beings.
  • Therefore, it is not wrong for humans to use animals

Animals lack the capacity for free moral judgments.

  • If an individual lacks the capacity for free moral judgment, then he has no moral rights.
  • All non-human animals lack the capacity for free moral judgment.
  • Therefore, non-human animals have no moral rights.


Fundamental rights

Animal and human rights boil down to one fundamental right: the right to be treated with respect as an individual of inherent worth.

Philosophers have a traditional way of saying this:

Animals with rights must be treated as an end in themselves; they should not be treated by others as a means to an end.

Other rights derive from this basic right.

(Video) Veganism & Animal Rights - BBC Moral Maze Debate (2017)

Certain species are only granted relevant and useful rights, so animals are not granted all the rights that are granted to humans. For example: Animals do not want or do not have the right to vote.

when rights collide

Sometimes a specific situation leads to a legal conflict.

Two methods can be used to determine the best course of action when there is no alternative but to violate the rights of an individual or group:

  • The Miniride principle: In case of similar damage, it supersedes the rights of the minor.
  • The Worst Situation Principle: When dealing with multiple damages, avoid harming the worst off individual.

Harm is defined as the reduction of the ability to have and grant wishes.

This definition of harm benefits humans more than animals because humans have far more desires to gratify than nonhuman animals.

This solves many of the traditional human-animal problems in favor of humanity, since the human in question would suffer much more damage than the non-human animal.

But be warned: this method of choosing alternative courses of action is not utilitarian; it does not necessarily lead to choosing the course of action that produces the greatest overall happiness.


The problem of "fringe groups"

BBC - Ethics - Animal Ethics: Animal Rights (3)

The term "fringe people" or "fringe people" is a misnomer. We only use it here because you will come across it often when reading animal rights literature and it is important to know what it means. We do not intend to belittle anyone's status or value by using it here...

The problem with the thought in the previous section is that it disenfranchises many humans, as well as non-human animals.

This is because some people (infants, senile people, people with severe mental disabilities, and people in a coma) also lack the capacity for free moral judgment and would have no claim on that argument.

Some philosophers are willing to argue that such "outsiders" don't really have rights, but most people find this conclusion repugnant.

The argument can be saved by rewriting it as follows:

  • If an individual is a member of a species that lacks the capacity for free moral judgment, then he has no moral rights.
  • All non-human animal species lack the capacity for free moral judgment.
  • Therefore, non-human animals have no moral rights.

But that is not an argument; is a claim that humans have rights and non-human animals don't, which is purespeciesismand unconvincing.

It is also susceptible to the (probably unlikely) arrival of some kind of extraterrestrial creature that demonstrates the capacity for free moral judgment.

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4. Anat Pick, author of Creaturely Poetics, on the BBC
5. BBC Dispatches - Britains Islamic Republic (2010)
6. BOX SET: 6 Minute English - 'Environmental English' mega-class! One hour of new vocabulary!
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