Animal Rights

Ten Reasons for Animal Rights by Dr Tom Regan

(1) The philosophy of Animal Rights is rational

It is not rational to discriminate arbitrarily. And discrimination against nonhuman animals is arbitrary. It is wrong to treat weaker human beings, especially those wo are lacking in normal human intelligence, as “tools” or “renewable resources” or “models” or “commodities”. It cannot be right, therefore, to treat other animals as if they were “tools”, “models” and the like, if their psychology is as rich (or richer than) these humans. To think otherwise is irrational.

(2) The philosophy of Animal Rights is scientific

The philosophy of animal rights is respectful of our best science in general and evolutionary biology in particular. The latter teaches that, in Darwin’s words, humans differ from many other animals “in degree, not in kind”. Questions of line drawing to one side, it is obvious that the animals used in laboratories, raised for food, and hunted for pleasure or trapped for profit, for example, are our psychological kin. This is not fantasy, this is fact, proven by our best science.

(3) The philosophy of Animal Rights is unprejudiced

Racists are people who think that the members of their race are superior to the members of other races simply because the former belong to their (the “superior”) race. Sexists believe that the members of their sex are superior to the members of the opposite sex simply because the former belong to their (the “superior”) sex. Both racism and sexism are paradigms of unsupportable bigotry. There is no “superior” or “inferior” sex or race. Racial and sexual differences are biological, not moral, differences. The same is true of speciesism, the view that members of the species Homo sapiens are superior to¬† members of every species simply because human beings belong to one’own (the “superior”) species. For there is no “superior” species. To think otherwise is to be no less prejudiced than racists or sexists.

(4) The philosophy of Animal Rights is just

Justice is the highest principle of ethics. We are not to commit or permit injustice so that good may come, not to violate the rights of the few so that many might benefit. Slavery allowed this. Child labour allowed this. Most examples of social injustice allow this. But not the philosophy of animal rights, whose highest principles is that of justice: No one has a right to benefit as a result of violating another’s rights, whether that “other” is a human being or some other animal.

(5) The philosophy of Animal Rights is compassionate

A full human life demands feelings of empathy and sympathy, in a word, compassion, for the victims of injustice, whether the victims are human or other animals. The philosophy of animal rights callf for, and its acceptance fosters the growth of, the virtue of compassion. This philosophy is, in Lincoln’s words, “the way of a whole human being.”

(6) The philosophy of Animal Rights is unselfish

The philosophy of animal rights demands a commitment to serve those who are weak and vulnerable – those who, whether they are humans or other animals, lack the ability to speak for or defend themselves, and who are in need of protection against human greed and callousness. This philosophy requires this commitment , not because it is in our self-interest to give it, but because it is right to do so. This philosophy therefore calls for, and its acceptance fosters the growth of, unselfish service.

(7) The philosophy of Animal Rights is individually fulfilling

All the great traditions in ethics, both secular and religious, emphasize the importance of four things: knowledge, justice, compassion and autonomy. The philosophy of animal rights is no exception. This philosophy teaches that our choices should be based on knowledge, should be expressive of compassion and justice, and should be freely made.

It is not easy to achieve these virtues, or to control the human inclinations toward greed and indifference. But a whole human life is impossible without them. The philosophy of animal rights both calls for, and its acceptance fosters the growth of, individuals self-fulfillment.

(8) The philosophy of Animal Rights is socially progressive

The greatest impediment to the flourishing of human society is the exploitation of other animals at human hands. this is true in the case of unhealthy diets, of the habitual reliance on the “whole animal model” in science, and of the many other forms animal exploitation takes.

And this is no less true of education and advertising, for example, which help deaden the human psyche to the demands of reason, impartiality, compassion, and justice. In all these ways (and more), nations remain profoundly backward because they fail to serve the true interests of their citizens.

(9) The philosophy of Animal Rights is environmentally wise

The major cause of environmental degradation, including the greenhouse effect, water polllution and the loss both of arable land and top soil, for example, can be traced to the exploitation of animals. This same pattern exists throughout the broad range of environmental problems, from acid rain and ocean dumping of toxic wastes, to air pollution and the destruction of natural habitat. In all these cases, to act to protect the affected animals (who are, after all, the first to suffer and die from these environmental ills), is to act to protect the earth.

(10) The philosophy of Animal Rights is peace-loving

The fundamental demand of the philosophy of animal rights is to treat humans and other animals with respect. To do this requires that we do not harm anyone just to that we ourselves or others might benefit. This philosophy therefore is totally opposed to military aggression. It is a philosophy of peace. But it is a philosophy that extends the demand for peace beyond the boundaries of our species. For there is a war being waged, every day, against countless millions of nonhuman animals. To stand truly for peace is to stand firmly against speciesism. It is wishful thinking to believe that there can be “peace in the world” if we fail to bring peace to our dealings with other animals.

READ MORE:

  • Ten Reasons for Animal Rights by Dr Tom Regan: article
  • Ten Reasons against Animal Rights and Replies by Dr Tom Regan: article
  • English and Speciesism by Joan Dunayer: article