One Basic Right (At Least) for Animals

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | weanimals.org

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur | weanimals.org

The conventional argument opposing animal rights is that animals can’t reason like humans, so the notion of “rights” can’t apply to them. Yet not possessing human-like reasoning or intelligence is not a plausible justification for denying someone’s basic interest in not being used as human property.

On the most basic level, all animals have an interest in staying alive, avoiding pain and suffering and experiencing pleasure, raising families and developing complex social structures. (1) For that reason, animals should have at least one basic right: the right not to be used as a resource by another. (2) (Francione, 2010) Forced to become someone else’s resource means denying them expression of their most basic interests. Conventional beliefs about animals simply deny the existence of interests in animals and therefore argue that there are no interests to protect.

Since roughly 99% of animal use is attributable to animals used as food commodities (that we do not require for health or survival (3), we could easily eliminate 99% of our animal use just by not consuming animal products. Whether we love animals or not, the issue of defending their interests with this basic right is not about our love or disdain for one animal or another. It is instead a matter of applying our principle of justice to all sentient animals who clearly and regularly demonstrate an obvious interest in maintaining their own sovereignty.

(1) Beyond these basic interests, animals also possess a range of complex interests on the level of the individual animal as well as on a species level. There are a number of empirical studies and non empirical ways of demonstrating these interests.

(2) Gary Francione, An Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or Your Dog

(3) American Dietetic Association

About Robert Grillo

Robert Grillo is the founder and director of Free from Harm, a non profit animal rescue, education and advocacy organization. Robert is the author of over 500 articles on Free from Harm and is particularly interested in the advocacy of chickens and turkeys who collectively represent 99% of the animals exploited for food. He shares his life with a flock of rescued hens and a rescued homing pigeon. You can email Robert at robert@freefromharm.org. And you can find him on Google+ and Twitter.

WANT TO REPRINT THIS? Please read this first!

Most content on this site is the property of Free from Harm and is copyright protected. However, some content belongs to third parties not affiliated with Free from Harm. In all cases, you are free to share using the share options above and you are free to post a short excerpt of this content on another website, provided that you also publish a link back to the original page on Free from Harm. To obtain permission to republish this article in its entirety, please contact the editor.

5 comments

  1. What I don’t understand is why we feel they aren’t intelligent? I mean they are smart enough to actually communicate with us. We have trouble knowing what they might be saying, but I think most everyone who has live with dogs, cats, rabbits and so on will understand what I am referring too. They are very intelligent. For those of you who have a belief in God, this is all I have to say…why would God make a stupid creature? I mean he is so beyond our own intelligence, so why would he then make any form of life that didn’t have intelligence! Doesn’t make sense to me.

    I think I can answer that :) it is because this gives man the right to continue to torture and kill all other species because we think we are above all others?? I can’t even imagine why we think that. Since man is the one who has destroyed this earth, water and air. It is only the other species that live within their environment and never try to change it. This is what I call intelligent!

    • It’s kind of your typical story that portrays all of the benefits of raising chickens while ignoring or remaining ignorant to all of the problems associated with the hatcheries where the birds are bred as well as all of the health issues that arise from birds that up to 30 times more eggs that their bodies were designed for. The bottom line is that adoption of hens already in existence is very different matter than buying chicks as commodities and supporting the hatcheries that profit from their suffering. If you check out our “All about Eggs” ad on the home page, you’ll find a collection of stories that tell the side of the truth that articles like these don’t.

  2. Beautifully said, Elizabeth!! I’m not a hugely religious person but more spiritual and I always wonder – why would God create a few species for humans to love and cherish and the others for us to torture, eat, wear, use for entertainment, etc??!! He didn’t… humans made that choice! He would want us to love and cherish all of his creatures. This is the approach I use when my some of my family wants to dispute my reasoning for going vegan; however, they are the ones that go to church every Sunday!!

    • Good for you. My family when I go home they will at that point stop eating flesh?? because once I am gone they then eat it again. But if I can get them to stop even that one day, then at least a small amount of God’s creatures are saved that day.

      I am not a religious person either, I just know God.

Leave a Reply