Why do animals have rights? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 10-21-2008, 07:02 PM
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We are having a debate in my Bio class next week on animal rights. I am support the side that they do.



What arguements should I expect from the other side? What responses can I give to them?



What arguements can I give?



This will probably be on animal experimentation and whether or not we have the right to kill them and eat them...
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#2 Old 10-22-2008, 03:33 AM
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What arguements should I expect from the other side? What responses can I give to them?

Some of the usual arguments (if you can call them that..) that people have against animal rights, and possible responses:



"Animals kill and eat each other in the wild."

-Animals are not morally responsible for their actions, but we are. So it's apples and oranges. And since some non-humans kill members of their own species in various situations, does that mean it's okay for us to kill members of our species too?



"We were meant to eat meat, we're part of the food chain, evolution got us where we are."

-Meant by whom? Evolution and food chain are not some intentional beings who "intend" us to do this or that. We are free to make the choices we deem best for ourselves and for others.



"If animals have rights, then shouldn't we put wolves or lions in prison for breaking them?"

-That is a misunderstanding of what animal rights are. Animal rights are a kind of moral protection that morally responsible beings should recognize. Non-humans cannot recognize each others' rights, so the moral demands imposed by the concept of rights do not apply to them, but only to humans who have the capacity to make moral decisions.



"Humans can respect moral rules, but animals cannot."

-Not all humans can: infants or the severely mentally incapacitated, for example, cannot reciprocate our moral behaviour, and yet that's not a reason to say they are not entitled to have a strong moral standing.



Quote:
What arguements can I give?



-Most people would agree that causing unnecessary suffering and death on animals is wrong. But by what criteria can we say that our use of animals is "necessary"? The vast majority of the suffering and death we cause is because of the use of animals for food. And yet it's not true that animal products are necessary to live a healthy lifestyle -- in fact the American Dietetic Association has stated that a well-planned vegan diet is healthy. It is certainly not necessary for us to wear leather or go to a circus. Those are all matters of convenience and pleasure, not matters of 'necessity'.



(The above argument is a paraphrase of what Gary Francione has often said.)



-Animals may not compose symphonies or do astrophysics, but neither do human infants or most ordinary people. Non-humans have in common with us an awareness of their surroundings, and experiences of fear, attachment, pleasure, pain, fun, misery. It is this commonality of cognitive experiences -- sentience -- and only this that is the true source of the need to respect someone's inherent worth. Not intelligence (defined by arbitrary human criteria), not the ability to reciprocate moral rules. And not the biological classification of "species".

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#3 Old 10-22-2008, 05:01 AM
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Not the best counter-argument since it's simply a question, but why do humans have rights?
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#4 Old 10-22-2008, 05:12 AM
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Quote:

What arguements can I give?



Well, I can tell you my own arguments for not eating meat which I usually tell people when they ask me why I'm a vegetarian, some of them are already excellently spelled out by Sevenseas;



If we make a distinction between humans and animals, then we as humans have a responsibility that far exceeds that of animals for the welfare of our planet. Why? Because this responsibility is beyond morality, it also deals with the ethical treatment of other species, including our own. We have rules and regulations to govern our conduct, animals do not - but if we do not then try to be morally and ethically obliged towards every living thing in our vicinity, what differentiates us from "them" (i.e. animals)?. We have evolved as a species, we have technology, religion, culture etc. - and our actions are based on reason and logic (well, most of the time anyway) - if we were to act as animals - i.e. act based on instinct, then we might as well throw "civilization" as a concept out the window and go live in the wild as animals. Since we can / will not, then we have to act as humans and not as animals. As Sevenseas said; animals are not morally responsible for their actions, but we are, and just because you CAN do something, does not automatically give you the RIGHT to do it.



"We were meant to eat meat, we're part of the food chain, evolution got us where we are."



Not to repeat what Sevenseas said, but again the following I feel is a very, very indisputable strong point; we have evolved to the point where meat is not necessary for survival. Before "civilization" as we know it, humans ate meat because of necessity, but now that necessity is no longer there, I, for one, am an example of a person who have never eaten meat in my life (thanks to my parents) and my whole family are more healthy individuals than most of the families I know around me.



- but laying aside these things, ask them if they can tell you what is "normal" about mass-produced meat. What is normal of having a conveyer belt of cows, pigs, chickens slaughtered for the pleasure of our palates? Since it's no longer a necessity, then it must be only based on the fact that it "tastes good", i.e. purely based on egotistical reasons and pleasure, but not everything that is based on the pleasure-principle makes it right! And just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you have to, or that it's right to do it. What if you were a serial-killer and derived pleasure from slaughtering people. Society would condemn your actions immediately, saying it's "wrong" - however, if you were so inclined, would you do it just because you could? Even if you know that you were doing something wrong, based on ethics and morale?



Let me say this, I for one, would have a lot less problems with people who went into the wild and caught their own dinner, than those stacking up burgers and hot-dogs at your local supermarket. If everyone went hunting, had to catch their own meat and / or kill and prepare it, 99% of the humans on earth would be vegetarians, if not vegans (the rest of the 1% would be redneck idiots who already survive by catching their food). If anything, this mass-slaughter of animals is just wrong, based on the fact that there's nothing "normal" or "necessary" about it!



-n0c-
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#5 Old 10-22-2008, 07:24 AM
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Non-human animals are not human.

Just because animals are not human doesn't mean they deserve to die. A short while ago black people had no rights just because they were not white. Both species and race are morally irrelevant criteria for determining whether or not someone has rights.



Eating animals is natural.

Natural: existing in or formed by nature

According to this definition, murder is completely natural. However, that does not make it ethical.
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#6 Old 10-23-2008, 03:20 PM
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Another example to counter the "animals do it, it's natural" argument:

The males of many species (lions are the best known) kill all the infants fathered by the previous male. Should we do the same?



On the flip side, plenty of powerful, intelligent animals don't eat flesh. Being "king of the hill" doesn't absolutely require being carvnivorous. Not too many carnivores could stand up to herbivores like elephants or rhinos.





For animal experimentation, they'll say, "it's better to sacrifice a monkey or rat for the sake of curing a human."

What they are missing is that this is a false dilemma. You have a better chance of curing the human by NOT experimenting on the monkey or rat. Animal experimentation violates the rights of the animals in the cages but it doesn't help the humans it is trying to help. So it's a lose-lose situation.



Using humane alternatives is more effective for humans, and it doesn't violate non-human animal rights.



btw, I don't agree with the "animals are not moral agents, so you can't put them in jail" reasoning.

Most of the instances of non-human animals killing other animals fall under the heading of survival. If an animal truly needs to kill another animal in order to survive, then there is no basis for judging him or her harshly. Some animals can only survive by eating the flesh of other animals.



That's clearly not so for human animals.
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#7 Old 10-23-2008, 03:39 PM
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btw, I don't agree with the "animals are not moral agents, so you can't put them in jail" reasoning.

Most of the instances of non-human animals killing other animals fall under the heading of survival. If an animal truly needs to kill another animal in order to survive, then there is no basis for judging him or her harshly. Some animals can only survive by eating the flesh of other animals.

I'm not following you. If you disagree with that reasoning, then are you saying that if a non-human killing another non-human is not required for the survival of the former, it would be appropriate to hold them morally (and thus maybe legally) responsible?

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#8 Old 10-24-2008, 10:35 PM
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Legally, no. Morally, why not? It's not something I've worked out very rigorously, but I don't see why morality should be a "humans-only" concept. I don't know what it might look like for a bat or a chimp, but I'm pretty sure humans aren't the only ones w/some moral stirrings.
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#9 Old 10-24-2008, 11:00 PM
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So do you think that a cat playing with a mouse, causing a lot of unnecessary suffering without it being required for survival, is immoral?



I think the attribution of moral agency requires that the being it is attributed to understands the moral notion of 'ought', which as such is distinct from the behavioral rules that a pack of wolves has to follow.

"and I stand

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#10 Old 10-25-2008, 12:02 AM
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You sneak into the zoos at night to sux animal peniss



your a hippie



your gay
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#11 Old 10-25-2008, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

So do you think that a cat playing with a mouse, causing a lot of unnecessary suffering without it being required for survival, is immoral?



I think the attribution of moral agency requires that the being it is attributed to understands the moral notion of 'ought', which as such is distinct from the behavioral rules that a pack of wolves has to follow.



Again, this is not a well-thought out notion of mine, just an intuition. A cat is designed to survive by handling and killing its prey, so I don't see much point in saying that he ought not handle that prey unless he is about to starve.



I'm afraid I don't understand your distinction between behavioral rules and morals. Please explain?



What I have in mind is simply that some non-human animals seem more "moral" or "ethical" than their conspecifics, and others seem less so. From what I recall of the Gombe chimps, Passion and Pom, who stole and ate their own group's babies, seemed decidedly less moral than the others.
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#12 Old 10-25-2008, 11:32 AM
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Let us know how it goes. I think you should win with our help!
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#13 Old 10-26-2008, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by panthera View Post

A cat is designed to survive by handling and killing its prey, so I don't see much point in saying that he ought not handle that prey unless he is about to starve.



I'm afraid I don't understand your distinction between behavioral rules and morals. Please explain?

I'm saying that if we're going to attribute moral agency and responsibility to someone, we need to have some basis for that attribution, some definition for moral agency. In specific, we need a distinction between "mere" rules for behaviour, and moral rules for behaviour. Non-humans certainly have rules for how to behave, rules about how to treat their conspecifics. But this isn't sufficient, because humans too have many rules for how to act, but not all of them are moral rules.



My basis for attributing moral agency is that a being understands the characteristically moral sense of 'ought' and 'should'. These senses are difficult, maybe impossible, to define, but language-use is a pretty good sign of their possession: Johnny has moral agency because he can say or otherwise communicate "that was wrong" or "Mary ought not do that". With non-humans, it is more difficult, because we lack this linguistic criterion, and can only rest on interpretations of their behaviour. And we need to be able to provide criteria for the kind of behaviour that relates to characteristically moral rules. Altruism -- self-sacrifice to benefit others -- might be one such criterion, but maybe only tentatively.



I was asking about the cat and mouse because you suggested that a good response to someone making the "are wolves evil or criminal because they kill sheep?" kind of omni argument is that non-humans kill each other for survival. Cats don't play with mice for survival, so your response doesn't address them. My own view is that cats do what they do based on certain goals and rules, but these goals and rules are not ethical in character -- they're not about what is just or unjust etc. So I would not say a cat is moral or immoral, and so I don't think cats are obligated by animal rights norms like humans are.

"and I stand

upon a mountain

made of weak and useless men"

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