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Animal rights are meaningless from a secular viewpoint

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/27/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,081 times Debate No: 90282
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
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Introduction:This is my first attempt at a debate on DDO, and I look forward to an interesting and engaging conversation.In this debate, we will be arguing from a purely secular viewpoint; Con cannot use a religious argument such as "Religion X states that animals should not be killed". Likewise, Pro cannot use the argument "Religion Y permits the killing of animals".I, Pro, will argue that the concept of animals being entitled to rights is arbitrary through the lens of a secular worldview - it is not morally wrong to violate any of the 'rights' you would assign to an animal, and that instead, behavior towards other species should be based on survival of the fittest and the stronger oppressing the weak.Con will argue that there is moralreason to avoid the oppression, harming, or killing of animals, outside of spiritual or religious views, and that we are obliged to treat them with certain rights.First round is acceptance and introductions only. Burden of proof, should there be any, will be shared.Definitions:secular - adj:denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.right - n: a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way. (For this debate, we will be arguing primarily on animal rights, and we will be referring to moral, rather than legal, entitlement.)I look forward to a lively debate!


I am looking foward to this debate and I accept. You may make the first speech in round 2 and then I assume I will follow with my constructive/rubuttal?
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Con for a quick response, and I also sincerely apologize for the poor formatting in my first speech. (It happened as an accident as I was editing a typo in the text.) I wish both of us the best of luck.

Con's question is valid, and I forgot to mention it in my opening round: yes, I will make my speech and Con will make his rebuttal, and the debate will continue as such.

Opening Argument:

The widely accepted and even more widely known Darwinian Theory of Evolution states that all species evolved through chance and random mutation through the process of natural selection. Natural selection is the process in which organisms with more beneficial genes outlast those that do not, thus increasing the amount of beneficiary genes in the gene pool.

What is important to note is that the process of natural selection is void of what we know as morality. When a wolf is eating a deer for nourishment, it does not consider the deer's rights as a living, functioning individual - the wolf focuses on its own need for survival. When two lions fight for territory and ownership of a pride, and one is defeated and killed by the other, it does not complain about its inherent rights being violated, for that is how the natural world functions.

While it may be beneficial for those of the
same species to treat each other well, and thus improve the chance of collectively surviving, and there may even be instances where two species behave with mutual respect in a symbiotic relationship, there is no need to treat all species in this matter.


-Throughout natural selection, the process through which species evolve, morality is absent.
-We, humans, are a product of natural selection, as are all other animals.
-Therefore, is is unnecessary to treat animals with rights.

This is my defending argument for my statement in round 1: that animal rights are arbitrary, and it is not morally wrong to harm animals.

I look forward to my opponent's response!


Side note: I forgot to mention in round 1 that the term "animals" should be used to describe specifically non-human animals. This clarification was made in order to avoid an argument on semantics. If Con prefers, he can request that we use the term "animals" to refer to both humans and non-human animals, but Pro does not believe this is necessary.


Hello to my opponent and thank you for letting us debate. The resolution is: Animal Rights are meaningless from a secular viewpoint.

before I start with the debate it is essential to define the following term:

Secular: a belief that consists of nothing religious or spiritual

Con must prove that animal rights are not meaningless from a secular viewpoint in order to win this debate. Pro wins by proving that all secular views of animal rights are meaningless.

Opening argument:

1) A secular viewpoint advocates for a higher moral standard than a religion, and therefore, offers a more compassionate moral argument for animal rights: Atheists make up .1% of the prison population. That is 1 in 1000 persons. This is compared to the 12% of persons that consider themselves secular in America. This shows that persons of secular beliefs value the legal system more compared to persons of religious beliefs. This would conclude us to believe that secular persons, more often than not, think that the legal system is not meaningless.

2) Defining animal rights: My opponent brought up the argument that a wolf could care less about the rights of a deer he/she is eating. But I would also like to take into consideration that a wolf needs to live. And in order for that wolf to live he/she needs to eat. This is not animal cruelty, rather the natural cycle of life. Furthermore, the wolf is not cognitively aware that the deer has rights. Humans are cognitive being's and know the difference between right and wrong through a morally accepted social contract; our legal system. You could argue that humans would still act regardless, and yes they might, but most will not due to consequentialism or the results resulting from their actions.

3) One could make the argument that animal rights are meaningless in a religious viewpoint: Although I avoid and refrain from using biblical evidence, I think it may be used in this case. In genesis 1:28 is states that we [humans] should subdue the earth. The bible was originally written in hebrew and in hebrew the translation for subdue is "to trample on". God was referring to the animals and the creations that he had "created". Trampling on animals does not promote animal rights.

4) Is ought fallacy: My opponent is arguing that because secular persons have no moral guidance, then they would obviously be abusive to animals. But this falls into an is-ought fallacy. My opponent is stating that because secular persons have no moral guidance, then they ought to be abusive to animals. But how would you consider being abusive to animals moral or immoral in the first place. Morality is all subjective and only decided by you and yourself alone. The misconception that guides religious persons is that they would be barbaric and draconic without a holy book or spiritual being. The holy book and spiritual being they believe in isn't the only thing keeping them from killing everything in sight. They are also bound by what others think and the consequences of their actions going back to my point earlier of consequentialism.

Rebuttal to opening argument: (opponents claim’s are underlined)

1) Animals cannot coexist and will not treat other species well: My opponent is clearly contradicting himself. He states that animals will create mutual benefits but then he jumps to that they won't? This argument is very confusing. There is a reason we are not in total anarchy right now. Obviously animals do not believe in a higher being to our current knowledge. The only reason they would harm another animal is by gaining something for them. As violent as it might be, it is essential to their survival. If anything humans "kill more than they eat". Animals only do what is necessary to survive.

2) Darwins theory of natural selection: This is a straw man argument because I never made the claim on the theory of natural selection or evolution. Secular simply means not believing in a religious concept. Being secular doesn't necessarily mean you believe in the teaching of Charles Darwin. I would dismiss his argument on natural selection as null and void because it has nothing to do and has no correlation with my argument.

3) "We, humans, are a product of natural selection, as are all other animals. Therefore, is is unnecessary to treat animals with rights.": My opponent is making another is-ought fallacy by assuming if humans were produced by natural selection, the they ought to treat animals without rights. What the real question becomes is what is actually considered subjectively right. Furthermore as I stated, Darwins theory of natural selection is not needed for my case so this point is null.

Thank you and I urge a negative vote.


Debate Round No. 2


I thank Con for his reply!

Con’s Arguments:

I will attempt to summarize the arguments that Con has made in the previous round – if I have unwittingly straw-manned or omitted any of his arguments, I urge him to inform me.

Argument 1: Statistically, secular people behave more morally upright than non-secular folk.

Argument 2: Humans, unlike animals, are cognitive beings, and should therefore choose not to harm animals.

Argument 3: This is the argument that confused me, for two reasons: firstly, the argument that animal rights are meaningless is what I, Pro, am trying to argue, so I don’t understand why Con would bring it up (without a counterargument for it). Secondly, as stated in the rules in round 1 which Pro set and Con accepted, neither of us will be making reference to religious reason to avoid or promote animal rights. Therefore, I will be ignoring this argument unless Con can provide further explanation.

Argument 4: Pro (i.e. myself) is arguing that secular people have no moral guidance. Morality is subjective. Religion is not the only moral standard, and other things can bind a person to their moral values, such as the consequences of their actions.


Argument 1: Con makes a case for secular people, and how they may care for legal laws to a greater extent than those who are religious, and argues that a secular viewpoint is in fact more moral than a religious one. This may indeed be true in many cases; however, whether or not secular people believe the legal system is meaningless does not affect the argument of this debate. It is fully possible for an individual to be entirely law-abiding and still morally corrupt, choosing to obey the laws of society simply to avoid punishment and being thrown in prison. Therefore, this argument does not promote Con’s case in any way.

Argument 2: Con mentions that humans are aware of the consequences of their actions, and thus should choose not to harm animals. He does not specify what sort of consequences he means, but I can think of two main ones: through harming the animal, he may consequently harm himself, or (obviously) harm the animal or other animals.

Now, if Human X chooses not to hurt animals in order to avoid hurting himself (e.g.: causing a species to go extinct may inadvertently harm him), then it may very well be a valid reason – however, it will not be a moral reason, which is what Con needs to argue for. Consider the example of a person choosing not to kill his neighbor’s dog. He may choose to do so simply because he does not want to be attacked by his neighbor or the police.

This is not morality, this is selfish interest; Human X is not acting based on standards for what is right or wrong, but to act on his own preference and preservation. This does not advance Con’s case for a moral reason to avoid persecuting animals. On the contrary, it supports my view: that rights are arbitrary because their existence is based on personal preference and interest.

On the other hand, he may believe it is wrong to cause the really adorable dog pain and suffering. This would be a moral reason. This brings us to the next point: humans may also choose not to behave in a certain way to an animal because the consequences would harm the animal. However, if Con makes this argument, he is begging the question. Why should it be morally wrong to harm animals? Because, he answers, it is morally wrong to harm animals. This argument is circular, and doesn’t stand either.

Argument 3:

As stated and explained above, I did not understand this argument, and I will therefore be ignoring it.

Argument 4:

My opponent employs the straw man fallacy on my argument. I did not state that secular people should abuse animals, and I did not state that secular people have no moral guidance. His argument, therefore, falls flat immediately, but I shall elaborate on it nonetheless. If morality is subjective, as Con claims, then rights really are arbitrary - moral views that are based on an individual and the consequences that would follow. (Again, I refrain from referencing religion, according to the rules that were set in round 1.)

Rebuttals to Con’s Rebuttals:

Argument 1: My opponent misunderstands my first argument. I cited symbiotic relationships as a reason that animals may choose not to harm each other – this is not a moral reason, but rather a mutual ceasefire by both sides, since both sides wish to survive. However, if any species wishes to survive, it must, as Con himself admits, kill and eat animals. Whether or not humans kill more than they eat is irrelevant to this debate. The fact remains that an animal's 'right' to not be killed remains violable.

Arguments 2-3: Again, my opponent misunderstands - I did not claim that all secular people believe in the Theory of Evolution. I assumed, however, that my opponent did, since Darwinnian evolution is by far the most popular alternative to religious creation accounts. If he does not, for whatever reason, it is still an undeniable and observed fact that survival of the fittest occurs in the wild - even creationists cannot argue this, and therefore my argument stands. I can revise it, if my opponent wishes, to this:

-Throughout the natural world, survival of the fittest occurs, and morality is absent
-Humans are a part of the natural world
-Therefore, it is unnecessary to treat animals with rights


My opponent's arguments have consisted of two main ideas: firstly, he references secular and religious peoples' morality, or lack thereof, which is irrelevant to how animals should be treated. His other argument is that morality is subjective and should be based on the consequences of action - if the consequence he speaks of is for the one commiting the action, then it is not morality, and any rights should theoretically be able to be violated if it benefits the perpetrator. If the consequence he speaks of regards the harmed animal, then his argument is circular, and he begs the question.

For similar reasons, Con's counterarguments fail: they either do not contribute to the topic, or they rely on consequential reasons not to harm an animal, which still do not give valid reason for an animal's rights as explained above.

I look forward to my opponent's response!


In this round I will go over my opponents attacks on my claims/arguments. I will then go back to reaffirm the attacks I made on his rebuttal that he tried to refute. I will then go back to my case in order to re-negate the resolution. I will then attempt to crystallise all of our claims in the case and relate mine back to topicality.

Opponents attacks on my claims:

1) My opponent states that because the legal system does not tie into the overall subjective morality, then it is not relevant to this case. But our legal system is made up of social contract. Social contract is a combination of all morals made up in a society. So I will have to fundamentally disagree and say that my comparison stands.

2) I made the claim that because humans are cognitive beings and they develop morals through society, then they will choose, on there own free will, not to harm something if there is no gain. Unless an animal or human is mentally psychotic then there would be no use in doing an action in which there is no benefit. Because most humans would see no benefit in harming animals to the point of cruelty, this point stands.

3) Onto my claim that religion demotes animal rights. Secularism is the opposite of spiritualism and religion. Therefore if i am arguing for secularism and arguing against religion on the topic of animals rights. If you are taking away my attacks on religious views of animal rights then you are taking away the core of my argument. Religion is the very thing that secularism combats. If all examples that are religious are considered null and void than secularism stands because it is the only system besides religious systems. Therefore subjectively and objectively secularist beliefs on animal rights are morally right no matter what they advocate because it is the only system if you expel religious examples.

My opponent went on to state that according to my view, morals are arbitrary because its made up of peoples personal opinions of morals. But my opponent is making an is-ought fallacy here. He is stated that if humans have morals, then they ought to derive them from something else rather than society or themselves. My opponent has stated no proof that morals must be derived from something else so this point sands as void. Furthermore if secularists are not currently morally blinded or misguided. Why are the incarceration rates for secularists so low (see first speech for evidence) compared to the ratio of non-secularists?

4) My opponent made a straw man with my last claim that secularism binds people to moral guidance. He stated that I advocated that “religion is not the only moral standard”. Yet I never even argued that religion was a moral standard in the first place.

My opponent stated I made a straw man for arguing against the claim: “I did not state that secular people have no moral guidance”. So if he argues that secular people do have moral guidance, then why do animal rights fall flat of that moral guidance. Your argument is of natural selection but this is a straw man argument on your behalf because I never made any claims surrounding natural selection. You do not have to believe in natural selection to be secular.

Rebuttal to his/her defence of his/her case:

1) My opponent stated that my attack was irrelevant on his first claim because animals are not making moral decisions. But we are talking about humans in this scenario, not animals. Humans make moral decisions. Animals do not. This only supports my case as the resolution is about secular humans.

2) My opponent claimed that not all secular people believe in the Theory of Evolution. He/She then quickly assumed to jumping that I do. The Theory of Evolution is not at debate here. The debate is about morality and the decisions humans make about animals. You cannot compare the Theory of evolution to this case because as you said, not all secular beliefs include the Theory of Evolution. All secularism is, is a refutation of religion, it does not make an argument past it. That is called Atheism. Secularism is the counter argument to religion, and thus does not have to present an actual plan. All secularism does is disprove religion, not prove anything else.

3) My opponent makes another is ought fallacy by saying that if humans are part of the natural world and survival of the fittest occurs, humans ought not to treat animals with rights. Yet this is another straw man because I never asserted the natural selection claim. The whole framework of his case refutes natural selection by default, but I have not made a single claim on/about Darwin’s theory of Evolution or natural selection so these arguments are null and void.

Furthermore even if I made the claim of natural selection his case contradicts natural selection. According to the Theory of Evolution animals must be killed/eaten in order for the evolutionary process to work. But he states: “The fact remains that an animal's 'right' to not be killed remains violable.”


My opponents case goes well into detail. However, he's arguing that morality cannot co-exist with Darwin’s theory of Evolution, a claim I have never made. My opponents flow jumps from Darwin’s theory of evolution to more is-ought fallacy assumptions. He has made straw man and is ought fallacies in both of his speeches. His entire first speech is based on the assumption that secularism equates to natural selection. As I stated earlier secularism is only the refutation of religion. On balance my opponents case has been incoherent with topicality and he/she still refuses to recognise the basis of my case and my points.

Debate Round No. 3


I thank Con for a very interesting first debate for me on DDO!

For this round, I will summarize many of the arguments that have been made as I debate them in this round, since it is the last round. Therefore, this speech will be substantially longer than those that I’ve had before.

Con's Arguments:

Argument 1:

Con's first argument was that secular people are statistically more law-abiding than non-secular people. He mentions social contract, which I shall define using the Oxford Dictionary:

“An implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection.”

My opponent states that social contract is a combination of all morals made up in a society: this is debatable. Nevertheless, I agree with Con that humans in a society sacrifice individual freedoms in return for the state’s protection of their remaining rights.

However, I point out that animals are not active members in our society, and so this argument still falls flat. Animals do not voluntarily sacrifice freedom in return for state protection. Social contract, therefore, does not apply to animals. The comparison between secular people avoiding the harm of other humans in order to preserve their own rights and secular people avoiding the harm of animals to preserve their own rights does not stand. Therefore, this argument doesn't explain why animal rights should not be violated.

Argument 2:

Con’s second argument is one of consequentialism. The basic idea, as I understand it, is that humans should not harm animals because it gives them no benefit. As Con puts it, “most humans would see no benefit in harming animals to the point of cruelty”.

Again, I agree with this statement. However, not all rights are put in place simply because violating them doesn't benefit the perpetrator. An obvious example is rape. Any civil human would agree that I have a victim has the right not to be raped, even if the perpetrator won't be caught, and even if he enjoys it.

The point is, failing to see a benefit in doing something does not equal a moral obligation not to do it. In the case of animals, just because most humans see no benefit in treating animals cruelly does not mean it is morally wrong.

Con’s argument is a good one against flat out animal cruelty, but it does not apply to this topic.

Argument 3:

As I understand, Con intends to undermine religion in order to advocate secularism. In Round 2, he cites the Jewish Torah/Christian Bible in saying that they do not promote animal rights.

I would first like to point out that Judaism and Christianity are not the only religions. Buddhism, for example, encourages its followers to inflict a minimal amount of harm to animals.

Even if Con’s argument that religion doesn't promote animal rights was valid, this does not apply to the topic. We are not arguing about secularism, but rather animal rights from the perspective of secularism.

Con begins by stating that Judaism/Christianity don't promote animal rights. As I stated above, these are not the only religions – however, let’s say I gave Con the claim that no religion promotes animal rights, and secularism is the only belief system that promotes animal rights. So what? You cannot conclude anything about the existence of animal rights through that statement alone. Therefore, I still hold that this argument fails.

Argument 3.5(?):

Con goes on to talk about my attack on morals being arbitrary from his POV. This is a different argument from the one before, so I’ve put it under a different heading. He basically states (here and elsewhere) that people derive their morals from society.

(This would be a very interesting debate topic. However, it is not this debate topic.)

If secular people do derive their morals from society, as Con says, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their morals will tell them to avoid harming animals. This brings us back to the original debate: whether or not there is moral reason to avoid harming animals.

Argument 4:

Con attacks my claim, in which I say that I never stated that secular people have no moral guidance.

If I am arguing that secular people have moral guidance, he says, then why can’t they believe in animal rights?

The answer to his question is what I’ve been arguing the entire time. Pro’s argument is that secular people have no need to follow animal rights, not whether or not they have moral guidance. I certainly do not believe that all secular people are inhumane robots.

Pro’s Argument:

In round 2, I used natural selection as my main argument when I introduced it. Firstly, I would like to note that natural selection is not a belief that only atheists hold – plenty of religious people have no issue with harmonizing their faith with the Theory of Evolution either. (E.g.: Francis S. Collins, geneticist and leader of the Human Genome Project.)

Therefore, when I presented this argument, I did not, in any way, mean to associate the ToE with secularism or atheism. I simply assumed, and this I believe I did quite logically, that a secular opponent would believe in evolution.

Since Con evidently does not want me to use ToE as an argument, so I revised my argument in round 3. While ToE is highly controversial, basic survival of the fittest in the natural world is a widely accepted fact, and I don’t expect Con to argue it.

This does not greatly affect my original argument, since the main aspect of ToE which I originally used for my argument was survival of the fittest anyway.

Therefore, my case follows:

Throughout the natural world, animals and sometimes humans (e.g.: those that are isolated from civilization) compete for survival. In this process, morality is absent. Therefore, there is no visible reason to see why this should be changed, or why we should treat animals differently.

Con’s Attacks on Pro’s Case:

Con has attacked my case with three different arguments.

Argument 1:

Con attacks my supposed claim that animals cannot coexist peacefully in round 2. I never made this claim. What I said was that some animals kill each other for survival (which Con recognized in round 2).

It is also worth noting that not all violent actions animals make are necessary for survival: an example is infanticide. Hanuman langurs are an example. Clearly, the animal committing the act of infanticide is not considering the rights of the offspring he is killing, and so my point of lack of morality in the absent world stands.

Argument 2:

My opponent’s point about evolution was valid, and, as stated above, I dropped ToE from my argument and replaced it with basic survival of the fittest, which doesn’t really affect my argument. I believe this is in order. I chose a scientifically observed fact that is universally accepted. Thus my argument stands.

Argument 3:

Con criticizes me in both rounds for using natural selection as a base, even after I dropped it. He has yet to present an argument against survival of the fittest. He makes two other claims in round 3:

-The whole framework of his case refutes natural selection by default;

It doesn't. Natural selection is not refuted by my case. I happen to have no problem with the theory of evolution.

-…his case contradicts natural selection. According to ToE animals must be killed/eaten ... But he states: “ animal's 'right' to not be killed remains violable.”;

This is not a contradiction. The definition of violable is “capable or likely to be violated”. In this case I mean that the animal’s ‘right’ to be killed and eaten can be violated.


Overall, I must say this has been a very interesting debate, and once again I thank Con for accepting.

I have defended my case. I hold that my argument stands against Con’s attacks on it, and I believe I have successfully refuted Con’s arguments in light of the resolution.

Therefore, I urge a vote for Pro.

Thank you for your time.




Yugandda forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by canis 2 years ago
Animal rights are meaningless from any viewpoint...Life is meanningfull from any viewpoint.
Posted by JoaquinBarzi 2 years ago
Well, if you accepted this debate, you accepted to defend animal rights from a SECULAR viewpoint, as the title clearly said.
Posted by Yugandda 2 years ago
I just now noticed the rule saying that religious arguments cannot be brought up but this is very confusing if I am arguing against a non-secular standpoint.
No votes have been placed for this debate.