Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: Should Animals Have Legal Rights?
America's Debate > Archive > Assorted Issues Archive > [A] Science and Technology > [A] Environmental Debate
Google
Victoria Silverwolf
What do you think the legal status of non-human animals should be?

Some people think that humans have absolute dominion over other animals. They are simply property, and the owner has the right to do anything at all with them.

Many people think that humans have the right to use animals as a resource, but that they should not be made to suffer if no important human need is being met. This covers a wide range of opinion, of course. Some people would think that the wearing of furs and hunting are justifiable, others would not.

Some people think animals should be given some measure of consideration as sentient beings capable of suffering. Again, this covers a wide range of opinion. Some people would defend humane methods of using animals for food and for important medical research, others would not.

Some people think that animals have exactly the same rights as human beings; that they must not be made to suffer or be killed except in extreme circumstances (self-defense, etc.)

I tend to regard the rights of animals as directly proportional to their ability to suffer, physically and emotionally. It seems to me that an oyster, for example, is not capable of "suffering" in any way to which a human being can relate. On the other hand, it seems to me that mammals are quite capable of such suffering. For this reason, I have chosen to avoid eating meat, wearing fur or leather, and so on. I certainly do not advocate laws against these activities. However, I think that laws against cruelty to animals, and laws that would minimize the suffering endured by animals when they are used as resources by humans are reasonable.

EDITED: It has been wisely suggested that I edit this post to ask specific questions to narrow the range of debate. Therefore:

Should laws be passed which recognize animals as beings with some kind of rights (less so than humans, I would presume) or should animals only be protected as private property and/or public resources (as with "endangered species," which seem to be protected because their loss would be a loss to humans)?
Google
Juber3
QUOTE(Victoria Silverwolf @ Mar 26 2003, 03:08 AM)
What do you think the legal status of non-human animals should be?


i surley hope that animals are not humans laugh.gif ... Umm i think they should/shouldn't because they should have right's to be in a safe enviorment aka the ever greens, but not the right to vote and free speech
Cyan
QUOTE
Should laws be passed which recognize animals as beings with some kind of rights (less so than humans, I would presume) or should animals only be protected as private property and/or public resources (as with "endangered species," which seem to be protected because their loss would be a loss to humans)?


Both. I think that it's reasonable to make laws against animal cruelty while simultaneously making laws to preserve them as public and/or private property. I respect the idea that it's natural for humans to keep and eat animals, but they do feel, and that's grounds enough for me to want to shield them from as much suffering as possible.
fisherman51
Boy, This is a topic that could end up being a firestorm. While i believe that animals shouldnt be mistreated, I dont think passing laws for animals is a real good decision.Although if the law was worded so that there is a line drawn between domestic animals and wild animals, Then it might work. But then again is a cow and a pig considered a domestic animal and if so would it be fair to say they will be mistreated before they end up in my freezer?Who would be breaking the law?, the butcher for killing it , or me for demanding he kill it for my eating pleasures. If laws were passed to make it illegal to mistreat animals the anti-hunting bunch would have a field day.As someone that enjoys eating wild game and hunting wild game i just cant imagine any more laws that we need concerning hunting.We have 2 cats that live with us and although i would never abuse either if them, there is know way they can be as equal as i am, so i guess passing laws for animals would be about as good as giving them the right to vote.
Dingo
QUOTE
VS - However, I think that laws against cruelty to animals, and laws that would minimize the suffering endured by animals when they are used as resources by humans are reasonable.


I agree. I haven't thought it through as far as VS but I see no reason my needs should be purchased on the backs of a fellow creature's extreme suffering. I know a little bit about the cattle business. Branding cattle and cramming them bawling and kicking and crapping into cattle trucks to be transported 100s of miles has got to be about as inhumane as anything you can do to an animal.

Victoria I admire your humanely based vegetarianism. I have a relative who wont eat anything that will resist or run away. I wonder how clams fits into that.
Victoria Silverwolf
QUOTE(Dingo @ Apr 11 2003, 06:10 PM)


Victoria I admire your humanely based vegetarianism. I have a relative who wont eat anything that will resist or run away. I wonder how clams fits into that.

Thank you for the kind words.

From my point of view, it seems to me that non-vertebrate animals (such as clams) do not experience the agony of pain (they may feel the pain, in some sense, but not the agony, if you see what I mean.) (How do I know this? I don't, really, but it seems a reasonable hypothesis based on what humans know about animal nervous systems in general.)

The ironic thing is that, at least in the USA, the animals that are used as resources are mostly vertebrates (mammals, birds, and fish.) Simple observation seems to reveal the fact that these animals can experience the agony of pain.
bayside
QUOTE(Victoria Silverwolf @ Mar 26 2003, 03:08 AM)
What do you think the legal status of non-human animals should be?

Some people think that humans have absolute dominion over other animals.  They are simply property, and the owner has the right to do anything at all with them.

Many people think that humans have the right to use animals as a resource, but that they should not be made to suffer if no important human need is being met.  This covers a wide range of opinion, of course.  Some people would think that the wearing of furs and hunting are justifiable, others would not. 

Some people think animals should be given some measure of consideration as sentient beings capable of suffering.  Again, this covers a wide range of opinion.  Some people would defend humane methods of using animals for food and for important medical research, others would not.

Some people think that animals have exactly the same rights as human beings; that they must not be made to suffer or be killed except in extreme circumstances (self-defense, etc.)

I tend to regard the rights of animals as directly proportional to their ability to suffer, physically and emotionally.  It seems to me that an oyster, for example, is not capable of "suffering" in any way to which a human being can relate.  On the other hand, it seems to me that mammals are quite capable of such suffering.  For this reason, I have chosen to avoid eating meat, wearing fur or leather, and so on.  I certainly do not advocate laws against these activities.  However, I think that laws against cruelty to animals, and laws that would minimize the suffering endured by animals when they are used as resources by humans are reasonable.

EDITED: It has been wisely suggested that I edit this post to ask specific questions to narrow the range of debate.  Therefore:

Should laws be passed which recognize animals as beings with some kind of rights (less so than humans, I would presume) or should animals only be protected as private property and/or public resources (as with "endangered species," which seem to be protected because their loss would be a loss to humans)?

What separates man from animal? We as humans have the ability to rationalize and most importantly, we don't have to act on our instincts. We generally know inheritably right from wrong and good from evil. Except for a few, who have no conscious or those, who are subhuman, such as mass murderers of our society. We don?t need a bible to know that stealing and killing is wrong. We are also smart enough to know that animals have a nervous system, thus they feel pain. If we did not create some form of protection for animals, people, who are subhuman or who have no conscious would abuse animals in every aspect: Research, breading, hunting, slaughter houses, in the home, etc. As an ex researcher, I have sacrificed many dogs, cats, pigs, etc, for science. I focused on neuroprotective drugs for stroke. Let me tell you they is no crueler research then neuropharmacology. I will not go into the details, but I can tell you no anesthesia could be used, because it crosses the blood brain barrier. If we did not have rules to protect animals, universities would take advantage of animals. Now, I am not saying that animal research is not important it is. BUT the laws in place to do animal studies have tighten and it is a good thing. I also have seen in Egypt, where there are no animal rights, camels slaughter which was enough to make another sick. Egyptians eat camel meat. I have also seen in part of Europe slaughter houses, where kids slaughter cows with bats. With what I have seen in my life, I am a vegetarian. I can?t eat any flesh. Thank god there are laws in the states to protect animals.
cyclone
Humans only have rights because we collectively engage in a social contract stipulating such. That's what our laws are about. Animals don't have the cognitive ability or conscience to enter into such a contract, which is why when a dog mauls a little kid we shoot it rather than taking it to court. Granted, I will agree that the rules of decent society demand a respect for life, partly because it's cruel to inflict pain on another living being, and partly because we are diminished when we tolerate cruelty (and partly because people who torture animals grow up to be serial killers). LSS, it's okay to raise pigs for bacon and sausage and such, but it's not okay to abuse the pigs up until you slaughter them. I know it sounds weird, but it is correct.
Digital Patriot
I wouldn't want to see an animal harmed in anyway...

HOWEVER

If what it boils down to is the livlihood of animals or humans, I vote humans

Take the drought that has slammed the Klamath Falls basin last year (and probably this year) There wasn't enough water in the lake for both the salmon and the farmers.

So what did they do? They closed off the dam, and farmers could no longer water their crops. Banks foreclosed on the farms, many went hungry and homeless. Many moved away from the farm and into the city. As a result, the price of certain veggies went up (around here they did)

All this hysteria because we had to save some fish. Well, sorry, I don't agree. Humans above animals.

Oh, and if a dog bites you, or attacks you, you should be able to kill it in self-defense without fear of jailtime. If the dog is peaceful and you kill it, you should go to jail for animal cruelty.

--cheers
Cyan
QUOTE
Take the drought that has slammed the Klamath Falls basin last year (and probably this year)  There wasn't enough water in the lake for both the salmon and the farmers. 

So what did they do?  They closed off the dam, and farmers could no longer water their crops.  Banks foreclosed on the farms, many went hungry and homeless.  Many moved away from the farm and into the city.  As a result, the price of certain veggies went up (around here they did)

All this hysteria because we had to save some fish.  Well, sorry, I don't agree.  Humans above animals.


Not only did we have to save the fish, but also the human economic interests that rely on those fish downstream...

Here is the other side of the story from the The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations: Why the Klamath Basin Matters

It is generally in our best interest to look at the ecosystem holistically and to protect and preserve it, because if we don't, other parts of the system will suffer. It is all linked in some way or another.

QUOTE
Oh, and if a dog bites you, or attacks you, you should be able to kill it in self-defense without fear of jailtime.  If the dog is peaceful and you kill it, you should go to jail for animal cruelty.


Humans should be held responsible for their domestic animals, and if a dog is running loose and it bites someone, the owner of the dog should take responsibility for that action, particularly since the dog was obviously not socialized properly as a pup...or the dog was intentionally not socialized in order to create a situation where the dog would offer protection to its owner. Either way, it is the owner's responsibility to deal with whatever decision is made and make sure that a vicious dog doesn't get loose and bite an innocent person. If by chance, the dog does get loose, I agree that a person should be allowed to defend themselves, BUT if my dog is in my yard, and someone trespasses and gets bitten, it's their own fault for trespassing, and they should be punished if they hurt my dog even if the dog is not being peaceful.
Google
Amlord
I don't think animals have rights. However, humans also do not have the right to be cruel to animals.

Cruelty could be defined by doing things that are not "natural". Would an animal in nature maul another animal for fun? I don't think so.

By the same token, killing animals for sustenance is not cruel. We are animals, after all. We need to eat. Eating is not cruel, it is natural.

Humans need a variety of proteins, carbohydrates, starches and fats (in addition to water). Denying the body protein is not natural. Protein comes largely from meat (althuogh some non-animal foodstuffs contain protein, chiefly legumes).

Rights can only be given to those who assume responsibility for their actions. Animals cannot assume responsibility, so they have no "rights" per se.
Abs like Jesus
QUOTE(amlord @ Apr 15 2003, 04:21 PM)
I don't think animals have rights.  However, humans also do not have the right to be cruel to animals.

Cruelty could be defined by doing things that are not "natural".  Would an animal in nature maul another animal for fun?  I don't think so.

I agree.

I'd like also to refer back to another quote...
QUOTE
What separates man from animal? We as humans have the ability to rationalize and most importantly, we don't have to act on our instincts. We generally know inheritably right from wrong and good from evil.

As I see it we do still have to act on our instincts, though we have the ability at times to suppress our instincts in the interest of logic. Unfortunately, this can also lead us to suppressing our instincts for other things as well. And while some may view instincts as some kind of primal trait that should be left in the jungles of our ancestry, I see instincts as being very important and something we can learn a valuable lesson from.

As amlord astutely noted, other animals don't typically maul each other just for the heck of it. They kill prey only when they are hungry and only combat with rival animals when in the interest of self preservation. Since our current knowledge says other animals don't rationalize, we're left to assume they do this on instinct.

Humans, on the other hand, are more than capable of mauling each other for little or no reason at all. We kill animals whether we are hungry or not because of the size of our population and the methods we have at our disposal to mass produce food. And furthermore, we as humans can go to war... and war is almost entirely a byproduct of the two previous traits.

I don't want to go into it too much here, but I would recommend the book Ishmael for a better understanding of this idea. It's a quick read and pretty informative.

At any rate, what I'm getting at is that while we like to think we're civilized and much greater than other animals, the truth of the matter is that we're much, much worse in some respects. We have a significantly greater propensity for violence -- often times unnecessary violence. In trying to separate ourselves from other animals we shouldn't seek to abandon our instincts. After all, we are animals, too. I think we could shape the laws pertaining to animals much around the natural laws that already seem to govern them. Killing out of necessity certainly seems acceptable, while abuse or cruelty is not natural, is not necessary and is completely uncalled for.
Hugo
QUOTE(Abs like Jesus @ Apr 16 2003, 01:46 AM)
astutely noted, other animals don't typically maul each other just for the heck of it. They kill prey only when they are hungry and only combat with rival animals when in the interest of self preservation. Since our current knowledge says other animals don't rationalize, we're left to assume they do this on instinct.


Not true, animals battler over territory, and for sexual partners, just as humans do. You can argue that one is in the interest of self-preservation and the other in the interest of continuing the animals lineage but then you may argue humans fight for much the same reasons.
DaytonRocker
Why should we give a legal right to something that cannot honor it themselves?

When animals start respecting thier own species instead of eating them for snacks, I'd be open to this idea. But until animals quit attacking babies and eating their young, they should be given the respect due them - but no more.
Victoria Silverwolf
QUOTE(DaytonRocker @ May 10 2003, 12:49 AM)


When animals start respecting thier own species instead of eating them for snacks, I'd be open to this idea. But until animals quit attacking babies and eating their young, they should be given the respect due them - but no more.

I'm trying to follow this logic. Would you say, then, that animals that do not do any of these things -- which would be the vast majority of herbivores, such as cows -- may be eligible for certain rights, but that other species would not? Is the point being made that the behavior of species determines their rights? If so, there are many animals which do no harm at all to members of their own kind or to any other animals. Nature may be red in tooth and claw for some species, but not for all.

Some thoughts to consider on this point:

1. Humans can voluntarily choose to minimize the harm they do to other animals. Non-human animals cannot. Therefore, it seems reasonable to suggest that humans may feel a greater responsibility for their behavior.

2. I would suggest that the ability to suffer, not behavior, determines to what degree an animal "deserves" rights. The peaceful oyster, it seems to me, is less deserving of consideration than the dog, which sometimes kills humans. This is because the dog, clearly, can suffer. It is not at all clear that the oyster can suffer.
Abs like Jesus
QUOTE
Not true, animals battler over territory, and for sexual partners, just as humans do.
Most animals don't typically kill their own species in these "battles," nor do they engage in such destructive activities as war. I should have expanded on it the first time through. biggrin.gif

As to...
QUOTE
When animals start respecting thier own species instead of eating them for snacks, I'd be open to this idea. But until animals quit attacking babies and eating their young, they should be given the respect due them - but no more.
I'm not so sure humans would be too deserving in some instances. Not every man or woman feels compelled to attack their infants, but there are those exceptions. The same applies to the animal kingdom, which Victoria already touched on.

I still stand by my original position. I just wanted to throw in my two cents on this particular thought. biggrin.gif
Rancid Uncle
If a cow could kill you and get nutrients from you it would. Humans are omnivores and that's too bad for animals. Whether you eat plants or animals you are still killing something. Do viruses think about the human's feelings before they infect them? Why should human values about fairness apply to animals? We should be nice to animals because suffering offends our sensibilities not because they have natural rights.
Bill55AZ
When animals can suffer the experience of paying taxes, they should then have rights.
Of course, look at the rights we have and the amount we pay for them and it may be just another form of cruelty to animals. biggrin.gif
shelleyfanatic
I know that Colorado has recently changed the staus of pets from property to companion. I think the rest of the country should follow in this example. I know that my dog is my best friend, and she is more loyal and loving than any human that I have encountered. She is not my property--she is my child, and I love her as a child. Animals, regardless of what others may say, are capable of complex thought, and they feel emotions just as humans do. I can look in my dogs eyes and see this as the truth. Animals should most definitely have rights. Most of the creatures I have had the pleasure and honor of knowing and loving have been more human than some people out there.
DaytonRocker
QUOTE(Abs like Jesus @ May 10 2003, 02:26 AM)
QUOTE
Not true, animals battler over territory, and for sexual partners, just as humans do.
Most animals don't typically kill their own species in these "battles," nor do they engage in such destructive activities as war. I should have expanded on it the first time through. biggrin.gif

As to...
QUOTE
When animals start respecting thier own species instead of eating them for snacks, I'd be open to this idea. But until animals quit attacking babies and eating their young, they should be given the respect due them - but no more.
I'm not so sure humans would be too deserving in some instances. Not every man or woman feels compelled to attack their infants, but there are those exceptions. The same applies to the animal kingdom, which Victoria already touched on.

I still stand by my original position. I just wanted to throw in my two cents on this particular thought. biggrin.gif

But in the human world, there are consequences.

If an animal cannot respect rights within it's own species and if an animal does not suffer the consequences of it's actions when it does not, legally giving animal rights appears to be an arbitrary standard just to make us feel better. It does nothing as a whole for the animal kingdom because as a rule, it's against the law to be cruel to animals to begin with.
kimpossible
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle @ May 10 2003, 10:17 AM)
If a cow could kill you and get nutrients from you it would.  Humans are omnivores and that's too bad for animals.

While its natural for humans to eat meat, the amount of meat we eat right now is RIDICULOUS. Our ancestors ate meat only on the rare occasion that they could find and kill an animal, and we are told now that it is "healthy" to eat one portion of meat a day (well that was in te 80s, times may have changed now). And the way we treat those animals is disgusting, not only for them, but it is unhealthy for us (feeing cows ground up chicken parts, and making them eat feces, HELLO, e.coli!)

And in today's society, you can be perfectly healthy without eating meat. It isnt necessary, and since we happen to be human, we can make the rational judgement not to inflict harm on other species.

I do think animals deserve rights, and that the way we treat animals being bred for food should be seriously changed.
Julian
I'm with Amlord - when thinking about rights in relation to animals, we should be doing so in terms of restricting the rights of humans to treat animals badly or cruelly, kill or capture (or eat) rare ones, and so on, rather than about defining the rights that animals have.

The one area where, potentially, I think there might be a case for defining the rights of animals in a similar way that we define human rights (i.e. as residing with the individual, whether human or animal) are with the great apes, some of the toothed whales (dolphins and porpoises), and maybe elephants, where there is currently sketchy evidence to hint that perhaps they are sentient in the same way that we are.

For now, I'd say that these higher mammals should be given the benefit of the doubt so we can study them further - they are all somewhat rare and if we continue to allow the bush meat trade and destruction of their habitats we may never know just how much like us they are.

I don't think we should feel guilty about eating meat, or wearing the skins of animals we plan to eat anyway (so leather is okay, even if fur isn't). We should take care to treat the animals we eat well, though - quite apart from anything else, contented farm animals with room to roam [b]taste better[b] than instensively-farmed, pen-reared creatures that have to be doped up with antibiotics and pesticides purely because they are too cramped to remain healthy naturally.
This is a simplified version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.
Invision Power Board © 2001-2014 Invision Power Services, Inc.