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Animal Rights and Welfare Laws


Animals are classified as sentient beings; most of them have abilities to perceive and even think. They are capable of emotions, feelings and can form complex behavioral patterns. They deserve a just and rightful attitude, but animals are still treated mostly as property, not as sentient creatures. Animal welfare laws are not granting them any rights: they only regulate how to exploit them more efficiently. Animal rights, arising from the modern welfare laws and human laws, can change this situation and provide rights to any sentient creature living on Earth.

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Animal Rights and Welfare Laws

Communication between humans and animals is widespread and occurs in different forms. Eating animals’ meat, wearing furs and leathers are examples of indirect contact with animals (Horsthemke 3). Animals usually suffer a lot when killed for fur, meat, leather, or other resources. People became interested in animal welfare only in the nineteenth century, and the main reason was not moral feelings toward animals, but mostly economic reasons (Horsthemke 5-6). In general, it reduced the sufferings

It makes sense to clarify the meaning of the word “rights.” According to Francione and Charlton (16-17), rights are the methods to protect someone’s interest. First of all, the rights begin from the basic right of not being anyone else’s property. Despite saying that animals today have basic rights, they still are treated only as property. Thus, the animal still has no rights, even basic rights enabling them to live independently.

There are opinions stating that animal rights are impossible and animal welfare should be used instead: they are widespread around the Earth. They are based on anthropocentrism, assuming that only a human being has a moral right and can be a moral subject. Although the moral and legal rights of animals are widely discussing around the world, animals still are regarded as someone’s property and nothing more (Francione and Charlton 15). No matter it is a farm animal or a pet, it is classified as property, both legally and actually. People are used to treating animals in such a way, and it is unlikely that it will change shortly. Animal welfare laws begin from economic benefits they provided: it is more beneficial to exploit animal longer if it is maintained healthy (Horsthemke 5-6). Obviously, they have nothing similar to morality, the basis of rights. No animal welfare laws can substitute animal rights: they are different at their cores and serve different objectives.

In that way, modern animal “rights” are regulated only by animal welfare laws; they pay no attention to actual animal feelings, desires and treat them only as property that should be maintained in good conditions. The possible solution for that is providing fundamental animal rights based on legal protection (Stucki 556–57). It will create the concept of “conflict” between a human and an animal; those conflicts will be resolved based on the new laws. Such laws can reduce the number of animals suffering. Abolitionists are people whose position is not to regulate the use of animals but abolish it completely (Francione and Charlton 9). They argue that all living beings are equal and should be subjects of morality and have basic rights. Abolitionists reject any welfare laws because they do not treat animals as property (Francione and Charlton 29-30). They compare the modern situation with animals with slavery widespread on Earth in the past. Welfare laws consider only maintaining an animal in good conditions; opposing to that, and animal rights laws consider animals as living creatures independent from anyone.

The Human Uniqueness and the Equality of All Living Beings

Humans often think about themselves as a unique species with exclusive rights. Western philosophers used to speculate that the only human has the ability to think and to reason, and only human, in that way, can be the subject of any rights (Horsthemke 38). Speciesism is a term describing “the widespread discrimination that is practiced by man against the other species, and to draw a parallel between it and racism” (Horsthemke 58). Abolitionists draw parallels between the rights of animals and the rights of human minorities. Speciesism is treated similarly to sexism, racism, and other kinds of discrimination (Francione and Charlton 80–81). It shows that human rights are, in reality, similar to rights that other living creatures should have too.

Such an extension of the concept of discrimination may lead to the acceptance of animal rights’ necessity. There are objections to such an opinion; an example is a quote: “Racism and sexism are condemned because they deprive moral beings of their rights; there is no equivalent to this in our treatment of animals, and the term “speciesism,” therefore, is an invitation to confusion” (Horsthemke 62–63). It seems logical, but the flaw is in the phrase “there is no equivalent to this in our treatment of animals”: the author, Scruton, rejects the very possibility of animal rights: that is itself rather a speciesist view. Speciesism is wrong, as it leads to the sufferings of animals, and thus the animal rights are necessary.

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Animals are sentient beings, and they are able to perceive, feel, and interpret their feelings. Different animals possess different levels of ability to do that; nevertheless, animals are sentient. All beings are epistemic equal, which means that they all experience reality in basically similar ways (Juergens 2). All animals, all living beings in general, are different; despite that, it follows that speciesism is wrong and the right way is to consider all living species as equal. Equality may be interpreted differently and to be confused with “similarity,” creating misunderstanding (Horsthemke 70-71). Equality between humans and animals means that, as animals are sentient, they are moral subjects as well and should have, at least, basic rights.

Homo sapiens is nevertheless a unique animal species, with its developed brain and cognitive abilities. Still, such abilities do not justify the dominating anthropocentric morality denying animals rights. The uniqueness of humanity is, at first, in the ecological footprint they have left on the planet Earth (Juergens 1). The flexible and powerful brain allows humans to make technologies enabling them to outperform all other living beings. For example, lobsters are the best in perceiving smells, and termites are ideal architects and builders (Juergens 1). But human technologies have provided them to build big cities and to invent sensor devices enabling them to perceive different chemicals. Juergens argues that it is the natural responsibility of humanity to use the brain to solve problems (3). One can conclude that the human brain has the power of plasticity and flexibility to solve different problems, including the adoption of animal rights.


Humans are unique animals, but it is not justifying the approach when the sufferings of other species are ignored. Animal welfare laws, existing today, do not consider animals as living beings, only as someone’s property. It means that they only prescribe to maintain an animal in good condition to exploit it better. Animal rights that regard animals as independent living creatures should be adopted instead of those welfare laws. Humans are unique with their flexible brains, and it is the responsibility of humans to use them to enable all species to live better and to suffer less.

Works Cited

Francione, Gary, and Anna Charlton. Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach. Exempla Press, 2015.

Horsthemke, Kai. Animal Rights Education (The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series). 1st ed. 2018, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Juergens, Uta Maria. “Human and Nonhuman Animals: Equals in Uniqueness.” Animal Sentience, vol. 3, no. 23, 2018, pp. 1-3.

Stucki, Saskia. “Towards a Theory of Legal Animal Rights: Simple and Fundamental Rights.” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 40, no. 3, 2020, pp. 533–60.

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