The Instigator
Xer
Con (against)
Winning
38 Points
The Contender
Freeman
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points

Non-human animals should have rights.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 8 votes the winner is...
Xer
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/3/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,376 times Debate No: 9408
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (36)
Votes (8)

 

Xer

Con

Thank you and good luck to whoever accepts the debate.

========
DEFINTIONS
========

Non-human animals - any of the kingdom Animalia that is not a human

should - used in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

rights - an abstract idea of that which is due to a person or governmental body by law or tradition or nature
http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...

*Do not accept this debate if you do not accept the definitions. Semantics is not acceptable.

*For the sake of simplicity in this debate, non-human animals shall be henceforth called animals.

=============
BURDEN OF PROOF
=============

The BoP is on my opponent because nothing had rights until humans granted rights. My opponent is now trying to prove why something (non-human animals) should have rights, which puts the BoP on my opponent. Since my opponent has BoP, I will allow them to first.
Freeman

Pro

I wish to thank my opponent for instigating this debate. Animal rights is certainly an interesting topic and hopefully both of us will leave this exchange with a better understanding of each others positions.

For the first round I will present an argument for extending rights to animals generally. Later on I will try to focus in on the rights of higher primates e.g. chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos for two reasons. Firstly, they are our closest living relatives and share many of the characteristics of humans. And like humans chimpanzees are self aware of their existence. [1] Secondly, they help us define what it is to be human. The more we know about them and their communities the better we can understand, from an anthropological perspective, what our humanity actually entails. Most of the arguments I will be using are based on the writings of Peter singer so if you want to be more familiar with them you may wish to read the following books- (Writings on an ethical life) (Animal Liberation). I will also be linking to articles he has written that I draw from.

Normally in these debates I would give around 4 arguments and throw it back to con. However, for the moment I will only be presenting 1 argument, which I believe will sufficiently fulfill my burden of proof. Even if you aren't convinced by it then I have about two more in my back pocket should the need arise.

=========
Contention 1: Animal's interests should be taken into consideration.
=========

What are we asserting when we say that all humans are equal regardless of their age, sex, creed etc? Clearly we don't mean all humans have the same capacities or are somehow equal in their capabilities. Like it or not some human individuals are smarter, stronger, more capable of suffering and experiencing happiness, and kinder than others. No matter which criterion we choose to value not all humans are equal in terms of their qualities. So where does this leave us? Unless my opponent wishes to argue in favor of a hierarchical inegalitarian society then he must concede that our rights aren't simply an extension of our individual characteristics. It is equal consideration of interests that we are really arguing for when we say that all humans are equal. In this context it would be wrong for us to subjugate minorities so they can serve as our slaves because doing this would not take into consideration the interests of one group. In other words the interests of white Europeans cannot trump the interests of black Africans simply because one group may or may not have a better education than the other. If we, as a society, were to defend an inegalitarian hierarchical system based on actual abilities then we would be forced to stop demanding equality, because actual equality among humans doesn't exist in reality.

I shall argue, in favor of Peter Singer's position, that the basic principle of equality is equality of consideration. And using this method would inevitably result in different treatment among animals and different rights that accrue from that basis. Insofar as an animal is self aware or has the capacity to feel pain or experience happiness then it has just as much of a claim to rights as humans do. Of course, this does not mean that we ought to treat all groups of animals equally. For example, cows are incapable of driving a car or holding a conscious desire to drive a car, ergo depriving this group of the right to drive a car would not be a violation of its interests. In the same way it would be completely meaningless to speak of a mans right to have an abortion it would be meaningless to speak of a chickens rights to vote. Chickens and other farm animals are simply incapable of seriously weighing political issues or understanding the importance of voting. Let's try to avoid getting mired down in nonsense. The extension of the principle of equality from one group of animals to another does not necessarily entail the view that we treat all groups identically or that we extend exactly the same rights from one group to another. In order to form a nondiscriminatory basis for dolling out rights to groups then we must view the qualities of the groups at hand such as their capacity to suffer and think rationally. And once we do this we come to realize that some animals e.g. (an adult Gorilla) have more of a right to life than certain humans e.g. (newborn infants born without a brain).

- [2]

=========
Conclusion
=========

To discriminate against animals merely on the basis that they have fur or walk on four legs is no more justifiable a basis for discrimination than discrimination on the basis of skin color or gender. We must have equal consideration for the interests of all sentient beings e.g. dogs, severely retarded humans, Gorillas, horses etc because they can all suffer and feel happiness regardless of the qualities they may possess. And taking these interests into consideration would provide a sound basis for us extending rights to animals. If we were to regard qualities and capacities as an important measure for the creation of rights then we would be forced to adopt an inegalitarian hierarchical system, which as I have demonstrated earlier is simply untenable.

======
Sources
======

[1]http://www.psywww.com...

[2] [http://www.animal-rights-library.com...

========
Definitions
========

inegalitarian- Marked by or accepting of social, economic, or political inequality.
(http://www.thefreedictionary.com...)
Debate Round No. 1
Xer

Con

I thank Freeman for accepting the debate and wish him luck. This should be fun and entertaining.

===================================
REBUTTAL - CONTENTION ONE - FIRST PARAGRAPH
===================================

+My opponent has made a lengthy, thought-out straw man argument. It has nothing to do with the resolution. He is making an argument based on the fact that since humans are individually different, alludes to animals are individually different, and thus should be affored rights like humans. However, humans are not granted rights based on individually. Humans are granted rights based on the fact that humans are the same species as each other. Rights has nothing to do with human individuality. I'll say it again, straw man. My opponent said nothing about non-human animals, which is what the resolution is about.

+Even if my opponent can prove that humans are granted rights based on individuality, that doesn't mean anything for this debate. We are not debating whether all humans deserve rights, we are debating whether animals deserve rights.

===================================
REBUTTAL - CONTENTION ONE - SECOND PARAGRAPH
===================================

+Animals are not members of society. They are not able to be enter a social contract where they have moral responsibilities, like humans. Animals are neither moral or immoral, they are amoral. Animals do not respect human rights, so humans should not respect animal rights. Animals are amoral, instinctual, irrational beings much likes robots. [1]

======
SOURCE
======

[1] http://spot.colorado.edu...
Freeman

Pro

I thank Nags for setting up this debate and increasing awareness on this topic. Given that the position I'm arguing for is vastly unpopular I would strongly encourage voters of a different persuasion to read my arguments carefully.

=============
Case Pro- Rebuttals
=============

Contention 1: I'm being accused of creating a straw man argument.

My opponent has failed to grasp the crux of my argument so let me make it again in a shortened form.

Individual capabilities aren't relevant to granting rights. In other words higher I.Q. scores or physical characteristics cannot be a sound basis for discrimination or denying rights. It follows from this that all humans can be considered equal on the basis that they can all hold preferences and interests because this is the only relevant thing all sentient humans have in common. Ergo if we grant that the principle of equality is equality of interests then Non-human animals should also have rights because they can hold preferences and desires much like humans can. Animals can hold preferences, suffer, and even be self-aware and thus should be afforded rights since intelligence or physical characteristics aren't a sound basis for discrimination. If my opponent isn't willing to take advantage of the mentally handicapped then on what basis would he be justified in exploiting animals like gorillas and refusing to grant them rights?

My opponent calls my argument fallacious simply because he didn't understand the reasoning behind it. Nags, please read my round 1 argument again and this time try to focus, I didn't argue that, "humans are granted rights based on individuality" I argued the exact opposite of this. My two paragraphs are meant to flow together and compliment each other; the second paragraph builds on what was established in the first.

Contention 2: "Humans are granted rights based on the fact that humans are the same species as each other."- Nags

If one were feeling generous one might think that something essential to these profundities got lost in translation. However, it would appear that my opponent has begun to manufacture bad arguments in earnest, but that's ok because I'm more than willing to tackle them. The fact that something is a member of a certain species is not a valid criterion for granting it rights. People that are permanently brain-dead are also members of our species and have all the biological functions of a human apart from an active brain. Likewise, three-day-old blastocysts are also genetically members of the species homo sapiens and thus, by my opponent's own logic, should be granted rights. I will simply end by pointing out that my opponent's argument leads to absurd results and thus is logically invalid.

Contention 3: Animals are much "like robots"- Nags

"Animals are neither moral or immoral, they are amoral. Animals do not respect human rights, so humans should not respect animal rights. Animals are amoral, instinctual, irrational beings much likes robots." - Nags

Even if your bigoted and erroneous views about animals were correct, which they aren't, I could make the exact same argument about people that are severely mentally retarded. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] People suffering from severe brain injuries are neither moral nor rational beings. And if you aren't willing to concede that mentally retarded citizens should be denied rights then on what ground, sir, do you believe that animals shouldn't be given rights? A fully-grown adult gorilla has a higher capacity to reason, experience pleasure, enjoy life, feel pain, and be self aware than many humans with severe brain injuries. My main point is, of course, that both mentally retarded persons and gorillas should have rights because they can both suffer and hold preferences regardless of their capabilities.

Contention 4: Membership in a society can establish one's claim to rights. -Nags

This argument is no more valid when applied to animals then it would be if it were applied to a single human living in solitude in some remote part of the world.

======
Case Pro
======

Contention 1: Higher primates are persons and thus deserve rights.

What does it mean to be a person? Many people, especially in abortion debates, simply define personhood as being exclusively related to one's membership in the species Homo sapiens. However, the reasoning behind these arguments is circular and fallacious. As I have shown earlier people that are brain dead and three day old blastocysts would also qualify for personhood in this worldview. Therefore we cannot accept that a person is simply an individual that is a member of the species homo sapiens. So, how are we to define what it means to be a person? Let me propose the definition of a person to be as follows- "a distinct entity with preferences and the capability to view oneself as a unique individual that exists over time." Given this definition non-human animals, like chimpanzees, also qualify as persons and thus should be afforded rights. Further chimpanzees also posses the basic characteristics of personhood that according to Peter Singer are, "rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness" [6]. Arguing that personhood equals membership in the species Homo sapiens begs the question. And considering that capacities like intelligence aren't a sufficient basis to establish personhood then my definition should stand. That is, of course, unless you wish to challenge it.

=======
Conclusion
=======

My opponent has failed to give any compelling reasons that non-human animals should be denied rights. On the other hand I have given an objective basis that would grant rights to animals and I have demonstrated that the principle of equality we appeal to in society is equality of interests. Therefore we would be on shaky ground not to confer certain rights to animals if we want to argue that all humans should have rights regardless of their capabilities.

=====
Sources
=====

[1]http://www.animal-rights-library.com...

[2]http://news.bbc.co.uk...

[3]http://www.cbsnews.com...

[4] Sam Harris et al., Truthdig "The Language of Ignorance" (Aug 15, 2006)

http://www.truthdig.com...

"What if mice showed greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage-mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They have.) Wouldn't these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?" –10th Paragraph

[5] http://www.wellcome.ac.uk...

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
Xer

Con

***I could just take the semantics route, and concede that the mentally disabled/brain-damaged should not have rights and win... but, this debate deserves better than that.

==========
REBUTTALS - 1
==========

Contention 1: "Individual capabilities aren't relevant to granting rights."

My opponent has made the above statement which would require rights for everything. Living, non-living, inanimate, make-believe, and fictional would all be afforded rights according to my opponent. My opponent has not put forth another criterion that is better than individual capabilities, so my point stands.
---
Contention 2: "The fact that something is a member of a certain species is not a valid criterion for granting it rights. People that are permanently brain-dead are also members of our species and have all the biological functions of a human apart from an active brain. Likewise, three-day-old blastocysts are also genetically members of the species homo sapiens and thus, by my opponent's own logic, should be granted rights."

* My opponent claims blastocysts are gentically members of the species homo sapiens. This is false. [1]

+My opponent claims that my logic for granting brain-dead persons is faulty. However, the test for moral judgment is not a test to be administered to humans one by one, but should be applied to the capacity of members of the species in general. [2] By granting rights based on individual abilities rather than species, my opponent's logic would give smart, white Europeans more rights than dumb, black, Africans. It would give educated Doctors more rights than high school drop-outs. And so on and so on.
---
Contention 3: "Even if your bigoted and erroneous views about animals were correct, which they aren't, I could make the exact same argument about people that are severely mentally retarded."

See: Contention 2 Rebuttal.
---
Contention 4: "This argument is no more valid when applied to animals then it would be if it were applied to a single human living in solitude in some remote part of the world."

My opponent's example of "a single human living in solitude in some remote part of the world" is obviously a theoretical, a far-fetched theoretical at that. My point stands.

=========
REBUTTAL - 2
=========

Contention 1: "Higher primates are persons and thus deserve rights."

Higher primates are not considered homo sapiens. My opponent proposed a definition and reasoning that is in no way scientific and would never hold up in any academic community. Obviously we are similar, but not the same, as my opponent claims. [3] [4] [5] [6]

=========
CONCLUSION
=========

1) I have shown that animals are not capable of entering into a social contract that is needed for rights.
2) My opponent objected that the mentally retarded are not able to enter into social contracts. I countered that judging should be based on speciesism [7], and I mentioned the negative affects of my opponent's logic.
3) The resolution has been negated.

Quick Summary:
>Animals are not members of society. They are not able to be enter a social contract where they have moral responsibilities, like humans. Animals are neither moral or immoral, they are amoral. Animals do not respect human rights, so humans should not respect animal rights. Animals are amoral, instinctual, irrational beings much likes robots.
---------------My opponent's only counter to this was with regards to the mentally disabled, which I refuted.

======
SOURCES
======

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://spot.colorado.edu...
[3] http://anthro.palomar.edu...
[4] http://users.rcn.com...
[5] http://www.time.com...
[6] http://www.howcomyoucom.com...
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org...

===

I thank my opponent for the debate, it wass fun. Obviously do not bring up new contentions in Round 3 as it is the final round. Voters- please leave RFDs, I hope you enjoyed the debate as well.
Freeman

Pro

This was indeed a very entertaining and interesting debate. Let me first start by once again thanking my opponent for setting it up and for everyone that took time out of their day to read it.

============
Case Pro- Rebuttals
============

Contention 1: "Individual capabilities aren't relevant to granting rights.

"My opponent has made the above statement which would require rights for everything. Living, non-living, inanimate, make-believe, and fictional would all be afforded rights according to my opponent. My opponent has not put forth another criterion that is better than individual capabilities, so my point stands." -Nags

Forgive me if I choose not to chase down all of the red herrings you've set up. I've already stated that all sentient creatures ability to hold preferences and suffer is adequate criterion for granting equal rights. Your attempts to misrepresent my position have failed.

Contention 2: (Part A) "My opponent claims blastocysts are gentically members of the species homo sapiens. This is false."- Nags

Obviously in the context I was using the term blastocyst I was referring to human blastocysts. And human blastocysts are indeed members of our species. The structure of their DNA is identical to humans and thus they are members of the species homo sapiens. [1] -Contention negated

Contention 2: (Part B)
"My opponent claims that my logic for granting brain-dead persons is faulty. However, the test for moral judgment is not a test to be administered to humans one by one, but should be applied to the capacity of members of the species in general. By granting rights based on individual abilities rather than species, my opponent's logic would give smart, white Europeans more rights than dumb, black, Africans. It would give educated Doctors more rights than high school drop-outs. And so on and so on." - Nags

I have never argued that we should grant rights based on individual capacities at all. This entire time I have been arguing that the ability to hold preferences and feel pain is in itself a sufficient objective basis for granting rights. And this entire time you seem to have consistently misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented my argument. I can only repeat myself so many times before it becomes tedious. If my opponent is unwilling to deny rights based on single deficiencies found in certain brain damaged humans then how is it any more morally cogent to deny rights based on a general deficiency? Both parties at hand can feel pain and suffer even if they have nothing else in common.

Contention 4: "My opponent's example of "a single human living in solitude in some remote part of the world" is obviously a theoretical, a far-fetched theoretical at that. My point stands." -Nags

It is manifestly true that there are some humans that live in solitude in certain parts of the world. If my opponent doesn't know this then he doesn't know very much about statistics, history, various cultures, and people generally. There are over 6 billion people living on our planet and many of those people have chosen to live by themselves secluded away from the rest of society. Various mystics, yogis, and gurus have done this throughout history and still do this even in the present day. Some go into solitude for months while others may spend their entire lives alone away from civilization. One of the more famous examples of this can be found in the journey of Siddhartha in his quest for enlightenment. [2] –Contention negated

======
Case Pro
======

Contention 1: "Higher primates are persons and thus deserve rights."

"Higher primates are not considered homo sapiens. My opponent proposed a definition and reasoning that is in no way scientific and would never hold up in any academic community. Obviously we are similar, but not the same, as my opponent claims." –Nags

It would be an understatement to say that I don't find my opponents tautological assertions very impressive. I've already demonstrated that defining persons as humans is circular and invalid. And if my opponent thinks my definition for persons is unscientific then he should have given some reasons why he thinks this instead of making baseless claims about the views of academics. He has failed to point out any flaws in my definition and thus my definition for persons shall stand.

For those that have forgotten my definition for a person was the following:

A Person is- "a distinct entity with preferences and the capability to view oneself as a unique individual that exists over time."

==================
Case Pro- Closing Statements
==================

My opponent listed a blizzard of sources in his last round, most of which were irrelevant, in order to artificially inflate the academic standing of his own position. For a moment I felt as if I were studying for the midterm in my biology class instead of debating animal rights. I take it for granted that humans and other animals are different; that isn't at issue here. Despite these obvious differences I have logically shown that membership in a species and capabilities are irrelevant to rights because the ability to suffer and hold preferences are the only objective basis for granting rights.

One of Nags main arguments could be surmised in the following two sentences. Humans should be given rights, regardless of their qualities, because they are members of the species homo sapience, because they are members of the species homo sapiens. Non-human animals shouldn't be granted rights, regardless of their qualities, because they aren't members of our species, because they aren't members of our species. Epistemological black holes of this sort are fast draining the compassion and sensibility from our world. The fallacies behind circular arguments of this sort are obvious so I won't bother analyzing them any further.

=======
Conclusion
=======

I have already shown that animals like dogs and gorillas can suffer and respond to stimuli much like humans can. [3] At the very least this more than sanctifies the notion that they should be protected from abuse. If we agree that the principle of equality is equality of interests then animals should also have rights, to be protected from cruelty, because they can hold preferences and feel pain very much like we can. Resolution affirmed –Vote Pro

Best,
Freeman

[1] http://www.advancedfertility.com...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[3] http://www.newscientist.com...
Debate Round No. 3
36 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Xer 7 years ago
Xer
Haha, I just looked back at this and Freeman wrote so much more than me. Freeman had an uphill battle to begin with, but I was suprised the voting wasn't closer.
Posted by nonentity 7 years ago
nonentity
"Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!"

-Troy McClure, The Simpsons
Posted by sadolite 8 years ago
sadolite
"You are an Animal! You share 99% of your DNA with a Chimpanzee" There is another way at looking at that. Look at how complicated that last 1% is, do you really think that it is some kind of fluke or random event that made humans so far superior to every single life form on this planet. That last 1% contains vast amounts of information that differentiate humans from all other life on this planet. A whale probably has 80% of the same DNA as a human
Posted by Freeman 8 years ago
Freeman
"Humans are not the same as animals and I for one won't compare myself to an animal."

I have bad news for you. You are an Animal! You share 99% of your DNA with a Chimpanzee for crying out loud. You're a human like I am that bears all the markings of our lowly origins. Get of your high hoarse; you don't belong there.
Posted by sadolite 8 years ago
sadolite
Freeman, I will agree to disagree on this issue. But I will make one last point. The unintended consequences of such an idea are so far reaching and costly to the human population that I seriously doubt that you or any like minded people have completely failed to give any thought to. Such is always the case when emotions are used to rationalize a decision or position. Humans are not the same as animals and I for one won't compare myself to an animal.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Freeman, You argued "Insofar as an animal is self aware or has the capacity to feel pain or experience happiness then it has just as much of a claim to rights as humans do." That's the basic disagreement. If we suppose that deer have a level of self-awareness and capacity to feel pain, then they ought to be protected as children are protected. We should be obliged to protect them from wolves. No, it is a false anthropomorphic argument that those qualities make them somehow enough like humans to accrue human rights. Another disagreement is that rights ought to invented and "given," not derived. I think that trashes the basic idea of rights.
Posted by Freeman 8 years ago
Freeman
"If the rights reside with the species, then mosquitoes would have as much right to live as humans."

I agree with you. I have either been terribly incoherent or, more likely, you didn't read what I wrote. Or perhaps it was some combination of the two.

Roy, don't you regard the suffering of animals as morally important?
Posted by Freeman 8 years ago
Freeman
"Your attempt to equate a baby animal to a human baby again defies logic and is based purely on your emotional attachment to animals."

It doesn't defy logical at all. No matter which criterion we choose to value an adult gorilla is by far more rational, intelligent, and self aware than a human infant. The only thing that defies logic is your unfounded views about animals.
Posted by sadolite 8 years ago
sadolite
Freeman, I eat all kinds of baby animals. Your attempt to equate a baby animal to a human baby again defies logic and is based purely on your emotional attachment to animals. Even the dog whisperer will tell you not to treat a dogs and all animals for that matter like a humans.

Animals must and should be culled on a regular bases for the health of the entire breed. Animal rights advocates are irresponsible and emotional when it comes to issues such as these. If wild animals such as alligators and all the animals in the deer family the pig family and so on were to be left unchecked their populations would explode causing starvation disease and the like. But none of that matters to an animal rights advocate. Let them suffer and die horrible slow deaths rather than let them be hunted killed in a quick and human way to keep the entire population healthy and strong and the habitat they live in the ability to support their populations. This also goes for rodent and other urban type animals if left unchecked they would cause disease and plague among the human population. lifeisgood is right "Animals have only the rights that we give them." But I would change the word "we" to "I" because what one person thinks about animals can be totally different from another as we can see in this thread and debate. I would not want to live where the human population let animals live unchecked.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Freeman, No, dogs should not be protected from cruelty as a matter of dog rights. We ought to protect them because abusing animals is inconsistent with the nature of the human species, not because it is derivable from the nature of dogs. If the rights reside with the species, then mosquitoes would have as much right to live as humans. I know that supposing so is ridiculous, but the notion of it being ridiculous is purely a product of how humans feel, not how mosquitoes feel.

The nature of mankind is certainly arguable. The Cantonese think dog meat is medicinal. Most of the world allows humans to eat horse meat, but it's illegal in California. So the best we can do is to vote and make laws, with some parts of human nature more clearly defined than other parts. It's absolutely clear that humans do not eat their offspring, so that is immoral. Not so for codfish eating their young.
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by tBoonePickens 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by Lifeisgood 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by atheistman 8 years ago
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