Goat bleeding profusely having lost its right horn - Photo by Farm Sanctuary
Before we discuss the topic of animal rights pros and cons I think we need to look at human rights. Human rights affect animal rights, one impinges on the other, or so it seems. We all know about human rights. The world is still developing. We are not yet at what the vast majority of people would consider a desirable state of affairs, namely a world in which everyone is protected by firmly enforced human rights. There are substantial areas of the world where human rights are very limited or non-existent. A very poor state of affairs. You would think that we could do better but, no, we can't.
So should we get our human rights right before we tackle animal rights? No, because if we do that there will be little in the way of wildlife left by the time we establish human rights throughout the world. Plus there would be immeasurable suffering for no good reason.
The wording of animal rights are based on human rights and why not? Darwinism says that humans are no different from animals at a fundamental level. And Darwinism is in the ascendancy. But we are the top predator and lesser animals are not in a position to demand animal rights. We have to bestow them and it is in human nature to bestow things on others when there is something in it for us! So one of the pros for animal rights is that, collectively, we will benefit if we grant them. This must be the ultimate reason for being pro animal rights, surely? Of course it is really about the welfare of animals but the best way to motivate humans to do something is to find a reward. But it has to be a collective reward and that is the problem, getting the world to work together is all but impossible.
Can you think how unimaginably dull life on this planet would be without animals? And without animal rights there would ultimately be no animals. Let us remind ourselves that we already (at least on an individual by individual level) grant animals rights all over the world. For, example, I would protect my cat from anyone or anything. I feed and love her. She is treated as an equal. She has all the rights she needs and more. That happens millions of times in the world in respect of companion animals. It is animal rights in action without statute or governmental interference.
I am more concerned with animals rights pros and cons of the wild animals, including domestic cats that are feral (effectively a wild domestic cat). These animals have very little in the way of rights. Lets look at the pros and cons of granting rights to them, as an example:
Lets say we grant the most fundamental animal right to all feral cats: The Right to Life. That would mean stopping all euthanasia of feral cats (somewhere between 2.2 and 14 million per year in the USA, I am told). If we did that there would be an outcry. There would be real problems eventually in terms of the feral cat population on the streets. It would certainly result in laws being enacted that changed the whole set up in the West (and this example is concerned, for the sake of manageability, with the United States) of cat "ownership". If feral cats could not be killed by the millions, they would have to be looked after and managed. In short it would mean a nationwide and concerted program of the only known method to succeed namely trap, neuter, medicate, rehome where appropriate and return were appropriate. This would lead to an actual resolution of the problem, something that should have been achieved many years ago but has not, due to a lack of commitment and funding. And any business that is dependent on dead feral cats (cat food business?) would have to start behaving more morally. It would also lead to a totally committed approach to unethical breeding practices, more control would be in place.
The public expense in providing this most fundamental of animal rights to feral cats would be enormous and some other areas of public funding would suffer. But, at a fundamental level, it would force people to begin to behave more ethically and that general process would filter through to other areas such as banking if this had been in place. If the bankers had not acted so unethically the US would have saved billions of dollars of tax payers money, representing a very, very, small percentage of what would be needed to completely solve the feral cat problem in a humane way. I am not saying that the granting of animal rights would have prevented the banking crisis. I am saying that the morality that goes with granting animal rights would have prevented the waste of the financial crisis. The granting of animal rights would be a symptom of a better world. And arguably if we treat the symptoms we can improve ourselves. This is, in one way, how criminal law works. It gradually alters behavior by restricting anti-social actions.
My argument is that the imposition of human or animal rights would improve morality and ethics which translates in the long term to benefits for all. And we are talking very long term and this is the root of all mankind's problems. We struggle and cannot cope with the idea of long term gain and reward. We are not at that stage in our evolution yet. Currently everything has to be "instant".
The granting of animals rights might initially seem like a reduction in human rights and some people will suffer financial loss but globally and measured as a sum total of contentment, the granting of animal rights would be beneficial to humans in the long term. The cons are short term and concerned with individuals and businesses that we can afford to upset.
These are my initial and instinctive arguments. There are more of course - perhaps next time. If you have some personal thoughts it would be nice if you left a comment.
The photos on this page are reproduced under a creative commons license for which I thank the creator/copyright holder.