What are animal rights?

We explain what animal rights are, their origin and objectives. Also, what is the animal liberation movement.

  1. What are animal rights?

By animal rights or animal rights we mean the different currents of thought according to which animals must be protected by the law of cruel treatment, and should not be considered objects of consumption . In other words, nonhuman animals are subjects of law regardless of their species.

Throughout its history , humanity has reserved the legal status of subject of law for natural persons and legal persons only, although sometimes it has been denied to certain human groups, such as slaves , women, etc.

And just as each of these cases of discrimination has had its corresponding historical struggle, the animals have theirs, which is the Animal Liberation Movement with all its aspects.

The idea of ​​animal rights is to correct the tendency to consider animals affectively depending on their usefulness to humans, their degree of domestication (such as pets, for example, dogs and cats), or their beauty.

Those who are not socially valued for these and other reasons, serve as food, transport vehicle, cargo or experimental subject, without ever taking into account that they are entitled to an existence free of pain, imprisonment or unethical treatment .

There are many national and international organizations that undertake this struggle, which is why the International Day of Animal Rights is celebrated worldwide, every December 10 , since 1997.

In addition, animal rights are contemplated in the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights (1978), approved by the UN and UNESCO , whose articles include the following:

  • All animals are born equal before life and enjoy the same rights to exist.
  • No animal will be subjected to ill-treatment or cruel acts.
  • If the death of an animal is necessary, it must be instantaneous, painless and not generating distress.
  • Every wild animal has the right to live in nature and reproduce naturally.
  • Any deprivation of liberty of a wild animal, even if it is for pedagogical purposes, constitutes a violation of animal law.
  1. History of animal rights

The first animal protection laws emerged in Ireland in 1635 , but were limited to the cruel treatment of pack animals, to prevent plows from being tied to the tails of horses, for example.

There were numerous Anglo-Saxon Puritan communities that were governed by similar principles. They even listed “rights” of domestic animals among their particular moral and legal codes .

Thinkers like Jeremy Bentham or Peter Singer, much more recently, spearheaded movements to claim animal rights, claiming that their capacity for suffering is similar to human , so they should be protected by the same sense of ethics.

There have even been more or less radical groups protesting against animal abuse, which carried out actions such as the release of animals from zoos and boycotts to pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies that test their products in captive animals.

  1. Why do animals have rights?

animal rights protest empathy
Activists appeal to empathy since we are all animals.

The need for animal rights is due to human empathy , but also to respect for all life , and philosophical and religious heritages of different nature. Philosophers like the Englishman John Locke (1632-1704) were opposed at the time to the tradition of thinkers like the Frenchman René Descartes (1596-1650), for whom animals only biological machines.

Instead, Locke argued that brutality towards animals is a bad example for generations to come , which would later replicate it not only with animals, but with other people.

Similar reasons think of the mistreatment of animals as a reflection of human cruelty, and their respect for life, especially for those who cannot fight and resist it, as a symptom of their morals . As Mahatma Ghandi’s famous phrase says: “A civilization can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

  1. Animal liberation movement

Also known as the Animal Liberation Abolitionist Movement or Animalist Movement, it is a formal and informal organization. It brings together global activists of all kinds , including academics, artists and jurists, but also extreme vegetarians, philanthropists and neo-hippies.

All come together around a common objective: the investigation, denunciation, awareness and rescue of animals in situations of abuse , whether domestic, pharmacological or industrial. Some even accuse hegemonic culture of being anthropocentric and specist (from the term specism, derived from racism ), that is, discriminatory with non-human species.

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