A right is a moral claim on a community, or, in other words, a moral principle which an entire community is morally obligated to observe and protect. When I claim the right to practice any religion or none as I see fit, I am making a demand not only on individuals but on the entire community, and the demand is not only to refrain from interfering with my right to worship or not as I believe right, but to defend that right should a threat to it arise.
However, rights are not absolute and unlimited. Rights are reciprocal. Having a right to do one thing generally involves giving up the freedom to do another. To gain the right to speak freely in public, I must give up the freedom to shout you down. To gain the right of privacy in my own home, I must give up the freedom to enter yours at will. I cannot demand a right from you without extending the same right to you. And rights sometimes clash with other rights—freedom of speech, for example, does not extend to physical threats. Even the right to live is not unlimited—you are entitled to use deadly force against someone who has criminally assaulted you and threatens your life.
This element of reciprocity is crucial to the entire concept of rights, and it is precisely this element of reciprocity that denies rights to animals.
Animals function entirely or almost entirely on instinct. An animal understands the concept of rights no more than it understands the laws of thermodynamics or the poetry of Shakespeare. Animals are not able even to conceive of the right to life, or property rights or the right to privacy or any other right. A hungry coyote will not give even a passing thought to respecting a rabbit’s right to life, and a deer cares nothing about the property rights of the farmer whose crops he eats. Making allowance for borderline cases such as the severely retarded or the insane, rights belong only to people because only people have the ability to understand what rights are in the first place. You do not have a right unless you have at least the potential to reciprocate that right. To reciprocate that right, you must have at least the potential to understand what a right is in the first place–and animals do not possess that potential.
There may be compelling moral reasons to refrain from eating meat or using animals in medical research, but the notion that animals have rights is not one of them.
It might help if we had a working definition of “animal” for the purposes of out own edification. When you’re going to debate something, defining the terms you’re going to use is usually among the first things done. Maybe I missed your definition of an animal.
“An animal understands the concept of rights no more than it understands the laws of thermodynamics or the poetry of Shakespeare.”
I think there are LOTS of allowances made for borderline cases such as the mentally retarded and the insane. I don’t think reciprocity is always a factor in granting rights. Vulnerable beings are protected in many societies, and animals are protected from cruelty by law (although penalties are not the same for being cruel to an animal as those for being cruel to a person).
Are you saying that you believe reciprocity should be guaranteed before a being is given rights, or that it usually is?
Though I agree completely with the political direction of the OP, I don’t agree with the logic.
a) The OP claims that because animals can’t decide or even understand rights, they are incapable of having them. Rights are not always decided by those capable of having or respecting rights. For example, in the U.S., only those over 18 may vote. The voters often extend rights to children, including children too young to understand those rights.
b) The OP claims that because animals aren’t capable of respecting the rights of others, they are incapable of having rights. Rights are not necesarily reciprocol or evenly balanced. For example, police officers are typically given rights above ordinary citizens. Diplomats are given additional rights, including not being accountable for violations of others rights. Some members of society, by virtue of fame or fortune enjoy more rights than others (or are not held accountable for the violations of others rights). There are plenty of examples of rights inequalities.
Ultimately, animals don’t have rights. They can be given rights. Ultimately, humans decide who has rights. And they can give them to anyone or anything they choose.
This one even made me chuckle. Non-human animals can’t conceive of property rights??? Animals have been staking out territory for millions of years before humans even entered the scene. The difference is pure semantics. We call it property when referring to ourselves, because it sounds more official, so one can convince himself that goshdurnit, he actually OWNS that region of ground. If humans truly understood property rights, they would have realized that the animals have already staked it all out, and we wouldn’t be entitled to any at all.
Did you know that when a chimpanzee kills a small monkey or some such animal for food, the other chimpanzees will generally not attempt to take it, but merely beg. When it comes to fruit and such, a higher ranking chimp will readily take it, but not the meat. Why? There doesn’t seem to be a clear reason that fits with the standard (ignorant) view of “animals.” Chimps love meat. Why not take it? It seems that the chimpanzees have a sense that the hunter has a right to his kill.
As an aside, most Native Americans didn’t conceive of a concept of “owning” land. I guess that somehow justifies the theft of the Americas, since they did not conceive of that “right.”
That’s a question of survival and self-preservation. I don’t knowingly eat dead animals, but I just might if my survival depended on it. In your scenario, at least the rabbit species will be pushed along on its evolutionary path by being hunted, and the rabbits live normal lives up until the moment when it becomes dinner. Factory farming is another story. In fact, it’s a whole 'nother language.
So you define your “rules,” then promptly break them. Sure.
I don’t understand where you get this criterion. It seems to have been defined specifically to most easily exclude non-human animals for the purpose of the argument.
Hmmm, so in order to have a “right,” this animal must understand a human-defined concept. Sure. Well, how about this. Seems to me that no animal has ever bred humans to a state of being veritable semi-mobile meat machines, kept them in tight confinement for their entire lives, shot them full of hormones, milked the hell out of them until infections result, artificially inseminated them then take away the baby for a similar fate, then finally kill and eat them. Animals seem to be honoring our “right” to live decently. Why don’t we reciprocate?
If animals have rights that humans are obligated to respect, what do we do if an animal violates the rights of another animal? OK, a deer has rights, I don’t have the right to kill it, or deny it freedom of religion, or whatnot. If the deer is deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, then its right have been violated.
But what if a wolf kills the deer? The wolf has violated the deers rights…in fact, it has murdered the deer. The wolf must be put on trial…maybe its lawyer can argue diminished capacity, since the wolf cannot understand its legal rights and responsibilities any more than a mentally incompetant human can. So therefore we must take the same steps we would with a mentally incompetant human who is dangerously violent…involuntary commitment.
All wolves and other predators will be arrested if they assault, kill, harm, or otherwise violate the rights of other animals…of course, the police must get search warrants before they can enter the wolves den and search for bones and evidence and some such…and we have the Miranda ruling…since wolves cannot understand speech, they cannot understand the Miranda warning…so the police won’t be able to interrogate wolves without lawyers present…
Ah yes, Denis Leary lends much to the animal rights debate (check out my pro meat page on my web site as well). Like with cows–“I’m an animal, I have rights!–You’re a baseball glove! Get on the truck!”
I said something referring to the definition of an animal.
I don’t think asking for a working definition of “animal” is nitpicking, myself. This is GD. A debate usually warrants definitions of the main terms you’re going to use. I would think that among these is the word “animal.”
I, for one, find it loads easier to debate when I know what I’m talking about. Which, I guess, is why I don’t debate often. All the same, it would clear up confusion on both ends . . .
My standard operating procedure is to ignore or refuse requests for definitions. In my experience, requests or demands for definitions are almost always red herrings, attempts to throw the whole dialogue off track with endless quibbling and nitpicking about definitions. I see no reason to make an exception for you.
As I don’t care for the sneering tone of your response, I don’t care to get into any sort of extended discussion with you. This is all I have to say to you.
If humans are simply another species of animal, why object to the way they behave? You don’t object when rabbits do what rabbits do, when wolves do what wolves do or when elephants do what elephants do. Humans have always hunted animals, and they have husbanded animals for thousands if not tens of thousands of years. I don’t know why such behavior evolved, but clearly it is natural to human beings. It is no more repugnant for humans to kill a cow for food than for wolves to kill a deer, for a cat to kill a mouse or for an aardvark (sp?) to eat ants. Why condemn humans for behaving according to their nature when you don’t condemn other species of animals for behaving according to their natures? Unless you believe that there is something special about homo sapiens, that we are not just another species of animal, the demand makes no sense. If you believed as many New Agers believe that the human race is evolving towards a higher, more non-violent spiritual plane of existence, then it makes some sense to condemn meateating and animal research. If not, then all you have to offer is the fact that you personally find these practices repulsive. Human beings are no more brutal than Mother Nature–but then, I’ve always thought that Mother Nature is a bitch.
**As an aside, most Native Americans didn’t conceive of a concept of “owning” land. I guess that somehow justifies the theft of the Americas, since they did not conceive of that “right.” **
Indians (not “Native Americans” - I am as native as any Indian ) may not have practiced individual ownership of land, but they definitely practiced tribal ownership of land and were more or less constantly at war over land. The notion that the American Indian was a noble savage living in spiritual harmony with nature is just plain ignorant.
Your real motivation isn’t love of animals, it’s hatred of people.
I’ll give you the same advice I give religious fundamentalists. You’d have a better chance of making converts, or at least getting people to listen with open minds, if you’d get rid of your superior, self-righteous attitude.
*Originally posted by iampunha *
**I said something referring to the definition of an animal.
Well, it is not necesarily nitpicking. If we include the entire kingdom anamalia, tehn we will have to debate the rights of viruses. That would make any assignment of rights to animals pretty problematic.
“Mr.Ebola, you now have the right to own Mr.Human who you have successfully annexed through legal infection. Any attempt by Mr.Human to evict you will be seen as a violation of your right to life and property.”