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The Contender
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Justice Requires the Recognition of Animal Rights

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/5/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,698 times Debate No: 19696
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (1)




Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You can judge a society by how they treat their weakest members." This quotation was revolutionary and inspired many different social justice movements that saw greater racial tolerance, expanded rights for foster children, and the cultivation of religious understanding.

In the spirit of Ghandi's life work I think that it is critical that we recognize the value that all members play within a society and therefore I stand resolved that Justice requires the recognition of animal rights.

In order to offer clarity in today's debate I offer the following definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Justice: the quality of being fair and reasonable

Recognition: Acknowledgment of something's existence, validity, or legality

Animal Rights: The rights to humane treatment claimed on behalf of animals

My value in today's debate will be Justice and my value criterion will be Animal Rights

Now move with me to my first contention:

Contention One: Animal Rights are a critical piece of modern American Public Policy

It is important to note that affirming the resolution and recognizing animal rights does not mean that hunting would be completely banned, that there could be no animal testing, and that you couldn't have a steak for dinner tonight. Instead the recognition of animal rights means that we acknowledge that animals have value and should be respected. In a similar sense the United States recognizes human rights and has standards for ways that people can be treated. Recognizing the value of human life means that we aren't permitted to kill someone randomly on the street but doesn't mean that killing someone is always illegal. An example of this is that international standards like the Geneva Convention do not make war illegal but look for ways to minimize the frequency and the extent of wars.

Our country works diligently to ensure that animals are recognized.

The USDA ( described in 2011 that:

The "U.S. government places restrictions on the size of Controlled Animal Feeding Operations such that animals cannot be shoved into spaces that are deemed to be too cramped." Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates what antibiotics can be given to animals such that animals are not harmed. Furthermore, the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 which is enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA regulates ways that animals could be tested guaranteeing certain species a "certain standard of care and treatment."

We can all imagine what terrible things would happen to animals if these protections were not in place. A society without any of these protections would be unjust and unsafe for humans. It is clear that we have taken a lot of strides toward the protection of animal rights but there are still many steps that we must take to ensure justice for both animals and humans.

Contention Two: The recognition of Animal Rights is critical for the betterment of the economy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote in 2011 ( that, "The agriculture community has important economic reasons to be concerned and informed about food safety requirements and issues. To be accepted in the marketplace, agricultural products must meet governmental food safety standards."

Contention Three: The recognition of Animal Rights is crucial for the health and viability of humankind

When we eat an animal we take in the toxins that the animal has consumed. If we don't recognize animal rights to clean and safe environments we will harm humankind. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote in 2011 that (, "Fish taken from polluted waters might be hazardous to your health. Eating fish containing chemical pollutants may cause birth defects, liver damage, cancer, and other serious health problems. Fish may be exposed to chemical pollutants in the water and in the food they eat. They may take up some of the pollutants into their bodies. The pollutants are found in the skin, fat, internal organs, and sometimes muscle tissue of the fish. The states and the four U.S. Territories and Native American tribes have primary responsibility for protecting their residents from the health risks of consuming contaminated noncommercially caught fish and wildlife."

The EPA is arguing that if we don't recognize animal rights then humans will suffer the consequences. The recognition of animal rights therefore preserves our food sources making our food safer and healthier for us to eat.

According to nutritionist Greg Hottinger, RD: (

Today's chickens are bred and raised to reach the supermarket as quickly as possible. Instead of farms, the chicken industry uses warehouse-like structures to provide the living environment for as many as 100,000 chickens at a time. These chickens are fed rendered meat scraps, including hog and cattle byproducts, and waste products including their own manure. The end result of these large-scale, "efficient" operations is chicken meat that is relatively inexpensive to the consumer – that is, if the consumer is only considering the monetary measure. The cost is enormous when we factor in our health. Eighty percent of supermarket broiler chickens are infected with the bacteria campylobacter and twenty percent with salmonella. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions create a more stressful environment and greater disease rates among poultry, necessitating the use of antibiotics.

Contention Four The recognition of Animal Rights is key to preserving justice

Justice is defined as giving what is due. To act justly is to act in a way that is respectful of the needs of all living beings involved. To evaluate what is just we must consider both the impact that an action will have on people and the impact on animals.

Dr. Edward Younkins of the Free Liberty Press explains in 2000

"John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) said that it was inconsistent with justice to be partial. The public good is promoted when justice is impartially administered because it is to each person's benefit that no injustice be done to him, so it is also to his benefit that the principle that makes him secure should not be violated for other men, because such a violation would weaken his own security. Justice requires rule by known general principles of conduct, which apply without exception, to all regardless of status or wealth, in an unknown number of future instances. It follows that all citizens should have equal access to legal recourse in the event of an attack on their life, property, or freedom."

It is easy to see this within my second and third contentions where I proved that not respecting animal rights is harmful to the economy and to human health and safety.

In conclusion, as John Stuart Mill wrote in his book "Principles of Political Economy", "The reasons for legal intervention in favour of children, apply not less strongly to the case of those unfortunate slaves and victims of the most brutal part of mankind, the lower animals."

Thank you, and I now stand open for cross-examination.


I negate and value Justice, defined by Aristotle as giving each his due. Accept my definition of Justice over her definition because it is more clear and is clearly weighable; i.e. it is easy to determine whether or not someone is receiving his or her due, but it is not as easy to weigh reasonableness. Moreover, my definition is the basis of her definition; we can only say that an action is fair if it gives each what he is due.

Thus, the burden of the affirmative is to prove that animals are due rights. Any discussions of rights or goods outside of these guidelines is clearly irresolutional and should not be considered.

I will accept the rest of my opponents definitions.

Any notion of Justice depends on fairly distributing goods in a proper context. When humans join a society, they do so to provide reciprocal protections of rights and distribute negative rights to all. However, extra rights are granted on the basis of responsibilities; for example, the President of the United States has more rights than ordinary citizens due because he has greater responsibilities. So, in human society, rights are distributed in accordance with responsibilities. Thus, my value criterion for this round is fairly distributing rights and responsibilities.

My sole contention is that Justice does not require the consideration of animal rights because animals do not have the ability to rationally join society.

Animals are not capable of joining the social contract. The social contract is an agreement between individuals and the state that is based on reciprocity. Individuals in society relinquish some liberties to the state, and consent to follow the state's laws, in exchange for the protection of their natural rights. Joining the social contract is contingent upon one's ability to consent to follow laws; if one does not follow rules, then one's rights are not protect. For example, we violate the right to liberty of felons because they openly flout the moral codes created to protect the rights of all. Animals are not capable of joining the social contract, thus indicating that their rights ought not be considered. John Rawls of Harvard University explains, "No account is given of the right conduct in regard to animals and the rest of nature. A conception of justice is but one part of a moral view. While I have not maintained that the capacity for a sense of justice is necessary in order to be owed the duties of justice, it does seem that we are not required to give strict justice anyway to creatures lacking this capacity. But it does not follow that there are no requirements at all in regard to them, nor in our relations with the natural world…They are outside the scope of the theory of justice, and it does not seem possible to extend the contract doctrine so as to include them in a natural way." (Rawls, John, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. A Theory of Justice (1971).)

Moreover, animals are incapable of consenting to society because they lack rationality. Professor Joel Fineberg explains, "Well-trained dogs sometimes let their masters down; they anticipate punishment or other manifestations of displeasure; they grovel and whimper, and they even make crude efforts at redress and reconciliation. But do they feel remorse and bad conscience? They have been conditioned to associate manifestations of displeasure with departures from a norm, and this is a useful way of keeping them in line, but they haven't the slightest inkling of the reasons for the norm. They don't understand why departures from the norm are wrong, or why their masters become angry or disappointed. They have a concept perhaps of the mala prohibita—the act that is wrong because it is prohibited, but they have no notion of the mala in se—the act that is prohibited because it is wrong. Even in respect to the mala prohibita their understanding is grossly deficient, for they have no conception of rightful authority. For dogs, the only basis of their master's "right" to be obeyed is his de facto power over them. Even when one master steals a beast from another, or when an original owner deprives it of its natural freedom in the wild, the animal will feel no moralized emotion, such as outraged propriety or indignation." (Fienberg, Joel, Professor of Religion. "Human Duties and Animal Rights." On the Fifth Day. Eds. Morris and Fox (1986).)

On to my opponent's case.

In contention 1, she explains two important concepts. First, respecting animal rights does not mean that we cannot eat them or use them for research. This is key in the round because she contradicts this in her third contention. She next asserts that the United States protects animal rights. First, I would like to see a source for this; the one she provides is a link to trade statistics. Second, even if the United States does protect animal rights, that does not mean that it is required to do so. This resolution stipulates that we are debating about whether any nation (not just the United States), should protect animal rights, not whether it does. Finally, this is irresolutional insofar as we are discussing Justice, a universal concept, and not just the United States.

Group contentions 2 and 3, in which she discusses the economy and health. Please remember that, as I mentioned earlier, these are irresolutional. They do not discuss whether or not animals are receiving their due; rather; they discuss what is good for humanity. They are thus outside the bounds of the resolution and cannot be considered in the round.

Even if you disagree, there are still flaws with both of these contentions. In C2, she discusses the economy. First, just because something is economically beneficial does not mean that it is just. Slavery, for example, was extremely beneficial for the economy of the South, but it was clearly unjust. Moreover, she never even provides any statistics or evidence that animal rights would, in fact, promote the well-being of the economy. The quote that she gives says that we must meet governmental food safety standards. This is entirely irrelevant to her contention, meaning that C2 is just an unwaranted assertion. Finally, I would posit that respecting animal rights would harm trade because it would reduce the amount of meat that farmers sell and thus harm the U.S. economy.

In C3, she notes that eating meat is bad for health. Note that this contradicts C1, in which she explicitly states that eating meat would not be banned in the affirmative world, so all of these problems still exist on her side of the resolution. Moreover, the problems that she discusses, including pollution and contamination of meat, can easily be solved through environmental regulations and legislation passing new safety standards. Respecting animal rights is not even necessary to achieve these ends, so this position is entirely nonunique. (Note that this does not require the respect of animal rights: she is arguing that if we improve conditions, we respect human rights. That means that I can still achieve these ends because then negative world would do these things in order to promote human, not animal, welfare.)

Finally, in C4, notes that recognition of Animal Rights is key to preserving justice. However, her only evidence to promote this is an out of context Mill quote. John Stuart Mill was not an ardent supporter of animal rights; his utilitarian philosophy was written to benefit humans. Moreover, she never explains why animals deserve to have rights; she merely asserts that justice cannot be impartial. In fact, I would turn this sentiment because we require humans to join the social contract before we grant them rights. Thus, according to her own Mill analysis, we should not give animals rights because they cannot consent to our laws and to the social contract.

In conclusion, the affirmative case cannot be voted for because she is not telling you why animals have rights. Her case is irresolutional, so you vote negative.
Debate Round No. 1


My case shows that giving animals rights would benefit humans and our world so much, that even without looking at whether or not the animals "deserve" rights or not it is so clear that the benefit of animal rights outweighs the consequences. This directly contradicts my opponents sole contention regarding the social contract. Also, I would like to clarify that I am debating pro for animal rights in the United States, my apologies.
Before we can effectively establish regulations we must give animals rights. We have policies currently in place related to the well being of animals, but these are largely ineffective and lack much. We can not improve our treatment of animals and the betterment of society until animal rights are granted.
My case proves that if we treat animals better, than we will benefit. Animal rights would improve many aspects of our world, health, environment, and justice. This contributes more to our society than being a part of the social contract.
Furthermore, my opponent states that John Stuart Mill is not a supporter of animal rights and only wants to benefit humans. This is exactly why he is that perfect example of why you should vote pro for this debate. Animal rights improve human society so greatly that it is unnecessary to debate any more.
Also, my opponent continuously claims that my case is contradictory. This is false. We need to improve the conditions of animal life, not stop eating them. For example, with the fish, if the waters in which the fish lived in were cleaner than when we ate them we would not cause damage to our health and our environment. As I said in my first contention, the recognition of animal rights means that we acknowledge that animals have value and those values to society should be respected. In a similar sense the United States recognizes human rights and has standards for ways that people can be treated. Recognizing the value of human life means that we aren't permitted to kill someone randomly on the street but doesn't mean that killing someone is always illegal. An example of this is that international standards like the Geneva Convention do not make war illegal but look for ways to minimize the frequency and the extent of wars.
So therefore my case does not contradict itself and so clearly proves that animal rights benefit humans so greatly that no other argument against animal rights can be accepted. Justice is being fair and reasonable and the most fair and reasonable thing to do to help our society would be to vote for pro in this debate.


Before I begin discussing the debate, I just want to highlight a central, unrefuted argument from my last speech. My opponent continuously highlights this idea of improving our lives by improving the lives of animals. The problem is that this is not done by considering animal rights: it is done in order to improve human rights. As such, this argument is completely irresolutional and should not be considered. In addition, it is entirely nonunique, since the negative also achieves this end because it respects human, and not animal, rights. This argument was entirely dropped in my opponent's last speech, so please do not let her address it in the next few rounds.

Attacks on Aff Case

Almost all of the attacks on the affirmative case were dropped, so it is pretty unfair for me to have to go back and rehash them when my opponent chose to ignore them. As such, I will extend all of the dropped arguments here and and address the few ideas that my opponent did respond to.

Her central response was that we can improve society by protecting animal rights. Keep in mind that as I stated above, she is not really considering the rights of animals when she says this. Rather, she is acknowledging that some harm to humans is being done and that these harms can be corrected by reducing pollution, improving conditions in factory farms, etc. As such, she is not showing you why Justice requires recognition of animal rights because all of the ends she advocates are achieved through a respect for human rights. I can almost guarantee that she will argue that this is the reason that we have to consider animal rights, so let me spike the argument here: if these problems did not affect humans, she would not be considering them. For example, if we discovered that sacrificing chickens to a rain god brought propserity to the people, then she would advocate doing so because human rights would be protected. Her ultimate goal is protecting human rights, and not animal rights, so if the status quo were to change in such a fashion that animal rights no longer need be protected, she would not protect them according to the arguments that she made in her last two speeches. She is, in reality, negating, and not affirming, this resolution.

She responds to my contradiction claim by contending that we can kill animals if this benefits society by solving hunger problems. Fine. I will concede that she is not contradicting herself, but will turn her logic against her because this demonstrates the point that I was making above, namely that she is promoting human rights and their consideration and not the consideration of animal rights. If we claim that taking innocent life is unjust, as she implicitly notes, then she would have to argue for vegetarianism, which she is refusing to do. So, you can vote off the fact that her case is irresolutional.

Her "counter" to my Mill argument is not really a counter: Mill talks about improving human society through a philosophy that was created to benefit humans. It is not applicable to animals in any fashion; she is taking his ideas out of context.

Keep in mind that she drops the rest of my attacks on her case, including the harms to the economy through reduced trade, the irresolutionatlity of her case, the fact that economic good does not equate to justice, the fact that her second contention was not even backed up with a proper quote and is thus an unwarranted assertion, etc. Extend all of those here; they mitigate her entire case and are a reason you vote negative. Please do not let her attack them in her next speeches because she dropped them and thus cannot fairly use them.

Also, she cannot just claim that she wants to debate about the United States. That was not part of the original resolution, and it is unfair for her to redefine the debate after it has already started.

Negative Case
The crux of the negative case is twofold. First, we grant rights based on agreement to the social contract, as noted by Rawls. Second, animals lack the rationality to actually join the social contract, as noted by Feinberg. The entire negative case was dropped by my opponent; she never even attempted to address this. So, extend the negative case; these arguments link back to the fair distribution of rights and thus to Justice. She dropped this and thus cannot attempt to attack it in later speeches.

Thus I strongly urge a negation of today's resolution.
Debate Round No. 2


girlwithgoat forfeited this round.


My opponent conceded the entirety of my last speech. Please extend my arguments and vote for the negative.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3


girlwithgoat forfeited this round.


My opponent has forfeited this debate. Please extend all of my arguments and vote for me.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ladiesman 1 year ago
Immanuel Kant said that the way we treat animals reflects our treatment of other human beings.
Posted by girlwithgoat 4 years ago
Its annoying that no one voted really. The one vote had us tied on almost everything...
Posted by girlwithgoat 4 years ago
I completely forgot to post new arguments....Sorry everyone. It should still be clear enough why animal rights should be supported
Posted by girlwithgoat 4 years ago
@Chuz-Life In debate, you need to be able to debate any side of an issue even if you believe differently. I can debate against animal rights the same as I can debate for animal rights.
I apologize, I copied the sources down wrong and I have disposed of this evidence to make room for the new debate topic. Sorry.
And I haven't been on in awhile yes, I just wanted extra practice.
Posted by royalpaladin 4 years ago
Please remember to examine her sources when you vote.

^Delicious chicken recipes.
Posted by Kethen 4 years ago
I must say though I am very ANTI abortion but I am very pro choice. I don't think the government should have the right to tell you no, I do think that the Doctor Unions should collectivly refuse to give abortions.
Posted by Kethen 4 years ago
I agree with Chuz...quite hilarious...but this arguement isn't one of your belief system it is of animal rights and if anyone can say they shouldnt have right the probably are pretty evil...
Posted by LiberalHoyaLawya 4 years ago
Great argument. I was reading to see if this might be worth arguing, but you totally convinced me. Best of luck!
Posted by Chuz-Life 4 years ago
GirlwithGoat, according to your profile you are "pro-abortion" and the irony of this callenge is almost too tempting for me to pass up. However, I agree that animals have the right to be treated "humanely" and to not be killed needlessly and without justification.

Odd that you don't think of human beings while in the womb as "animals" enough to have the same rights to be treated humanely.... But that's a debate for another day.
Posted by cameronl35 4 years ago
I would accept but my team doesn't allow me to put my cases online..
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by jm_notguilty 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: ff