Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Learn about the true meaning of animal rights, including what is and is not rights advocacy and examples of rights advocacy compared to other advocacy:

From the introduction:
"Animal rights" is almost always used incorrectly by the news industry and most animal organizations and advocates. This hampers animal-rights advocacy by creating confusion about its goal, divergence from rights-promoting strategies, and delusion about what constitutes progress toward animal rights. People have helped animals in countless ways for thousands of years without promoting rights for them. Promoting rights means describing the rights other animals need to lead fulfilling lives, why meaningful protection is impossible without rights, and why human beings as well as other animals will benefit when all have the rights they need.

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I agree, Ronnie. And I'd even go further than that. There's no need for "rights" in ethical theory either. The non-causation and prevention of suffering will do just fine. It's only in legal contexts that the talk and institution of "rights" may be (and has in fact been) useful.

Brandon, it's simply not true that intervention is necessarily based on utilitarianism (which to my mind is not an ideology, but the most coherent ethical theory around - but that's not our topic here). It's been pointed out to you many times now that there are contexts where human rights dictate intervention. It would be speciesist to deny this for animal rights in general.

The AR philosopher Oscar Horta shows that compassionate intervention is ethically imperative whether we're coming from a utilitarian or a rights perspective:

It is also the commonly held belief of most philosophers and political theorists that animals don't matter much, if at all. They're speciesists and they only think about humans. If, for instance, there is a right to bodily integrity, then we have an obligation to protect individuals against physical attacks. It doesn't matter who is attacking (or even trying to kill) you, whether it is a healthy adult human being, a mentally handicapped one, a child or another animal. If you have a right to bodily integrity, then you also have a right to self-defense - and we do not only have the obligation to respect your right, but also to protect it. It's speciesist to say that we can only apply rights to human behaviour. If mentally handicapped human beings or children (that are on the same cognitive level as other animals) try to harm and kill someone - whether a human or non-human animal - then we have an obligation to intervene, even to shoot the "aggressor" if that's the only way to protect the victim. (That would also be the fate of a lion attacking human children that could not otherwise be protected.) That's what the rights of the (potential) victim obligate us to do. From which it follows that we ought to try to protect the right to bodily integrity of any animal against attackers of any sort.

Again, how can you hold nonhuman animals accountable for human rules and laws when they cannot understand what those rules/laws are due to communication barriers, let alone be held accountable for their actions under such rules/laws? This is nothing more than a dictatorship of one species (conveniently, humans) dominating all other species. Forget this authoritarianism - "Give me liberty or give me death!" should be our rallying cry. Utilitarian fascism should be abolished along with all other kinds of fascism.

Self-defense for ourselves and those who are dependent upon us is different than acting in aggressive attack against carnivores to exterminate them from the face of the Earth like Nazis against Jews in a fascist eugenics program to create a techno-dystopia supposedly free of suffering. Like I said earlier, I no more call for genocide against carnivores (and other non-herbivores) who attack humans than I do when they attack other animals.

Roger, I alluded to the debate between deontology and consequentialism in fundamental ethical theory. When I say there are no rights, what I'm saying is that helping is exactly equally important as not-harming if the consequences are identical. (Because if there are genuine ethical rights that must never be violated no matter what, then you're saying that not-harming is incomparably more important than helping. I disagree with this.) I'm by no means saying that the idea of rights isn't relevant politically and legally. Quite the contrary, I'm all in favour of legal human and animal rights (on indirect utilitarian grounds). Anyway, I guess we should not discuss this here but stick to the main topic, which is the possibility of ethical intervention in nature. Regarding this, I think there is (as is often the case) no significant practical difference between utilitarian and rights-based theoretical approaches.

Why is a human animal more dependent on us than a nonhuman animal about to be eaten? Their lives are equally and entirely dependent on our intervention. (I'm replying to your earlier post, not this one here.)

Read the damn report. Your debating a straw man again - it isn't about fixing teeth or broken bones but about maintaining autonomy and self-determination against imperialists who want to force religion, social norms, and other ways of the "civilized."

No one is "romanticizing primitive living." I'm simply looking at the anthropological evidence of how our human ancestors lived before civilization and the evidence is clear that things were much much better before domestication and settled living. Contemporary primitive humans are still living today, making due with degraded land, the threat of conquest from capitalist exploiters, and other maladies that civilized humans (with the ideology of Progress) force on them.

Regarding intervention to force primitive humans to go vegan? No, not the uncontacted tribes. I respect their autonomy just like I respect the autonomy of other animals who are living wild and free. Remember, these tribes are not enslaving animals and destroying the natural environment, and overall cause far less harm than anyone in the industrialized world.

I'm not talking about a random human stranger, I'm talking about our families. I'd kill anyone, human or any other species, who tried to kill me or anyone in my family. There are societal obligations and legal obligations that bind us to help humans in certain situations that are not binding on us helping other animals. And again, like I said earlier, we can't predict the consequences so clearly when supposedly "helping" other animals. For example, eradicating all predators would have disastrous effects on ecosystems, leading herbivores to overshoot carrying capacity and causing mass starvation from lack of vegetation.

So it's not OK to stop a lion from killing a human stranger?

One thing I think Oscar Horta makes clear in his writing is that the *moral* question of whether we it would be good to intervene in nature to relieve suffering is independent of the *technical* question of whether we currently or ever will know how to effectively do so. I like to take a very long-term perspective, though. There is no way of knowing whether in a thousand, hundred thousand, or hundred million years from now we will know effective ways to intervene in nature to improve the well-being of nonhuman animals. Maybe 100 million years from now we'll know how to eliminate carnivores' needs to eat animals simply by giving them a one time pill to consume, and we'll know the effects of doing so on the ecosystem. I find the arguments for intervention compelling enough that I do think it would be a good idea to learn more over the next thousand or hundred million years about how to do so effectively.

Brandon, we're not limited to the two choices of either primitive living or capitalistic exploitation, which I agree has been hideous in many ways and seems to be from where many social norms and religions spring. But it's not an either/or choice. We could choose to have the values of the primitive culture (which include close community and tight social bonds, and not nearly as much work) *along with* being able to get a root canal when needed. Or, along with some form of agriculture. Gatherer/hunters often starved. Which would probably be just as unpleasant an end as dying from a dental abscess.

We could even use modern technology to promote the useful values of the primitive cultures ... and to minimize the harmful ones ... and come up with something new and better than both, that works for the planet and humans and nonhumans today.

And maybe I'm misunderstanding the whole thing, but that's how I interpreted the ideas of David Pearce once I actually sat down and read them.

And a blanket statement like "the evidence is clear that things were much much better before domestication and settled living" is certainly romanticizing the condition. Some things would have been better, some would have been worse. And probably, just like today, people would settle at their "hedonic set point" and be about as happy as they are under any circumstances.

OK, now I'll go read the damn report :)

I never said it's "not OK" just that there is no obligation or requirement to help if you are not the cause (or maybe also the beneficiary) of such harm, barring social and legal repercussions. That human, just like a gazelle, has the right to self-defense. Unlike the gazelle, however, the human can consent to our help. That said, carnivore attacks on humans or other animals do not justify a campaign of extermination to wipe carnivores and other non-herbivores off the Earth. The fact that you and others support such genocidal programs shows the deep alienation from nature and domestication that civilization has produced.

I'm not sure you understood what I wrote. How does administering a pill that allows a carnivore to live happily and no longer need meat amount to genocide?

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