What Rights do Animals Have?
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


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September 2000

The goal of the human rights movement is to uniformly apply the same ethical code of treatment to all human beings.  The animal rights movement has a similar goal, to establish a basic code of ethics which guides the treatment of all animal beings.   Both the human rights movement and the animal rights movement seek the same end -- a code of behavior that optimally benefits all members of the society.  Like all rights movements, the animal rights movement asks that society broaden its definition of itself to include members previously excluded due their "inferior" status.

The animal rights movement asks for more than KINDNESS towards animals; it asks for, in words of philosopher Peter Singer, EQUAL CONSIDERATION of animals.  That is, animal rights requests that the interests of the being be taken into account, whoever that being might be, and whatever those interests might be.

From the animal rights perspective, all animals have the same basic inalienable rights which embody as much as possible the simple maxim "Live and let live."   Humans, as members of the animal kingdom, are also entitled to these rights.   Animal rights include:

  • The right to be treated with respect.
  • The right to physical, psychological, and emotional health.
  • The right to not be exploited.
  • The right to live in a suitable habitat.
  • The right to be valued for who we are, not for how we can be used.
  • The right to cooperatively share the Earth with other species.
  • The right to live as much as possible according to our natures and to express our individual characters.

Obviously, circumstances are not always black and white; there are many shades of gray. Peaceful coexistence between humans is often complicated.  Where one person's rights end and another person's rights begin is not always clear.  The same is true for coexistence between humans and animals.  Do companion animals have the "right" to breed haphazardly?  By belying my cat, am I denying her a "right" to kill birds?  It is possible that in fulfilling the rights of one species, there may appear to be a conflict with the rights of another species.  That is why, while we are feeling our way through these transitions, we must be guided by the single question: "What best serves all parties involved?" by approaching situations in this manner, we consider the rights of all beings, as well as those of the collective community.  By pursuing solutions from this perspective, we are more likely to develop creative resolutions that mutually benefit everyone involved.

What "qualifies" animals as beings with rights?  Some people point out the fact that animals are capable of suffering.  Others propose that animals, like humans, have a special awareness of their lives that differentiates them from the plant and mineral kingdoms.  Still others base their support of animal rights on simple observation of animals.

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