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Definition of Animal Rights and Its Problems Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

Since the research works held every year in the field of biology and biodiversity show that the decline in the number of rare species is constantly growing, and that animals rights are being violated by a number of physical persons and legal entities, the obvious conclusion that can be drawn is that there must be something done about the situation. In spite of the fact that animals right have been talked much about, there is still very little done to protect the wildlife from the people and their inventions that pose a terrible threat to the state of the wildlife.

Humanists have come up with the idea of animal rights rather recently, and the progress that the idea has brought, rapidly growing popular with the people all over the world, is truly indescribable.

People have grown concerned with the issues that they have never thought of, and the humanism that the theory of animals having their own right is shot through is a clear evidence of the fact that the mankind has achieved another level of development. The notion of mankind and humanity are bound to be intertwined someday, and this is quite cheerful news.

In spite of the fact that the progress cannot but bring joy and relief, there are certain questions rising as the new ideas start developing.

However, not all people think that animals are supposed to have any rights at all. For example, Cohen (2008) assumes that according to their natural state, animals cannot have any rights, in contrast to people. He explains it by the fact that animals are no human beings, while rights are the attribute of people only, according to the law and logics.

Human beings are self-legislative, morally autonomous. Animals (that is, nonhuman animals, the ordinary sense of that word) lack this capacity for free moral judgment. They are not beings of a kind capable of exercising or responding to moral claims. Animals therefore have no rights, and they can have none. (p. 709)

This is the core of the argument about the alleged rights of animals. Indeed, the existing laws do not presume that animals should have the same rights as people do. From this point of view, it must be ridiculous to think that animals can understand the notion of rights, and accept that they have certain rights.

Since humans are the only beings that can be taken as sane and articulate, only humans can have rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, the wildlife does not have the privilege of rights. It is not that animals are thought to be of less importance than the progressive mankind or the other elements of the Earth, but the whole idea is that wildlife cannot fit the idea of rights. It is high above the moral concepts – the latter are not applicable to the nature as it is at all.

Cohen (2008) explains that his idea is not that, because of people’s superiority, a man can do to animals whatever he or she wants to – on the other hand, he tends to think that people should take care of animals, since the latter are more vulnerable. Yet Cohen insists that animals cannot possess rights owing to their belonging to the sphere where no morals or laws can exist.

Rights entail obligations, but many of the things one ought to do are in no way tied to another’s entitlement. Rights and obligations are not reciprocals of one another, and it is a serious mistake to suppose that they are. (p. 708)

In other words, nature is the environment different from the human civilization, and animals cannot possess rights in the meaning that people are used to out to this concept. Freedoms, as well as obligations, are the substance that does not fit into the frame of the wild life.

With all the regard to the abovementioned point of view, it is necessary to mark that it embraces the concept of rights only from the legal point of view. This is only the constitution and the Declaration of Rights and Freedoms that such judgment is based on. In other words, since the nature itself id the notion that stands out of the structure of the human world, the rights of animals are supposed to touch the sphere that does not have the direct correspondence to the acting laws and justice.

As Regan puts it, the treatment of animals in the modern society is not to be improved, it is to be changed completely, for its ideas are interconnected – once something has been changed, the whole system is brought down.

Regan (2008) shows a complete revision of the concept of animals rights as the possible way out of the conflict situation: “What’s wrong — fundamentally wrong — with the way animals are treated isn’t the details that vary from case to case. It’s the whole system.” (p. 696)

This wrongness is the fact that drives people to the abuse of animal rights.

However much one might know about the right treatment of animals, it will be impossible to solve the misconception of the animals rights with help of the standards that we are used to apply to people.

There must be something deeply wrong about the way people perceive the idea of respecting animals and their rights. The basic question is whether it is possible to respect the rights of chicken having it for a dinner. This is what vegetarians are conducting debates about.

The perfect explanation that Regan (2008) provides for the drawbacks of the existing system of animal rights is the following:

As for animals, since they cannot understand contracts, they obviously cannot sign; and since they cannot sign, they have no rights. Like children, however, some animals are the objects of the sentimental interest of others. (p. 699)

This is as far as the law system goes with providing animals with their right to live and to enjoy their life, the right not to be treated brutally and killed. The law makes their rights equal to naught, since they can be posed neither like physical persons, nor like a legal entity, of course. Like lawyers say, “dura lex sed lex suus” – “the law is hard, but it is the law.”

Still it is obvious that animals must not be mistreated. However different they might be from people, it is the principle of humanity that must guide people in their relation towards the living creatures.

It goes without saying that people can make use of the plenty that the Earth provides us with. Since people cannot handle without eating meat, the question of vegetarianism remains open, and the “meat-eaters” can stay with their consciousness unstained. But as far as it goes about mistreating the living beings, making them suffer just because a man is a superior creature to those who are in pain because of people, such things have to stop.

The cruelties that people can do make one’s hair rise in terror. As Regan (2008) said, animals suffer greatly because of people and their actions, which are wilder than the nature itself, completely deprived of logic of the wild world where killing is for food, not for pleasure.

But what is wrong isn’t the pain, isn’t the suffering, isn’t the deprivation. These compound what’s wrong. Sometimes – often – they make it much, much worse. (p. 697)

As a matter of fact, they do. These compounds shape into such terrible results that one cannot help thinking of whether a man is any difference from a beast. In fact, even animals do not treat each other with the cruelty of a man.

Regarding the situation, one must say that it has to be dealt with. People have to acknowledge that animals are living beings just like people are, and their rights are not a vague notion but the basis for the humanity of people all over the world. Animals have to get the rights that they have been deprived of for so long, and the aim of giving them those rights must be the prior goal of humanists and animal protection organizations.


Cohen, C. (2008). The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research.

The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction. 12th Ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Regan, T. (2008). The Case for Animal Rights. The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction, 12th Ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company

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