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Justice Requires the Recognition of Animal Rights

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 10/22/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,313 times Debate No: 63728
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (68)
Votes (5)




Resolved: Justice Requires the Recognition of Animal Rights.

This is an old LD topic. All types of LD cases are acceptable, and this debate will be done in LD format. Round structure will go as thus:

Round Two: Neg Case + Rebuttals, Aff Rebuttals
Round Three: Neg rebuttals, Aff Rebuttals

Gl to my opponent!


Thanks to Zaradi for instigating this debate!

Due to the complete lack of clarifications or definitions provided by Con, I will go ahead and present a few myself. Given the wordings of the resolution, it is fair to assume that humans do have rights in some form; because I'm not expecting Con to contest this notion, I will only defend it if he actually does so. As for definitions, there are two key words in the resolution: 'rights' and 'justice'. Rights, in their most basic form, are simply entitlements to protection from certain acts-- if I have the rights to life, liberty, and the ownership of private property, then it implies that others ought not to kill me, enslave me, or steal my rightfully-acquired property. If an animal has rights, it just means that there are some things which we should not do to that animal; this can be as simple as 'the right to not be tortured for fun' or 'the right not to be killed without reason'. Defending the existence of animal rights does not require showing that all animals have rights, and most certainly does not require showing that animals have rights to the same extent that humans do. The other key word in the resolution is justice, which generally refers to upholding a society's ethical values; my burden of proof in this debate is to show that in order to properly uphold ethical values, we must recognize the existence of animals rights, as described previously.

When we take a look at the justifications for the existence of human rights, we see that all of them also apply to non-human animals to some extent-- there is no way to justify human rights without inadvertently conceding that animals also have some rights. I will be focusing on what I believe is the most effective of those justifications: the ability to experience meaningful suffering. It is a scientific fact that animals can experience suffering in the same way that we humans do. There is quite a large body of evidence supporting this notion:

"Nearly all the external signs that lead us to infer pain in other humans can be seen in other species, especially the species most closely related to us--the species of mammals and birds. The behavioral signs include writhing, facial contortions, moaning, yelping or other forms of calling, attempts to avoid the source of the pain, appearance of fear at the prospect of its repetition, and so on. In addition, we know that these animals have nervous systems very like ours... Although human beings have a more developed cerebral cortex than other animals, this part of the brain is concerned with thinking functions rather than with basic impulses, emotions, and feelings. These impulses, emotions, and feelings are located in the diencephalon, which is well developed in many other species of animals, especially mammals and birds. We also know that the nervous systems of other animals were not artificially constructed--as a robot might be artificially constructed--to mimic the pain behavior of humans. The nervous systems of animals evolved as our own did, and in fact the evolutionary history of human beings and other animals, especially mammals, did not diverge until the central features of our nervous systems were already in existence. A capacity to feel pain obviously enhances a species' prospects for survival, since it causes members of the species to avoid sources of injury. It is surely unreasonable to suppose that nervous systems that are virtually identical physiologically, have a common origin and a common evolutionary function, and result in similar forms of behavior in similar circumstances should actually operate in an entirely different manner on the level of subjective feelings." - Peter Singer [1]

Moreover, many species of mammals have even been reported to engage in clear displays of emotion [2]. Given all of that, it becomes completely absurd to deny that many animals have the capability to experience physical suffering and its psychological/emotional repercussions in the same way humans do. With that established, we can move on to its ethical implications. Suffering is an intrinsically negative feeling; this proposition is almost self-evident, as there is a universal aversion to it among all conscious beings-- there is no ethically relevant being which does not have some sort of active interest in avoiding suffering. Justice, rights, and ethics in general exist in order to preserve those interests; there is no other viable way to explain their existence. Thus, it becomes unjust to inflict suffering upon any ethically relevant being unless doing so reduces the suffering of another. Since it has been shown that many animals are, indeed, ethically relevant, this logic leads us to an affirmation of the resolution: justice requires us to recognize that there are some things which we should not do to animals, such as needlessly torturing or killing them-- animals have a right protecting their interest in avoiding gratuitous suffering.

As of now, the resolution is affirmed. In order to negate the resolution, Con must show that animals are not ethically relevant, either by defending a different justification for the existence of rights, or by showing that my own justification somehow doesn't apply to animals.... or he could run a kritik. In any case, I look forward to reading my opponent's opening round!

Debate Round No. 1


I value morality as justice is based in decisions of right or wrong. Morality isn’t truth functional with independently competing truth claims but is instead based in rules of interaction that guide our decisions. Our decisions come from self-interest and intending to recognize desired ends. Mercer:


“To understand what another has done is … to have a … description of the action he has performed, one that reveals it to be intentional … to know an agent’s reason for performing … action involves understanding his motivation in doing it. … It is not enough, … to understand what a person who intentionally sips from a saucer of mud has done … An interpreter has also to comprehend what in desiring to sip from a saucer of mud was attractive to him. … One way is to connect that piece of behaviour to one or more of the strange agent’s self-regarding ends. If we can see in sipping from a saucer of mud a way of maintaining self-respect, or even a way to delight in the taste of mud, we can understand the desire the agent had to sip from a saucer of mud. We need not connect his self-regarding end to an intention to realize that end in or through his action; we need only … connect it to an expectation of realizing it.”

And, this lays the basis of normative egoism. Mercer 2:

“weak … egoism is the doctrine that all actions are performed in expectation of realizing self-regarding ends. … egoism is the doctrine that behind any action whatever that an agent performs intentionally, ultimately there lies the agent’s expectation of realizing one or more of her self-regarding ends, an expectation without which the agent would not have performed the action. … if an agent does not expect to forestall his own unhappiness or to promote his self-image, …, in … performing an action … then that agent will not intentionally perform an action of that type. … some other self-regarding end, not as a consequence … but directly as part of engaging in that activity, … To enjoy tennis is to take pleasure in playing tennis, and not, … to attain experiences of pleasure through playing tennis.)”

So, we are moral in intending to further our own self-interest. I don’t deny that there are decisions that are to benefit those external to the self but we are motivated to take those acts in trying to recognize self-benefiting ends. Thus my criterion is realizing self-regarding ends.

Contention 1: We aren’t required to respect animal rights under egoism. There are two reasons:

First: People aren’t required to respect the rights of animals because we can choose if we want to respect rights but we aren’t required or obligated. Kalin:

Jesse Kalin. Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning: Ethical Egoism as a Moral Theory. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Nov., 1975), pp. 323-356

“If I' can be established, then so can I since a person's self-interest consists in those wants and desires most important to him as deter-mined by his own informed preferential valuation. There is no restric-tion on what a person can want or have an interest in. His wants may be selfish, confined to his own pleasure and advancement, or they may be nonselfish, directed toward the pleasure and well-being of another, … The ethical egoist may have an interest in the welfare of others, but if he does, it is only because that other has some special connection with his wants and desires, such as being loved. Only in virtue of this connec-tion can another's wants and desires provide reasons for acting a…”

Winning we respect animals for net-utility gains isn’t requiring us to respect their rights because that recognizes animals only instrumentally.

Second: Animals don’t pose a threat that would compel us to respect their rights. I.e my dog doesn’t threaten me if I don’t respect it and thus doesn’t harm my self-interest. Navreson:

Jan Narveson. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Mar., 1977), pp. 161-178

“Consider the non-[human] … beings. Their behavior will, … affect the interests of many rational beings they might be threats, or sources of food, for instance. … one cannot usefully predict their behavior on the basis of one's results in such deliberations. But consider rational beings. Figuring out what it would be rational for them to do is useful, … there is a pretty significant probability that they will do what it is rational for them to do. … this, … drives … a set of restrictions on our behavior which are not just reactions to immediate threat or prospect of short-term obvious gain, … These commitments are, … the product of self-interest and are very like … agreements. … To talk of "rights" … is to talk of the basis of claims which we have self-interested reason to make and do make, in varying ways; and the reason for others to concede these rights to us is that they have an interest in our respecting them in their case, … No … basis … is, … available for beings which cannot make this kind of claims and commitments, … beings which, whatever interest they may have in coming in for these benefits, simply do not have the sort of rational equipment which would enable them to pose the right kind of threat if we don't, …”

Now, lets look at the aff case.

First thing to notice is that he offers no framework of his own under which to evaluate arguments. Because he doesn't you instantly default to evaluating the resolution under an egoistic framework. This literally means you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and skip the rest of the debate and just vote neg because it's literally impossible to affirm the resolution if we're evaluating things under an egoistic framework.

But let's look at his sole argument that because animals suffer and display emotions that we are required to recognize their rights.

First, he's not actually giving you a reason as to why this means we have to recognize their rights. Even if he's winning that animal suffering means we shouldn't make them suffer, that doesn't give us a reason to have to respect their rights. Humans suffer a lot as well, but if that meant we had to respect human rights then human rights violations wouldn't be a thing.

Secondly, cross-apply my egoism argument that shows that justice doesn't actually require us to recognize rights. We can if we feel like it, but there's no reason to be forced to do it if it's against our own self-regarding ends.

Third, turn his own argument against him here. S
inger’s focus on aggregation and the suffering of animals allows animals to be harmed and their suffering be ignored. Nussbaum:

The Moral Status of Animals. By: Nussbaum, Martha C,., Chronicle of Higher Education, 00095982, 2/3/2006, Vol. 52, Issue 22

“One … problem concerns the Utilitarian commitment to aggregation: that is, to summing together all pleasures and pains. The choice maker is instructed to produce the largest total … pleasure. That can allow results in which a small number of creatures have very miserable lives, so long as their miseries are compensated for by a great deal of pleasure elsewhere. … It remains unclear whether such a view can really rule out the cruel treatment of at least some animals, which undoubtedly causes great pleasure to a very large number of meat eaters, or the infliction of pain on small numbers of animals in laboratory testing in order to provide benefits for many humans. …”

Fourth, turn his own argument against him here again. The utilitarian focus on pain and pleasure is harmful to animals. Nussbaum 2:

“Utilitarians consider together diverse aspects of lives, reducing them all to experienced pain and pleasure. … a good life, for an animal as for a human, has many different aspects: movement, affection, health, community, dignity, bodily integrity, … Animals, … often don't miss what they don't know, and it is hard to believe that animals cramped in small cages all their lives can dream of the free movement that is denied them. … Even a comfortable immobility would be wrong for a horse, an elephant, or a gorilla. Those creatures characteristically live a life full of movement, space, and complex social interaction. To deprive them of those things is to give them a distorted and impoverished existence.”

It’s not about intellectual ability but rather grasping ethical premises. Cohen:

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.

"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, …"

and, Only humans can engage in moral reasoning. 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 ..."

This means that because animals are incapable of moral reasoning, they aren't deserving of rights.



FRAMEWORK: Con claims that I have not provided a framework under which we can evaluate arguments, but I most certainly have-- just without explicitly calling it a 'framework', as Con has done. I presented a utilitarian framework, in which ethical relevance is determined by a being's ability to experience meaningful suffering and their interest in avoiding it, and justified the existence of animal rights from that perspective. Since the utilitarian and egoistic frameworks aren't very compatible, I will obviously have to demonstrate why the utilitarian one is superior in order the affirm the resolution, which is what I am using this round for.

I will not be disputing that animal rights don't exist under an egoistic framework, as that would be nearly impossible; instead, I'll demonstrate why the concept of ethical egoism itself is flawed.

1. It is a prime example of is/ought fallacy-- a form of non-sequitur in which one falsely assumes that because something *is* done a certain way, it *ought* to be done that way. The observation that we as humans always are always "trying to recognize self-benefiting ends" in no way shows that it is ethically desirable to do so-- there is no logical connection presented between what *is* true, and what we *ought* to do. Until Pro shows why the default selfish mindset of human beings makes the accomplishment of selfish goals a valid criteria for morality, his egoistic framework should be rejected. Morality does not necessarily have to conform to human nature.

2. Let's assume that humans do, indeed, act primarily out of self-interest. Obviously, we all value our own interests-- our own happiness, our own suffering. It is nonsensical to value our own self-interests, recognize that all other humans also have such self-interests based in the same desires for net happiness, yet refuse to value the interests of others. Why should we only value our own interests? Objectively, no human is innately superior to another, so all of their self-interests must be valued equally, which essentially is the core premise of utilitarianism.

In conclusion, since my utilitarian framework is more objective in its accounting for human self-interests, and it is not based in is/ought fallacy, we can only conclude that my utilitarian framework his preferable to Con's egoistic one.
Debate Round No. 2


On the idea of his utilitarian framework:

First, that's not a framework. One contentional argument does not a framework make.

Second, extend out Nussbaum and Nussbaum 2 explaining as to why under a Util framework animal rights are disrespected even more. This means that if he's adopting this utilitarian mindset then he's doing far more harm to animal rights than I could ever do.

Third, utilitarianism relies on metaethical justifications in order to be logically sound. Since I'm the only one reading a meta-ethic (i.e. egoism), you're still looking to the NC framework first.

Fourth, util relies on egoism to make sense. The only reason why one would look to utilitarianism is if it was in their own self-interest to be utilitarian, which necessitates egoism. This means that my framework functions as a gateway to the AC framework, meaning that if he wants any possible access to his own framework, he inherently has to concede mine, otherwise there's no meta-ethical justification behind util, and you default to my meta-ethic anyway.

Fifth, extend out the response I gave to the idea of utilitarianism not actually showing why we have to recognize rights. All util does is say that we should reduce their suffering, which means I can go from keeping them in really sh*tty pens before we cook them and eat them to putting them in a comfortable penthouse suite with legions of personal servents before we cook them and eat them. So long as I can make their suffering less I'd still be justified in violating their rights.

Moreover, if util actually mandated we respect rights, then human rights abuses wouldn't be a thing since we all realize that humans have rights, rights which are commenly abused and disrespected for "the greater good".

Then, go to his is/ought fallacy response:

First, I'm not commiting the is/ought fallacy. Egoism doesn't talk about what is morally desirable but rather why things are morally desirable. It's the difference between normative ethics (i.e. util) and meta-ethics (i.e. egoism).

Secondly, I most certainly am talking about why egoism establishes a valid criteria for morality. That's what Mercer and Mercer 2 are talking about. Extend Mercer who's talking about how the only reason we take actions is because there's some point of self-interest to be fulfilled by taking the action, otherwise we never would've performed the action in the first place. And extend Mercer 2 which explains how egoism relates to realizing a self-regarding end.


Since my opponent accidently submitted his round too early, I'm not going to super punish him for missing my contentions. But since this was mainly a framework debate to begin with, since I'm best upholding egoism, showing how util is a really flawed position to take, and showing how util relies on egoism to even justify itself in the first place, I'd say it's fair to say I'm winning the debate.


*sigh* seems that my mishap from last round (accidentally pressing the Submit button instead of the Make Changes button when I was taking a break from writing my case to fool around with the formatting options) has resulted in some unfortunate complications to arise (see comments for details). Basically, I would pretty much be handing the win over to either myself or Zaradi according to what I choose to address. Because Zaradi has graciously given me permission to do whatever I wish with the debate, and I don't believe that my petty slip-up deserves the punishment of a loss, I will implore the voters to leave this a tie.

Apologies to all, and especially Zaradi, for screwing this up :/
Hopefully we can redo this debate eventually...

Please vote null.
Debate Round No. 3
68 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
So, apparently, this was my 100th debate on the site.... FML -.-
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago

Egoism? o.O
Posted by Romanii 2 years ago
shhhh I was dumb.
Posted by tejretics 2 years ago
I just read the debate.

Pro: Having utilitarianism as a Criterion in an animal rights debate is a bad idea. Utilitarianism upholds *equality* as being prime to justice, viz. animals are equal to humans. Nonetheless, it *rejects* the concept of a "right," and is non-compatible with moral rights of humans or animals.
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
why won't you respond T.T
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
Posted by UchihaMadara 3 years ago
Zaradi, why can't we delete this debate -_-

It's embarrassing...
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by LDPOFODebATeR0328 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: Null vote, as requested by AFF.
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: Null Vote, as requested by Pro. Looking forward to seeing the rematch, this was a great read on both ends.
Vote Placed by thett3 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: This is so hard. Con won arguments, but Pro won conduct and sources. Damn you new ballot!!
Vote Placed by tylergraham95 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: Casting a null vote. An excellent read. I am a bit irked by Zaradi, as he argued an anthro K in a previous debate >.> but whatever. from what I read, the argument was on tilt towards Cons favor. Pro seemed to misunderstand the difference between normative ethics and meta-ethics. Operating under the only meta-ethical framework provided (egoism) the flow is compellingly one-sided to the side of the Con. Furthermore, the normative framework (already weakly constructed) is smashed by the Con with the arguments regarding utilitarianism and justifying rights violations. Pro: I recommend you research a bit more intensively into ethical frameworks. Also, you might consider learning a bit more about the format that LD debates take.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 3 years ago
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: nulling for now as agreed. Will change later if someone VB's.