Do animals have rights?

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Transcript Do animals have rights?

Do animals have rights?
Do animals have rights?
Approaches to animal rights (1)
Aristotle believed that animals existed only to provide for human needs. They were
not able to reason and therefore had no moral status and no rights.
However, today many have begun to question whether in fact animals do have rights
— in particular, the right to proper treatment from human beings.
Do animals have rights?
Approaches to animal rights (2)
There are three possible approaches to the topic of animal rights:
Animals have no moral status and are only of value in so far as they are useful to
humans. They only act by instinct and cannot reason, so have no free will or
conscience and therefore have no moral rights.
Animals have a moral status, but are of less worth than humans. They are
worthy in themselves but only have limited moral rights — for example, the right
not to be mistreated. Humans, as the superior species, may kill animals for food
and other good reasons.
Animals have the same moral status as humans. If so, then animals have equal
intrinsic value and deserve the same rights as humans. Animals should only be
killed for food, and not for sport or medical experimentation.
Do animals have rights?
Religious teaching
Christianity teaches that animals exist for the benefit of humans and the Bible
teaches that it is permissible to kill and eat animals (Acts 10:11–15).
Some Christians oppose the killing of animals, however, on the grounds that they
are God’s creation and we must take care of them properly.
Jesus said: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them is forgotten
by God.’ (Luke 16:6)
Do animals have rights?
Bentham and Mill
In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), Jeremy
Bentham said: ‘The question is not, can they reason…but can they suffer?’
J. S. Mill:
‘Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for
a promise of the fullest allowance of the beast’s pleasures… . It is better to be a
human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied
than a fool satisfied. And if the fool or the pig are of a different opinion, it is
because they only know their side of the question.’ Utilitarianism (1863)
Do animals have rights?
Theological development
After the Reformation the idea of the ‘image of God’ was reinterpreted.
Martin Luther and later Karl Barth saw it in terms of human relations with God, and
later during the European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and
particularly after Schleiermacher, the ‘image of God’ was often understood as the
human capacity for self-consciousness.
Many modern theologians continue to be influenced by these two interpretations,
added to the influence of science, which stresses human continuity with nature
through our evolutionary heritage and our increased understanding and
knowledge of animals; so Langdon Gilkey and Gregory R. Peterson argued that
all of nature should be understood as being in the ‘image of God’.
Do animals have rights?
Sanctity of life
People who hold a strong sanctity of life stance are often called pro-life and appeal
to the Biblical basis of their ideas: God is the giver and creator of life and people
have no right to destroy what he has given.
People are seen as created in the ‘image of God’ — imago dei — so humans are set
apart from other animals and have a ‘spark’ of divinity within them: the breath of
life was breathed by God into Adam.
This is reflected in the view that animals do not have souls.
Do animals have rights?
Peter Singer
Singer is a Preference Utilitarian, and so believes that animals should receive equal
preference. He argues that the principle of equality we apply to people of
different races should also apply to animals. Both animals and humans should be
treated equally.
Singer has been called the philosopher of the animal liberation movement and also
advocates vegetarianism and no animal experimentation.
He used a set of criteria for moral status based on sentience. This means that moral
worth includes animals — if not, we are guilty of ‘specieism’. Our treatment of all
humans and animals should be equal.
Do animals have rights?
Andrew Linzey (1)
Animals have sentience so should we extend moral standing to them? In the past
our attitude and treatment of animals was very different — extinction was the
result of deliberate hunting and killing. However, we still use animals in sport, we
farm them, often intensively; we keep them in zoos and experiment on them for
It is a mark of our change in attitude towards animals that there is now a centre in
Oxford for animal ethics.
Andrew Linzey was the first professor of ethics, theology and animal welfare at
Oxford, and writes against animal cruelty, hunting, fur farming and animal
experimentation. Linzey considers that God’s love for creation is inclusive of
animals, and so he advocates vegetarianism, as most meat is the product of
intensive farming, and that we should live more simply so that others may live.
Do animals have rights?
Andrew Linzey (2)
He writes:
‘Since animals belong to God, have value to God and live for God, then their
needless destruction is sinful. In short: animals have some right to their life, all
circumstances being equal.
Western society is so bound up with the use and abuse of animals in so many fields
of human endeavour…that it is impossible for anyone to claim that they are not
party, directly or indirectly, to this exploitation either through the products they
buy, the food they eat, or the taxes they pay.’ Christianity and the Rights of
Animals (1987)
Do animals have rights?
Criticism (1)
Kant denies that domestic animals are to be treated only as tools and insists that
there are moral limits on how we should use them. Animals should not be worn
out and overworked, nor should they be cast aside once they are too old. Kant
thinks it is all right to kill animals for food, but killing for sport he sees as morally
Kant also thinks that we have moral duties regarding the natural world and must not
destroy it. He explains that treating animals or the natural world badly makes us
into cruel and callous people who will then treat other people badly. People who
torment animals are likely to do the same to humans, according to Kant. So
cruelty towards animals would not be condemned in its own right, but because of
its consequences for humans it should be considered intrinsically wrong.
Do animals have rights?
Criticism (2)
Roger Scruton in Animal Rights and Wrongs (1996) used an argument based on
Kant’s approach that restricts animal rights to animals that are kept by humans,
but says that we do not have a duty of care to wild animals.
He considers that wild animals have no greater standing than wild plants, which we
may respect because they are beautiful or interesting or a valuable part of the
ecosystem, but that is all. Scruton would allow fox hunting but not factory