AR Philosophy - Animal Liberation Front
AR Philosophy - Animal Liberation Front
What is “Animal Rights”?
It’s the philosophy of allowing
nonhuman animals to have the
basic rights that all sentient
beings desire: the freedom to live
a natural life, free from human
exploitation, unnecessary pain
and suffering, and premature
is the withholding of these basic
rights from nonhuman animals.
Discriminating solely on the basis of
species is as illegitimate as
discriminating on the basis of sex, or
race, or the ability to Cha Cha.
There is no reason to value some
mentally defective human beings
coughBushcough more than some
Animal Rights is NOT
about working for equality between
human and nonhuman animals.
Different creatures -- women, men,
children, animals …
need different rights -- access to
abortion, voting, room to stretch wings.
From where do AR supporters
derive their moral criteria?
Logic. At the foundation of a system of
ethics are moral axioms, such as
“causing unnecessary pain is wrong".
Given the set of axioms, methods of
reasoning (such as deduction and
induction), and empirical facts, it is
possible to derive ethical hypotheses.
It is in this sense that an ethical
statement can be said to be true.
The most fundamental ethical axioms
are nearly universally accepted.
However, actions from these axioms are not
This can be demonstrated by asking a person
why he has compassion for human beings.
Typically he’ll agree that his compassion does not
stem from the fact that humans: 1) do math, 2)
speak French, or 3) go bowling. Instead, he’ll say
that it stems from the fact that humans can
suffer, feel pain, be harmed, etc. It is then easy to
show that nonhuman animals can also suffer, etc.
The person's inconsistency in not according moral
status to nonhumans then stands out starkly.
Logic didn’t impress this guy
The Complete Logic
of Animal Rights
Let’s begin with a statement with which
most of us agree, and then see if that
helps us understand this issue by
exploring all logical paths.
Something most of us believe:
It would be morally wrong for
anyone to treat us as animals
(Might we be wrong in that judgment?)
Why do you believe…
…that it would be wrong for
someone to perform harmful
(painful, fatal) experiments on you to
try to cure someone else’s diseases
or to increase knowledge in general?
What is it about you that makes it
wrong to treat you those ways?
What ethical hypothesis best explains
that fact (if it is a fact)?
An answer: We have moral rights
that make it wrong to mistreat us
Moral Rights are like invisible ‘No
Trespassing’ signs; They protect
our most fundamental interests
in life, avoiding suffering, not
being ‘used’ as ‘mere means’, etc.
Rights impose respect: if someone
has rights, their interests must be
respected; he or she is not a
mere ‘thing’ to be used, against
Who has moral rights?
At least, folks like us, we tend to think.
Who is “like us”? Some answers:
1. ‘Rational’ beings, so a being has rights
if, and only if, it is can engage in
2. ‘Intelligent’ beings, so a being has
rights if, and only if, it is smart enough.
3. ‘Autonomous beings,’ so a being has
rights if, and only if, it can reflect on its
life and decide how to best pursue it.
4. ‘Beings who have the concept of
rights,’ so a being has rights if, and only
if, it recognizes that it has rights.
If any of these claims are true
(and rights require sophisticated mental
abilities), then none of the following beings
are owed respect; they can all be used as
1. Human babies
2. Severely mentally challenged
3. Alzheimer’s patients
4. Humans in comas
If you think any of the above deserve rights,
then the previous rationale is refuted.
Another approach to
“We have rights, i.e., are owed
respect because we are human.”
What do you mean by ‘human’?
Do you mean ‘biologically human’
or having human DNA, or being
in the human species? If so, then
you are suggesting this:
“A being has rights, if and only if, it
is biologically human.”
Using biology to assign moral rights
gives rights to: human organs in a vat
human cells in Petri dish
dead human corpses
very early human fetuses
Furthermore, assigning rights based
simply on a physical characteristic is
no more ethical than assigning rights
to white people, Nazis, or clowns with
big ears. If you accept this, then
someone else may use similar logic to
exclude you from having rights.
A rough hypothesis
about moral rights
A being has moral rights – is owed
respect and is not a thing to be
used for pleasure or even serious
benefits for others – if it is
conscious, can feel pain and
pleasure, and its life can be better
and worse for it, from its own
point of view.
A consequence of this theory
Some animals are conscious, can
feel pain and pleasure, and its life
can be better and worse for it,
from its own point of view.
Therefore, they moral have rights
on this view: they are not ours to
eat, wear, experiment on, or use
If some humans have moral rights,
then some animals have moral
The best reasons to think that
humans have rights justifies the
claim that animals have rights.
Logical, rational consistency
Moral rights really have nothing
fundamentally to do with biological
Response 1: accept the
Response 2: try to argue that it is
unsound. To do this:
One needs a better hypothesis that
explains why humans have the moral
rights they do that “covers” all the
But, this hypothesis cannot apply to any
All attempts to do this suffer
from these flaws
1. They are wildly implausible and
convoluted explanations why we have
2. They imply that it’s only a contingent
fact, or an accident, that babies and
mentally challenged humans have rights.
3. They imply there’s no reason why
anyone should not be tortured for fun and
that only laws keep them from these
actions; they remove “morality” entirely.
Doesn't the Bible give Humanity
dominion over animals?
Dominion is not the same as tyranny. The
Queen of England has dominion over her
subjects, but that doesn't mean she can eat
them, wear them, or experiment on them.
Seeking moral authority from the Bible has two
1. the world has many gods.
2. there are serious problems with literal
interpretation of Biblical passages.
Here is a list of biblical passages and quotes from biblical
scholars that support animal rights: