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The Contender
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Animal Rights

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/25/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,826 times Debate No: 37006
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




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

Burdens: Pro has the burden to show that animals should have some rights and Con has the burden of showing that animals should have no rights.

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--should 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've started two debates with this topic because it appears as if the persons I was debating with it before have either closed accounts or forfeited. I would really like to have (and finish) this debate, so many thanks in advance to anyone who might accept!


I accept and look forward to the challenge!
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 there 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!


My opening argument, and indeed my primary argument, is that in the case of non-human animals, they are precluded from anything we could consider a 'right'. Personally, I support that only positive law is a valid platform for defining rights. That an agreement, or social contract is made between consenting agents. My right to life is preserved by my explicit promise not to take anyone else's, and by understanding it also forfeit a loss or penalty by breaking it. In this way, no animal (nor indeed severely mentally-handicapped, permanently brain-dead or infant) can explicitly communicate and comprehend such an agreement, and consequentially are entitled to no rights. In the case of the mentally handicapped, I don't believe they have rights what-so-ever, but are protected from harm by law for their value to other people (not that I am equating them to such, but similarly, property is protected for the same reason but we wouldn't consider ones lawn-mower to be in possession of rights would we?) In the case of the permanently brain-dead, again, no rights, and I'm perfectly comfortable allowing their next of kin to decide what to do about it. Infants/very young children, as with anything legal, occupy a constant state of exception and different rules, almost no matter how one defines rights. Their very guaranteed potential (not-withstanding non-human interference) to become a comprehending, consenting, adult constitutes reason to protect their life and well-being, with all other rights being afforded to them as they mature to comprehend and handle each one. This, in a certain way, puts them in a similar category to sleeping people, in that they are unalert and innocuous, but in a temporary state. Now, most or all of all of your arguments of course rely on the natural rights perspective, so I will object to them before getting to my conclusion.

1. Because our current system recognizes matters in a certain way is not a valid premise for animal rights. Point being, just because the human idiot is treated like an agent with rights by our legal system doesn't establish anything as absolute in what defines a right, and deducing that animals therefor have a right is a fallacy. All this proves is that our current system seems to have a double standard. It doesn't establish which standard is the correct one.

2-A. Interests in this context is a dubiously vague term. It could mean that the agent in question has a conscious reflection of itself, and has established meaningful goals, but the problem becomes: Can it be established that any animal has such an ability? This matter is still fairly inconclusive for even the select few highest-order of non-human animals, such as chimpanzees and dolphins (as a couple of common examples). I challenge you to provide any reliable biological information that concludes with some degree of certainty that they aren't merely expressing response to stimuli, non-intelligent or conditional behavior patterns (including ones related to their technical-conscious) For example, you might witness a chimp apparently problem solve by using a stick to extract termites, but does this mean that the chimp made a conscious resolution in its mind about its goals and its hunger, and in determining to pursuit it, actively and deliberately searched for answers in getting those mites out of the log, or is its appetite and motivation a simple instinctive cue and its brain chanced upon observing how mites will crawl onto a stick when plunged into their nest, and by conditioning the chimp memorized this?

2-B. Emotions are not protected, grounds for nor the basis of rights, not even for humans. Unless you wish to defend that my girlfriend shouldn't have the right to dump me for the emotional devastation I would incur.

3. This is a very weak argument (all due respect of course) or animal rights. This could just as easily provide that plants or completely non-living objects should be afforded rights. Our emotional value toward something I agree should potentially establish protection (as in, for the sake of the person beholden to it), but not rights for the thing itself. For example, I agree with laws protecting people's pets, but not for the animals sake, for the pet-owner's.

4. Consequentialism only works if you establish that the consequences of giving no animals any rights is particularly worse than the alternative. The problem underlying utilitarianism is that it fails to account for quality of an action, that anything that makes one thing happy makes it equally happy is patently false. So in respect to animals, we would have to attempt to evaluate how happy or how much pleasure something gives each animal, and the practical limitations, even flat-out impossibility of this should be obvious. And last, all people are almost certainly "speciest". Does a sea-sponge, with no central nervous system or brain, qualify for rights, all the same as a human? Or a hibiscus for that matter? It too is a specie, not an animal specie but a specie never-the-less.
Debate Round No. 2


I will offer three overviews, address Con"s case, and then proceed to defend my own.

OV1: Extend my further clarification of a right as "a claim to something and against something else." Con drops this entirely.

OV2: Con"s arguments about why the mentally ill and the brain dead do not have rights rests on them being incapable of rational thought. His argument on why infants have rights is also predicated on their being rational agents. In fact, his entire case relies on the idea that only actors that could be rational have rights. Thus, if I can show rationality is no needed for rights, Con has no case, at which point a Pro ballot is in order.

OV3: This debate is about what a "just government" would do. A just government would not deny rights to the mentally ill or the brain dead, as it would be "tolerant" and respectful of everyone"s right to life regardless of other factors that may be discriminatory. Such a government would seek to minimize such things as undue pain and harm, because those things are not due to any agent, even animals. The actor in this resolution, then, would be more likely to err on the side of the Pro, and grant animals rights.


Con throws out the term "positive law" in his explanation of his core stance. I will take a moment to define this term: "guidelines, statutes, and codes which are imposed upon a country. It is dissimilar to natural law." [1] The reason for the divergence of natural and positive law, is that with natural law, the belief is that rights are inherent and conferred by nature, rather than by government legitimized by the social contract. There are three key understanding that we can arrive at based upon this definition: (1) a right granted via positive law does not require agents to be consenting, (2) the concept of positive law does not preclude rights for animals, and (3) Con contradicts his very own premise. I will now explain each one of these three points in turn. Firstly, the laws are "imposed" upon a country and its denizens. It is therefore not implausible that a government impose"or grant"a right to animals. The whole notion of imposition seems to rule out needing consent. For example, if the government of Nation X wishes to grant the mentally ill a constitutional right to life, then it can impose that right upon them, even without their consent. Secondly, if consent is not necessary, then animals can be extended rights. A government informed by the social contract could easily see the plight of abused animals as reason enough to extend, via positive law, animals rights. Thirdly, Con takes positions more in line with natural law than positive law. For instance, he denies that the mentally ill have rights, even though he admits that they "are protected from harm by law." But, if the mentally ill are protected by law, they have a claim to just treatment and a claim against maltreatment. This means that, based on the definition of a right, the mentally ill have rights, and that these rights were granted to them through the positive law assurance of protection.

There are also some additional reasons to reject Con"s points. By accepting this debate, he agreed that rights were "immunities" and "entitlements." I would argue that neither require consent or rationality to have. A mentally ill person can be immune from harm without being able to understand what that means, just as an animal can be immune to maltreatment or entitled to human treatment even though it does not necessarily comprehend those very protections. This is because immunities and entitlements are ensured by a guarantor other than oneself, i.e. that rights of this kind are guaranteed by others, and therefore do not entail a need for consent of rational understanding. Furthermore, Con"s last line of his actual case is incorrect; not all my arguments are predicated on natural law. Additionally, he provides literally no evidence or analysis whatsoever which would invalidate natural law. So, even if my case were all natural law, Con gives no reason why this is problematic.


C1: The Con makes a massive contradiction here. He states that simply because our currently legal system treats things a certain way doesn"t mean its extending rights. But, his whole case is based on the notion of positive law, which says that rights arise from the current laws passed by the government. Con states that the current system isn"t enough to grant rights, but that, at the same time, the current system is the only "valid platform for defining rights." Thus, Con"s own attack on my point subverts his own position. But even if you don"t accept this, Con never addresses the substance of my point, that an animal has a claim to his inheritance, and thus has a right to his inheritance. Con never actually argues that the animal, in this case does not have a claim. Referring back to my OV1, if the animal has a claim, then it has a right, in which case a Pro ballot is in order. Finally, this whole debate revolves around the double standard. My advocacy, all of my arguments, is that animals should have rights to eliminate this issue.

C2: Con utterly drops my Stanford evidence, which shows that animals have a moral claim to a right if they can be wronged. Wrong means to inflict undue pain. Thus, if animals can be wronged, they have claims to just treatment and against being wronged, and so they have rights.

SPA: Con completely misconstrues my source"s argument here. My evidence is referring to "rudimentary" urges"things like "appetites" and "basic biological interests." Con challenges me to show that animals are not simply responding to stimuli. But frankly, I don"t have to. Animals have basic biological interests, like the need to eat, which when denied, causes harm and pain. Therefore, animals can be wronged, and therefore have a claim against being starved. Hence, they have a right. Con fundamentally misses the point of the argument"I"m not saying animals are intelligent, I"m saying that although they are unintelligent they can still be wronged and can still deserve rights.

SPB: Con states that emotion is insufficient ground to grant a right. Con is yet again misunderstanding my point. Emotional harm is a wrong. Thus, I have a claim against emotional harm, and a right to be free from it. For example, I have a right against cyberbullying or harassment because it causes emotional distress. In fact, I can even sue to receive compensation for my right"s being violated. In response to the Con"s example, I would point out that Con"s girlfriend has a right to be with whom she wants, and the conflicting rights should moot one another out. But, if the case of purposeless harm, this is not true. For example, no one has a right to harass someone else. So, if harassment is a wrong, it would be against my rights to harass me.

C3: Firstly, by accepting this debate, Con agreed to limit this debate to non-human vertebrate animals, not no-living objects. Furthermore, what the source was talking about being moral upright. An emotional response to maltreating animals indicates it is not virtuous to do so. Consequently, we ought to extend rights to animals because we recognize they have moral value that a virtuous person ought to respect. Our emotions simply provide insight into this. Plus, Con basically concedes animals have rights when he states animals should have "protection." Let"s go through this semantically. If an immunity is a protection, and an immunity is a right, then protections are rights, and animals should have a right. If a = b, a = c, then b = c. It really doesn"t matter for whose sake the animal has the immunity, because the resolution isn"t asking whether or not animals have rights inherent in them. It merely asks if animals should be granted rights. If animals should be granted rights to spare the owners, that doesn"t change the fact that animals should be extended rights. At this point, a Pro ballot is in order. But, even if you don"t believe that, I"ve made myriad other arguments explaining why rights should be granted to the animal for its own sake.

C4: As to the utility argument, I would say that ensuring animals have checks against abuse and means of obtaining their interests (like food or an inheritance) then clearly the animals would be more well off. Either way, Con fails to address the notion that if we"re evaluating animals on par with humans, we are giving them equal consideration, and, in a sense, a right to be considered in decision-making. They have a claim against simply be discounted. Extend this argument. In regards to the speciesism argument, Con states that all people are speciesist, and uses that as a rebuttal. In fact, he never explains why speciesism isn"t bad. I would posit that speciesism is bad, and that it is a sad statement about humanity that most of us are speciesist. Frankly though, Con fails to actually rebut the argument. Finally, as sponges and plants are not actually vertebrate animals, they are not within the agreed upon scope of the debate, and so those example ought to be dismissed.

Closing Point: Con has offered no sources thus far, whereas I have offered several in both this rebuttal and in my initial speech. I thank my opponent for a good round, and await his replies.



First, I'd like to say with absolutely no animosity or ill-meaning, that I hope my opponent expresses more interest in the straight forward debate on whether or not animals have rights, rather than dancing around invisible walls he or she created to serve no reason other than to immunize his argument from its own weaknesses (example, you make an argument against specieism while deciding as a rule that we can only discuss certain species. This is blatantly disingenuous). There is a difference between trying to disqualify an argument that is perfectly valid to the topic, and defining words and establishing provisions to explain what the intention of the debate is and keep it on topic when the one-sentence title might be short and vague. I will work through them with my best judgement, to not violate any provisions that are reasonably fair, on topic, or valid. Moving on to more pressing matters!

OV1 - I don't see that I've dropped it, 'to make a claim' is tantamount to 'qualified for a right', or is otherwise a very ambiguous term.

OV2 - You're correct so-far as it's understood that by 'rational agent', I specifically mean a being that A.) can explicitly communicate an agreement, and B.) possesses will, as opposed to instinctive desire or mechanization. In this context at least, will would be defined as the conscious order of the brain being able to evaluate and relate ideas and thoughts to one another, and for this reason pursuit particular actions and goals. It may sound like 'interests', but differs in this way: as you use it, an interest would be any natural response that tends to favor or causes a particular behavior, regardless of what mental state brought about that action. Example, an animal 'needing' food is considered its interest, because of its biological implications rather than that the animal actually considered the value of eating food, the consequences, and consciously determined at any point that eating food would make it closer to its goals and personal, existential purpose.

OV3 - Indeed it ultimately is. However, a just government must conditionally discriminate and be intolerant too. It must be discriminate on the basis of sex, for military service or health care provisions, on race for affirmative action, on mental and physical capacity so special accommodations can be assured, and even too of criminals, so they are treated differently than non-criminals. Similarly, it must be intolerant of criminals. That "undue pain and harm is not due to any agent" is completely tautological. I'd ask you clarify.


1-1. This is the only place I will not be able to fully abide by one of your definitions. You may declare "See, he admits it! Allow him no votes for he broke the rules!" I'm not here for votes, I'm here for an honest debate, and the fact is, this is where a vital semantic and substantial delineation between two terms needs to occur for this debate to progress (intellectually, anyway). A positive right can only be held by one consenting to the system. This is a contract. A contract is an exchange, and requires consent. Parties that cannot consent, may be protected by the body of law, because those composed of the body have determined it their desire. This is means in respect to the system, non-consenting agents are powerless to change it, powerless to negotiate. To say they have a 'right' by being protected seems innocuous at first without thinking too hard about it, but when you consider how utterly devalued the word becomes when you describe it for anything that might be protected by law, the absurdity becomes obvious. To say a mountain, a river, my house or a steam ship have 'rights' is at best, an extreme semantical misstep, and at worst, disingenuous. If an agent has no power what-so-ever to alter, dissolve or reinforce its rights, then it doesn't have any. It has a protection. No one has ever argued that all human behavior toward any animal, under any circumstance is permittable. How long have humans been farming, and don't you believe that it's basically a universal law through that entire time that one person cannot steal or kill another's livestock? Is that an animal having rights, or the farmer having rights over his possessions?

1-2. As per the above description, it does preclude them. They cannot consent, and therefor have no claim to rights. They can be protected however and for whatever reason *we* decide to consent upon, but this only effects our behavior, as we are the only ones able to modify our behavior on these grounds. The unconsenting animal is being protected, but not as per its will, and with no power to express or negotiate the terms of behavior of those establishing the contract, it is without power and without any rights.

1-3. "But, if the mentally ill are protected by law, they have a claim to just treatment and a claim against maltreatment."
This is your flawed premise. Well, its actually a full syllogism on its own. Protection by law is not necessarily based on a claim of their own to just treatment. As explained above, protection necessarily revolves around the consent of the participants alone, as it does nothing but establish an agreement to behavior. Consent is the only way to a claim of any sort in positive law, because its entirety and literally defined as just that, "man-made laws", laws constructed or 'posited'.

2. The only thing that wouldn't be redundant to add in respect to the next section, is that I am only discrediting natural in-so-far as it has any relation to the points you are making, which I am addressing one by one.


1. You must have misunderstood what I meant. When I stated that the system *treats* certain agents as though they have rights, I did not mean to imply that they actually do. A proxy is no good in representing the will of an agent it cannot communicate with, which makes it a farce and false-labeling. I would have worded it a little more clearly if I would have anticipated the degree semantics were going to play a role in your response. And the remainder of this portion is wrapped up in all of the previous discussion about our difference in opinion of what precisely a right is.

2. I either accidentally skipped it or read it and only responded to the sub-points as they are contingent elaborations of C2.

2A. I apologize for misconstruing the statement, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt in my mind as it seems granting rights over having the simplest of biological needs seems rather indefensible. But if you insist: Biological functions, including pain, are inherently meaningless. Only conscious evaluation separates pain, a mere chemical reaction, from suffering. There is no meaningful difference in recognizing pain, hunger, or any other biochemical reaction as something signifying a claim to anything anymore than an oxidizing iron chunk. We see the way animals react to pain, and inaccurately project our own suffering unto it. But without conscious evaluation occurring, your seeing nothing more than a chemical reaction occurring in a cluster of carbon based fatty-tissue.

2B. Purposeless harm is practically an empty term. Even the harasser has a purpose in doing so. My girlfriend could leave me if she wanted to for no reason other than pure sadism, cruelty or spite. And it would still be perfectly legal. It could cause a crippling and devastating emotional toll on me, but there is a reason it isn't harassment even if it were intentions to do so on me. You certainly nailed it too, she has the right to not be with me. It has nothing to do with protecting one from being emotionally harmed by someone else. Harassment laws are meant to be employed to protect people from border-line or virtual physical interference, actual discrimination (work place especially) or threats. [1]
"Generally, criminal harassment entails intentionally targeting someone else with behavior that is meant to alarm, annoy, torment or terrorize them. Not all petty annoyances constitute harassment. Instead, most state laws require that the behavior cause a credible threat to the person's safety or their family's safety."
That said, even harassment laws are perfectly objectionable. One could argue that their right to free-speech is violated at some point, and I don't see any consistency in that point being "emotional damages caused".

3. The debate is limited to vertebrates as far as your position is required to defend as having any rights. I'm mentioning sponges, trees or inanimate objects as analogies, to test the consistency and practicality of your position. Or are analogies against the rules too? I'm not asking to provide any statement or evidence that a sponge or a rock has rights, I'm asking you why they don't, yet the (vertebrate) animal does when they meet the same qualifications of this particular argument? The 2nd through 3rd statements are rewordings of the same baseless, subjective conjecture, just as in the original source and C3 argument. The experience of disgust in seeing an abused animal comes from our projections, and recognizing it as such denies animals moral considerations, and therefor rights in this regard.

4. "clearly be better off", is again baseless conjecture. How do you know what they want? Do you know that they even "want" anything, as in they will it? Or do they "want" it the same way a balloon "wants" to touch the ceiling? If we are evaluating animals on par with humans, we'd be begging the question. As a result, that argument folds. Finally, Specieism isn't bad because it's a necessary and universally observed truth. The best way I can explain this by discussing species that may not be vertebrates, but are indeed species, which I'm evidently barred from doing.
Debate Round No. 3


I will begin by addressing Con"s opening remarks, then I shall address the overviews I made, rebut the Con, and defend my own case. I"ll conclude with voting issues.
Con contends that I"m avoiding the straight-on debate about whether a just government should grant animals rights. Con further argues that I have twisted the rules to benefit myself. However, Con, by accepting this debate, agreed to those very terms. It is disingenuous to now, in round three, voice objections to those rules. If Con had a quarrel with the rules, he should have messaged me, posted a comment, or voiced those objections in round one, prior to the debate proceeding. However, in the spirit of honesty and fairness, I will ask that you dismiss my speciesism argument. This is a small argument that has little impact on my case, and I would rather earn win in a debate in which both parties felt the rules were fair, than cling to one point.
OV1: Con did, as a matter of course, drop my clarification of a right as a claim. Not once in his previous speech did he mention this definition or attack it. Con further states that the definition is "ambiguous" and "tantamount to "qualified for a right"" yet these points are largely unwarranted. Never does Con explain why my definition is tantamount to qualification, nor does he explain why it is vague. It seems then that Con"s points are more ambiguous than mine. Ultimately, if I have a claim to my life or my property, and I have a claim against being killed or against theft, then I have a right to my life and to my property. Thus, my points stand. But even if you accept Con"s argument, if having a claim connotes that one is qualified for right, then if animals can have claims, it means they are the type of agents to whom rights can meaningfully be ascribed. Animals would be "qualified" to be right-holders. Turn this against the Con"Con"s positive law argument relies on the fact that animals, as Con noted in round two, "are precluded from anything we could consider a "right"." By Con"s own logic, if animals have claims, then they are qualified for rights, and so are not precluded from them.
OV2: Con concedes that his case relies on the notion that only agents capable of rational thought or developing rational thought have rights. By rational, con means that agents can communicate consent and possess free will. Thus, if I can show that to confer rights an agent does need one or both of these traits, a Pro ballot is in order because the fundamental premise on which Con makes his assertions will be shown false. Con then engages in a discussion of what "interests" really are; I will get to this later in my speech.
OV3: Con asks for clarification; I would be happy to oblige. Con essentially agree that it is true that a just government would not inflict "undue pain and harm" upon "any agent." Therefore, a just government would not inflict undue pain or harm upon animals. Based on the Stanford evidence, which shows that victims of undue suffering, those who are wronged, have claims against harm, and thus have rights. Animals can be wronged, and as a just government would not wish to wrong animals or inflict undue suffering, a just government would grant animals rights.
1-2: Con did not break the rules, as my definition of positive law was not stated in round one, it came up in the course of my rebuttal. Please evaluate his argument regarding positive law. I will offer some reasons to evaluate in my favor however. Cross-apply my own contention one here, which demonstrates that animals are not "powerless to negotiate" because they can do so through proxies representing their legal interests. A Second reason to reject Con"s argument is that of my very own analysis of positive law. Even if the government is formed by consenting individuals, that does not preclude it from granting rights to non-consenting groups. For example, in the U.S. the mentally ill have a right to life that is considered just as legally and morally valid as my own. Another example might be that foreign nationals in our nation are still entitled to a fair trial, despite their not being part of our social contract. In other words, the government is fully able to grant rights to those not strictly members of the social contract, the laws are "imposed." And, as I noted in OV2, Con admits that animals are "qualified for rights," seemingly acknowledge that a government could extend rights to animals. Con tries to rebut this by claiming I would be granting rights to mountains and inanimate objects because such things have immunities. However, I would argue that you need to at least be alive to have rights, at the most basic level. Animals are alive, as are the mentally ill. The reason you need to be alive is because only things that are alive can be wronged, i.e. can have pain inflicted upon them, or have their biological or emotional interests denied. A mountain has no "appetites, conative urges, and rudimentary purposes." Nor can it feel, physically or mentally. Without these things, it has no morally considerable harm to be immune from. Therefore, based on the arguments I have presented, I would not ascribe rights to such mere things. They, unlike animals, are not "qualified for rights." Lastly, I would take exception to Con"s claim that immunities aren"t rights; he did accept the definitions, and could have objected prior to beginning the debate. But, the above analysis also addresses Con"s reason as to why immunities aren"t right, because immunities are designed to shield against pain and no true interests, as described by the Fienberg quote.
Con then goes on to assert the livestock has no rights because it is property. Yet, under the notion of positive law, and even under the social contract, what rights we grant and to whom or to what we grant them can change as new social contracts can be formed and new laws can be passed. Simply saying that because the farmer has always had possession over the cow or sheep, does not mean that those sheep or cows should always be without rights. That is the essential question of this debate, should society alter its view and grant animals rights. The Con notes, "no one has ever argued that all human behavior toward any animal, under any circumstance is permissible." At that point, I would say that Con is granting animals some sort of rudimentary claim against harm, constituting a right. The Farmer may own the cow, but he should not be permitted to beat the cow unconscious. The cow has a right against that, against being wronged.
1-3: Con is again misconstruing my argument. Con states that "protection by law is not based on a claim." That"s not what I"m contending. I"m arguing that it is not that protection by law is based on the claim, but that the claim for protection is based on the law. If, for example, I pass a law against inhumanely killing animals for food, then the animal has a claim, which arises from the law, against being inhumanely killed for food. The law in this case enables the claim. And, if the law comes before the right, then you don"t need consent to attain the right, because the law is being imposed on you, it is not a right your choosing to make into law. Ultimately, it is through such man-made laws that animals can get rights. In the scenario I presented, the animal does not need to be cogent to have the claim, and the agents of the government or a legal proxy acting on behalf of the animal can easily assert the claim on the animal"s behalf. But even if you don"t buy that proxies can assert the right, the animal still has the right regardless of whether it can exercise that right or not. Hence, animals can have rights.
C1: Key extension: Con drops the fact that animals have a claim to their inheritance. He never addresses the existence of this claim in any of his speeches. This claim is enough to prove animals have some rights and warrant an immediate Pro vote. Con"s rebuttal focuses instead on clarifying his earlier remarks and attacking the notion of proxies. A Proxy doesn"t need to communicate to represent well. Let"s say an animals has inherited $100. It is the Proxy"s duty to secure for the animal that money, to which the animal has a right (the existence of this right was dropped.) The Proxy can then care for the animals biological interests, as I discussed earlier. An animal doesn"t need a will to have rights in this case, thus it is not the duty of the Proxy to represent the will of the animal, merely to ensure it is treated as best as possible.
C2: Extend my Stanford evidence. Con concedes dropping it. Thus, if animals can be wronged, i.e. have undue pain inflicted upon them, they have rights against such treatment.
SPA: Pain does not need conscious evaluation to be bad. Neither humans nor animals enjoy pain, that"s why pain is painful. To the extent that pain is a harm, and in conjunction with the dropped Stanford card, animals can be physically wronged, meaning they have claims against being harmed, granting them a right. Ultimately, even if you buy everything that the Con says, as long as you agree that pain is undesirous, then a Pro ballot is in order.
SPB: Con agrees that I nailed it when I stated that his girlfriend had a right to be with whomever she wanted, i.e. to dump him. Con then proceeds to ignore the accompanying analysis I offered. If she has a right to leave, and he has a right to be free from emotional turmoil, then the two rights cancel out. At which point, we have an issue of a conflict of rights. The key thing here is that Con still has a right to be free from emotional pain, even if it is mooted out. Con doesn"t directly dispute the fact that he doesn"t have a right against emotional distress, even if it cancels out. Thus, he still has some rights, just like animals. Undue pain, purposeless violence, is a wrong, and we all have a right against it. I would argue that if his girlfriend were that sadistic has to purposelessly harm him, he has a right against that, even if not recognized in law. So, even if you don"t by SPA, SPB shows how emotional pain can be inflicted upon animals. Never does con dispute the evidence I offer showing how animals are victims of emotional pain. Extend this point. Therefore, under the Stanford evidence, animals have rights because they can be emotionally wronged.
C3: Con states that projections of disgust are insufficient to grant rights because they are not reflective of moral consideration. This only rebuts half of the points I made. Con never rebuts that following argument: "If an immunity is a protection, and an immunity is a right, then protections are rights, and animals should have a right. If a = b, a = c, then b = c. It really doesn"t matter for whose sake the animal has the immunity, because the resolution isn"t asking whether or not animals have rights inherent in them. It merely asks if animals should be granted rights. If animals should be granted immunities to spare the owners, that doesn"t change the fact that animals should be extended rights. At this point, a Pro ballot is in order." In other words, we could grant animals immunities, and thus rights, to spare us of our own unsettling projections of disgust.
C4: In regards to the utility argument, it really doesn"t matter whether animals "want" anything, because I was discussing their physical welfare, which you don"t address. If we evaluate their pain on par with our own, naturally we are giving them a right to have their welfare taken into account. By "better off," I"m referring to the animals not be maltreated, abused, or starved by people. Their pain can relatively easily be eliminated.
1-Con dropped that a claim = a right.
2-Animals have a claim, and thus a right, to their inheritance.
3-A Just Government would not inflict undue pain upon even animals, and would thus grant animals certain immunities against such harm. Those immunities are rights.
4-We should grant animals rights to spare us of our own pain. Once we immunize animals from unnecessary harm, we give animals a claim against that harm.
5-Animals, from a utilitarian perspective, have a right to have their welfare considered.
6-Consent is not necessary. Even if the government is formed by consenting individuals, that does not preclude it from granting rights to non-consenting groups. For example, in the U.S. the mentally ill have a right to life that is considered just as legally and morally valid as my own.
7-My arguments about proxies, the fact consent is not need, my arguments about how animals can still have rights, like inheritance, without needing thought, or my assertion that animals can have rights without being able to exercise them illustrate that rationality isn"t needed to have a right. Under my OV2, any one of these is sufficient reason to vote Pro.
8-Animals are "qualified for rights," and so they are the types of agents to whom rights can meaningfully be granted, contrary to Con"s suggestions.
9-The dropped Stanford evidence, which shows that if you accept either SPA or SPB then a Pro ballot is merited.
Any one of these is sufficient to vote Pro. No new arguments are allowed now. Thanks for a good debate. Please vote Pro!


I'll write my closing round by delineating the separate issues that generally weave between various 'points' and contentions thus far to make it clearer and easier for everyone to understand.

1. Most, if not all, of the Pro's argument relies on the notion that 'claim' is a separate idea that results in qualification for a right, rather than the claim being the qualification for a right. He states "X has a claim to Y, therefor X has a right to Y" many times throughout. Under a positive rights paradigm, I've pointed out how it is impossible, as an unconsenting agent is powerless in a positive law system. The agents that can consent can only consent to modify their own behavior, via contract, including how they behave toward other things (living or not) that are not consenting agents. These non-consenting things, be it animals, trees or non-living objects, have no power or ability to alter the behavior of the consenting agents toward them. They therefor have no rights, but could potentially by the whim of the consenting agents be protected, for whatever reason they decide (just as easily as they could be exploited). The mind-set or reasoning that the consenting agents come to agree to these protections, even if these agents do so because they *believe* the things they are protecting have rights, will never alter the fundamental truth that they do not, and cannot.

1B. Proxies/Inheritance. I'll give this a small mention though it is directly related to the point above. A proxy's job is to represent the will of its subject. A non-human animal has not been established by the Pro to have such a thing, therefor a Proxy is simply a farce or self-defeating concept. The inheritance argument should follow from here. Also, no one is obliged to spend the money an animal has inherited, nor can anyone be obliged to care for the animal. This is another shortcoming of the inheritance argument.

2. Interests. On this issue, Pro thus far claims that biological "interests" potentially result in rights. Even outside of everything I've stated in point 1 above, this is still an unfounded reason. An 'interest' is a subject idea projected upon non-conscious beings. A bear has no more an 'interest' in being alive than a car has an 'interest' in combusting fuel to drive its wheels. A bear is inherently a machine that operates by carbon/organic based parts. In this way, its clear that a bear, from its instincts down, does not have an 'interest' in being alive, finding food or avoiding injury, it is simply constructed to behave that way by darwinist influences in nature. Interest is a property of (philosophically) conscious agents, that construe and evaluate goals, perceive ideas and ideals, can contend possibilities and desire from among them one that fits their existentially crafted purpose.

3. Emotions. Pro's argument here is that in any way positive law is oriented to protect agents from emotional distress. What we have already indeed established is that the consenting agents of a positive law are free to make the agreements and contract based on whatever reasons they so choose, so it's obvious they *could* choose to make laws prohibiting causing emotional damage to one another, or even toward a nonconsenting agent. I won't pursuit whether it is the case or not in actuality, because it simply wouldn't have any effect of the debate. Point 1 demonstrates why protecting a nonconsenting agent for any reason does not classify rights.

4. Pain. Physical pain is simply a chemical reaction unto itself. An animal isn't suffering because its subjected to pain, until it has evaluated this pain on a conscious level. The problem is that because we, as humans, most typically suffer as a result from pain, since most of our conscious goals are oriented around prolonging life and maintaining our bodies without injury, and pain is the body's method for communicating injury or illness to brain. We take this correlation and project it unto animals without justification.

5. Wronged. To be wronged as Pro defines it, is "action or conduct inflicting harm without due provocation or just cause." The issue with this is that it is one, a generic dictionary source, not an ethics definition, and two, it is subjective and falls under the points I made in 1. Wronged, in the ethical sense, means to have been violated in your rights. To say an animal can be violated by its rights and it therefor has rights is an incomplete argument. As per 1, they cannot have rights, and consequentially cannot be wronged. Harm is also subjective, as per 2-4.

This pretty much summarized everything, for as I've said, Pro's entire case is based on a flimsy definition for should constitute a right. He has never once argued anything along the lines of animals having natural or inherent claims to rights, only that they have inherent biological functions that warrant a claim to be protected or considered by a positivist paradigm, or by otherwise falsely comparing animals to humans. By everything you've just read, it should be clear that animals have not been established as having anything but protections that differ in no way from protections (which are actually us forcing ourselves to behave a specific way) on completely non-sentient life, and non-living objects that equally possess no interest or anything any of us would consider 'rights'.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
It"s actually quite interesting how polar opposite the forms of persuasion in this debate were, I felt like Pros argument was little more than an eloquent appeal to emotion (Pathos) and Cons approach was one of the most coldly logical defenses I"d ever seen (logos).

Ultimately I have a massive deficit of Pro offense so I negate. I think Con could"ve elaborated on his system of rights more so I had a reason to actually value it, but Pro doesn"t prove that animals should morally be granted rights.. Pro"s arguments don"t really follow and Con highlighted their flaws really well.

I feel like my RFD is too hard on Pro, I think he did pretty well in the rebuttals and is a great debater but my vote was essentially decided in Round 2. Once Con showed me the logical flaws of Pros arguments Pro never recovered.
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
It"s almost as if Pro is skirting the real meat of the issue which is who/what qualifies for moral consideration? I also feel that Con takes this out nicely by pointing out that we have no proof of conscious thought on the part of any animals (this is, I believe, ultimately false in at least a few cases but Pro doesn"t argue disprove it) and as such animals are just essentially biological robots.

Contention three is a blatant appeal to emotion. Again Cons response is right on the money, the emotional value of animals is why they belong to rational agents. Contention four desperately needs a warrant. I don"t understand how the tagline is proven by the argument and evidence given that basically amounts to speciesism is bad because it"s discriminatory which doesn"t follow at all and it certainly doesn"t weigh speciesism on a utilitarian perspective.

A lot of the debate was centered around what a right actually is, and both sides give me a different system but I don"t really have any reason to prefer one over. Pro gives me a ridiculously vague meaning of a moral right ("by the principles of an enlightened conscience.") and Con says that we should only give moral rights to rational individuals but doesn"t really explain why"at all. So I don"t have any real firm ground with which to base moral judgments, but I think b

Pro could have totally turned Cons moral paradigm and delivered (pardon my French) a total bitchslap by pointing out that some animals like Dolphins or Whales are intelligent enough to be considered rational/have consciousness. But Pro instead chooses to argue things such as "A just government would not deny rights to the mentally ill or the brain dead, as it would be "tolerant" and respectful of everyone"s right to life regardless of other factors that may be discriminatory." But this doesn"t follow, it"s literally a warrantless assertion.
Posted by thett3 3 years ago
Good debate.

Vote: Waxwing wins.


I think, and Con showed, a lot of Pros arguments were very circular or not so strongly thought out. A typical example is this statement from R4:

"If, for example, I pass a law against inhumanely killing animals for food, then the animal has a claim, which arises from the law, against being inhumanely killed for food. The law in this case enables the claim. And, if the law comes before the right, then you don"t need consent to attain the right, because the law is being imposed on you, it is not a right your choosing to make into law. Ultimately, it is through such man-made laws that animals can get rights."

But that"s ridiculous. The resolution is asking if a just government should recognize animal rights"saying that a government can make laws and then animals will have claims under it doesn"t mean they should. Clearly the debate belongs in the abstract. Pro also makes a lot of weird/semantical arguments (like prohibitions against killing livestock qualify as animal rights) but I think it"s clear the debate is meant to be judged based on if animals deserve rights morally, not if they"re actually legally entitled to them currently.

Pro starts off by arguing that animals should have rights because the current legal system has the required mechanisms in place to make is possible, but this as Con points out is no argument for animal rights at all. Pros contention two is better, but I don"t really have a warrant for how harming somethings interests or harming them emotionally is a rights violation. Harms are not necessarily rights violations, like Con points out his girlfriend could ditch him whenever she wants and subsequently harm him a great deal but she isn"t violating his rights.
Posted by yoyopizza 3 years ago
Why would anyone accept this debate?
Posted by bsh1 3 years ago
@GDawg, what do you mean?
Posted by GDawg 3 years ago
Might makes right? Nice guy
Posted by Ragnar 3 years ago
Very good setup.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by thett3 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments