Do Animals Have Rights?

Do Animals Have Rights?

In recent years we have seen a growing phenomenon dubbed, not very surprisingly, the animal liberation movement. The main theoretician of animal rights is Professor Tom Regan, professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University. Other supporters from the theoretical side are Professor Peter Singer, of La Trobe University in Australia, although Singer speaks only of animal liberation. That is because as a utilitarian, who advocates that we all must advance the greatest happiness of the greatest number (of those capable of being happy), he follows Jeremy Bentham in rejecting anything like basic rights.

In more popular forums, Cleveland Amory is the most widely known defender of animals against their use as human food or resource for medical research. Various Hollywood celebrities have helped to popularize the issue. Recently CBS's 60 Minutes devoted a segment to the movement.

What is at stake is relatively simple. Do animals have rights similar to those we as human beings are said to have? If animals do have rights, then by implication the government is responsible for protecting them from being killed, assaulted, or used against their will. Even the utilitarian support for animal liberation has similar practical implications. Animal liberation implies vegetarianism and anti­vivisectionism.

It is crucial to note that the issue is not simply kindness to animals, nor that animals should be treated with greater...

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