Animal Rights

Do Animals Have Rights?

It's complicated.

|

Earlier this month Onyx, a one-year-old black lab, was hit by a car. Hard. The impact shattered his pelvis and mangled his left hind leg. According to authorities in Kern County, Calif., the owners allegedly did what any knuckle-dragging idiot without a lick of moral sense would do: They hacked off the leg themselves without anaesthetic, then left Onyx to suffer in agony. When animal-control authorities rescued the dog, his stump was crawling with maggots.

Fortunately, Onyx has received proper medical care and is doing much better now. But if the story turns your stomach—and well it should—then perhaps it is time to take a second look at the notion of animal rights. That is what Roscoe Bartlett has done. Bartlett, a Maryland congressman, used to experiment on chimpanzees as a physiologist at the Navy School of Aviation. He has since had a change of heart and introduced legislation to outlaw experiments on the great apes and retire the 500 now in captivity to sanctuaries.

Animals having rights is a contentious notion, and there is a strong argument against it: Rights belong to moral agents, and animals lack moral agency. Driven by instinct, they lack the higher-order thinking skills that enable people to choose between courses of action.

But this argument has some weaknesses. First: Some animals, certain primates especially, actually do think rather well. Second: informed consent. Humans can give it, but animals cannot. If one believes, as everyone should, that relationships ought to be delineated by consent as much as possible, then it follows that scientists should experiment only on people.

Third: the marginal-cases argument, which says: What about the senile, the comatose, or the severely mentally retarded? If it is OK to hunt deer because they lack critical thinking skills, then can we hunt children with Down syndrome?

Most sane people would answer, "no." They would say persons with severe mental retardation have a right not to be hunted for sport, even if they can't articulate it themselves. This brings us to the conundrum pointed out by Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation: Any quality that only human beings have that might provide the basis for their having rights (such as moral agency) will be absent from some human beings—but any quality that all human beings have (such as self-awareness) will be shared by many animals. So either not all people are equal, or people are equal to (some) animals.

To this, philosopher Tibor Machan offers the broken-chair analogy: Some chairs have broken legs, but they "are still chairs, not monkeys or palm trees. Classifications are not something rigid but something reasonable." Rights, he says, belong to the class of reasoning animals, i.e., humans—even if some members of the classification cannot reason. We should attend to what is normal for the species, not specific cases.

That makes sense until you start to pick at it. James Rachels asks us to consider a chimpanzee smart enough to go to college. It makes no sense to say the smart chimp should not be allowed to attend merely because average chimps cannot. (If you find the example ludicrous, substitute "12-year-old boy" for "chimp.") It makes no sense because "it assumes that we should determine how an individual is to be treated, not on the basis of its qualities, but on the basis of other individuals' qualities."

Likewise, Michael Strawser notes in "Animal Rights from an Anarchist/Libertarian Perspective" that if we are going to apply group standards to marginal cases, then we not only should grant rights to the mentally retarded because they belong to a rights-bearing class, we also should impose duties on them, since they belong to a class of beings that has certain duties. For example, we should hold them responsible for their actions, since that is what we normally do with people. So if a mentally retarded man keeps taking money from a purse, we should put him in prison. But of course society doesn't do that—we fit our judgment to the particulars of the case. And properly so. After all: We are concerned with individual rights, not group rights.

But this brings the subject around to another common argument against animal rights: If we take the notion literally, then it does not stop with a cat's right not to be set on fire for the amusement of spectators. A cat also would have a legal claim against a dog that attacked it. But maybe not. Maybe no more than mentally retarded person A would have against mentally retarded person B, were B to hit A in the face. And yet A still has some kind of right not to be hit in the face.

This leads to the conclusion that both humans and animals can have rights without accompanying responsibilities. But isn't that precisely what the notion of a right entails? Rights—especially natural rights—are things we have just by virtue of existing. They don't come with an invoice.

Or maybe it is not so much that animals have rights, as that we have duties toward them. And maybe the distinction between those two things is meaningless in practice. If your dog gets hit by a car, you must see that it gets proper medical attention. That much is perfectly clear—even if the ultimate reason is not.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

326 responses to “Do Animals Have Rights?

  1. Can I avoid going vegan if I manage to talk some chickens into killing themselves?

    1. Just hook up some speakers and loop this.

      1. Evil gremlins of the interwebs…

        Just hook up some speakers and loop this.

        1. how about “animals don’t have rights because they are not humans” and leave it at that.” Humans may have legal or moral responsibilities, but it has nothing to do with animals’ rights. or plants’ rights. or rocks’ rights because they don’t exist.

          1. Rights exist only during periods when intent and ability to guarantee them by force also exist. Otherwise they are meaningless constructs. It has nothing to do with race; nothing to do with intelligence; nothing to do with morals; nothing to do with ethics.

            Every attempt to justify the concept of rights with mythology or philosophy is an exercise of the absurd. Rights are about the (potential) exercise of force. They always have been; they always will be.

            1. Bingo. The libertarians worship Rights as some kind of magical force, but these Rights have no meaning without one sovereign force to guarantee them.

              And I’m talking about ONE sovereign force, not two, not 100. Libya tried its luck with two protection agencies instead of one quite recently, though apparently it didn’t work out. Also, I’m sure the Congo has dozens of protection agencies. They’re called clans and tribes.

              “A multitude of rulers is not a good thing. Let there be one ruler, one king.” — Homer (2500 years after, some people still didn’t get the memo, apparently)

            2. Exactly. If rights are natural, animals can exercise them in a world without human intervention. Those rights are limited by an animal’s power.

              Does a robin have a right to eat maggots? Absolutely. Do maggots have a right to eat robins? Of course. The difference is, the robin has the power to snatch up maggots alive, whereas the maggots have to wait till the robin dies of some other cause.

              Since humans too are natural animals, we have a right to do whatever we can to other species. Considering our self-awareness and the extent of our appetites and capabilities, however, it is irresponsible to exercise them fully, a principle that all societies recognize by placing restrictions on what we can do to each other and to other species. Rhetorically it is useful to give these restrictions some sort of metaphysical basis, but in the end we must admit that metaphysics is a human construct, and that the restrictions are enforced by human power, exercised in the numerous ways we have devised.

  2. That makes sense until you start to pick at [Tibor Machan’s definition that rights apply only to reasoning animals]. James Rachels asks us to consider a chimpanzee smart enough to go to college.

    Chimpanzee college?

    It makes no sense to say the smart chimp should not be allowed to attend merely because average chimps cannot.

    Let’s do one better. Supose we want to send a very smart slug to college… Would that give the slug right to life, liberty, property and, presumably, state tuition?

    Please.

    1. Tibor Machan warns that we should attend to what is normal for the species, not specific cases. This in order not to fall into logical pitfals by getting into very extreme cases to derive conclusions from.

      Yet what does Mr. Hinkle offer as rebuttal? Why, a hypotetical given by James Rachel that relies on (wait for it) a very specific case.

      1. Tibor Machan warns that we should attend to what is normal for the species, not specific cases.

        Wow, you’re quite the individualist.

        This in order not to fall into logical pitfals by getting into very extreme cases to derive conclusions from.

        aka, avoiding questions that might impugn the validity and consistency of your so-called natural rights model.

        1. Re: Tulpa,

          Wow, you’re quite the individualist.

          You’re quite the equivocator.

          aka, avoiding questions that might impugn the validity and consistency of your so-called natural rights model.

          AKA not acting like an imbecile who fancies himself (i.e. Tulpa) too smart for the world.

          1. “AKA not acting like an imbecile who fancies himself (i.e. Tulpa) too smart for the world.”

            Talk about ad hominem … that you love to always accuse people of.

    2. We already do that, they are called Humanities Majors.

      1. Gunter: All I want out of life is to be a monkey of moderate intelligence who wears a suit. That’s why I’ve decided to transfer to business school!

        Farnsworth: Nooooooooooo!

    3. Admit OM, you’re just a shill for Big Donkey Show Business.

      1. They went out of business when Tijuana became a killing ground for tourists.

    4. “Chimpanzee college?”

      It’s called NC State.

      1. Columbia and Harvard

        1. RACISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST!

  3. Before quibbling about the question “Do animals have rights?”, it would be reasonable to deal with the questions:
    1) What are rights?
    2) Do people have rights?
    After dealing with these questions, the answer to the title question will be easier to arrive at.

  4. Before quibbling about the question “Do animals have rights?”, it would be reasonable to deal with the questions:
    1) What are rights?
    2) Do people have rights?
    After dealing with these questions, the answer to the title question will be easier to arrive at.

    1. So important the questions that they deserve to be asked twice!

    2. A right (in the natural sense) is the Ultimate personal authority to perform some act.

      1. My dog has the right to gambol about the house.

        1. please note the words “ultimate” and “personal”.

        2. White Indian!

        3. But does your dog have the right to gamble about the house?

          1. No.

            But he does have permission to do so.

        4. Does he belong to gambolers anonymous?

    3. I hold that rights, where observed, are simply the manifestation of civility among men. That is, they are not a cause, but an effect. That they can so often be portrayed as a cause is simply an evidence that there currently exists a high degree of civility in society. Let the level of that civility wane, and then tell me which ‘rights’ one has.

  5. Animals having rights is a contentious notion, and there is a strong argument against it: Rights belong to moral agents, and animals lack moral agency.

    That’s not an argument, it’s an assertion. Also, infants, severely retarded people, and comatose people are not plausibly considered “moral agents”, yet few would deny that they have rights.

    1. Re: Tulpa,

      That’s not an argument, it’s an assertion.

      Which one is an assertion: That rights belong to moral agents, or that animals are not moral agents?

      Also, infants, severely retarded people, and comatose people are not plausibly considered “moral agents”, yet few would deny that they have rights.

      Tibor Machan deals with this already: “we should attend to what is normal for the species, not specific cases.”

      1. Both are assertions, but in particular I take issue with the first one.

        And the “normal for the species” line is just question-begging. Why the species? Why not apportion rights based on genus or race?

        1. Re: Tulpa,

          Both are assertions, but in particular I take issue with the first one.

          Why? If rights are a feaure of moral actors, like light is a feature of the sun, why would you object to someone saying that rights are only applicable to moral actors?

          And the “normal for the species” line is just question-begging. Why the species? Why not apportion rights based on genus or race?

          Because only the SPECIES beget the species, Tulpa, not “races” or “genus.” You are simply equivocating.

          Only HUMANS beget other humans, not chairs or fish or chimpanzees.

          1. Ainu beget Ainu and primates beget primates.

            And unless you’re pushing da kreation sianse, the first human was begotten by non-humans.

            1. Re: Tulpa,

              Ainu beget Ainu and primates beget primates.

              You’re like that little kid that called all porpoises: “fish”

              Primates beget primates, but humans do not beget chimpanzees – right?

              And nobody cares who begat the first human.

              1. Ya better care, cause you’re really pissing me off, and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!

              2. Humans did beget (Homo Sapiens x Homo Denisovanus) and (Homo Neanderthalensis x Homo Sapiens) in the past, as genetic data shows. Most likely, we are all part subhuman.

                1. And, quite importantly, subhuman in different proportions. Melanesians have 4-6% Denisovan genes + 2-5% Neanderthal genes, Caucasians have 2-5% Neanderthal genes, while Blacks have no Neanderthal or Denisovan genes (but there are hints of admixture from another ancient african species of the genus Homo)

          2. Which is the argument against abortion. Well done.

    2. Although Peter Singer has on occasion, at least as a thought experiment.

      And certainly many people deny that about fetuses. I’m not familiar with people who favor a law that allows pregnant women only to have fetuses above viability age removed from their bodies but put on NICU care rather than diced up.

      1. I intentionally avoided the fetus subject because it is not relevant to the issue, and distracts from the point I’m making. The point is, we recognize/grant rights for non-moral agents.

        1. Void where prohibited.

    3. True – and in all this talk about rights for individuals that may not deserve them, I think we forget to mention generosity.

      We give rights to people and animals that may not deserve them, because we would prefer to err on the side of doing no harm. We are willing to give up some of the advantages of not having to deal with them ethically, because we understand our own limitations, do not want to cause harm, and do not wish to set a bad precedent.

    4. Indubitably, this is one of the many faultlines Libertarians think don’t exist yet prove their “-ism” isn’t as magical as they think it is. They try drawing a line between animals and humans yet humans are animals some of which are not sentient or capable of moral thinking therefore have no rights whatsoever.

  6. they lack the higher-order thinking skills that enable people to choose between courses of action.

    My, my, but there is a load of a priori, non-falsifiable assertions in that sentence.

    1. Re: R C Dean,

      My, my, but there is a load of a priori, non-falsifiable assertions in that sentence.

      RC: If animals acted [performed actions with a purpose] they would have created markets.

      1. Another assertion…and of course there is evidence that some animals do engage in rudimentary forms of trade.

        Keep in mind also that if an alien civilization were observing us, they probably wouldn’t understand or recognize our market behavior. The same is true for our observations of animals.

        1. Re: Tulpa,

          Another assertion…and of course there is evidence that some animals do engage in rudimentary forms of trade.

          WHICH animals, Tulpa? Because if you mean how chimpanzees exchange grooming favors for sexual favors, that could be either voluntary exchange or, more likley, simply a learned behavior. It may be evidence of rudimentary subjective valuation, but not of chimpanzees’ ability to act purposefully.

          Keep in mind also that if an alien civilization were observing us, they probably wouldn’t understand or recognize our market behavior.

          I would not presume to know what a hypothetical alien civilization would recognize, Tulpa.

          1. Don’t know if you realize this, but basically the same form of argument was used to “prove” that Jews, blacks, Native Americans, etc, were not really people and had no rights.

            1. Re: Tulpa,

              Don’t know if you realize this, but basically the same form of argument was used to “prove” that Jews, blacks, Native Americans, etc, were not really people and had no rights.

              And your argument is that either their argument was cogent as mine is, or mine is not because theirs was not? I don’t understant why would bringing up that is relevant in any way.

              I am not here comparing Jews to animals, Tulpa. Whatever some people decided to call themselves -be it Jews, or Semites, or Mimes – is inconsequential: they’re still humans with 46 chromosomes.

              1. Take the word “Mimes” out of that last paragraph and I’ll agree with it.

                1. Are you saying mimes aren’t people? Do you WANT us to get sued, like what just happened recently with that candy-assed lawyer who got his feelings hurt, whose name we can’t mention because he’s such a raging pussy?

          2. Experimental economists haved used animals in experiments to show that their actions follow the law of demand. Not quite markets, but economic thinking none the less.

            1. What about the “supply” part of supply and demand? Yeah, I thought so….

    2. Agreed. I’m not seeing the logical connection between higher-order thinking skills and the deserving of rights, and therefore the denial of rights based on a lack of higher-order thinking skills. Seems like an Underpants Gnomes business model argument.

      I’m saying it’s a piss-poor assumption, not that animals automatically deserve rights.

      Even so, using the same definition Hinkle provided (“Rights belong to moral agents…”), assuming that’s correct, a “moral agent” by definition avoids causing wanton or unnecessary harm or pain to any creature that the “moral agent” is aware can suffer it. If you are aware that a dog can suffer horrifically when you hack off one of its legs without providing veterinary care or anesthesia, you might not be violating that dog’s rights, but you certainly are behaving immorally.

      There are many, many shades of immoral behaviors that violate no one’s rights whatsoever.

      1. What happened to the days when a dog that was crippled by an accident was put out of its misery?

        I would link to a famous cartoon about a horse hospital, where every ailment is treated with a bullet, but apparently the cartoonist is seeking anonymity by insisting that his cartoons not be posted on the net.

  7. HOLY CRAP!!! I quite literally had this very same discussion yesterday! Hinkle, if I find you tapping my phone I am gunna violate some rights!!! Seriosuly freaked out right now.

    1. Didn’t John Something’s Right Hand referrence Krugman’s interstellar empire paper yesterday, the same day this came out? I’m starting to seriously consider precognition, considering some other, similar coincidences.

      http://www.reuters.com/article…..FH20110922

  8. The meat of the functionally retarded is a little too gamey for me.

    1. They’re also very unchallenging to hunt.

    2. Go with grass-fed.

    3. Never eat full retard

      1. I’m going to hell for lol to that, but it’s worth it.

  9. So – besides chasing your own tail, what was the point of this column supposed to be?

  10. If we take the notion literally, then it does not stop with a cat’s right not to be set on fire for the amusement of spectators. A cat also would have a legal claim against a dog that attacked it.

    False dichotomy. The existence of one right does not imply the existence of all rights. Just because a six-year-old has a right to life does not mean she has a right to refuse to eat vegetables.

    1. Why does she not have the right to refuse to eat vegetables?

      Of course she has that right – but her parents choose to violate her right (for her own good, or because of the kickbacks they receive from Big Broccoli).

      That’s why the very FIRST nonCommandment mentioned in Principia Discordia (it’s not even in the text – it’s in the Introduction) is:

      (1) No making anybody do anything they don?t want (except mind their own business).

      She has the right – and the moment she achieves a balance of terror, I hope she throws off her oppressive overlords and eschews perpetrating further slaughter on our vegetative brethren (who are gentle creatures who never harmed anyone… well, except for Venus Fly Traps. And Ivy. Fuck those two).

      1. im trying very hard to support this post…very hard.

      2. well, except for Venus Fly Traps. And Ivy. Fuck those two).

        Fucking Kudzu, how does it work?

  11. “Blue the Dog, your right to shit starts where my carpet begins.”

    My five dogs and two cats say, “We’re perfectly happy to have our slaves wait on us hand and foot all day and give us two squares and shelter and free medical care and take us for walks and rides and let us sleep in their beds at night and on the couch during the day. Basically in trade for going outisde to pee and poop, even when we have two fucking feet of snow, cause Michigan gets like that.

    It’s a pretty good gig. Ix-nay on the over-inking thay, A. Barton.”

    /Almanian’s Aminals

  12. Why can’t some of the natural rights priests here just consult… whatever they consult? Oh, is it animal entrails? Awkward…

  13. This subject of this article is something I wish people in general gave more thought to, however, I don’t think the reasoning and logic in the above philosophical debate is very useful. To answer the question of whether animals should have rights, we really have to define what rights are, and whether they actually exist. Animals don’t have god-given rights because people don’t have god-given rights. People merely have a fabricated set of moral constructs to which they collectively choose to abide because it is in each person’s individual self interest to do so. The fact that animals don’t have rights (generally) really highlights the fact that people don’t really believe in rights as some kind of universal property of the living, but rather as a tool for individuals to stay alive as contently as possible.

    1. I am going to try to get this under 47 pages:
      A right is the ultimate personal authority to perfom some act. Now, I believe they are inherent. I beleive a form of them are inherent in all living things (i care not if I destroy a few billion amoeba however). I believe that a discussion of whether a right can practially be exercised is a question of a different character and requires that we bring the word responsibility into the discussion. I believe that all rights have a responsibility fundamentally attached.

      Does a dog have a right to life? I say yes. Should the human response to the violation of such a right be a political and varied question? I say yes. That, however, does not mean the dog does not posess that right. A corrollary is “a 10 year old is born with the right to contract, he just is restricted from using it until 18”.

  14. “If we take the notion literally, then it does not stop with a cat’s right not to be set on fire for the amusement of spectators. A cat also would have a legal claim against a dog that attacked it. But maybe not. Maybe no more than mentally retarded person A would have against mentally retarded person B, were B to hit A in the face. And yet A still has some kind of right not to be hit in the face.”

    When a retarded person hits someone, we say it is right and proper to stop them and perhaps to imprison them – not as punishment, since their inability to reason means they cannot be moral or immoral, but simply to protect people.

    When a fox kills a rabbit, I doubt anyone would argue that we ought to intervene to stop the fox and to lock it up for the protection of rabbits. And rightly so.

    Of course, the fox kills to survive while the retard hits for no real reason. But while we allow killing in self-defence, against an aggressor, we do not allowing killing just to save your own life. We do not allow you to murder someone so you can get the kidney transplant you need or the money to buy bread because you are starving. And quite rightly so.

    If animals really do matter, then we ought to protect them from other animals and not just ourselves. Nobody makes that requirement. Arguments absent this requirement can be dismissed because they only make animals matter in certain cases, with no rational differentiation i.e. they are not consistent.

  15. Well, sure animals have rights.

    Unless, of course, they own property in Arizona or they’re a conservative speaking on a college campus.

    Those animals would have limited rights.

  16. Dog hit by car, proper medical attention: euthanize.

    Also Hinkle’s mental exercise about mental retard is total bullshit. If he ever took part in the numerous safeguards, he would realize the rights of the mentally retarded are more honored in the breach. Most of these review boards are rubber stamps.

    1. I’ve known multiple three legged dogs that lived quite happily. I’m not saying euthanization isn’t an acceptable solution in many cases but not for one busted leg. (Of course people should do what they want with their own pets even fuckheads like the people in the story).

      1. My childhood pet was a three legged dog. To this day probably the best pet I’ve ever had.

  17. here’s my opinion. if you buy a gun, does this mean that you are allowed to walk into Wal-Mart with barrels blazing? No. You understand that there are certain responsibilities to be met with this particular type of property. Same thing when you own a pet. I know this is something not everyone will agree on, but if we’re going to say that it is OK for an owner to do whatever he wants with an animal, because they are less intelligent, then I know MANY stupid loudmouth ‘people’, I wanna introduce to Mr. Chloroform rag and his friend Mister Basement.

    1. Re: blah,

      here’s my opinion. if you buy a gun, does this mean that you are allowed to walk into Wal-Mart with barrels blazing? No.

      Of course. Unless the Walmart belonged to you.

      You understand that there are certain responsibilities to be met with this particular type of property. Same thing when you own a pet.

      Absolutely right. I would never ever enter a Walmart with dog a-barking and a-biting.

      1. Absolutely right. I would never ever enter a Walmart with dog a-barking and a-biting.

        Of course you wouldn’t. The private property owner of the Walmart or their agent would not like to be held liable for anyone injured on their property.

      2. While I understand what you are saying, the Wal-Mart comment was simply a joke and obviously not a real example. The underlying point which still remains, is that there are unspoken rules when you buy certain types of ‘property’. An unspoken contract of sorts

      3. The owner shouldn’t be allowed to walk into his Walmart with guns blazing either. He would be endangering the lives and bodily integrity of the people he had invited to shop there.

        1. Yes but if they weren’t invited he wouldn’t be endangering anyone. A Walmart is just a piece of property like a home, hence why the example is retarded. You can’t set your dog on somebody you invited into your home either but you can set him on the furniture if you want.

          1. once again, the comment was only a joke. I understood the crap you are saying when I made the comment. Still, the underlying premise is an unspoken contract. Still, though….When one buys a gun, one knows the property owners at such an establishment as this would not condone this type of behavior. And one not does not need some sort of formal mandate to tell him this. Unless he’s a jackass

  18. It is extraordinarily naive for humans to claim that we can discount animal intelligence because our investigations into animal behaviour yield results that don’t persuade us that they think like we do.

    An impartial observer would probably observe that any species that deliberately kills hundreds of millions of its own kind the moment it develops the technology to do so, is not to be trusted as an arbiter of intelligence fnord.

    Also – if it’s a choice between a dog and a Christian Fundamentalist (or any of the Sky Wizard retards) as regards rationality? No contest, man… Rin tin tin beats Hagee hands down.

    On that basis, we should be allowed to hunt those retarded enough to believe Sky Wizard fables, for as it is writ in the #rd Epistle of St Fnord to the Silesians, Ch 54:

    “Srsly? Thou believest in a genocidal maniac who liveth in the sky and loves foreskins? Dude, verily I say unto thee: thou art dumber than an bag of hammers.”

    1. Nothing in your post rises above the level of wholesale stupidity.

    2. Stark Fist of the Murdering Anti-HUman Marxist, is more like it.

      1. What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

        1. Damnit, that should be a reply to Stark. *facepalm*

          Fucking threaded comments…

          1. Nibb-High Football rules! But srsly, I liked his post

    3. Actually, the efficient dispatch of the millions apparently did require some intelligence.

      I guess all of the wars we’re in are pretty dandy, as the casualties were probably >90% into Sky Daddies.

  19. Third: the marginal-cases argument, which says: What about the senile, the comatose, or the severely mentally retarded? If it is OK to hunt deer because they lack critical thinking skills, then can we hunt children with Down syndrome?

    Is this the kind of shit they teach in college these days? I always wondered why MNG was always blathering about eating the retarded in “animal rights” comment threads.

    1. It would still be OK to hunt deer no matter their individual degree of critical thinking skills.

    2. You can’t get a deer to come up to you by holding out a lollipop (or even a salt lick). Ergo deer are smarter than tards.

      The problem with tard-hunting is that the season is so short. And as has already been mentioned, the meat is gamey and tastes faintly of library paste and boogers, which makes perfect sense when you think about what they eat.

    1. Yup. Onyx was probably going to heal just fine w/o all that expensive “medical care”. If they took him to the vet right after the accident and refused to pay ol’ Onyx would have gone out like Troy Davis. The vet would have been morally correct in giving the pup a hotshot, not because of Onyx’s lack of “moral agency”, but because it is a dog.

  20. There are so many wrong things in this essay I don’t know where to begin.

    This guy Strawser (and Hinkle) should start by reading Thomas Szasz.

    Now add how much you are paying for Hinkle’s column to Riggs’ wages and tell us how much more Moynihan needs to come back full time?

  21. *Co-starring Matt Damon as “the monkey”

    Please return to fart-sniffing.

  22. I think it’s a good, but admittedly arbitrary, line to draw between “it’s OK to kill them”, i.e. for leather or food, but it’s not OK to purposefully inflict unnecessary pain and torment (setting a cat on fire or feeding a dog ground-up broken glass for lols).

    There is no logic underlying that position…I just think it’s a nice line to have.

  23. Arguments like these are not pragmatic. A better question is, “Do animals have a right not to be experimented on, when such experiments stand to benefit human patients?” or “Should animals be protected from sadistic intent?”

    I don’t think there are many rational people who would argue that needless torture of an animal should go unpunished (what punishment is warranted is debatable), nor do I believe there are many people with an understanding of medicine who would argue that research on diabetes, cancer, hepatitis, and other crippling diseases should halt because animals die in the process (exclusive human experimentation is simply not a possibility). The question should not be, “Do animals have rights?” but rather “What protections should we afford animals?”

    1. I don’t think there are many rational people who would argue that needless torture of an animal should go unpunished

      Define “needless” and “torture”.

      Animal rights wackos consider meat, vaccines, wool, leather, honey, circuses, rodeos, pets etc. as “needless” AND “torture”.

    2. You should read more about vivisection. Purely from a scientific standpoint, it’s not all that practical. There’s a high percentage of medicine that has the desired effect on animal populations but not human populations – which is why there are also human trials after the animal trials have been passed. In several cases, a drug that works perfectly well on a chimp or whatever actually has an ADVERSE effect on humans. This also makes one wonder how many drugs have been discarded because they had adverse effects chimps even though they may have been perfectly safe and had the desired results on humans. Human experimentation using volunteers is not only a possibility, it makes the most pragmatic sense.

      1. And perhaps you shouldn’t try to discount the hundreds upon hundreds of drugs developed as a with the use of animal experimentation. They all may not have been developed as a direct result of said experimentation, but the cases you listed are not the norm.

        For example, insulin was developed directly due to animal experiments. Think of the millions of diabetics whose lives are saved every day thanks to animal experiements, and that’s not even counting life-saving pharmaceutical drugs created from animal parts and biproduts.

  24. Regardless of whether one believes that animals have rights or not, there is another way of approaching the subject. Do people have responsibilities? In the Judeo-christian tradition, God gave man (human beings) dominion over the animals. Man is regarded as the supreme authority. But with authority comes responsibility and obligation and man is obliged to use his authority responsibly. Animals are not in need of rights. Man is in need of acting responsibly.

  25. Never perform experiments on species with members capable of calculus. Simple rule, never broken it.

  26. the law works quite well the way it is.

    animals do not have rights.

    however, people have certain duties towards animals.

    for example, cruelty to animals is illegal. this is defined as causing animals undue pain and suffering.

    under my state law, that means it is perfectly legal to kill an animal you own, for no reason whatsoever.

    pets are property. property does not have “rights”. or rights. or RIGHTS

    given that, it is not beyond the authoritah of govt. to establish laws that regulate people’s behavior towards animals.

    then there’s incest laws, which clearly prohibit behavior that in some cases is NOT cruel (such as a person fellating an animal), but we criminalize for, let’s face it, moral reasons.

    i had a call where a neighbor wanted his neighbor arrested for taking his cat into the backyard, shooting it in the head and burying it. not a crime. he was fucking pissed.

    1. There are some municipalities where burying the animal in your yard is a crime for sanitation reasons (the body must be disposed of “properly”, which the vet will be happy to do for you, for a fee). The story of how I came to find this out is mundane and not funny, so I won’t bother to relate it. Just an FYI to people out there thinking of tossing Rex’s corpse into a hole in the yard with neighbors watching.

      1. and many municipalities also do not allow “open shoot” such that you could shoot the thing in your backyard, btw, also. seattle for instance does not allow “open shoot”. self-defense, etc. is fine. but “just because” is not

        1. I don’t think the neighbor’s opinion would have changed if the guy had hit the cat in the head with a hammer instead of shooting it.

          1. i agree. just doing the helpful advice thing. i happen to live in an area that is not open shoot, fwiw

    2. There’s no substantive difference between having a right not to be Xed and everyone else having a duty not to X you. That’s just a semantic game.

      1. there are plenty of differences.

        among other things, an animal cannot sue (i know one attorney in seattle who has been trying to do so on behalf of animals, though), because even when somebody has been cruel to them, their RIGHTs were not violated. the law was.

        there are all sorts of substantial differences in regards to how the law works, because of the distinction tulpa.

        heck, in many locales, people have a duty not to cut down a tree, for instance. even if they own it. it doesn’t follow that the tree has a RIGHT not to be cut down. the tree doesn’t have ANYTHING. it’s a tree. well, except for like bark and shit.

        1. You’re talking about legal technicalities, not moral precepts.

          A homeless person with no known friends or family who gets knifed by a hot dog vendor can’t sue either. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have rights.

          A North Korean farmer who makes a satellite phone call to someone in Japan and gets executed doesn’t have the option of suing Kim Jong Il, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a right to life that was violated.

          1. You don’t seem to have parsed Dunphy’s post correctly. We have rights so we have laws allowing us to sue. I don’t see anyone saying the opposite.

            A homeless person may find suing difficult, but that’s a practical problem, not a legal one. Legally, he can sue. Why? Because he has rights.

            The North Korean farmer does have rights and can’t sue. Sure. Why? Because he’s not in our shared jurisdiction.

      2. Sure, there’s a difference. If a dog has a right to X, then another dog could violate it. But it may be that only humans have a duty to not-X a dog.

    3. i had a call where a neighbor wanted his neighbor arrested for taking his cat into the backyard, shooting it in the head and burying it. not a crime.

      Apparently you don’t live in Texas. Here it is “animal cruelty” to euthanize your dog, cat, etc. yourself. You are required to hire a vet or pay the “dog catcher” to take it. Quite a nice little racket they have.

      1. so wait … you are telling me a licensed special interest group has affected legislation such that behavior that should be within the authoritah of anybody is limited to those with the proper credentials?

        again, i’m shocked.

        wasn’t there an article here (or was it volokh) about legislation in a state (was it texas) that prohibited, among other things, people from doing floral arrangements or interior design without a LICENSE FROM THE STATE>!>?!?!!

  27. They can have rights when they ask for them.

    And not while mimicking the human who taught them how to ask for them either.

    1. They can have rights when they ask for them.

      And not while mimicking the human who taught them how to ask for them either.

      Just like them niggers we brought from Senegal to Charleston last week! They was clicking them tongues an pretendin to talk ‘n it.

      1. “Just like them niggers”

        No actually, nothing like that.

        You fail at trolling, that wasn’t even a particularly good effort.

        1. Apartheid boosters and Nazis and conquistadors, etc have made precisely the same argument you are making, about the entities that they were seeking to take rights away from. All those groups claimed that the apparent humanity of their victims was just an illusion, just as you claimed.

          Now, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it does mean that just putting out the same unfalsifiable, question-begging argument isn’t enough.

          1. You drop “unfalsifiable” as if an argument about “rights” can be held in a laboratory with isolated controls and scientific rigor.

          2. GODWIN YOU LOSE!

            DURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

        2. A most excellent retort anonymous asshole.

    2. “They can have rights when they ask for them.”

      So then logically you would have to apply that principle to babies, the mentally retarded, the comatose, etc. then? Do all humans also have to ask for their rights or do we just assume they have rights?

  28. I had one client, Michael, who was born with the majority of his brain missing.

    His IQ was in the high teens.

    He was still far more intelligent than any dog I’ve ever seen.

    I think, for the majority of you, screeching “what about retards” has no real context whatsoever, and you vastly underestimate the capabilities of even a severely damaged human brain.

    1. you haven’t met the right dogs. The wikipedia entry for dog intelligence is a pretty interesting read.

    2. “That ‘tard won’t hunt!”

  29. So, what happens when one animal violates another animal’s ahem…”rights”?

    Do we send them to animal jail?

    1. well here in WA, if an animal (whether a pet dog or a wild animal) goes after your livestock or your pets, you may shoot it with impunity.

      not because it was going to violate your pets’ rights. but because it was going to damage your property.

      you can kill an ANIMAL for threatening your property (whether actively damaging it or about to). you cannot kill a person for doing so. why? because animals don’t have rights

      1. You can pull your kid’s pants down and smack his ass, with the express and sole intention of causing pain, if he says a word that you don’t like.

        You can’t do that to an adult who is visiting your house.

        Does that mean children don’t have rights?

        1. Tulpa confuses a reason with a conclusion.

          1. exactly. and the reason (drink!) why you can do that to YOUR child, is that a child has a DIMINISHED collection of rights vs. an adult.

            an adult (or a child not your own that you are not a guardian or teacher over) has a RIGHT not to be spanked by you (unless it’s like all consensual and shit)

            your child has no such right.

            because your parental authority to spank (w./in reason) exists.

            1. This is exactly my point; it’s curious that you and heller didn’t get it.

              Just because an entity doesn’t have as many rights as another doesn’t mean it has no rights, which is the conclusion you drew above.

              1. i drew the conclusion that animals have NO rights as a matter of law because society recognizes no rights whatsoever that they have … as a matter of law.

            2. “because your parental authority to spank (w./in reason) exists.”

              Well, in a legal sense, that depends on your state and locality.

              1. correct. there is no federal right to do so as far as i am aware of

                1. Haven’t you seen the CPS v. Slappy & the Stinkers decision?

          2. I paralleled dunphy’s argument exactly, so I have not the slightest idea what you’re criticizing.

            1. you didn’t parallel my argument

              children have rights. they don’t have the right not to be spanked by their parents.

              that’s a specific right a child does not have.

              it does not therefore follow that children don’t have rights.

              animals, otoh, do not HAVE rights.

              you can spank your kid.

              joe the neighbor cannot

              but if joe the neighbor spanks your kid, he has violated your kid’s rights AND your rights (as his parent)

              otoh, you can kill your pet.

              if joe kills your pet, he has not violated your pet’s rights. he has violated YOUR property rights.

              children are not property. they are autonomous beings with rights. those rights are just limited , when compared to adults.

              1. We’re not discussing whether the legal system currently recognizes animal rights. It obviously doesn’t.

                We’re discussing whether such rights do exist. Rights, if they exist at all, exist independently of the legal system’s recognition.

        2. You can pull your kid’s pants down and smack his ass, with the express and sole intention of causing pain, if he says a word that you don’t like.

          That would depend on where you live, Tulpa.

      2. You should be able to shoot a person who threatens your property in some circumstances. Say a thief making off with a classic car that represents a year of your working life in money and another year of restoration labor. The thief isn’t merely stealing a car but two years of your life. Deadly force is certainly warranted.

        1. you are making a normative argument. i was simply speaking of how thingz iz and shit.

        2. Those two years of your life were already lost when you still had the car. You can’t trade that car for two years of your life back, so the thief didn’t steal them.

          1. If the car isn’t recovered it may take two more years of you life to replace it.
            Now you’re out 4 years, 2 of which wouldn’t have been spent acquiring and restoring the car if you’d just shot the motherfucker as he tried to drive off with your car.

            1. Are you going to die or something if you don’t have a restored classic car? Your choice to waste long periods of time on your hobbies doesn’t give you extra rights.

              1. The right to property is an “extra right”?

                1. No, but the argument being made isn’t about purely property. Property is a right. Your choice to spend 2 years restoring a car is also a right. But the thief didn’t steal two years of your life – you voluntarily gave them up in order to restore the car. If you restore ANOTHER car AFTER the thief steals the car you restored initially, the thief still didn’t “steal two years” from you – you also had the option to buy a new car, or to not buy another car, or to not restore a car, or whatever – those two years restoring another car are still voluntary.

                  1. The thief DID, however, steal your car – and is violating your rights in THAT sense.

                2. The right to kill someone who doesn’t pose an immediate threat to anyone’s life or bodily integrity is an extra right.

                  1. actually under tennessee v. garner, etc. the threat does not necessarily have to be IMMEDIATE.

                    generally speaking, if a person has committed a crime involving deadly force or threatened deadly force and there is reason to believe that if not apprehended, he poses a risk of further harm, the standard is met.

                    not quite the same thing

                    guy robs a bank at gunpoint. cop arrives and yells stop. guy keeps running. cops shoot him in the back.

                    justified?

                    yes.

                    happened in mercer island a ways back

                    but your general point is correct.

      3. “well here in WA, if an animal (whether a pet dog or a wild animal) goes after your livestock or your pets, you may shoot it with impunity.”

        That’ not what I asked fuckwit.

        1. but it’s what i answered, pumpkin…

          deal…

    2. Animals are under a separate jurisdiction, just like enemy combatants. If Canada invades the US, and a Quebecois soldier shoots a civilian who is defending his house and then decides to surrender, he can’t be punished for the killing.

      1. they would be unlawful enemy combatants. they’re fucking canadians!!!!

        flappy headed bastards!

      2. In other words, you have no intelligent answer and play the clown nose on clown nose off game, fuck off and die painfully.

    3. Here at Dewey, Scruem, & Howe, that’s one of our favorite questions to ask…along with, “can a Gulfstream 650 be equipped with a jacuzzi?”

  30. “If your dog gets hit by a car, you must see that it gets proper medical attention. That much is perfectly clear?even if the ultimate reason is not.”

    Does putting the animal down count as proper medical attention?

    1. As long as it is done in a reasonably humane manner, yes (or it ought to).

    2. I’d say yes.

  31. This debate seems, to me, to result from an incorrect conception of what rights are. If you think of rights as a qualia of an individual, then you want to know which classes of individual possess this feature. Who has rights?

    But, I would argue, rights are not a qualia of individuals. Rights adhere to actions by acting as justification for said actions. Without the context of a particular act, the concept of rights is meaningless.

    This solves the dilemma by changing the question from “do animals have rights” to “is it ‘right’ to inflict act X on an animal in situation Y? (i.e., is act X justified in this case?)

    There are many acts involving animals that can not be justified…you can’t claim the “right to” do them (legitimately).

    1. Uh, how does it solve the dilemna? You just made the question more general, not more defined.

      1. Heller,
        No. It is more defined. Or at least properly focused. The dilemma of “how much cognitive/moral sense do you need to “possess” rights?” is an endless tail chasing exercise (as is clear from the above discussion).

        It changes the polarity of the question from “do animals have rights” to “can I justify mistreatment of animals.” (i.e., do I have the right to treat them in a certain way). It avoids the question of whether they have legal standing and a host of other issues.

        1. Nonsense. All those questions and conundrums are still contained within the question of justification. If you are not justified in doing so, it should be illegal or legally actionable. Anyway, the libertarian justification is based on rights, so you aren’t avoiding or limiting the question.

          1. Nonsense. All those questions and conundrums are still contained within the question of justification. If you are not justified in doing so, it should be illegal or legally actionable.

            But the idea that the squirrel has rights has gone away. No reason to posit silly “squirrel lawsuits” and the like.

            Anyway, the libertarian justification is based on rights, so you aren’t avoiding or limiting the question.

            The libertarian justification (or at least the one you are referring to…clearly there are many denominations of libertarian) is based on the flawed perspective on rights. The idea that the right is a qualia of the individual. But if you look at the underlying concepts, what is inalienable in individuals is not the “right to” life, liberty, and property, but those things themselves.

            You are alive, so you can justify many actions. You are free and will act, so others need to justify restrictions on your actions, etc…

            1. You’re just going around in circles. You haven’t limited the question from libertarian theory by focusing on justification. You haven’t proposed a system for what justifications are correct, you just have claimed that rights aren’t.

              1. heller|9.24.11 @ 4:43PM|#

                You’re just going around in circles. You haven’t limited the question from libertarian theory by focusing on justification. You haven’t proposed a system for what justifications are correct, you just have claimed that rights aren’t.

                Your post is self-refuting. I have limited the question by taking off the table the concept of individuals having a quality/possession that can be referred to as “rights.” This limits the discussion to acts (i.e., are certain classes of acts against animals immoral and therefore unwarranted, or are there certain acts towards animals that would be expected in certain circumstances – are there circumstances where you would be morally obligated to act in a certain way with an animal.

                If you treat rights as a quality or possession of the individual, you have the argument about who gets to possess those rights, but still have the exact same set of questions about acts and the relationship of rights to them in specific circumstances. It is a larger set of questions than one that focuses on specific acts in specific circumstances.

                1. Again, you haven’t taken rights off the table, because you haven’t offered an alternative system that excludes them. You just have repeatedly stated they are wrong, without proper explanation. You offer as explanation “justification,” which includes rights until you propose an alternative that excludes them.

                  It’s stupid that I have to keep repeating myself. So either say something that actually does what you are trying to say, or stfu.

                  Your second paragraph is just the same nonsense as before. If we define our system of rights, and this has been done already as some have pointed out in this thread, then the choice in each circumstance is clear and logical. That is the point of having a system like libertarianism. If we don’t have a system, like you, then there is no way to make a proper choice in any circumstance. So we are right back to my original point. Quit going around in circles.

                  1. Again, you haven’t taken rights off the table, because you haven’t offered an alternative system that excludes them.

                    Are you really this dense? The question on the table is “Do animals have rights?” I have stated that this is a false dilemma because it assumes that rights are a quality of an individual. In other words I have taken rights out of the discussion.

                    You just have repeatedly stated they are wrong, without proper explanation.

                    My explanation is proper. A “proper” understanding of rights recognizes them as adhering to acts not individuals.

                    You offer as explanation “justification,” which includes rights until you propose an alternative that excludes them.

                    Justification doesn’t “include” rights (at least not in the sense you imply). You are talking nonsense.

                    It’s stupid that I have to keep repeating myself.

                    FIFY

                    So either say something that actually does what you are trying to say, or stfu.

                    I have from the first post.

                    Your second paragraph is just the same nonsense as before. If we define our system of rights, and this has been done already as some have pointed out in this thread, then the choice in each circumstance is clear and logical.

                    Not true. You end up with a system that has limited score (if it is consistent) or one that t when applied to all possible problems.

                    That is the point of having a system like libertarianism. If we don’t have a system, like you, then there is no way to make a proper choice in any circumstance.

                    There are KINDS of systems for answering these questions. They will always involve subjective judgments based on interpretation of context of the act. The error is trying to pretend that there is an “objective” solution to morality.

                    So we are right back to my original point. Quit going around in circles.

                    I am not going in circles. I am staying on point. A point you seem to be spiraling around without seeing.

                    1. Are you really this dense? The question on the table is “Do animals have rights?” I have stated that this is a false dilemma because it assumes that rights are a quality of an individual. In other words I have taken rights out of the discussion.

                      How the hell does this take it out of the discussion. That statement doesn’t even touch the question. It’s a distraction from the question, not a proof of inconsistency.

                      My explanation is proper. A “proper” understanding of rights recognizes them as adhering to acts not individuals.

                      What? They adhere to both. They are about individuals acting.

                      Justification doesn’t “include” rights (at least not in the sense you imply). You are talking nonsense.

                      Objectively disrpoved by the fact that I justify actions by rights.

                      Not true. You end up with a system that has limited score (if it is consistent) or one that t when applied to all possible problems.

                      Libertarianism does not claim to, nor does it need to, give an answer to all possible problems. This is why you cannot compare it to a mathematical system. Libertarians don’t claim that any “problem” you can think of is one that merits analysis. Which is perfectly acceptable when we are talking about a moral philosophy. It is not acceptable when we are talking about a mathematical system. So you fail.

                    2. It is not acceptable when we are talking about a mathematical system. So you fail.

                      You seem not to have understood Godel.

    2. This debate seems, to me, to result from an incorrect conception of what rights are.

      I agree. I believe that rights are a relational rather than intrinsic concept. The closest word I can think of to define what I think they are is “respect.” If I respect you enough to not kill you then you have a right to life in the context of me. For the purpose of this discussion it doesn’t matter HOW I come to respect your life – it could be because I like humans or I fear social retribution or I think humans have intrinsic qualities which justify respect, or any other number of things.

      That does not mean that rights come from a government (at least directly), just that they’re person-to-person. Most people are against murder because it destabalizes society and for biological reasons thus, in the context of most others, you “have” a right to life. In the few cases of people who want to murder, most can grant a right to life out of fear of the consequences brought to bear by the majority of society.

      This stance has many logical and practical benefits:

      1. It doesn’t have to find some magical rights-granting attribute which humans have but animals don’t. It’s whatever people want for whatever reason they want. Most times this will be what is required to have reasonably functional societies and to satisfy personal desires both socialized and biological.

      2. You can point to physical rights existing – just hook someone up to an MRI and find the part of their brain that is activated when they refrain from taking action due to respect (negative rights) or undertake action due to respect (positive rights).

      3. It explains why people in different societies and different cultures act like they have different rights – because they DO have different rights… in the context of others in that society or culture with whom they interact.

      4. It doesn’t devolve into the absurd distinction between not having rights (acontextually) and their not being respected. People who espouse that rights can acontextually exist yet not be respected have some explaining to do. Where do these rights exist otherwise? To have an effect on reality they actually have to EXIST in reality, not just be logically derived. Why can people personally gain from disrespecting rights when they don’t personally gain from disrespecting gravity? If both exist independent of others then, inasmuch as ignoring reality tends to harm the ignorant, why are rights a special case?

      5. It recognizes that logic itself is impotent; it provides no motivational power without answering to someone’s desires. If you want to get more rights, you have to put things in terms of what others want (or don’t want). Logic can, of course, be used to draw conclusions, but there must be at least one value-judgement in their somewhere.

      I expect the biggest complaint people will have about this stance is that it makes rights contextual and transient. What people give, people can take away. Yeah, it sucks, but, again, what’s the PRACTICAL, CONSEQUENTIALIST difference between that situation and the one where rights not being respected?

      Living in society requires getting others to work with you. Whenever I hear someone say “I have a right!” now I just hear “I want respect!” Fine, give others a reason to respect you relative to THEIR values and desires. This can, of course, include threats against muggers and murderers since they most likely value their own life more than they value mugging or murdering you specifically.

  32. “Or maybe it is not so much that animals have rights, as that we have duties toward them. And maybe the distinction between those two things is meaningless in practice. If your dog gets hit by a car, you must see that it gets proper medical attention. That much is perfectly clear?even if the ultimate reason is not.”

    Empathy.

    Our society does not tolerate animal abuse because most of us empathize with animals. We find the infliction of suffering through sadism, indifference, or neglect to be repugnant and we hold the actor in a case of animal abuse to be offensive.

    As living in our society is ultimately voluntary, (Delta’s read when we are…first bag checked free!), then this is a norm codified in law that we can either comply with, face the consequences for violating, or GTFO.

    But, no, animals do not have rights.

    1. I agree with you that the reason a person feels the need to take care of an animal is not because we intuitively know that animals have right, but because of empathy.

      However, I disagree with your collectivist argument. What the majority believes is not what “society” believes, nor should this be codified in law. In many states, “society” did not tolerate homosexuality. Does that mean it was right to put homosexuals in jail or force them to leave their homes that happened to be in non-homosexual tolerant societies?

      1. There are plenty of people who would think that shooting a black guy who leered at a white woman is not a crime. Do you think we should be tolerant when they put that belief in practice?

        1. The answer to that is so obvious and overstated I won’t even bother making it.

          Do you actually think you’re clever when you post crappy arguments from Critiques of Libertarianism

          1. Well, my answer to your answer is even more obvious. So there.

            1. You’re the one who made the stupid argument in the first place, so I don’t how that is fixing it.

        2. When we form governments, we enter into a certain level of collectivism – the only question is – how much?

          Whether a given act is considered acceptable to a society depends on the society.

          I’ve mentioned my interest in the United States developing into two or more separate countries (not over animal abuse, but over differing attitudes regarding property rights, free enterprise, and the role of government). When your disagreements with the rest of the group get to be more than you want to put up with, then you find another group. This led many people to our very shores.

          We could say, “You know, when the authorities in Saudi Arabia sentence a rape victim to lashes, that’s screwed up and we ought to go in there and straighten them out.”

          Is that what we want to do?

          I take a more Machiavellian view – “What’s in it for us?” (Because we aren’t the world’s most powerful country by blind luck or magical powers – and if we completely lose our minds in statecraft we will find ourselves a much weaker nation. Therefore, I oppose playing the “World Police” unless we can identify specific benefits to our own security.)

          1. My previous rambling, incoherent comment is an attempt at saying:

            – Government itself is something that we surrender some amount of freedom to
            – The nature of government and law will reflect the values and attitudes of society
            – Therefore, the values and attitudes of society matter

            Lord of the Flies

        3. There are plenty of people who would think that shooting a black guy who leered at a white woman is not a crime.

          Dude, you need to move out of Western PA.

  33. Rights don’t exist. There is no such thing. We’re not squinting at stars, hoping to get a better grasp of them by inventing telescopes.

    1. OK, then you don’t mind if I come over, kill you, and steal your stuff, right? After all, your “right” to not have any of that stuff done to is non-existent right?

      1. Remember, it’s me who posts puerile claptrap as arguments, not heller.

        1. It really can be both cunt.

          1. Umm… you seem to be responding to a spoof moron.

    2. there are more things in heaven and earth, horatio, than are seen through a telescope

      hth

  34. I disagree that rights belong (only) to “moral agents.” It was always my understanding that rights belong to beings because, without the things and conditions, to which they have a right, they cannot live according to their proper natures. We can deny those rights, but if we do, those affected can do basically four things: 1) continue along for as long as they can before they expire; 2) escape to a more hospitable situation; 3) revolt and force us to acknowledge and respect their rights; 4) Shame us. Only a “moral agent” could credibly shame anyone; the other three responses are possible without any notion of morality, as would also be the declaration of rights in the first place. To be sure, I think the victory is well and truly won when someone or something that you have considered as less than human or sentient finds a way to shame you. As they say, the true victory is won first in the opponent’s mind. But if, for example, something claiming “rights” is big and mean enough to TAKE and DEFEND those rights, then, as a practical matter, that is plenty good enough for me. Case closed.

    I think animals have rights due to their natures, just as people do, but I know also that nature and its animals don’t seem to know or care much for rights. As a thoughtful, compassionate person, I might wish to recognize and respect animal rights. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a meat-eating, gun-toting member of humanity and if it is either them or me and mine, I choose me and mine. But as a thinking person who sees something glinting in the eyes of even some of the humblest creatures, I wish for and seek a way around MY moral quandry (by eating laboratory-grown meat tissue, for instance — I quit eating tasty squid long ago). Nevertheless, I understand that others may disagree with me. For them, the question may come down to encountering an animal that can either shame them or eat them. That would be something to see, and I hope I can be a witness to it, someday.

    1. I want to clarify that I don’t currently eat laboratory meat, of course, but wouldn’t be opposed to doing so, someday, especially the price and taste were right.

    2. How about that one to (possibly) four percent of humans who are constitutionally unable to feel empathy and can’t be shamed (psycho/sociopaths)?

  35. Man’s relationship to Animal is as steward, and so these questions are best answered in that light.

    If psychological experiments on chimps represent a responsible, morally defensible oversight of a small sub-group of chimps, then it’s probably a good idea.

    Perhaps the people in Kern County whose dog got hit could not afford to take their pet to the vet. If it were me I probably would have shot it. Not because I’m cruel and heartless but because that would be good stewardship to put a wounded animal out of its misery, and the better option over hacking his leg off and leaving it to be infested with maggots.

    As for burning cats for fun, well whose the worthless animal in that analogy?

  36. Whether or not animals have rights, humans have a moral duty not to bring needless agony into the world.

  37. The concept of rights is a legal one, and by extension, possibly a religious one. In both cases they are the inventions of humans. And since the concept of legality defines the interactions of humans with humans and the world around them, the concept of rights outside of humans makes no sense to me. Humans however have responsibilities toward animals that they interact with. If animals had rights, then gazelles could sue lions, etc.

  38. Why doesn’t Hinkle have the courage to state his actual thesis: do animals have human rights?
    BEcause then we don’t have to read 1500 words of nonsense to know that he’s full of shit.

  39. “If your dog gets hit by a car, you must see that it gets proper medical attention.”

    How about the driver of the car? Does she have a responsibility to provide first aid and/or transport the dog to a vet/pet hospital? If no, why not?

  40. Steve_0|9.23.11 @ 8:44PM|#

    Rights don’t exist. There is no such thing. We’re not squinting at stars, hoping to get a better grasp of them by inventing telescopes.
    heller|9.23.11 @ 9:00PM|#

    OK, then you don’t mind if I come over, kill you, and steal your stuff, right? After all, your “right” to not have any of that stuff done to is non-existent right?

    Here is a perfect example of my point. If Heller’s actions are moral or correct based on Steve O’s possession of “rights,” then Heller can claim he is justified in acting anyway he wants to Steve-o-without-rights. But the question is whether Heller’s actions are justifiable. Does he have “a right” to act as he proposes? Are his acts justifiable? The answer is clearly no.

    Think of it this way.

    Heller is alive. He can justify many many actions by pointing to his need to stay alive. But if his actions harm another, then we ask whether that harm is justified by Heller’s need to stay alive. This will lead to things like justified self-defense, justifiable actions to protect his possessions from theft, etc. Saying he “has a right to life” or “a right to property” simply says that he has a handy justification for many actions. But that right is not a quality of Heller. It is applied on a case by case basis to Heller’s acts.

    1. There’s a reason everyone here is ignoring you, you’re not making any sense. Anyone can justify any action. In moral philosophy, there needs to be a system to judge those justifications as correct or not. The libertarian system is through a definition of freedom/rights. So far you haven’t offered a system, just the generalization that things need to be justified.

      1. There’s a reason everyone here is ignoring you, you’re not making any sense.

        You’re lack of understanding is not a result of my “not making sense.”

        Anyone can justify any action.

        No. Anyone can attempt to justify any actions. The question is whether their justification is legitimate.

        In moral philosophy, there needs to be a system to judge those justifications as correct or not.

        Indeed. And that system will always treat things on a case by case basis based on the context of the act. The
        question of
        right” or “wrong” will hinge on that context. Always.

        The libertarian system is through a definition of freedom/rights. So far you haven’t offered a system, just the generalization that things need to be justified.

        I wasn’t attempting to offer a system. I was pointing out where the system you describe is ill-formed. The natural rights approach is doomed to fail as it will either be consistent and incomplete, or inconsistent and complete.

        1. You’re lack of understanding is not a result of my “not making sense.”

          Joe’Z law strikes.

        2. I wasn’t attempting to offer a system. I was pointing out where the system you describe is ill-formed. The natural rights approach is doomed to fail as it will either be consistent and incomplete, or inconsistent and complete.

          If you weren’t attempting to offer an alternative, why did you claim that your re-framing of the question solved the problem? And you also claimed that the libertarian system was not a subset of your justification re-framing. So either you did offer an alternative system (which I can’t find in your comments) or reframing does contain the libertarian question within it.

          And so far I have not seen you prove an inconsistency or incompleteness. Do so.

          1. If you weren’t attempting to offer an alternative, why did you claim that your re-framing of the question solved the problem?

            I said it avoids the dilemma. It takes the question being asked off the table. No need to replace it with a system. I said the problem posed is non-existent. No need to propose a system to solve it.

            And you also claimed that the libertarian system was not a subset of your justification re-framing.

            The position you seem to be putting forth includes the concepts of rights as a qualia of the individual. I am saying that concept is unnecessary when it comes to determining the morality of an act.

            So either you did offer an alternative system (which I can’t find in your comments) or reframing does contain the libertarian question within it.

            I offered that you can subtract an entire class of questions from your system. You can work it out from there if you are interested.

            And so far I have not seen you prove an inconsistency or incompleteness. Do so.

            Any formal system of logic will be either incomplete or inconsistent. The natural rights approach attempts to use a set of axiomatic statements to cover all moral questions. It will be incomplete or inconsistent.

            1. I said it avoids the dilemma. It takes the question being asked off the table. No need to replace it with a system. I said the problem posed is non-existent. No need to propose a system to solve it.

              It doesn’t though. What is the proper choice in the conflict displayed in this article? You haven’t offered anything that can show one should take the dog to the vet or just leave it. I can “justify” both. I can’t choose which justification is right without a system.

              Any formal system of logic will be either incomplete or inconsistent. The natural rights approach attempts to use a set of axiomatic statements to cover all moral questions. It will be incomplete or inconsistent.

              Which doesn’t answer my question. I asked for proof of incompleteness or inconsistency, not a statement. So show me an example and quit quoting Godel.

              1. What is the proper choice in the conflict displayed in this article? You haven’t offered anything that can show one should take the dog to the vet or just leave it. I can “justify” both. I can’t choose which justification is right without a system.

                You don’t need a system of rights to solve the problem. Many people have given you alternative approaches/systems to use to judge the validity of your attempt to justify the actions described in the article. There is no need to appeal to the rights of the animal. If cruelty is wrong, it is wrong. It isn’t wrong because the victim has a “right” to be free from cruelty. It is wrong because acts of cruelty are unjustifiable. The question then becomes is the act “cruel”? Based on the circumstances, this will be a subjective judgment. There will be disagreements. In the end, the society will develop a system for deciding whether it is cruel and whether the cruelty deserves punishment. This will be, for the most part, normative, precedent-based and will involve the subjective judgment of individuals.

                1. Why are acts of cruelty unjustifiable? I can justify cruelty because it leads to my happiness? Why is this not justified? By what system do you claim that kindness to animals is more important than my happiness? By what system are the beliefs of society more important than mine? You have diluted yourself to the point of irrelevance.

                  1. Why are acts of cruelty unjustifiable?

                    By definition.

                    I can justify cruelty because it leads to my happiness? Why is this not justified?

                    See above.

                    By what system do you claim that kindness to animals is more important than my happiness?

                    You just moved the goal posts.

                    By what system are the beliefs of society more important than mine? You have diluted yourself to the point of irrelevance.

                    [sigh] Depends upon the context. Sometimes your beliefs win, sometimes societies win.

                    1. By definition.

                      But I just justified them. So your definition is objectively wrong.

                      You just moved the goal posts.

                      I didn’t move the goal posts. Either You admit that my justification is a justification and that you are wrong, or you must apply a system to prove my justification incorrect.

                      [sigh] Depends upon the context. Sometimes your beliefs win, sometimes societies win.

                      If the answer depends on factors, what you are describing is a system. So you have a system or you don’t.

                    2. But I just justified them. So your definition is objectively wrong.

                      No. You failed to justify them. Cruelty is not justifiable. The question about whether a particular act is cruel or not will determine its that act’s moral standing.

                      I didn’t move the goal posts.

                      Not being cruel to animals is different than being kind to animals. You moved the goal posts.

                      Either You admit that my justification is a justification and that you are wrong, or you must apply a system to prove my justification incorrect.

                      Cruel acts are wrong by definition. Done.

                      If the answer depends on factors, what you are describing is a system. So you have a system or you don’t.

                      sigh.

  41. As a libertarian and a vegan, I’m excited to see Reason talking about this issue, which I’ve always thought would be discussed among Libertarians more than any other party but which seems to be more looked down upon by Libertarians than anyone else.

    Personally, I feel that “animal rights” is a misleading phrase. It tends to get people into the line of thought that we’ve seen in the comments thread so far – that you’re arguing that animals should have access to courts, should be sued for killing other animals, etc.

    What I think most vegans or vegetarians or other animal rights activists are actually arguing for is moral consideration. To me, it goes to the non-aggression principle. Living in a first-world country like the United States, I have the ability to have all of my nutritional needs filled and live a perfectly healthy life WITHOUT inflicting death or other forms of suffering on other sentient beings. Being that that’s the case, the killing of an animal, even for food, is the infliction of unnecessary aggression. I’m not saying that a cow has a right to “life, liberty and property” as it were, just that I have enough alternatives available to me that it seems just to reduce the unnecessary death or suffering of those animals. If you want to make the argument that animals have natural rights, more power to you – you could probably make a compelling case – to me, it’s not about rights, it’s about moral consideration. Even if the conclusion is reached that animals don’t have rights, I think they do deserve our moral consideration as sentient beings capable of experiencing physical and emotional suffering.

    1. hunting causes less suffering to animals than the way a typical predator kills it.

      so, at least you can make an argument against factory farming, but imo hunters are better stewards of the environment than the average vegan

      1. Perhaps. I’m not really against hunting, though.

        1. ok, fair enough. i buy my side of beef from a local cop (and farmer). the animal is grass fed. iow, lives its life roaming around eating grass (and w/o fear of predators).

          then, it’s killed quickly and humanely

          i can live with that

          and it’s tasty as fuck

          1. If you’re going to eat meat, I feel that’s a more compassionate way to do it. I just draw the line further than you, that’s all. I just don’t feel comfortable taking the life of a sentient being, even if it had led a good life up until that point and it dies painlessly, purely in order for me to have a tasty meal – especially because (honest, I swear I’m not making this up) I actually prefer my diet since becoming a vegan to my old omnivorous one.

            1. So, plants aren’t alive to you? This is the point where the vegan moral stuff goes off the rails for me, when one form of life is judged more valuable than another and herbivores are better than omnivores/carnivores due to all the “pain and suffering”. Or animals start getting differentiated by how developed their nervous systems are.

              1. Plants are alive, but I’ve qualified every single thing I’ve posted here with *sentient* life. Plants are not sentient.

                BUT, just for funsies, let’s pretend they are. I’ve gotta eat something, or I’ll die. So let’s pretend plants are the sentient. In fact, let’s pretend they’re the most sentient thing on the planet. They’re fully aware of everything, and they feel pain, and whatever else you want to throw at me. Being a vegetarian or vegan is still the most moral choice, because the amount of plants it takes to feed a human is monumentally less than the amount of plants it takes to raise livestock to slaughter weight.

                1. You ever try betting on a plant fight?

                2. well, hell, let’s just separate all the predators from the prey since it’s the moral thing to do (on their behalf) and feed them all USDA-endorsed wolf and lion chow. Then they could enjoy all this diabetes and heart disease too. Again, I just don’t get the obsession w/ sentience as if human beings have achieved some arbitrary level of snootiness where we now should reject our evolutionary history and now be morally obliged to worry about our food’s feelings. I joke, but seriously I expect us to get to such an “enlightened” level that we (you) some day actually save teh poor deer from those evil wolves… since they could survive on puppy chow anyhow.
                  Modern farming is worse for the environment than natural grazing will ever be when you consider all the factors involved, but I’ll concede that the system as it stands today doesn’t even remotely resemble “natural”.

    2. Libertarian moral philosophy is based on actions between moral actors, i.e. humans. The non-aggression principle has never applied to animals, just as rights has never applied to animals. You can only initiate aggression against another moral actor.

      As a libertarian, you can’t separate the concept of rights or legality from the concept of non-aggression.

      1. You could distort that in other ways as well. The Founders were all about John Locke until it came to their slaves, right? Then they had to argue that the slaves weren’t moral actors, the NAP doesn’t apply to them, etc. Not trying to argue that animals are the equivalent of human slaves, just saying that definitions of the NAP are more fluid than you seem to think.

        1. First of all, I never claimed the founders were libertarians, nor did I reference their definition of a moral actor. The libertarian definition does include people who were slaves because the definition is based on a visible trait that all humans (including mentally disabled individuals) have. But we have not seen animals that have this trait.

          Also, the slaves example does not answer my second point, which is that there is no justification for splitting rights and legality from non-aggression. You wouldn’t hesitate to give slaves rights and legality along with non-aggression would you?

          1. The libertarian definition does include people who were slaves because the definition is based on a visible trait that all humans (including mentally disabled individuals) have.

            What trait is that?

    3. And saying that we should ignore animal-animal aggression and only focus on our own “aggression” towards animals makes no sense. Why ignore this if animals deserve moral consideration? Because predator animals cannot morally consider? Well neither can psychopaths, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the plight of their victims.

      1. Carnivorous animals quite literally can’t live without killing another animal to do so. Kind of puts us in a different boat, don’t you think? A psychopath kills because there’s something wrong with them, and even in a case like Dahmer where he ate his victims, it wasn’t necessary to sustain his life.

        Animals are, in fact, not moral actors. When I say we should give them moral consideration, I mean that WE – as moral actors – should avoid taking a sentient life where possible, whether that life has the ability to reason or not.

        1. It doesn’t matter if he can’t live. To a libertarian, there is no justification for initiating aggression against one who has not initiated aggression. You can’t split this in half by saying they deserve moral consideration only when we are involved, but don’t deserve it when they are being aggressed upon by another. It takes the end result of libertarian theory, non-aggression, and ignores its underlying premises, like freedom, rights, etc. As a logically consistent system, every part is connected to the other. There is no picking it apart unless you can find an inconsistency within it. No such inconsistency exists. If we are treating animals as if they deserve some human considerations, they must also deserve all human considerations.

          1. heller|9.24.11 @ 5:01PM|#
            It doesn’t matter if he can’t live. To a libertarian, there is no justification for initiating aggression against one who has not initiated aggression.

            And yet there is not well defined limit to what counts as “aggression.”

            As a logically consistent system, every part is connected to the other. There is no picking it apart unless you can find an inconsistency within it.

            IF we take your premise here as fact (it isn’t), then you end up with a consistent, yet incomplete system. For the topic at hand, one that has no answer for the morality or immorality of cruelty to beings who are not in possession of “rights.” (due to not having some elusive set of visible traits that gives them moral standing).

            No such inconsistency exists.

            More accurately, Heller doesn’t recognize the possibility that two people’s rights can be in conflict. Not sure that is the same.

            If we are treating animals as if they deserve some human considerations, they must also deserve all human considerations.

            A conclusion that refutes the entire system you are claiming is consistent, logical, and helpful in making moral decisions.

            1. And yet there is not well defined limit to what counts as “aggression.”

              There aren’t? This news to me.

              IF we take your premise here as fact (it isn’t), then you end up with a consistent, yet incomplete system. For the topic at hand, one that has no answer for the morality or immorality of cruelty to beings who are not in possession of “rights.” (due to not having some elusive set of visible traits that gives them moral standing).

              I love people who use Godel as if they know what they are doing. Please explain how you analogize mathematical incompleteness with moral philosophical incompleteness. If you are saying libertarianism ignores concerns you have and is therefore incomplete, you have already failed to analagoize these two. Libertarianism does not have to answer concerns that it does not deem to have merit for concern. It is not a mathematical system.

              More accurately, Heller doesn’t recognize the possibility that two people’s rights can be in conflict. Not sure that is the same.

              Specifically impossible because rights are defined such that they cannot conflict. I will not repeat this definition because it has been repeated endlessly to you and you have refused to accept it as the definition we use.

              A conclusion that refutes the entire system you are claiming is consistent, logical, and helpful in making moral decisions.

              How so?

              1. Libertarianism does not have to answer concerns that it does not deem to have merit for concern. It is not a mathematical system.

                Who said it was. But you have just said, as I claimed, that it is an incomplete system. If it is consistent, it gets there by excluding questions that would cause conflicts. An example, apparently, is cruelty to animals.

                Specifically impossible because rights are defined such that they cannot conflict.

                And as a result, they are a very limited (i.e., incomplete) system for answering moral questions. At least when framed as a qualia of the individual.

                I will not repeat this definition because it has been repeated endlessly to you and you have refused to accept it as the definition we use.

                We started here. I said your concept of rights is ill-formed.

                1. Who said it was. But you have just said, as I claimed, that it is an incomplete system.

                  No, I said that the definition of incompleteness you are trying to apply to it does not apply. The fact that libertarianism says nothing about strawberry icecream does not make it “incomplete.”

                  1. It is incomplete in the sense I outlined above. It is a moral system that does not have answers for many moral questions. It does not allow you to determine whether or not certain acts are moral or not. It is incomplete as a system for making moral decisions.

                2. Neu, you have failed to use Godel to prove your points. Stating the theorems over and over again does not mean you have connected them to moral philosophy or libertarianism. 15 year olds can and do write what you are writing. It doesn’t make them or you smart or knowledgeable about what you are talking about.

                  1. Heller,

                    I am sorry you need to go towards insults rather than making points. I have read every post you’ve made on this thread. You have not refuted anything in my claim that rights are not a qualia of individuals. You have not shown a single advantage to positing rights as a qualia of the individual. You have not shown the necessity in answering the moral question posed in the article. But you have made a good case for the system you are defending being very limited in scope.

                    1. You have not shown THEIR necessity in answering the moral question posed in the article.

                      Oops.

                    2. And their necessity is clear. They are necessary to provide one answer, not all answers.

                    3. And their necessity is clear. They are necessary to provide one answer, not all answers.

                      Restating your opinion that rights are a quality of individuals does not address the issue. You are just making a string of assertions. You haven’t provided a single counter argument yet. There is no advantage to conceiving of rights as a quality of individuals. Doing so limits your ability to answer a whole class of moral questions. Far from being “clearly” needed.

                    4. You have not refuted anything in my claim that rights are not a qualia of individuals.

                      I don’t need to refute a claim that is directly in opposition to the basic definition of rights we have been using. It refutes itself.

                      You have not shown a single advantage to positing rights as a qualia of the individual.

                      The 1st advantage is that it gives you an answer. You have no answer besides “it depends” and “society will figure it out,” both cop outs. It depends on a system, and society will use a system to figure it out. You haven’t offered a system, just generalizations that you are masking as specific answers.

                    5. I don’t need to refute a claim that is directly in opposition to the basic definition of rights we have been using. It refutes itself.

                      In case you haven’t notice…this has been a discussion ABOUT the proper definition of “rights.” So, yes, you would need to provide support for you position that my claim is incorrect if you want to show me that your definition is the proper one.

                      The 1st advantage is that it gives you an answer. You have no answer besides “it depends” and “society will figure it out,” both cop outs.

                      No. I said that there is no correct objective answer. As such, I don’t buy your claim that rights “give you an answer.” As you have pointed out yourself. They have very limited scope. For the question at hand, they are a distraction. (animal rights).

                      It depends on a system, and society will use a system to figure it out. You haven’t offered a system, just generalizations that you are masking as specific answers.

                      I pointed out how it actually works in the real world. I don’t need to offer “a system” as I can just point to the system that people actually use to solve these issues.

                    6. And it’s supposed to be limited. That is why you have a system. If it were not limited you would have no answers. Why are you treating the feature as a bug?

                    7. And it’s supposed to be limited. That is why you have a system. If it were not limited you would have no answers. Why are you treating the feature as a bug?

                      I am pointing out that it doesn’t apply to questions like the one at hand. Attempting to use it shows how limited it is. I also pointed out why, imo, that this comes from a malformed conceptualization of what “rights” are.

              2. > Specifically impossible because rights are defined such that they cannot conflict.

                Even if those definitions don’t map to reality very well? You were born after all the easy-to-live-on land has been claimed by others. Their right to property conflicts with your right to exist inasmuch as existence requires being somewhere capable of supporting life and performing effort to sustain your life.

                Yes, you could work to save money to buy some land on the market, but you need someone to give you a job or charity since tresspassing to work would violate the rights of others. That means either that a job is a right (which violates the right of free association and other rights of the employer) or your existence and your ability to apply effort to sustain your existence are privileges which means you don’t have a right to self-ownership.

                When bounded by The Lockean Proviso such a system at least scales better, but it’s still not perfect. Rights are either too specific to be adaptable or too general to not occassionally conflict when practiced in the real world.

                1. This is Bullshit, there is no such thing as trespassing when you have consent of the private property owner.

                  And protectionism (it sounds like you’re making a case against immigrants with your rhetoric), is really dumb.

    4. Nate, when I purchase a steak, a hot dog or any other meat product I have commissioned the death of animal. I readily accept this fact and am quite alright with my decisions.

      Have you considered this aspect; when you purchase your fruits and vegetables from the store, you have commissioned the death or maiming of numerous animals.

      The farmer who plows, tills, plants and harvests his produce will end up killing animals as a result. The farmer will even defend his his produce, through lethal means, whether through extermination (rodents) or hunting (deer, raccoon, skunk, fox).

      When you purchase these food items, you have commissioned the death of these animals by providing money to the farmer to remain in business to provide you with these items.

      Do your moral considerations end at the farmer’s field or can you do more by planting and harvesting your own food thereby personally guaranteeing no animals were harmed in the production of your meal?

      1. So the fact that a field mouse might unintentionally die in a harvest is now an argument in favor of intentionally killing an animal for food?

        There’s a difference between collateral damage and intentional killing. Let’s say I’m out hunting a deer, and as I fire something causes me to fall, I lose control of my gun, and I kill another hunter with my stray bullet. Am I charged with murder for that? Is my accident an argument against the larger practice of hunting?

        As for animals that are shot intentionally to protect crops, if you make the argument that animals have the same rights as people (I’m not, but that’s the box people seem to like to put me in), then those animals are justly shot for trespassing on the farmer’s property, no? Simply stated, there’s a difference between raising an animal for the express purpose of killing it and shooting an animal to protect your livelihood. (And in my experience with farmers, most don’t shoot invading animals outright…a gunshot in the air is enough to scare most of them away, especially deer.)

        Finally, as I’m sure you know because you seem like a person that’s argued about your diet before, it takes more crop to raise an animal than it does to feed a person. So even if all farmers shoot every animal they see on their fields and even if all animals are too stupid to, you know, run away when they hear the big-ass mechanical harvester coming for them, a vegan still reduces animal suffering by contributing to fewer animal deaths both in the field and outright.

        1. The death of the animal in the farmer’s field is quite intentional. The farmer has full knowledge that he is killing animals as he brings his fields to fruition. The mouse, the snake, the gopher dying are all intentional. And all done at your behest. Also take notice that some states (Wisconsin as an example) provide licenses to farmers to kill deer in their fields. The farmers in turn invite hunters over to kill these deer. Why? To protect the crop.

          The point is, the mere act of you purchasing your meal from a store provides the commission for the farmer and a byproduct of that commission is the intentional killing of animals.

          You mention that it’s one thing to raise an animal for the express purpose of killing it as opposed to killing an animal in defense of your livelihood. What’s the difference to the animal? Dead is dead is it not? And really, does the method or reason for said death matter to the animal?

          You state there are moral considerations. Moral considerations based upon who’s morals? Mine? Yours? Michael Vick’s?

          1. “You mention that it’s one thing to raise an animal for the express purpose of killing it as opposed to killing an animal in defense of your livelihood. What’s the difference to the animal? Dead is dead is it not? And really, does the method or reason for said death matter to the animal?”

            Well, let’s take trespassing, for example. If someone comes into my house and I shoot them out of self defense, does it matter how or why I shot them? Dead is dead, right? But it DOES matter, doesn’t it? Intentions matter. Killing an animal to protect your property but not doing it for another reason is no more logically inconsistent than killing a person to protect your property but not doing it for another reason.

  42. “I think they do deserve our moral consideration as sentient beings capable of experiencing physical and emotional suffering.”

    The capability of experiencing physical suffering is a no-brainer… but there are ways of killing an animal which minimizes its physical suffering.

    The emotional suffering is a more complicated question: can a cow contemplate its death? Is it aware that it is about to die when it is being driven to the abattoir? The “smell of death” (blood &c.) might forewarn it to a certain extend but does it rise to the level of emotional suffering?

    1. My uncle was/is a hobby farmer (just horses now, but he used to do food animals as well). Maybe it’s anthropomorphizing on my part, but it always seemed to me that animals know what’s about to happen when they’re going to slaughter. Similarly, if you happen to be at a dog pound for long enough to see one of the dogs get taken out for euthanization, you realize pretty quickly that they know what’s about to happen…they’re all excited to get out of the cage until they see you’re bringing them to “the room,” and they stop dead in their tracks and you can see the fear wash over them.

      1. “Maybe it’s anthropomorphizing on my part”

        I don’t think that _all_ anthropomorphizing is bad… after all, Homo sapiens sapiens is just another animal species, although with an overdeveloped brain.

        I’m in a quandary: I like meat as a food way too much to give it up, but the only way I could take the life of an animal is with a shot (and even that only if I kill it quickly). When I was a kid I held a chicken while my dad cut its throat; that was the first & last time I did that, I just have a very strong aversion against the direct observation of (or participation in) slaughter. Which is interesting considering that my maternal grandfather was a butcher…

        So I’m guilty of hypocrisy in this question: I don’t mind slaughter by proxy and benefit from the result (and _want to_ keep benefiting) but I wouldn’t do the deed (except under special circumstances, ie. hunting with a firearm).

        1. I was in your shoes at one point. I love the taste of meat. (Or at least, I remember having loved the taste of meat.) But I can say honestly and truthfully that I don’t miss it at all, nor do I buy faux meat very often. The cool thing about changing your diet in such a radical way (and there was no “in between stage” of just vegetarian for me…I went, as a friend described it, “from zero to vegan”) is that it opens up the door to exploring foods you never ate before. I eat foods now that I’d never even heard of before, and they taste so amazing that I don’t even miss steak.

          If you’re in a quandary, one thing I would recommend is to devote at least one day a week to eating a meatless meal. Try to get the most out of it too…eat something you haven’t before. Some of it you’ll love, and you’ll probably think some of it’s pretty terrible. But even if you don’t decide to eliminate meat from your diet, at the very least you’re broadening your dietary horizons a little bit, and that’s pretty cool too, right?

          One thing that makes me wonder, though, is why taste is the only sense that we use to justify the killing of an animal. If I were to slit an animal’s throat because I like to watch it bleed, or because I like the feeling of the knife across the throat, or because like the Old Testament Christian God the smell pleases me, or because I liked the sound of the gurgling blood, most people would consider me sick. But because I think it tastes good, people think it’s OK. Not trying to pass judgment, just a bit of cultural inconsistency that I’ve always been a little puzzled by.

  43. RC: If animals acted [performed actions with a purpose] they would have created markets.

    Note how OM uses the word he is attempting to define in his definition.

    Animals act, but OM wants to claim they don’t. His “reason,” they don’t act with “purpose.” But, of course, they do. And, of course, acting without purpose is still acting.

  44. As a number of commenters have said, defining what a right is would make answering this question much easier.

    Cliche Bandit – ‘Ultimate personal authority to perform some act’.
    Someone – ‘rights are simply the manifestation of civility among men’
    Dictionary.com – ‘that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.’

    None of those definitions are very satisfying. Cliche Bandit’s definition, ultimate authority to perform some act, applies only when there is no entity that prevents acting by superior strength. When those entities are kept in check by social means
    ( civility ) the next definition applies. The Dictionary definition is nonsense, as ‘due by just claim’ is specious.

    The answer to ‘Should animals have rights?’ is yes, or no, depending on which we decide. That will be decided primarily on practical grounds. As many here have pointed out, giving some or all animals, some or all of the rights we attend ourselves would be mostly impractical.

    ‘Do animals have rights?’ assumes that rights exist apart from our recognizing them.

    This is the crux of the argument. To ask ‘Do animals have rights?’ is actually asking ‘Are rights intrinsic or extrinsic properties of living things? Which living things?’. A right is an abstract concept, so I tend to lean towards it being extrinsic on monday. On tuesday I would present the following argument;

    Christian – You are an athiest, so you cant believe in inalienable rights, as you dont believe there is a god to bestow them.

    Me – You, as a religious person, believe God endowed all men with a nose dont you?

    Christian – Yes.

    Me – I dont, but I can plainly see that all men are endowed with noses. We dont disagree that noses exist, only on how they got here. In the same way, I believe all men have inalienable rights. I see that men desire and strive for those things that we define as inalienable rights.

    As for animals, I see that animals desire and strive for many of the same things that people do. Of course there is a spectrum of intelligence and social behavior amoung animals, and thus a spectrum of ‘rights’ they possess.
    I have no problem sitting on my back porch and shooting caterpillars off of my maypop and muscadine vines with a bb-gun. Its fun. At the same time I feel I have great moral obligations to the animals that I have taken in and care for.

  45. “You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

    1. Top 10 Aliens quotes, no. 4.

  46. I found this article severely lacking and maybe it was written on a deadline and needed to fill a slot.

    I’ll start off with this, rights only exist for those who can articulate, define and defend those rights. Terry Schiavo couldn’t defend her rights and she wound up worm fodder at the behest of a person in a black robe.

    Ask any animal rights activist if animals possess rights and you’ll get the immediate and emphatic response of “yes”. Are these rights defined the animal or are they defined by another species of animal? It’s quite acceptable for the bear to kill and eat the deer but not acceptable for a human to kill and eat the deer as meat is murder and a person eating meat is not a natural act. The animal has a right to life unless deterined otherwise by those granting these so-called rights. This is evidenced by groups such as PETA who have operated shelters, yet kill 95% of the animals that enter their doors. Is this not in direct violation of the concept of animal rights?

    There are laws written that award animals rights. These are hunting and more specifically animal anit-cruelty laws. In most cases it’s unlawful to UNNECESSARILY cause pain, suffering, torment or death to an animal. This means the intentional mutilation of an animals reproductive organs, otherwise known as “spaying and neutering” (advocated by groups such as PETA and HSUS) is acceptable because humans have determined that this procedure is necessary to reduce the animal population. Yet if animals have rights, then they would surely possess the right to determine if they want their testicles cut off of their uterus’s removed.

    In hunting, laws are written that award the animal a sporting chance. Everything from the caliber of the weapon to seasons to times of the hunt. Would this not lead to suffering at some point?

    Animals are property. They belong to the property owner and any rights these animals possess are merely an extension of the owner’s property rights.

    1. “I’ll start off with this, rights only exist for those who can articulate, define and defend those rights. Terry Schiavo couldn’t defend her rights and she wound up worm fodder at the behest of a person in a black robe.”

      That case was pretty much entirely about rights. Her living will stated that she wanted to be taken off life support in that situation, and her husband backed her up on that. The legality of the issue was that her right to decide what she wanted to do in that situation was violated by her parents, who kept her on life support anyway. Not a very good analogy.

      1. Schiavo didn’t have a living will. Hence the long drawn out court case.

        1. Ah. I was still in high school when that was going on, so forgive my indiscretion.

  47. There are laws written that award animals rights. These are hunting and more specifically animal anit-cruelty laws. In most cases it’s unlawful to UNNECESSARILY cause pain, suffering, torment or death to an animal. This means the intentional mutilation of an animals reproductive organs, otherwise known as “spaying and neutering” (advocated by groups such as PETA and HSUS) is acceptable because humans have determined that this procedure is necessary to reduce the animal population. Yet if animals have rights, then they would surely possess the right to determine if they want their testicles cut off of their uterus’s removed.
    http://www.aimengcrystal.com/s…..c-114.html

  48. Rights belong to moral agents, and animals lack moral agency.

    That’s hilarious.

  49. Under Libertarian theory there’s nothing wrong with someone stealing your pet and doing ill-will provided they provide a replacement (i.e. restitution). For example finding a puppy in your yard with a note attached to it saying “we took your dog so we can torture it to death for amusement, thanks in advance”.

  50. I address a similar issue in my piece on rights for Mother Earth:

    http://www.matt.com/WordPress/?p=536

    The question isn’t whether or not animals have rights. The question is whether or not WE have rights.

    The bottom line is that there is no argument for anything or anyone to have rights. One may only have faith that rights exist (and this faith pretty much also demands faith in a supernatural authority that dictates these rights).

    We (people) invented rights when we recognized that other people simultaneously present the most danger and the most opportunity of any other creature or force that we encounter. We recognized that these “rights” were things that we desperately wanted other people to respect, and therefore we had to return the favor to all other people. We have so much more to gain, personally, in granting humans rights than we do in depriving them of rights. And so we grant them. But if anyone likes, at any moment he can dismiss this imaginary structure of “rights” and go outlaw?with the expected consequences.

    With regard to animals, it has never occurred to humanity as whole that we stand to grain more in granting animals rights?this is because we don’t.

    Animal suffering is horrific and depressing. But to simply declare that animals have rights (when rights don’t really exist at all) is to simply have faith in something because it eases our emotions. That is no argument at all.

  51. Do animals have rights?

    No.

  52. Good article.

    One thing not mentioned, and one that gives me trouble, is that animal rights laws have consequences for humans. Torturing animals is morally repugnant, but an anti-torture law means locking a human in a concrete box for actions against a non-human animal. Animal torture horrifies me, but locking up another human being for it is also bad, especially considering the state of American prisons.

    However, if someone were to, say, punch a cat torturer very very hard, I’d probably not notice.

  53. WE – as moral actors – should avoid taking a sentient life where possible, whether that life has the ability to reason or not.

    This gets to the crux of the issue. Those like Heller who premise the correctness or incorrectness of the act based on the victims “possession” of a “right” to be free from that class of acts sets up an unsupportable system. The rightness or wrongness of the act adheres to the act itself. Rights are just shorthand for frequently used, widely recognized justifications for a wide range of acts. But the rightness or wrongness of the act does not depend upon some imaginary status of the victim as a moral agent.

  54. I’ve said it before, I just think that someone who gets off on inflicting injury on another being is an asshole at best, a sick fuck at worst.

    So I don’t really think animals have rights, even really smart ones like chimps and dolphins, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t treat them well, either. (And for the record, I use leather, eat meat, and all that, but I felt like an ass when I ran over an armadillo the other day, for instance.)

  55. This article is a bit absurd. Admitting in the first two paragraphs that animals lack the capacity for morals, yet arguing for “rights.”

    What rights do lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) afford you in the wild?

    1. They sure as hell won’t torture you, or even kill you if they’re not hungry and you’re not bothering them.

      1. I’m not making an argument for torturing animals, I’m merely stating that nature doesn’t afford “rights” to weaker species. To imprison humans for animal “rights” violations is an absurd notion.

        After all, anyone seriously concerned with animal rights would need to be a vegan anyways. Oh, wait, plants live, don’t they have rights too?

        1. To imprison humans for animal “rights” violations is an absurd notion.

          Word, brotha!

        2. The gazelle need to organize peaceful protest and march on Washington to get the Federal Government to FORCE lions to recognize their right to exist!

          The whole “an animal won’t kill you if it’s not hungry” argument is weak – no matter how hungry a human is, generally they’re still not allowed to kill and eat other people. As for “messing” with animals – momma bears can be protective of their cubs to the extent that they will view humans as a threat just for coming within 20 feet of them. I don’t see what your point is here.

          1. Tell that to the Ukrainians under Soviet rule (the cannibalism part).

      2. What “natural” rights do humans have for one another? How is a man kicking a dog and raping any different? Either the man chooses to use his physical force or not. To claim he has no right to either is place a moral (i.e. positive duty) on on him. Alternatively, if he refrains because the dog will bite back and the woman is carrying a pistol in her purse then that’s just plain evolution in action not morality.

  56. I’ll offer that animals have rights in the sense that moral agents such as humans should not — and cannot — bring them undue suffering … whatever that means.
    It is up to the moral agents (us) to determine what those actions are.
    Therefore, I find no conflict in being pro-hunting but anti-baiting, in being a carnivore but expecting strict moral standards on how my (eventual) meat is killed.
    And in believing that if you torture animals, you — as a moral agent — should go to prison.

  57. If a human is hit by a car you can take him to the nearest emergency room and he will receive medical care even if he cannot pay it. Does that mean that I could take a dog to the veterinarian and he will take care of it without receiving any payment? Thinking that humans and animals are the same does not have any sense.

    1. dogs are cheaper than the medical bill would be from getting hit by a car; humans are not. It’s math!

  58. Thanks for your marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back in the future. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have a nice evening!

  59. Rights granted by the Creator belong to Man alone. All other rights are granted by men to men. It’s simple really. All this nonsense comes from people who are too smart to accept such a truth.

  60. Tibor Machan’s argument is essentially correct, and offering an entirely rewritten reality?Chimp State U?in no way rebuts it.

    But we do profit from a contextual perspective. Just who is it that we are afraid of when we assert our rights? The government. It is the government we don’t want going around deciding whether certain classes of people are without rights. That is why we err on the side of caution, and attribute rights to all humans. It is not like humans are hard to distinguish from robots or chimps, unless, perhaps, you style yourself as a professional academic ethicist. When the day comes that apes and robots petition the courts for redress of grievances of their own accord, we can take up that case. Until then nothing about human nature makes it hard to decide who are humans or whether we should protect all of them from a state which would treat them otherwise.

  61. I have trouble following the argument that natural rights exist, or are inherent, or whatever.

    The way I see it, the concept of natural rights is just a post hoc attempt at codification of our inborn, but very mutable, tendency towards empathy and teamwork that our genes have evolved to employ because those tendencies increase the odds those genes survive.

    i understand the need for codification, as it is important to have as little ambiguity as possible in these interactions, and ambiguity in the law is usually asaking for trouble, but all the talk about natural rights has, to me, the distinct whiff of arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    i am certainly open to being proven wrong, as a lot of the posters here who use this line of reasoning make a lot of sense in other arguments.

  62. My comment is not about the article in general but word usage by the author. My issue is with the author using the term “retarded.” Society is moving away from the term and it is a very disrespectful term to use on a group of people. I hope in the future you, A. Barton Hinkle, will show a little more respect to the intellectually disabled. I’ve provided a link for you to better understand the issue. http://www.r-word.org/Default.aspx

    1. Your comment is PC and retarded.

      Sorry, but it had to be said.

  63. Animal rights is just a way for people who love their pets to impose rules on people who may do harm to the specific animals they love. Do we ever see animal rights activists protesting cockroach extermination?

    1. And do we hear them defending the rights of zebras from the violation of those rights by lions? All this moral and political language vis-a-vis non-humans is a huge category mistake, like fretting about whether non-humans are guilty or sorry or should apologize.

  64. Animal rights is just a way for people who love their pets to impose rules on people who may do harm to the specific animals they love. Do we ever see animal rights activists protesting cockroach extermination?

  65. Some ‘animal abuse’ stories do sadden me, but that doesn’t mean I think animals have rights. They are not as valuable as human beings, period. Anyone who thinks protecting dogs is as high of a political priority as protecting humans should not be influencing public policy.

  66. “Rights belong to moral agents”

    This is a premise born of hubris, conceit, myth — and abject stupidity. I just can’t figure out which is the overriding fail.

    1. i wouldn’t go that far, but it is quite a bold assertion to make as if it is at all self-evident.

  67. A Miranda warning to animals: “You have the right to choose to not be eaten. If you choose to exercise that right, you may veer out of this line heading toward the slaughterhouse. If you fail to heed this warning, this inability to exercise higher brain functions will turn out very badly for you, in the sense of you becoming meat and being eaten. You have the right to consult an attorney, if you are capable of making those desires known.”

  68. And now it’s time for another “out there” libertarian debate. I’ll pass.

  69. We take away rights from those with severe mental illness or really anyone who we deem has misbehaved badly enough. If you misbehave you can be put down just like a violent dog.

    Point is that we don’t give blanket rights based on species, but behavior by specific individuals of that species.

    If a deer was to walk up to the hunter and said “hey don’t shoot me, lets be friends” then most would agree that particular deer should not be shot, but the 10 pointer prancing though the woods looking for a hot doe is fair game.

  70. Thank you for great article,Animal rights wackos consider meat, vaccines, wool, leather,study in china honey, circuses, rodeos, pets etc. as “needless” AND “torture
    It is a heartache

  71. Last time I looked, “moral agents” (whatever that may mean) don’t have rights. Persons have rights. It’s that simple.

    The sad part is that when people and animals are recognized to be entitled to the same treatment, it will be used as license to treat people like animals.

    1. Yet when one spells out the implications of being a person moral agency is right there on the list! (Moral agency involves the capacity to act with the responsibility of doing so properly, ethically.)

  72. Sorry but that is just stupid, experimenting on just humans is wreck-less, in-order for us to have come up with the cures for some of humans worst diseases animals had to die in perfecting a treatment well enough to even begin human testing. I love how some people completely ignore the brutality of nature and some how believe we humans are magically and completely divorced from this reality. We are not, no matter how civilized we think we are, we are still very much apart of nature, and like any of nature’s top predators we will kill for our on survival, and do so some times with all due brutality. But I will say there is never a need for pointless killing, killing animals for food or for disease prevention is completely moral; but to kill to make a new line of lipstick is just as stupid as giving animals equivalency with humans… As to the story this article starts with there is already plenty of laws that will punish the poor treatment of the dog that had it’s injured leg removed by the sociopath owner/s, no need to fundamentally change America over such a thing….

  73. “Rights without responsibilities” is why I hate corporations. Most libertarians get that, but many Libertarians do not.

    1. I love corporations and most Libertarians agree with that actually.

      What you really hate is socialism and bailouts.

  74. Do criminals and non-law abiding citizens count as animals?

  75. Animals do not have rights; people have responsibilities. The difference is crucial.

  76. I don’t know about the animal rights argument so much as I think people who abuse animals are just douchetools that need a good ass kickin’. Ya know when you eat a cheese steak, it’s made of dead animals.. I get that.. but something about seeing a group of dumb ass kids tormenting some dog makes me feel homicidal.. Like Nietzsche and the horse.

  77. Why does one need to struggle with animal “rights”? Mistreatment is simply inhumane and therefore wrong. Isn’t that sufficiently obvious to be enough rationale to prohibit mistreatment without inferring abstract rights to other species?

    1. Very close to my own position except I haven’t quite come to terms with how the prohibition could occur without violating a bunch of individual human rights.

      1. Exactly. Let’s be honest people that talk about animal rights have a lot of work to do.

        They need to be very clear and limited in the rights they want to hand out to animals.

  78. The reason animals don’t have rights in the same sense humans do is because humans were made in the image of God and animals were not.

    But God commands us to take care of our animals. We should have laws against animal cruelty because of who we are, not because of what they deserve.

  79. Awesome! Everything I desired summarised in a very short way. In my opinion it’s the most amazing work I have ever read. Thanks!

  80. Magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing.

  81. I like what you guys are doing. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on with the excellent works guys. I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my web site.

  82. Whats up! I just want to give an enormous thumbs up for the great information you have got right here on this post. I shall be coming back to your weblog for more soon.

  83. Amazing blog, I had not thought of yet in the network occur, such

  84. Whats up! I just want to give an enormous thumbs up for the great information you have got right here on this post. I shall be coming back to your weblog for more soon.

  85. Awesome! Everything I desired summarised in a very short way.

  86. Actually the idea of rights goes hand in hand with that of responsibilities since when one has a right others (who are capable of doing so) must respect them. It may even turn out that the rights-holder has the responsibility of making a good enough attempt at protecting his or her rights. These are moral considerations that apply to human beings (though not to babies or people who happen to be asleep or in a coma) but not to non-human animals that are innately oblivious to anything like “their rights.” I think one would get a pretty good clue to the inapplicability of rights considerations to non-human animals if one took a sustained look at the various programs about wild animals on Animal Planet. (For anyone interested, my most recent discussion of this topic can be found in “Rights, Liberation and Interests: Is there a Sound Case for Animal Rights or Liberation” in Hon-Lam Li & Anthony Yeung, eds., New Essays in Applied Ethics: Animal Rights, Personhood, and the Ethics of Killing [New York: Palgrave & Macmillan, 2006].)

  87. It’s difficult to find knowledgeable individuals with this topic, however, you could be seen as do you know what you’re talking about! Thanks
    Jeringas de insulina
    http://www.jeringasdeinsulina.com/

  88. Amazing blog, I had not thought of yet in the network occur.
    Botiquines
    http://www.comprarbotiquines.com/

  89. Whats up! I just want to give an enormous thumbs up for the great information you have got right here on this post. I shall be coming back to your weblog for more soon.
    Guantes de latex
    http://www.guantesdelatex.net/

  90. Amazing blog, I had not thought of yet in the network occur.
    http://www.scn.es/
    Material Medico

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.