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Animal rights is the idea that some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings. Advocates oppose the assignment of moral value and fundamental protections on the basis of species membership alone—an idea known since 1970 as speciesism, when the term was coined by Richard D. Ryder—arguing that it is a prejudice as irrational as any other. They maintain that animals should no longer be viewed as property or used as food, clothing, research subjects, entertainment, or beasts of burden.

Animal rights
Description of beliefs Non-human animals have interests, and those interests ought not to be discriminated against on the basis of species membership alone.
Early proponents Percy Bysshe Shelley
Henry Salt
Lizzy Lind af Hageby
Leonard Nelson
Notable academic proponents
List List of animal rights advocates
Key texts Henry Salt's Animals' Rights
Peter Singer's Animal Liberation

Tom Regan's The Case for Animal Rights
Carol J Adams's The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory
Gary Francione's Animals, Property, and the Law
Portal Paw (Animal Rights symbol).svg Animal rights portal

Animal rights is the idea that some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings. Advocates oppose the assignment of moral value and fundamental protections on the basis of species membership alone—an idea known since 1970 as speciesism, when the term was coined by Richard D. Ryder—arguing that it is a prejudice as irrational as any other. They maintain that animals should no longer be viewed as property or used as food, clothing, research subjects, entertainment, or beasts of burden.

Advocates approach the issue from a variety of perspectives. The abolitionist view is that animals have moral rights, which the pursuit of incremental reform may undermine by encouraging human beings to feel comfortable with using them. Gary Francione's abolitionist position promotes ethical veganism. He argues that animal rights groups that pursue welfare concerns, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), risk making the public feel comfortable about its use of animals. He calls such groups "the new welfarists." PETA argues that Francione's criticism does little to help alleviate the suffering of individual animals and also trivializes the efforts of workers in the field who handle cruelty cases. It also creates divisiveness within the animal liberation movement instead of focusing on shared goals. Tom Regan, as a deontologist, argues that at least some animals are "subjects-of-a-life", with beliefs, desires, memories, and a sense of their own future, who must be treated as ends in themselves, not as means to an end. Sentiocentrism is the theory that sentient individuals are the subject of moral concern and therefore are deserving of rights. Protectionists seek incremental reform in how animals are treated, with a view to ending animal use entirely, or almost entirely. This position is represented by the philosopher Peter Singer. As a utilitarian, Singer's focus is not on moral rights, but on the argument that animals have interests—particularly an interest in not suffering—and that there is no moral or logical reason not to award those interests equal consideration. Multiple cultural traditions around the world—such as Animism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism—also espouse some forms of animal rights.

In parallel to the debate about moral rights, animal law is now widely taught in law schools in North America, and several prominent legal scholars support the extension of basic legal rights and personhood to at least some animals. The animals most often considered in arguments for personhood are bonobos and chimpanzees. This is supported by some animal rights academics because it would break through the species barrier, but opposed by others because it predicates moral value on mental complexity, rather than on sentience alone.

Critics of animal rights argue that animals are unable to enter into a social contract, and thus cannot be possessors of rights, a view summed up by the philosopher Roger Scruton, who writes that only humans have duties, and therefore only humans have rights. A parallel argument, known as the utilitarian position, is that animals may be used as resources so long as there is no unnecessary suffering; they may have some moral standing, but they are inferior in status to human beings, and insofar as they have interests, those interests may be overridden, though what counts as necessary suffering or a legitimate sacrifice of interests varies considerably. Certain forms of animal rights activism, such as the destruction of fur farms and animal laboratories by the Animal Liberation Front, have also attracted criticism, including from within the animal rights movement itself, as well as prompted reaction from the U.S. Congress with the enactment of the "Animal Enterprise Protection Act" (amended in 2006 by the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act).