The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Animal Rights

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/18/2013 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,264 times Debate No: 36808
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




Topic: A just government ought to grant non-human animals some rights.

Round One: This is just for acceptance, rules, and definitions.

Burdens: Burden of Proof is shared. Pro shows some rights should be granted; Con shows that some rights should not be extended.

Provisos: (1) Let"s limit this to non-human, vertebrate members of the Kingdom of Animalia, (2) This is just a discussion in the abstract"do animals have some rights, it"s not about what particular rights the animals have, and (3) when I say some rights, that could mean one or more rights.

Rules: No swearing/personal attacks, etc. No new arguments or evidence can be introduced in the final round.

Just Government - one that respects the human rights of its citizens (see UDHR), is democratic, and liberal (as in tolerant, not oppressive, and evenhanded). A government more specificially is the complex of political institutions and laws, as well as the body of persons comprising the governmental authority, through which the function of governing is carried out.
Ought - Expresses moral desirability
Grant - to give
Right - a entitlement, freedom, or immunity recognized either by law or by morality (how exactly we determine if something is a right is fair game for debate.)

I look forward to a great debate!


I accept!
Debate Round No. 1


To further clarify the notion of a right, I offer the following definition form Prof. Joel Feinberg: "To have a right is to have a claim to something and against someone or something the recognition of which is called for by legal (or other institutional) rules, or in the case of moral rights, by the principles of an enlightened conscience." Now, I"ll present my case:

Contention One: Neither rationality nor the ability to assume responsibilities are required to ascribe something a right; legally, animals can, therefore, have rights.

Prof. Joel Fienberg posits that some say "that the ability to understand what a right is and the ability to set legal machinery in motion by one's own initiative are necessary for the possession of legal rights. If that were the case, then neither human idiots nor wee babies would have any legal rights at all. Yet it is manifest that both of these classes of intellectual incompetents have legal rights recognized and easily enforced by the courts. Children and idiots start legal proceedings, not on their own direct initiative, but rather through the actions of proxies or attorneys who are empowered to speak in their names. If there is no conceptual absurdity in this situation, why should there be in the case where a proxy makes a claim on behalf of an animal? People commonly enough make wills leaving money to trustees for the care of animals. Is it not natural to speak of the animal's right to his inheritance in cases of this kind? If a trustee embezzles money from the animal's account, and a proxy speaking in the dumb brute's behalf presses the animal's claim, can he not be described as asserting the animal's rights'? More exactly, the animal itself claims its rights through the vicarious actions of a human proxy speaking in its name and in its behalf."

Contention Two: From a moral perspective, to have rights.

According to Stanford Encyclopedia, "To say that a being deserves moral consideration is to say that there is a moral claim that this being has on those who can recognize such claims. A morally considerable being is a being who can be wronged"" In addendum, Merriam Webster explains "wrong" to mean, an "action or conduct inflicting harm without due provocation or just cause." That leaves us with the question of can an animal be wronged? If the answer is "yes," then animals have rights. I will offer two distinct ways animals can be wronged"either way is sufficient to show a right under this contention.

Sub-point A: Animals have interests, the denial of which is a wrong.

Fienberg contends: "some ethicists argue that without interests a creature can have no "good" of its own, the achievement of which can be its due"I should think that the trustee of funds willed to a dog or cat is more than a mere custodian of the animal he protects. Rather his job is to look out for the interests of the animal and make sure no one denies it its due. The animal itself is the beneficiary of his dutiful services. Many of the higher animals at least have appetites, conative urges, and rudimentary purposes, the integrated satisfaction of which constitutes their welfare or good. We can, of course, with consistency treat animals as mere pests and deny that they have any rights"but it seems clear to me, nevertheless, that in general, animals are among the sorts of beings of whom rights can meaningfully be predicated and denied." Essentially, that animals have basic biological interests"like the need to eat"and certain legal interests that should be met if possible. Furthermore, this gives them a due, the denial of which would be harmful to them. This implies that (a) they have interests, and (b) they have rights.

Sub-point B: Some animals have basic emotional capabilities, meaning they can be wronged emotionally as well.

As reported in the National Geographic, certain animals, ranging from dolphins to apes, have well-developed limbic systems, linked to emotions. They also have many spindle cells, linked to self-awareness, empathy, and social awareness. This shows that they can feel emotion. Many scientists agree that Elephants, in particular, mourn the loss of herd members"and like humans visiting graves, elephants return to the sites where members died to trace the bones of the lost. This ability to mourn, and to be self-aware, means that when they are maltreated or shunned or experience loss, animals can feel emotional pain, and are thus wronged. According to Doctors G. Bradshaw, Allen Schore, and Joyce Pool, elephants that witnessed disturbing events, such as the death of a family member or friend, experience psychological trauma not unlike PTSD.

Contention Three: Humans should accord animals rights because of our own feelings towards them.

According to philosophers Stephen Clark and Cora Diamond, animals "pull on us and it is in virtue of this indescribable pull that we recognize what is wrong with cruelty. Animals are individuals with whom we share a common life and this recognition allows us to see them as they are. A person striving for virtue comes to see that [mistreating] animals is wrong because we do not display the traits of character that kind, sensitive, compassionate, mature, and thoughtful members of a moral community should display. And carefully worked out arguments in which the moral considerability and moral significance of animals are laid out will have little if any grip on our thoughts and actions. Rather, by perceiving the attitudes that underlie the use and abuse of non-human animals as shallow or cruel, one interested in living a virtuous life will change their attitudes." As Immanuel Kant put it, "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals. Insofar as we acknowledge that we are disgusted by the mistreatment of animals or we admit that maltreatment of animals is wrong, we grant animals moral consideration, and thus a claim to humane treatment which is, consequently, a right.

Contention Four: From a utilitarian perspective, animals have rights; speciesism is wrong.

According to the American Psychological Society, "Utilitarians say we should judge actions strictly upon their consequences. That is, an action is good if it will provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of individuals. Singer took this notion further and said that when we calculate consequences, we must take into account the interests not only of human beings but also of animals that can experience pain and pleasure. If we fail to consider these animals" interests, or if we give human beings special consideration, we are guilty of "speciesism." To Singer, animal research is morally acceptable if the benefits to humans or animals used clearly outweigh the harm to the animals used in the research. He usually concludes that the cost to the animals outweighs the benefit to others." Furthermore, Prof. Oscar Horta notes that speciesism, the unfair treatment of a species based solely on their being a different species from our own, is morally reprehensible; namely, because it fails to take into account individual capabilities as well as other moral, legal, and ethical concerns. Insofar as speciesm is immoral, a just society ought to extend animals rights as protections against this kind of treatment. In other words, animals have a claim against speciesism.

In Conclusion:

A Just Government seeks to do the moral thing, and clearly their are important moral concerns revolving around the concept of "animal rights." Such a government would not engage in the bigoted practice of speciesism, nor would it permit animals to suffer. In fact, it would take actions to prevent such unethical practices from being allowed; it would grant animals some rights. Also, when we consider what is morally desirable--what we "ought" to do--should we not accord animals basic rights to ensure that they are not abused, etc.? Both legally and morally, animals would seem to have rights, and any one of my contentions would be enough to cast a vote for pro, because, definitionally, they each show animals should be extended some rights. So, when we return to the question, do animals have rights, and should a just government grant them rights, we can see that they do and it should. As Feinberg put it, "if we hold that we ought to treat animals humanely"[and] the withholding of which would be"a wrong, then it follows that we do ascribe rights to animals." Thus, I affirm, and I eagerly await the Con"s replies. Thanks for accepting the debate!


Irresistable forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


So, it appears that Irresistible has closed his account. I've started a new debate on this topic, if you'd like to accept that! Thanks!


Irresistable forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Yeah...If you see this, please accept the other debate I started on Animal Rights. I'd really enjoy debating this topic with someone. Thanks!

Vote Pro, I guess...


Irresistable forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by sparks 3 years ago
If animals could vote they would get rights, If they were swing voters they would have a whole department looking after their rights with refuge shelters and some top notch affirmative action.
Posted by Mikal 3 years ago
Con is going to lose this from the git go. Already predicting it lol
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
@SitaraPorDios - those are my feelings exactly
Posted by SitaraPorDios 3 years ago
How can I say no to animal rights and still feel good about myself? I love animals. :'(
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF