Human rights for animals?


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Granting animals human rights is ludicrous.

Chimpanzees should get chimpanzee rights, dolphins dolphin rights, and so on.

A succinct summary for each of these sets of rights:

Leave them the hell alone, in as large and pristine an environment as possible.


It seems like you might have the wrong link in the post. The one I see right now goes to Mother Jones on synthetic animal products, not Science on animal rights.

EDIT: for those interested, this might be the right link.

Thanks for the shout-out. Here’s the correct link

Fixed! Thank you!

“Human rights” may not be the right term or right class, but I love the idea of separating out a class of animals that are not typically food, beast of burden, commodities, etc. in our culture. It not only helps protect those special animals, but it could help make it easier to make clearer stronger laws against the kinds of treatment of animals that we pretty much all agree are things that should be avoided/outlawed,etc. If we had another class of animals that was stuff that we don’t typically eat, don’t wear, don’t hunt, don’t use for work, etc. , animals we see as companions and as animals that we’re more sympathetic to than others, we could give a lot more teeth to our animal protection regulations a lot more smoothly and no one would have to worry about them being interpreted too loosely and interfering with stuff many folks are okay with.

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Perhaps “sentient being” rights would be a more appropriate term. Technically chimps are genus “pan” not “homo” (though I agree that the differences may be relatively minor). Labeling “pan” rights as “human” is both scientifically incorrect as well as something that’s not likely to fly with anything other than the fringes of human culture. Then you get to dolphins and other cetaceans, and labeling them “human” just becomes ludicrous (though I don’t think anyone would deny their intelligence or social nature).

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It’s pretty easy to get hung up on the word “human” there, but species isn’t the real source of those rights.

If we were to encounter sentient aliens or other animals that we could relate to in the same way we relate to one another, we would be more likely to extent human rights to those than we would to, say, a human organ being grown in a vat for transplant purposes. The former is a living thing that we can identify with intellectually and emotionally, the latter a living thing that shares our DNA.


It’s undeniably anthropocentric, but most people dole out empathy to other creatures on a sliding scale roughly based on how much those creatures remind us of ourselves, i.e.

Close family member > friend > stranger > lowland gorilla > dog > rat > insect > plant > benign bacteria > harmful virus

I think a sliding scale of rights based on similar criteria may have a better shot at success than just designating certain favored species “legal persons.”

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I’m not yet convinced that existing laws/practices regarding humane treatment of animals, and protected species, are insufficient.

The same species may exist in the wild and in captivity and fully domesticated. The same species may be a pet, a working animal, a wool (or milk, or other product) animal, a lab animal, and a food/skin/fur animal. How we interact with them does depend in part on where we put them along those axes.

I do believe that as cognative level rises, the definition of humane treatment alters somewhat; apes probably shouldn’t be used as experimental subjects unless there is a very specific reason that other animals won’t meet the need. (I’m not sure there’s a special rule needed for that, though; they’re expensive and troublesome enough that folks DON’T use them unless a real need exists.)

But none of that is “rights”. It’s an obligation that we accept as humans, and unlike “rights” it is going to be situational.

Basically, this is the difference between the PETA types and the normal SPCA types – PETA sees it as black and white; SPCA sees shades of grey all of which have appropriate limits for that particular shade.

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I see two problems with this-

Firstly, the court case is using the legal structure of Personhood, which is understandable, given the system that they’re working within, but it also turns the situation into a ridiculous “all or nothing” affair, with ridiculously wide ramifications. You remember all the the problems that granting personhood to corporations caused- that’s the size of a shift in legal status we’re talking about here.

Secondly, this entire process goes to the roots of what is wrong with much of the talk about human rights. It imagines that rights are created and conferred by a benign legal body. I think that’s a dangerous view. If rights are conferred by law, then they can also be removed exactly the same way.
Instead, if you look at history, all human rights have not been conferred, they have been claimed by the people whose rights they are, and only after a struggle are they recognised and codified by law.


Declare war on cows. From now on all hamburgers are to be made via tactical bombing.

So, how would we tell if a dolphin is expressing an opinion or hate?
Will bears be given the right to arm?
Will ‘aping’ someone’s behaviour become a new discrimination?
Will we have to ensure access to public buildings for the water-bound?
Would gorillas be able to own zoos?

I agree. It will just dilute human rights for humans down to some common level for all animals. Hunting African natives for bush meat will become just as legitimate as hunting forest monkeys for bush meat is today. Although I have to say bush meat is rather tastey. Don’t knock it. But if I’m in some village and buy some bush meat for supper twenty years from now what guarantee will I have of its species of origin? Primates are dying out while humans, especially in the African continent are still exploding exponentially. It’s easy to see where this is all leading. I WANT MY BUSH MEAT TO BE REAL BUSH MEAT. This madness has to stop.

Lots of problems, like other folks have said, and if the criteria includes intelligence, then squid and octopus must surely be on the list. Ban calamari!


Eat 'em critters, but

Respect critters!

That’s all.


How about we have a law that says if it can feel pain (eg. central nervous system) then it should have rights to protect it.

Beyond that, pretty much all animals think and have emotions, and that fact bolsters the need for legal protection.

Not that long ago in history we were having the same conversation about slaves and minority rights, this is just the next step, and one that I hope gains momentum.


In fact, there are areas, like in the DRC, where humans’ rights aren’t enforced at the level of protection we already have for animals.


Wouldn’t you have to put half of the chimps in jail after week one? What with all the rape and murder that they do on a regular basis.

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Anyone who’s ever dealt with monkeys can tell you they’re pretty much just like us. Macaques have troops of up to a couple hundred individuals with matrilineal inheritance of status. Chimps go to war in a way strongly reminiscent of a lot of human hunter-gatherers. Macaques are little bastards, for sure, and if I had to deal with packs of them running amok trying to break in to my house, as I have in several houses of several people much more dedicated to ahimsa than myself, I would be very strongly tempted to shoot a few, but that doesn’t make them less like us. I’m not saying that they should have full legal rights as humans, but I have some serious reservations about people doing research that involves keeping them isolated in little cages and doing all kinds of surgical procedures on them.

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