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The animal rights controversy

Updated on June 8, 2017

The animal rights issue continues to be a controversial topic of our time. Hopefully sharing a few of my thoughts here will promote better judgment rather than add to the controversy.

I love animals. I can't bear the thought of exploiting animals for sport or profit. Or hunting wild animals to the point of extinction. I wish I could be completely vegan but I know I can't, unfortunately I am a product of my environment and upbringing. I dream of a planet without animal testing though realistically I don't see that happening in my lifetime.

Jessica-Jane Clement in an anti animal  testing ad
Jessica-Jane Clement in an anti animal testing ad

Animal rights is an innovative concept that began around the time of the Scientific Revolution in Europe. The concept slowly developed primarily in the Western World. Though the movement gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, it is still not clearly defined or widely accepted.

We agree that animals should not be abused, but often the definition of abuse is challenged even among law makers and self-proclaimed animal rights advocates.

Animal rights, also referred to as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings. Advocates approach the issue from different philosophical positions, but agree that animals should be viewed as non-human persons and members of the moral community, and should not be used as food, clothing, research subjects, or entertainment. They argue that human beings should stop seeing other sentient beings as property—not even as property to be treated kindly.

The idea of awarding rights to animals has the support of legal scholars such as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, while Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby argued in 2008 that the movement had reached the stage the gay rights movement was at 25 years earlier. Animal law is taught in 119 out of 180 law schools in the United States, in eight law schools in Canada, and is routinely covered in universities in philosophy or applied ethics courses.

Chris "Birdman" Andersen's anti-fur ad
Chris "Birdman" Andersen's anti-fur ad

Critics argue that animals are unable to enter into a social contract or make moral choices, and for that reason cannot be regarded as possessors of rights, a position summed up by the philosopher Roger Scruton, who writes that only humans have duties and therefore only humans have rights. A parallel argument is that there is nothing inherently wrong with using animals as resources so long there is no unnecessary suffering, a view known as the animal welfare position. There has also been criticism, including from within the animal rights movement itself, of certain forms of animal rights activism, in particular the destruction of fur farms and animal laboratories by the Animal Liberation Front. (Source

A common fear is animal rights is a threat to human civilization. (Which essentially means people who defend animal rights are a threat.) In the book "A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement", Wesley J. Smith argues that although human beings owe animals respect, kindness, and humane care our obligation to humanity matters more, and that granting “rights” to animals would inevitably diminish human dignity. (Source

On the contrary is the book "Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation" which offers a look at the history of Western "civilization", one that brings into focus the interrelated suffering of oppressed humans and other animals. David Nibert argues that throughout history the exploitation of other animals has gone hand-in-hand with the oppression of women, people of colour, and other oppressed groups. He maintains that the oppression of both humans and other species of animals is inextricably tangled within the structure of social arrangements. Nibert asserts that human use and mistreatment of other animals is not natural and does little to further the human condition. Nibert's analysis emphasizes the economic and elite-driven character of prejudice, discrimination, and institutionalized repression of humans and other animals. His examination of the economic entanglements of the oppression of humans and other animals is supplemented with an analysis of ideological forces and the use of state power in this sociological expose of the grotesque uses of the oppressed, past and present. Nibert suggests that the liberation of devalued groups of humans is unlikely in a world that uses other animals as fodder for the continual growth and expansion of transnational corporations and, conversely, that animal liberation cannot take place when humans continue to be exploited and oppressed. (Source

It's evident that we have a long way to go with this issue. We have much more to learn about animals and the value of our relationship with fellow earthly creatures. I believe that open and candid discussions is a step in the right direction. The issue can be considered a threat to our current social order in that it forces us to examine our systems and ourselves. But perhaps it can lead to an improved social order.

As with other issues about rights and welfare (gays, women, race), until we realize what needs to be corrected and why, we won't be able agree on what is right and what is wrong.

  • Basic Tenets of Animal Rights

    Animal rights is the belief that animals have an intrinsic value separate from any value they have to humans, and are worthy of moral consideration. They have a right to be free of oppression, confinement, use and abuse by humans.

    The idea of animal rights may seem foreign to many people because throughout the world, animals are abused and killed for a wide variety of socially acceptable purposes. What is socially acceptable varies from one culture to the next. While eating dogs is morally offensive to some, there are those who would object to the practice of eating cows. The fact that these socially acceptable purposes vary from one culture to the next is an indication that the moral justification for these uses and killings is ingrained culturally, and is not based on a consistent moral position.

    At the heart of the animal rights movement are two basic principles: the rejection of speciesism, and the knowledge that animals are sentient beings.

  • Why It’s Wrong to Test on Animals Vivisection and Animal Rights
  • A Look at Modern Scientific Research Methods That Do Not Harm or Kill Animals Most people believe that experiments on animals are necessary for medicine and science to progress. However, this is not the case. The belief that we must experiment on animals is being challenged by a growing number of physicians and scientists who are utilizing many research methods that do not harm or kill animals. More and more physicians and scientists are also seeing the negative consequences of using one species to provide information about another species; often the results of animal experiments are misleading or even harmful to humans.
  • Companies That Still Test on Animals (and associated brands) Many manufacturers of personal care and household items still test their products on animals, despite the growing number of alternative methods for evaluating product safety. The list contains all such companies known and their associated brand names.


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    • bgamall profile image

      Gary Anderson 6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I subscribe to the animal welfare view. I think that animals are part of a creation that will be redeemed but that animals on earth are given to us for our use, including food. That means we have a responsibility to treat them well.

      I do not oppose hunting if the use is for food and it bears repeating that some of the largest wildlife preservation takes place by hunters.

    • profile image

      Bea Elliott 6 years ago

      Hi... I do know what you mean. I was the only vegetarian in my house for about 5 years before I became vegan. I kept at it though - I increased the information about the animal cruelty, the health and environmental issues. Goodness knows there's enough information on the web to convince everybody willing to use good sense and compassion. I kept eating "my way" - avoiding all the animal products that were served. Eventually, things changed... People do listen when you stay at the correct message. Sorry you don't have more say in your family unit. I'm assuming you don't contribute to the economic structure... Otherwise you would have a voice. Anyway - You might persuade them by helping prepare animal free meals and letting your wife know those meals can be as nutritious (and economical) as the SAD(Standard American Diet)- Good luck

    • Tranquilheart profile image

      Tranquilheart 7 years ago from Canada

      Hi Bea, your points are good food for thought. I used to eat less meat before I got married -- a lot of tofu, fish, shrimp, eggs, and sometimes chicken. I do feel terrible when I eat meat, and also not as healthy as I could be. But I can't force the people in my family to feel the same way, believe me I've tried. The whole situation is not good, I agree!

    • profile image

      Bea Elliott 7 years ago

      Hello... You say "I love animals. I can't bear the thought of exploiting animals for sport or profit." But you can bear the idea of killing them for the pleasure of the way they taste... Correct? So how is this "loving animals"?

      "I wish I could be completely vegan but I know I can't, unfortunately I am a product of my environment and upbringing." Your background is probably no different than mine... I was brought up in an "average"/"normal" American household and ate animals for 50 years of my life... My husband the same... Along with millions of others. If we could somehow manage to be vegan (or at least drastically reduce meat consumption) anyone in the same modern country can too.

      "I dream of a planet without animal testing though realistically I don't see that happening in my lifetime." Perhaps not. But that doesn't mean you have to support products that do conduct animal testing... Realistically, we can all do what we can in our own lives to cause less suffering to the innocent.

      I bet anything if you really gave it half a try... You'd see how very easy it is to live in a kinder and more thoughtful way. And the world would be a better place for it!

    • Tranquilheart profile image

      Tranquilheart 7 years ago from Canada

      Hello DzyMsLizzy, nice to meet another animal rights advocate. This cause needs so much support, doesn't seem to be enough of us.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 7 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great hub! My sentiments exactly. I've also written a hub for this hub mob. ;-)

    • Tranquilheart profile image

      Tranquilheart 7 years ago from Canada

      Hi lilibees, thanks for stopping by to read my hub. Nice to meet you.

    • lilibees profile image

      lilibees 7 years ago

      Wonderful hub, thank you so much for sharing!