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Do Non-Human Animals Have Rights? Essay

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2019

Non-human creatures do not have rights. A right gets defined as a valid claim that must come from a moral agent, under laws that direct both the claimant and defendants (Cohen 91). Animals cannot be said to have rights since the idea of rights is inherently human, and its foundations relate to the concept of a moral world.

Humans must deal with animals in a fair way, similar to how a chair cannot be said to have a dream. Besides, saying that animals have rights confuses groupings as this places them in a moral group that is only relevant to human beings.

Again, animals do not have rights as God made them subordinate to human beings. This notion gets support from the Bible. In the time of creation, man became created last while other animals became created earlier. God then gave men control over all other creatures (Regan par. 34). We can interpret this to mean that human beings have rights over animals.

We can also argue that animals do not have rights, similar to human beings, because their moral stance is totally different. Contrary to the way animals feed on each other human beings behave differently. A lion may kill a zebra and no one will say that the lion does not have the right to kill the zebra, because this is how it obtains its food.

This demonstrates that rights represent the greatest moral result. Besides, animals such as lions and zebras are amoral, which means that morality does not apply to them, and their acts can never be termed as wrong. Thus, no rights exist in the world of animals.

While it is vital for researchers to practice humanity when handling animals, we cannot say that human beings violate their rights, since the idea of rights is not relevant to their situations. For instance, Nazi doctors used the Jews as subjects to advance their research in medicine some years ago. It is clear that this was not a moral approach as the Jews had rights that required respect.

Several people think that animals have rights similar to those of the Jews, which involve protection against participation in medical research. While these people consider animals to have rights, they fail to remember that human beings also have rights that surpass those of animals.

For instance, the United States reported over 50,000 polio related cases and almost 3, 000 polio related deaths in 1952 (Cohen 92). People became frightened due to this ailment, and the government called for polio vaccination among all citizens two years later. Presently, cases of polio are rare.

What we need to remember here is that the polio vaccine could only be established through experimentation with animals. Malaria is also a killer disease that most researchers think that should have a vaccine. While several vaccines have undergone investigation, none of them has emerged successful after trial with animals. This raises the ethical question on whether we need to protect children or animals.

Medical experiments may have adverse effects when carried out using human beings, considering that they are only trials. Using children to test vaccine is awkward and results in death.

Thus, we use rats and monkeys as this is the only available option. Vaccines must undergo tests, and such tests could be extremely dangerous when carried out using human beings as subjects. Thus, we do not have any other way of testing these vaccines apart from using animals.

Defenders of human rights insist that animals have rights just like human children. These defenders term the act of medical scientists as morally wrong. However, they fail to recognize that unless animals get killed, medical scientists cannot advance most significant areas in medicine (Frey 97).

Also, defenders of animal rights fail to recognize that animals do not have moral duties, similar to human beings. While we may consider some acts of human beings as crimes, this does not apply to animals. This is because criminal acts become determined by the moral state of mind of the offender.

Similar to how an insane person cannot be said to have committed a crime, cows and rats cannot be said to commit crimes. This is because all these do not recognize moral duties that guide behaviors or consequences that follow certain actions.

In other words, animals cannot be incriminated as they do not have a moral state of mind that could be violated by other humans. Besides, animals do not have free will, which all moral agents must have. This becomes explained by the fact that they do not have control over their pathological impulses, which makes them lack control over their actions.

Hence, animals are not moral agents, and human beings do not have direct duties towards animals because they can only have such duties towards moral agents. This supports the thesis of this study that non-human creatures do not have rights.

Works Cited

Cohen, Carl. “Do Animals Have Rights?” Ethics and Behaviour. 7.2 (1997): 91-102. Web.

Frey, Reagan. “Interests and Rights: The Case against Animals.” Journal of Medical Ethics. 7.2 (1981): 95–102. Web.

Regan, Tom. Christianity and Animal Rights: The Challenge and Promise. n.d. Web. <>.

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