Animals Should Have Rights

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“Rights” are a restless issue in modern day society. How does one define “rights?” Who is entitled to rights? How do morals come into play when assigning such rights? By definition, a right is “that which is morally correct, just, or honorable” or “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” These definitions outline the ongoing controversy about what exactly a “right” is, and where the boundary between morality and practicality lies.

Throughout history, human rights have been distinguished and solidified via several iconic documents such as the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights. In both cases, the document’s goal is to provide structure and create a functional society with just rules. The Bill of Rights spells out what “rights” each member of society is entitled to, and the Constitution outlines the “rights” of the government. Through such documents, we as human beings are granted numerous freedoms and privileges. Through laws, we are protected and valued as a form of life. One might pose the question, to what extent do such rights and laws extend to other forms of life?

Animals are sentient beings that can feel, remember, and even learn in similar ways that a human can. So, why is it legal to shoot and kill an innocent deer in the woods for game? Why is it legal to confine a five-ton whale to a pool for its entire life for human entertainment? Why is it legal to test potentially harmful products on rabbits in a lab? The controversy of these situations is rooted in the morality of them.

Animal rights are benefits that people give to animals to protect them from human use and abuse. Such rights can be justified and practiced through moral and legal forms. People who support animal rights are those who take into consideration the animals’ best interest, regardless of whatever “instrumental value” the animals might have to humans. Major contemporary issues regarding animal rights include animal use in the food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment industries, but especially in hunting. Deep ecology is perhaps the most drastic environmentally protective philosophical theory. It endorses “biospheric egalitarianism,” or the idea that humans and nonhumans are assigned equal value and rights (Andrew & Lo 2015). Deep ecologists go as far as attempting to avoid damaging plants when hiking. This theory emphasizes the idea that nonhumans have intrinsic and inherent value; not merely instrumental value.

Deep ecology makes an equivocation between human worth and nonhuman worth. As humans, we have a basic moral duty to not harm one another. Harming one another results in severe consequences. Deep ecology equates hunting an animal with hunting a human, and therefore, deems hunting as morally wrong. However, in today’s society, humans are allowed to hunt innocent animals for sport. Deep ecology views people as one of many equally valuable parts of the earth’s total ecological system, amongst both the living and nonliving elements. This theory implies that humans have roles in the system in the same exact way that any other part of it, such as a plant, does (Burnor & Raley 315). Therefore, according to deep ecology, humans and nonhumans are to be treated the same.

It is important to understand that deep ecology is attempting to foster a consciousness about the worth of the environment as opposed to arguing about how we should or should not act. Theoretically, once the deep ecological perspective of the environment is instilled, the environment will flourish naturally (Cochrane). A universal implication of the deep ecology philosophy would totally eliminate the controversy of hunting, as it would be inherently wrong on both subjective and objective ethical levels. The principle of ends, or the idea that we are required to treat every person affected by our actions as an end and never as a means only, can be used to explain the contrasting principles between deep ecology and hunting (Burnor & Raley 160). Deep ecology equates nonhumans with humans. Therefore, the principle of ends when applied to deep ecology states that we are required to treat every being as an end and never as a means only. Hunting is very obviously using nonhuman beings as a means to achieve an end. People hunt animals for their own recreational purposes. In the instance of hunting, the killing of one being (an animal) simply for the pleasure of another (a human) is not a justified means/end relationship.

Deep ecology’s antithesis is anthropocentrism. Anthropocentrism holds that “only humans and human interests have foundational value; everything else has instrumental value” (Burnor & Raley 316). Anthropocentrism rejects the equivocation of humans and other beings. Since nonhuman factors only have instrumental value, anthropocentrism states that they should only be considered in the way by which they affect people. In other words, the needs of people always take precedence (Burnor & Raley 313). That means that if people need to hunt, there should be no resistance against that. Using the nonhuman beings as a means for an end is acceptable in anthropocentrism.

People hunt for sport, food, urbanization, and population control. Anthropocentrism supports the means of hunting to achieve the human “need” based ends. In my opinion, hunting is immoral. There are alternatives to hunting. People do not need to hunt for food when there are countless produce facilities that slaughter animals for meat, which is readily available in supermarkets. Instead of killing animals in order to break ground for urbanization, there are tranquilizers and other sedatives that authorized personnel can use to humanely sedate the animals and move them to a safe location. Similarly, overpopulation can be solved by moving a group of animals elsewhere, or by letting nature run its course. Eventually, resources will run out, and the too densely populated species will die down. As for sport hunting, I do not see any justification for the allowance of killing animals merely for a trophy. Although I think that living in a world with the deep ecology mindset is a bit far-fetched, I do not think that hunting is moral. Animals deserve to be protected from being hunted by being granted basic rights.

Yes, it would be irrational to grant animals the right to vote or the right to bear arms. Animal rights are about humans giving equal consideration to the comparable interests of animals and humans. However, it is perplexing that animals, conscious beings, are not protected to a similar extent that humans, also conscious beings, are. One might ask, why give animals rights if they cannot fully understand the benefits, and arguably are not autonomous beings? There are humans in the world who are mentally disabled and therefore cannot understand or comprehend the concept of rights. Are they denied rights? No. A newborn child does not have the mental capacity to comprehend the concept of rights. Is the child denied rights? No. It is rational to argue that if humans as conscious beings are granted rights regardless of whether they can understand them or not, that it is fair and justifiable to grant rights to animals who are also conscious beings, regardless of whether they can understand them or not.

Many people would argue that animals are inferior to humans, and therefore, should not be granted rights. Some would even say that granting animals rights and protection against humans would demean humanity. Humans are biologically mentally superior to animals. However, there are humans that are severely mentally disabled who have little to no mental capabilities. Are they also considered inferior to the human species? Are they then denied rights? We do not withhold rights from or treat mentally disabled people with less respect because they have an “inferior” mental capacity. Therefore, the argument that animals should not be granted rights because they are mentally inferior to humans contradicts itself because humans with minimal mental capabilities are still respected and their rights are recognized, and even receive more attention than the normal person does.

Animals and humans are unquestionably anatomically different. This does not mean that they should be treated any differently and with less respect or concern. Physicality should not be a measure of how a conscious being is treated. Regardless of how physically different an animal is from a human, there are no acceptable way to differentiate humans and animals on moral grounds. It is not morally acceptable to kick a human in the same way that it is not morally acceptable to kick a dog. In fact, some might argue that it is worse to kick a dog due to the fact that animals are so much more vulnerable and helpless than humans are. A human could report physical abuse, seek medical attention, or seek help for any posttraumatic stress acquired from a situation but a dog or any other animal must live with acquired pain.

A great number of animals fall into the category of sentient beings with mental capabilities that resemble those of a human. Many animals can feel, understand, remember, and learn. Although they would not have any appreciation or knowledge of their rights, I believe that it is our duty as moral beings to grant respect and protection to such complex forms of life. Enacting animal rights does not mean that animals need to be granted the right to vote or the right to the freedom of speech. Nor do I think that it should apply to every member of nature such as trees and insects. Animal rights encompass the idea that innocent animals deserve the right to their own life. Prioritizing and respecting an animal’s value as a living, conscious being should come before any convenience or purpose the animal might contribute to humans. Animals should not be used instrumentally. It is only right that society takes a stand for those who cannot take a stand for themselves.

Work Cited

  1. Andrew, Brennan, and Yeuk-Sze Lo. “Environmental Ethics.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015, plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/#DeeEco.
  2. Burnor, Richard, and Yvonne Raley. Ethical Choices. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2017.
  3. Cochrane, Alasdair. “Environmental Ethics.” Internet Encyclopedia of Ethics, www.iep.utm.edu/envi-eth/#SH2a.


Cite this paper

Animals Should Have Rights. (2021, Feb 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/animals-should-have-rights/



Are there any rights animals should have?
This is an important distinction when talking about animal rights. People often ask if animals should have rights, and quite simply, the answer is “Yes!” Animals surely deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation.
Should animals have rights like humans?
Yes, animals should have rights like humans because they are living beings that feel pain and suffering.
What rights should animals?
Animals should have the right to live without fear of abuse or exploitation. They should also have the right to live in an environment that meets their needs.
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