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 Do animals have rights? 
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Joined: July 4th, 2007, 9:48 am
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Surely the idea that animals have rights is a completely illogical position to hold. How can we declare that animals have rights when there is no way of stopping predators from infringing on the rights of prey etc? To say that animals have rights and yet we must allow predators to kill prey is to invoke a double standard.
Animal welfare makes sense because we can avoid unecessary harm to sentient lifeforms but animal rights is an illogical position.


What does the phrase 'animal rights' even mean?


November 9th, 2008, 12:37 am
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DougS wrote:
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Surely the idea that animals have rights is a completely illogical position to hold. How can we declare that animals have rights when there is no way of stopping predators from infringing on the rights of prey etc? To say that animals have rights and yet we must allow predators to kill prey is to invoke a double standard.
Animal welfare makes sense because we can avoid unecessary harm to sentient lifeforms but animal rights is an illogical position.


What does the phrase 'animal rights' even mean?


Animals have rights if someone or something has duties towards animals.

Predator animals cannot intelligibly be said to have duties towards prey, since they cannot intelligibly be said to carry out or fail to carry out such a duty.

By contrast, humans can intelligibly be said to have duties to animals ( for example, the duty to refrain from killing them just for fun).

There may be good objections to the notion of animal rights. But the Argument from Predators isn't one of them.

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November 9th, 2008, 2:22 am
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My cat is in no doubt at all that animals have rights.


November 9th, 2008, 9:26 am
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No animals "have" any rights ab initio, and that includes the human kind too.

However, we as a society can if we choose assign such rights, to humans or animals.

Different societies of course will take their own views on each case, so we should expect different and equally valid approaches around the world.


November 9th, 2008, 3:12 pm
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I think Lord Muck has it spot on.


Tom Regan has been the proto-typical champion of Animal Rights in the past incase that is of any interest.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=fTNNJspZX ... re=related


November 9th, 2008, 7:26 pm
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An interesting topic.

And thanks for the Tom Regen YouTube link. Good stuff.

Doug makes a valid point in suggesting that the question of whether or not animals have rights depends largely upon the matter of how we define rights. If, by rights, we simply mean that we have a responsibility to behave toward animals in a morally justifiable, decent or compassionate manner then we are not talking about what entitlements a creature has but about how we might behave rightly to them. in other words, we are talking about ensuring their welfare. If we are talking about rights in the sense that human rights theory sets forth (ie certain specifiable entitlements such as laid out in various governents' bills of rights or in the UN Declaration of Human Rights) then we are talking about something a bit different.

Both of these usages of the term "rights" are worthy of consideration in the way that we view and treat animals. Perhaps there is room for two discussions here. On the one hand the matter of whether or not we should care about the suffering of animals (or indeed, other human beings) and why. And what we should or shouldn't do to avoid inflicting such suffering. On the other hand, the question of what sorts of freedoms and liberties ought to be granted to certain species on the basis of their actual cognitive concerns. As examples- Should cows be given the right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of press, etc.? Should chimpanzees and bonobos be granted the right to enjoy a comfortable and stable habitat that should not diminishing for the sake of the economic interests of humans?


November 9th, 2008, 8:55 pm
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There is a notion called the Five Freedoms, relating to our use of animals in farming etc.


November 11th, 2008, 3:29 pm
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Ninny wrote:
My cat is in no doubt at all that animals have rights.



Your cat?

Cats haven't got owners. They've got staff!

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November 12th, 2008, 1:49 am
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I do not think animals really do have rights, but I don't think it matters. They probably don't have rights because it would be hard to say what these are, and the predator-prey topic is a good example; but the most difficult thing would be to say which animals had rights - eg what about an oyster? The fact that we have duties to them does not mean they have rights - we have all sorts of duties which do not entail corresponding rights (eg to tell the truth unless there is a good reason not to). Also, most humanists seem to be pro-abortion, but what about foetus rights if there are animal rights? I am a utilitarian, not a rights theorist, and this is enough to for me to try to advance animal welfare.


August 25th, 2010, 8:20 pm
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Well, then human beings don't deserve to have rights. Aren't men amongst the fiercer predators? Carnivorous? Game hunters? ...etc.

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August 25th, 2010, 8:34 pm
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Quote:
Do animals have rights?
Yes we do!
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animist
most humanists seem to be pro-abortion, but what about foetus rights
A foetus is not an animal, but an animal in the making, it doesn't become an animal until it can live independant of it's mothers womb.

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August 25th, 2010, 9:01 pm
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By "independant" do you mean without the help of medical intervention and all that entails?

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August 25th, 2010, 9:23 pm
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Alan C. wrote:
Quote:
Do animals have rights?
Yes we do!
Quote:
animist
most humanists seem to be pro-abortion, but what about foetus rights
A foetus is not an animal, but an animal in the making, it doesn't become an animal until it can live independant of it's mothers womb.

sorry, that really is rubbish - how can something suddenly become an animal if it was not so already? On that basis, a prematurely born infant who dies is not an animal, let alone a human being. Do you actually think that an oyster has more moral value than a human foetus of say 26 weeks, with a fully developed nervous system and virtually/possibly capable of independent existence?


August 25th, 2010, 9:31 pm
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If by "rights" we mean legal concessions, then animals have whatever current, local law dictates.
I think the real question is more one of moral obligation, moral agency and what characteristics should influence these.


August 25th, 2010, 10:46 pm
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getreal wrote:
By "independant" do you mean without the help of medical intervention and all that entails?

Well yes, most animal species don't have the ability for medical intervention (aren't we lucky)?
we're not talking here about premature babies that can be and indeed are helped to survive, we're talking about a clutch of cells.
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sorry, that really is rubbish - how can something suddenly become an animal if it was not so already?
Oh dear, I think you need to read some books, The selfish gene and the blind watchmaker spring to mind (both by Richard Dawkins)

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On that basis, a prematurely born infant who dies is not an animal, let alone a human being. Do you actually think that an oyster has more moral value than a human foetus of say 26 weeks, with a fully developed nervous system and virtually/possibly capable of independent existence?
And here we have the "religiots" usual leap of ..........I don't know.....? "faith"?
Just how do you make the connection between an oyster and an (almost) fully developed human animal at 26 weeks? Eh! Just how do you do that?
A pig or an ape I could sort of understand, but a fecking oyster!

By the way the time limit for a non life threatening abortion in the UK is 24 weeks. not 26.

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August 25th, 2010, 11:02 pm
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Alan C. wrote:
getreal wrote:
By "independant" do you mean without the help of medical intervention and all that entails?

Well yes, most animal species don't have the ability for medical intervention (aren't we lucky)?
we're not talking here about premature babies that can be and indeed are helped to survive, we're talking about a clutch of cells.
Quote:
sorry, that really is rubbish - how can something suddenly become an animal if it was not so already?
Oh dear, I think you need to read some books, The selfish gene and the blind watchmaker spring to mind (both by Richard Dawkins)

Quote:
On that basis, a prematurely born infant who dies is not an animal, let alone a human being. Do you actually think that an oyster has more moral value than a human foetus of say 26 weeks, with a fully developed nervous system and virtually/possibly capable of independent existence?
And here we have the "religiots" usual leap of ..........I don't know.....? "faith"?
Just how do you make the connection between an oyster and an (almost) fully developed human animal at 26 weeks? Eh! Just how do you do that?
A pig or an ape I could sort of understand, but a fecking oyster!

By the way the time limit for a non life threatening abortion in the UK is 24 weeks. not 26.

re the books, well yes I will put them on my list - meanwhile, why don't you try to distil what they say inasmuch as it relates to this very strange prescriptive definition of "animal" that you employ, and answer my questions? Here is another question - what about marsupials? You've no doubt seen pictures of immature young kangaroos climbing to the pouch because they cannot survive outside - well, are they "animals" or not? The time limit for abortions - well, in your passion, you are putting words into my mouth: I was not referring to the abortion law, simply to the problem for extreme pro-abortionists that fully developed foetuses do have a fully developed nervous system. Oysters - you have totally missed the point: I do care about pigs and dogs, but not too much about oysters. This was meant to be a reductio ad absurdum, as oysters are animals but may not have much of a nervous system. As you are keen to refer others to books, have you read Peter Singer's classic "Animal Liberation", in which he uses oysters to draw the line about capacity for suffering as the relevant moral criterion? "Religiots" and "faith"- I really do not know what you mean by this sentence - I am an atheist and hate faith, so please avoid such incoherent knee-jerk reactions.


August 26th, 2010, 8:34 am
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I'm afraid I regard the use of the word 'rights' as largely unhelpful. Unsurprising, as they are of purely human construction. Worse, they are created, expanded and promoted by the vocal and ignorant in a desperate attempt to justify their own particular prejudice or bigotry. The 'right' of parents to educate their children in faith schools is a modern example (as demonstrated in Dawkins' recent TV programme).

We humans are supposed to have a 'right' to drinking water, and yet millions don't have access to unpouted water. It's an aspiration, which I share, but it does nothing to call it a right. Likewise, how can new rights be introduced, except in a legal sense? If a right is withdrawn, it can't have been a right in the first place. And how can 2 rights conflict? Again, they can't both be correct. IMO, talk of rights is just sloppy argument.

In answer to the original question, we, as humans, decide and change our relationship to animals, and, unsurprisingly, come to a variety of conclusions. As a humanist, I think we should consider our relationship with the earth and living things, and try to justify our conclusions, but to declare 'rights' is as unsupportable as declaring them to be the will of god.


August 26th, 2010, 2:49 pm
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Two rules the kids have are that they're not allowed to disturb the dog when it's in its bed, or when it's eating its dinner. I tell them it's the dog's human rights.


August 26th, 2010, 3:21 pm
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Nick wrote:
I'm afraid I regard the use of the word 'rights' as largely unhelpful. Unsurprising, as they are of purely human construction. Worse, they are created, expanded and promoted by the vocal and ignorant in a desperate attempt to justify their own particular prejudice or bigotry. The 'right' of parents to educate their children in faith schools is a modern example (as demonstrated in Dawkins' recent TV programme).

We humans are supposed to have a 'right' to drinking water, and yet millions don't have access to unpouted water. It's an aspiration, which I share, but it does nothing to call it a right. Likewise, how can new rights be introduced, except in a legal sense? If a right is withdrawn, it can't have been a right in the first place. And how can 2 rights conflict? Again, they can't both be correct. IMO, talk of rights is just sloppy argument.

In answer to the original question, we, as humans, decide and change our relationship to animals, and, unsurprisingly, come to a variety of conclusions. As a humanist, I think we should consider our relationship with the earth and living things, and try to justify our conclusions, but to declare 'rights' is as unsupportable as declaring them to be the will of god.

I agree with all you say. Human rights are very important as a concrete issue when the lack of them means inequality, torture, oppressive government and so on, but they tend to proliferate and contradict each other, as you say. Animal rights make even less sense - which does not mean that animals, as sentient beings, do not have valid interests which humans should consider - a lot more than we do. Battery farming, vivisection, bullfighting, hunting etc are all abuse of animals, so one does not need to get into the rights labyrinth.


August 26th, 2010, 7:16 pm
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animist wrote:
The fact that we have duties to them does not mean they have rights - we have all sorts of duties which do not entail corresponding rights (eg to tell the truth unless there is a good reason not to).


Are you sure this example is well chosen? If we have a duty to tell the truth, we have a duty to tell the truth to someone — not to no one at all, and not to ( say) a wall.

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August 27th, 2010, 12:53 am
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