What are Animal Rights?

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What Does Animal Rights Mean

By animal rights or animal rights we refer to the different currents of thought according to which animals should be protected by the law from cruel treatment, and should not be considered objects of consumption . In other words, non-human animals are subjects of law regardless of their species .



Throughout its history , humanity has reserved the legal status of subject of law for natural persons and legal persons only, although it has sometimes been denied to certain human groups , such as slaves , women, etc.

And just as each of these cases of discrimination has had its corresponding historical struggle, animals have theirs, which is the Animal Liberation Movement with all its aspects.

The idea of ​​animal rights is to correct the tendency to affectively consider animals depending on their usefulness to humans , their degree of domestication (such as companion animals, for example, dogs and cats), or their beauty.

Those who are not socially valued for these and other reasons, serve as food , transport vehicle, cargo or experimental subject, without ever taking into account that they have the right to an existence free of pain, imprisonment or unethical treatment .

There are many national and international organizations that undertake this fight, which is why International Animal Rights Day has been celebrated around the world, every December 10 , since 1997.

In addition, animal rights are contemplated in the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights (1978), approved by the UN and UNESCO , among whose articles are the following:

  • All animals are born equal to life and have the same rights to exist.
  • No animal will be subjected to mistreatment or cruel acts.
  • If the death of an animal is necessary, it must be instantaneous, painless and not generating anguish.
  • Every wild animal has the right to inhabit nature and reproduce naturally.
  • Any deprivation of liberty of a wild animal, even if it is for educational purposes, constitutes a violation of animal rights.

See also: Bioethics

History of animal rights

The first animal protection laws emerged in Ireland in 1635 , but they were limited to the cruel treatment of pack animals, to prevent plows from being tied to the tails of horses, for example.

There were numerous Anglo-Saxon Puritan communities that were governed by similar principles. They even went so far as to list domestic animal "rights" among their particular moral and legal codes .

Thinkers like Jeremy Bentham or Peter Singer, much more recently, led movements for the vindication of animal rights, claiming that their capacity for suffering is similar to that of humans , so they should be protected by the same sense of ethics.

There have even been more or less radical protest groups against animal abuse, which carried out actions such as the liberation of animals from zoos and boycotts of pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies that test their products on captive animals.

Why do animals have rights?

Activists appeal to empathy as we are all animals.

The need for animal rights is due to human empathy , but also to respect for all life, and to philosophical and religious heritages of a different nature. Philosophers such as the Englishman John Locke (1632-1704) at the time opposed the tradition of thinkers such as the Frenchman René Descartes (1596-1650), for whom animals were only biological machines.

Instead, Locke argued that brutality towards animals is a terrible example for future generations , who would later replicate it not only with animals, but with other people .

Similar reasonings think the mistreatment of animals as a reflection of human cruelties, and their respect for life, especially for that which cannot fight and resist it, as a symptom of their morals . As the famous phrase of Mahatma Ghandi says: "A civilization can be judged by the way it treats its animals."

Animal liberation movement

Also known as the Abolitionist Movement for Animal Liberation or the Animal Movement, it is an organization that is both formal and informal. It brings together global activists of all stripes , including academics, artists, and lawyers, but also extreme vegetarians, philanthropists, and neo-hippies.

They all come together around a common goal: the investigation , complaint, awareness and rescue of animals in situations of abuse , whether domestic, pharmacological or industrial. Some even accuse the hegemonic culture of being anthropocentric and speciesist (from the term speciesism, derived from racism ), that is, discriminatory with non-human species.

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