Animal Rights vs. Human Rights – A Brief Debate – Part 1


I posted the following as a note on Facebook a while ago.  It was around the time that in California, Prop 2, a VERY modest farm animal welfare reform passed, but Prop 8, a ban on gay marriage passed as well.  It’s not the most well-designed and thought out piece on the issue. It was really just a quick expression of my feelings, so please pardon any incoherence. Here it is…

November 6, 2008 –

My friend, whom I have known since I was about 3 or 4 years old, sparked quite a bit of conversation this morning with his status….


And don’t get me started on how, in California, animal rights apparently outweigh human civil rights.via Twitter


I wouldn’t call what those animals got in return for the passing of that proposition “rights.” Just a BIT less horror and discomfort in their short, tortured lives for the overfed gluttons of this country. Even if you do endorse the exploitation of animals, don’t you believe that they somehow deserve at least a little less inhumane treatment?
Perhaps you aren’t implying you are against what Prop 2 did, but I don’t think you can compare the two propositions – since Prop 2 really didn’t give those animals any rights. They are still innocent, emotional, sentient beings who remain prisoners and cannot live their lives as they will.
But I do think that’s crazy that the human civil right to which you refer got overturned.
I guess as we treat our animals, so we treat our people we feel are sub-humans.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not for more animal rights and less human rights. I am for more human AND animal rights equally.

[personal comments removed]


[personal comments removed]

Let me first clarify my position and say that I was hopeful that both prop 8 and prop 2 would pass. [I think he actually meant to say he was hopeful Prop 8 WOULDN’T pass, as in he’s pro gay marriage.]

It seems, though, regarding the animal rights issue, that we disagree on two fundamental issues. First, what are the rights, exactly, to which animals are entitled, and secondly, is ensuring these rights to animals AS IMPORTANT as ensuring human rights?

To the first question, I will have to assume based on your above comment and what I know of you personally that your position is that animals deserve the same, or nearly the same, rights as humans. Therefore, in regards to the second question, you likely believe it is self-evident that ensuring animals’ rights and human rights are of essentially the same importance–in fact, are nearly the same issue.

I know this is a brief synopsis of a stance on a nuanced issue, but do I understand your opinions and position well enough for the purpose of argument?


You are correct about my position on the issue of animal rights. I believe they deserve nearly the same rights as humans. Of course, I don’t believe they should have the right to vote or the right to own property and silly stuff like that, but I believe they should be treated just like human children should be treated – with respect and love. Children don’t have full rights like adults, but they are granted protection from harm and death by the law. And luckily we do at least have legislation against harming pets, but it is not nearly enough. People who purposefully harm an innocent being, child or non-human animal, need to be punished equally. Pigs have been shown to be as intelligent as 3 year old children and more intelligent than dogs. How can we just say – “because you can’t talk, and because you don’t look like me, I am going to imprison you in the most deplorable conditions and kill you for food”? Who has the authority to place a value on what life is more valuable than another? Animals have feelings and families just like us. The only difference between humans and animals is a rational mind, and some people may say that humans are superior because of that. However, many mentally challenged people do not have the ability to rationalize either, and a lot of people would find it deplorable to say that they are inferior beings because of their mental state.
It is not anti-human to be pro-animal. The more we can increase our consideration we have for animals, think of how MUCH more consideration we will have for humans. Sometimes animal rights activists appear as though they are anti-human, but they feel that animals are SO neglected by society that they have to ignore all else and put their LIFE into doing all they can do to further those rights. To them, we have a worldwide slave trade going on. Animals are legally regarded as property and nothing more so. Pets can be taken away just like children can be taken away for maltreatment, but farm animals have nearly no legal protection. They can be treated like garbage, and half of the baby chicks in the egg industry ARE garbage. They throw them alive into grinders or let them suffocate in the trash. How sad is that? How is that different from doing that to a baby? A human baby is an innocent, harmless being, and so is a baby animal. There is just not time for animal activists to be worried about higher rights – such as civil rights. At least any people lacking higher rights aren’t being exploited and tortured right now. As soon as animals’ basic physical comfort rights are taken care of, we (pro-animal people) can then move more of our efforts toward advancing higher human civil rights.
So you see, both of those types of rights in question right now are nowhere near on the same level. If we ever do get humans and animals to the same level, then so-called animal rights activists will be the first ones to push for human civil rights just as much. By the way, many animal activists are largely in support of human freedoms. (I receive emails on human rights issues, e.g.) They are just so passionate about the animal side and consumed by the urgency of the situation that it appears that they don’t care.
Even if people do admit to animals needing more rights than they have (or don’t have) right now, then there is the whole circle of life argument where people say death is a part of life. That is true, but why should we have the right to decide who lives and who dies – human or animal? Also, I can understand people who say that hunting animals for food is natural, and I agree – that it is when you are living in the wilderness (although, I wouldn’t do it or endorse it), but factory farms (where 99% of animal products are produced in this country) are despicable and anything but natural. PLUS, we have an amazingly abundant, variety-filled food supply which makes it easy to find alternatives to torturing one or more animals just for one’s dinner. I’ve been animal product-free for almost a year now, and I hardly notice the difference between my diet now and before, and it is sad that so many people are under the illusion of needing their meat, dairy, or eggs, and even sadder if they are not under that illusion and need it just because they like the taste.
Anyhow, that was kind of going off on a tangent, but it’s somewhat relevant since food is one of the major reasons for animal exploitation.
So I think you can see that I believe that humans and animal rights are equally important because humans ARE animals – sentient beings with the desire to live…


Edit: So it’s really ironic that I just happened to get a proposed Animal Bill of Rights from the Animal Legal Defense Fund in the mail today.
Here are the rights they are pushing for.

  • The right of animals to be free from exploitation, cruelty, neglect, and abuse
  • The right of farmed animals to an environment that satisfies their basic physical and psychological needs [although I don’t believe that animals should be farmed, but at least this would be a step in the right direction]
  • The right of companion animals to a healthy diet, protective shelter and adequate medical care.
  • The right of wildlife to a natural habitat, ecologically sufficient to a normal existence and a self-sustaining species population.
  • The right of animals to be freed from cruel and unnecessary experimentation and testing.
  • The right of animals to have their interests represented in court and safeguarded by the law of the land.

Those aren’t too outrageous, right? I think people run at the mention of animal rights because they are very fearful that we are trying to make animals more important than people. No – just trying to give them equal consideration in terms of the right to a free and natural life. Now, show me somewhere that humans are kept in the conditions that animals are kept in, and I will say let’s take care of that and give that just as much importance as changing the conditions for animals. The thing is we have already guaranteed these very basic things to humans, so why shouldn’t we extend it to animals?
ALSO, people run because animal activists have been given a bad name by a just a few crazies that get all the press. Not all of us, in fact, most of us are normal, non-militant people who see an egregious social injustice occurring.veg2

[end Facebook note]

Stay tuned for part 2 of 2 when Friend comes back with an interesting argument.

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15 Responses to “Animal Rights vs. Human Rights – A Brief Debate – Part 1”

  • gunnard Says:

    Right on, its such a difficult coversation to have with someone who just /doesn’t/ get it. Compassion shouldn’t be limited to humans, but to all living creatures.

  • Leafy Says:

    Very well said, Lindsey! I can’t wait for the second installment — it’s hard to imagine what your friend could have said to that.

  • DeathtoPETA Says:

    You make a good point through in your post. However, you seem to be using the wrong wording in your argument. From your post, I think that your are actually an animal welfare supporter, with a few more radical elements involved. I have no issue with animal welfare, and an part of my local humane society. However, the position of animal rights is a extremist and idiotic notion. You see, an animal, whether looking from a evolutionist or creationist perspective, is NOT equal to a human. From a evolutionist perspective, the human brain is capable of higher thought, making humanity sapient, not sentient. Sapience, the ability to reason, is what gives humans rights. Even very young or mentally deficient humans are capable of basic levels of reasoning. Animals are not. Animal rights will inevitably wreck havoc on humanity if practiced, no matter whether intended or not. Firstly, eating meat is not just a way of getting nutrition. Meat is a large part of many cultures around the world, from Japan to Britain. Following that premise, not letting people eat meat is not simply radical or inconvenient, it’s an act of CULTURAL GENOCIDE. To enforce vegetarianism, not to even mention vegan ism, would fly directly in the face of the UN declaration of Human Rights. Even worse, Animal Rights opposes any and all animal testing. Including disease testing. As said aptly by Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, “Even if animal testing produced a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it”. Stopping animal testing would cause the deaths of millions of people with currently incurable diseases such as Alzheimer or AIDS. Animal testing SAVES LIVES. And some groups, like the Animal Liberation front or the animal liberation militia, take it even further, committing acts of ARSON, VANDALISM, or even MURDER to try to oppose testing. Some say that there are better alternatives out there, but what alternatives? Computer simulations won’t work, since we can only code all the variables of the test AFTER we know what the variables are, which would require testing on a living being, an you obviously can’t test on humans. Finally, there’s a matter of escalation. Have you ever heard of LES U. Knight, an author that is believed to be pseudonym for Ingrid Newkirk. She advocates VOLUNTARY HUMAN EXTINCTION. That’s right, OMNICIDE just to “help” the earth. Even worse, some animal rights activist have jumped the shark and support her. That supports “Human Rights”? I think that we have the right to EXIST. I’m not saying that you support this, but I wanted to show you the dark side o what your saying. Animal welfare is good, but please, please, don’t support animal rights

    Lindsey Reply:

    First of all, PETA is not the only representative of the animal rights movement. Many people in the animal rights movement are completely against PETA. I’m not defending Ingrid Newkirk, but voluntary human extinction isn’t some evil thing. Key word being VOLUNTARY, meaning no one is coercing anyone to do anything against their will also meaning that you still retain the right to exist. What is so horrible about the human race becoming extinct? As long as no one is killed or harmed in the process, what does it matter? Maybe we can start worrying if she’s supporting INVOLUNTARY human extinction.

    And again, there are many nonviolent activists who support full rights for animals, and the have nothing to do with the ALF, never harming people or property.

    You can’t just come in here being an alarmist without knowing all your facts; there’s a huge part of the animal rights community that doesn’t make as much noise as PETA that you seem to know nothing of. Please check out and read any books by Gary Francione. He supports nonviolent activism and is 100% against PETA.

    Why should rights be based on intelligence? Human babies and people with mental impairments don’t meet sapient requirements, so do they not deserve the right to be free from exploitation? Some animals have more intelligence than three-year-old children.

    Cultural genocide?! Give me a break! Geno = PEOPLE, cide = killing. Culture is just a human construct; it’s not a sentient OR sapient being – who cares if it dies?! So following this line of reasoning, we never should have abolished human slavery because it killed off past cultures in the process. ALSO, no activist can FORCE people to not eat meat; all they can do is try to persuade them. Surely you can’t be against that, and if you are, you must not be a fan of free speech.

    Just as I wouldn’t justify testing on human babies to find a cure for AIDS, I wouldn’t justify testing on animals. Also, animal testing is not some foolproof method. Have you ever heard of thalidomide? That is one example of animal testing gone horribly wrong for humans. We’ve been animal testing for over a century, and it sure as hell isn’t some wonderful messiah to save us from disease.

    Thank you for your polite comment; however I FULLY support giving equal rights to humans and animals.

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