The Instigator
Con (against)
5 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
1 Points

Animal rights

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/6/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 646 times Debate No: 67915
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




They shouldn't have rights


Animals should have rights to live a good life and be taken care of. I will say that animal ownership should be restricted to people that can afford to have them. Nobody on welfare should be allowed to have a pet and nobody with a history of animal abuse should be able to own a pet. Animals deserve basic rights afterall we give them to so called humans.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to pro for accepting. I'll start with my case then move to responding to his last round.

== Case ==

Justice is a system by which people determine their obligations to each other; therefore it is not a natural entity, but a social construct.If justice is based in natural facts, then we have no reason for thinking that any normative statements are true. Mackie:[1]

  • “The argument from relativity has as its premise the … variation in moral codes from one society to another … and … the differences in moral beliefs between … groups … within a complex com­munity. … radical differences between … moral judgments make it difficult to treat … [them] as apprehensions of objective truths. … Disagreement about moral codes seems to reflect people's … participation in different ways of life. … moral heretics and … reformers, … have turned against the established rules … of their own communities for moral reasons, and often for moral reasons that we would endorse. But this can … be understood as the extension, … of rules to which they already adhered as arising out of an existing way of life. …”

In order to avoid such relativism, justice is premised on contractual obligations that actors have to each other, because allocations of due are communal matters. Gauthier 1[2]:

  • “Moral principles are introduced as the objects of … agreement among … persons. Such agreement is hypothetical, in supposing a pre-moral context for the adoption of moral rules … But the parties to agreement are real, determinate individuals, distinguished by their … situations, and concerns. … [Since] they … agree to constrain … their choices, … they acknowledge a distinction between what they may and may not do. As rational persons …, they recognize a place for mutual constraint, and so for a moral dimension in their affairs.”

If morality doesn’t actually obligate us, then we have no reason to accept its principles and skepticism follows since individuals would reject other theories. Instead, we formulate what we are due from contracts with others. Also prefer contractarianism since it is based on consent—implicit in acceptance of a contract—which ultimately determines what qualifies as a net good or harm, i.e. whether intercourse is rape or if euthanasia is murder.

I contend that humans have no contractual obligations to animals.

First, animals have no language to formulate contracts within their own communities, let alone ours. Animals have repeatedly been proven to be incapable of symbolic communication, which is necessary to convey the importance of a given contract and willingly accept it. Even apes who are apparently able to use sign language only do so as a form of repetition, acting instinctively to do what will best achieve immediate reward, which is insufficient to formulate contracts.

Second, contracts must be based on mutual benefit. Gauthier 2:

  • “a contractarian assume[s] a concern derivative from the benefits of agreement, and those benefits are determined by the effect that each person can have on the interests of her fellows. Only beings whose capacities are roughly equal can expect to find cooperation beneficial Among unequals, one party may benefit most by coercing the other, and would have no reason to refrain. only within the context of mutual benefit can our condemnation appeal to a rationally grounded morality.”

This excludes animals for 3 reasons:

  • a) Our treatment of animals is unreciprocal - they don’t perform tests on us or use our skin for leather, so even if both groups stand to benefit from affirming, the content of their obligations will still inherently differ.
  • b) Animals don’t benefit from our exploitation of them, so there’s no mutual benefit on their behalf that would convince them to rationally accept a contract with us.
  • c) We would have no benefit from respecting their rights: only animals stand to gain from affirming, but that’s not a mutual benefit. Even a consequentialist impact cannot link to this since the impact would still only reinforce the importance of our obligations to humans, not animals.
Now, let's go to pro's arguments.

== Rebuttals ==

A lot of it is him just clarifying on specifics to his position (people on welfare shouldn't own pets, no one with a history of animal abuse should own pets, etc.), so I won't touch on that since it's relevance to the debate at hand is minimal: we're talking about all animals here, not just household pets.

The one statement he does make is that "Animals deserve basic rights afterall we give them to so called humans.". The problem is that rights aren't distributed like that. Rights aren't distributed by a state of identity, i.e. we're human so we get rights, you're animals so you get rights, etc., but rather they're distributed on our ability to grasp ethical premises. Cohen [3]:

  • “Patterns of conduct are not at issue. Animals do … exhibit remarkable behavior at times. Conditioning, fear, instinct, and intelligence all contribute to species survival. Membership in a community of moral agents nevertheless remains impossible for them. Actors subject to moral judgment must be capable of grasping the generality of an ethical premise in a practical syllogism. Humans act immorally often enough, but only they … can discern, by applying some moral rule to the facts of a case, that a given act ought or ought not to he performed. The moral restraints imposed by humans on themselves are thus highly abstract and are often in conflict with the self-interest of the agent. Communal behavior among animals, … does not approach autonomous morality in this fundamental sense. Genuinely moral acts have an internal as well as an .external dimension. Thus, in law, an act can be criminal only when the guilty deed, … is done with a guilty mind, …”
This becomes problematic for pro because only humans are capable of this. Since only humans are capable of grasping ethical premises, and animals are incapable of doing so, it means animals aren't deserving of rights. Cohen 2:

  • "Between species humans on the one hand and cats or rats on the other--the morally relevant differences are enormous, and almost universally appreciated. Humans engage in moral reflection; are morally autonomous; are members of moral communities, recognizing just claims against their own interest. Human beings do have rights; theirs is a moral status very different from that of cats or rats"

== Conclusion ==

To conclude, I've established a very clear case for why animals ought not have rights, and responded to my opponent's claims as to why they deserve rights. The ballot is a clear negative vote.

== Sources ==

[1] J. L. Mackie [John Leslie Mackie (1917-1981) was a philosopher, originally from Sydney, Australia. From 1967 until his death, he was a fellow of University College, Oxford. He was in 1974 elected a fellow of the British Academy.], “Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong” The Subjectivity of Values.

[2] Gauthier, David P. Morals by Agreement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986. Print.

[3] Cohen, Carl. "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research", New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 315, issue 14, October 1986, pp. 865–870.


Animals are a source of joy and are an integral part of the environment. They live here on earth with us and have as much right to be here as we do. Nobody has the right to hurt them for no reason. I have had dogs all of my life and they have a right to be fed, receive medical care, and be provided a good home. I also had a parrot for years and he was a great source of joy to me. He certainly had the right to be happy and be cared for. All animals should be free from suffering and we need to respect them.
Debate Round No. 2


TheRaceTo9K forfeited this round.


I see you have the ability to quote texts on sociology and philosophy but you do not seem to have ever studied them. These are theories that have been put forth over the decades and centuries and anyone can have a theory. The problem with this is that many ideas are idiotic and contrary to what most people with a sense of moral responsibility and justice would consider ethical.
Humans do not only have a social obligation to all humans, they have an obligation to every living thing on this planet. Every animal has a right to be here. If they did not, they would never have been here in the first place. Social contracts include responsibility to the earth itself and every living thing on this planet. No, I did not look up that theory, it is one that any humane, intelligent person would accept. If you had ever studied ethics you would understand that there are universal ethics. These are ideas that almost everyone on the planet would accept as being right. I am not a religious person so I am not basing my views on any religion. But, lets face it, if I went on youTube and proclaimed my parrot as the next savior because he talks at least 5 million people would convert to Parroticism.
Animals have rights because they are living things. They feel love, they feel pain, they feel happiness, and depression. We have counted on animals for our very existence for centuries. Where would George Washington and the first U.S. Army have been without horses, let alone farmers, mail carriers, merchants, etc? I also have to point out that imperative research has been done using animals. I am a scientist, I don't participate in it but it has contributed to the health and welfare of mankind.
You have no right to determine what species should have rights or not. You have borrowed your theories from people that have no other qualifications than that they once lived and someone put their ideas in a textbook or on the internet. One more thing to point out, serial killers usually agree with your ideas. In most cases the abuse of animals has been noted in the early life of a serial killer.
Debate Round No. 3


TheRaceTo9K forfeited this round.


CitizenL forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by debater409 3 years ago
I am against animal cruelty and I do think they should be treated with respect. But I think this whole debate about humans harming and wild and the need for us to die off to restore the wild animals is just absurd. Treat animals kindly, yes. Treat them as superior to humans, no.
Posted by Valar_Dohaeris 3 years ago
or not, im not sure
Posted by Valar_Dohaeris 3 years ago
the really should
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:51 
Reasons for voting decision: Con's single round argument was systematic and pretty brutal. Con made the case that animals are morally inferior to the point where they do not deserve rights. Pro had 3 rounds of arguments that amounted to not much more than bare assertions and stating the affirmative stance. Con even refuted an aspect of Pro's assertions which Pro went onto the repeat several times, stating the same thing. Pro get conduct for the round forfeits, but Con's arguments were much, much stronger than Pro's weak assertions. Source points to Con, too, because the sources used really added some meat to the discussion and arguments involving morality.