It is the notion of our time that non-human animals exist for the advancement of the human species. In whatever field — cookery, fashion, blood-sports — it is held that we can only be concerned with animals as far as human interests exist. There may be some sympathy for those animals, as to limit practices which cause excruciating suffering, but those may only be limited if they are brought to public light, and if legislators receive enough pressure from the public to change.
However, it is the purpose of this essay to convince the reader otherwise. The question at hand is: do animals deserve rights? It must certainly be true. Humans deserve rights and this claim is made on numerous appeals. Of one of the pertinent pleas is made on the claim that humans can feel emotions. More importantly, that humans are capable of suffering, and that to inflict such pain is unethical.
Those who observe the tortures of the Nazi Concentration Camp are instilled with a humane creed held for all humans. But if there is no significant gulf between humans, that is to say there is no gulf based on skin color, creed, or gender that will make one human more or less valuable than any other, then by what right can a gulf be drawn out between humans and our fellow creatures? The suffering of humans is why we sympathize with each other. Since animals suffer, they deserve our sympathy.
There is no real gulf separating the species. We all can feel suffering in the same manner. A racist’s reasoning is flawed because he claims that one race is undeserving of sympathy, despite that it may be capable of suffering. Similarly, to claim that an animal deserves no rights or sympathy is faulty on the same reasoning. It creates a gulf between two different classes, claiming that one’s suffering should be unaccompanied by sympathy. Simply put: the reason we give rights to human is because they are capable of suffering. Since this is true, we must grant our fellow creatures the same sympathy, as they are capable of the same suffering as humans. There is no gulf that can be conjured from the minds of philosophers that will erase that one fact: animals can suffer like humans. It is for this reason they deserve rights and sympathy.
There may be those who oppose the rights of animals based on a sort of reasoning. They may be quick to point to plants and inquire if they deserve rights, too. However, plants are not conscious beings, and they are not capable of suffering. There can be no real sympathy with them. Another may point to how animals eat each other and ask why we should give them rights when they do not give each other rights. Of course, if animals are irrational and lack compassion, are we to be irrational and lack compassion?
If another animal, even a human commits an act of rape or murder, does that justify us doing it, simply because he does it? Certainly not. Imitation is no grounds for morality. Some may claim that humans have teeth designed to consume flesh, but this proves nothing. As guns are designed to kill, but that does not justify their usage. Others may claim that god had created animals specifically for our usage. But this was the defense used by slaveowners of their slaves, and it is no less hypocritical or unjust when people today make the same claim of animals.
So, we can see, it is quite clear that our fellow creatures are deserving of rights and sympathy, as their suffering does not differ from human suffering. The first course of action is to refuse to take part in any activity that disallows animals their rights. In fact, it will be the course for activists to protest any such injustice. First and foremost is the gross practice of consuming our fellow creatures, when health, economics, and humaneness prefer otherwise. Therefore, Vegetarianism is the first logical step in Animal Rights.
If we continue to kill and eat them, then what real recognition of their rights has there been? Another area where their rights are disregarded is in blood-sports, where creatures are hunted and killed for some sake of pleasure — that terror in the hearts of animals brings warmth to the hearts of men. Vivisection, or experimental torture, is another area. To advance knowledge, they will sacrifice the lives of millions, to die in brutal and heartless tortures.
The advancement of humaneness will come with abolition of these cruel and vicious practices. Those of us who work for the progression of the rights of animals and for truly equal rights of conscious beings are bold and ardent in our efforts. For the betterment of our fellow creatures is our cause.