The Ecological Citizen

A free-to-access publication confronting human supremacy in defence of the Earth



What are animal rights? (A definition)


Animal rights is the claim that animals - not just humans - possess 'rights'. A right is an inalienable power or entitlement (a right to do something), or an immunity (a right not to have something done to one) that is lodged in an individual. Such rights are conceived of as existing outside of, or prior to, existing legal systems, and thus as providing a means to critique existing laws. Animal rights is the claim that animals possess a range of such rights simply in virtue of being sentient, or 'subjects of a life'. They assume, as an axiom, that it is wrong to cause pain, suffering or disruption to any living creature.

Many ecocentrists, those who respect both the Earth, herself, and all life, accept this conviction, and, despite it being possible to find contradictions, they regard all living life forms, no matter what that form may be, as being valuable, both to themselves and to the Earth in general. Also, it is realized that all living entities are subjects, not objects. This creates various rights for living entities including animals. Animal rights are thus a subclass of the rights of all life in general.

Additionally, the sum total of a group of like animals constitutes a species, which is also recognized as valuable by an ecocentrist; the interests of a species sometimes conflict with the animal rights of its constituent individuals, which can, and does, create tensions.

The concerns for the welfare, and rights, of both species and their constituent individuals are fully justified. They fully support the position that it is wrong to cause pain, suffering or disruption to any living creature and also wrong to diminish or to extinguish the species of which the individual is a member. While it is impossible to live and do no harm, doing least harm is a valid goal.

As a corollary, human rights, other than strictly inter-human ones, are invalid, and loaded with anthropocentric bias, unless they extend, in appropriate and divergent ways, to all life. For instance, all life has a right to scarce water, food and habitat, not just the humans of an area.



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