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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says: "The animal-rights movement does not seek to protect nonhuman animals against harm from other nonhuman animals that is part of natural living in natural ecosystems — such as naturally occurring predation. It does seek to protect them against harm caused by humans via nonhuman animals - human-instigated animal fights, feeding bred or captured animals to other animals held captive in violation of their rights; and so on - as human injustice is the relevant cause of all such harm."

I disagree with this, it is speciesist. In the same way that human rights are protected regardless of the offender, the rights of animals should be raised in the same direction. The ideal is to eliminate predation.

If that was the case, I would forgo my support for animal rights. As it stands, no animal rights theory that I've heard of supports eradicating predation - all deal exclusively with human actions. It seems the only advocates who want to do away with predation are extreme utilitarians like David Pearce. I regard such positions as speciesist (because it persecutes carnivores who must kill to survive), ecologically absurd (because predation is necessary to control populations), arrogant (to assume that humans should police nature and have the means to do so), and a pathological product of humans' domestication through "civilization."

(NOTE: with Google translator)

Predation (killing) violates the fundamental interests of the victims (human or nonhuman). Theoretically, predation
is a fact ethically wrong. In practice, predation is a fact difficult to avoid, at least today.

Reject predation is not a speciesist position. It is speciesist to be in favor of predation only when the victims are not human.

It gives a step against predation when a person does a vegan dog or cat. Predation is not necessary to control populations if these populations are controlled by humans (sterilization).

If predation is ethically wrong then it is not arrogant rejection. If you do not have the means to end the predation that's another story.

To which you call him derisively "domestication" I call it ethics.

Hi RV,

You quoted: 

Predation is not necessary to control populations if these populations are controlled by humans (sterilization).

Does that not seem like an extreme human supremacist position and arrogance to you? It also seems like a rights violation to interfere with the bodily integrity of another individual by enforcing sterilisation.


RV: If a human gets eaten by a carnivore, I no more favor eradicating carnivores than if a carnivore eats an animal of any other species. My position is that of which Tom Regan advocates: "Let them be!" Your so-called "ethics" would mean the human-inflicted mass genocide of all animals other than herbivores.

Carolyn: I agree completely.

Should we support global veganism? Or instead confine our benevolence to one particular race or species?

Brandon, phasing out predation is not "ecologically absurd". If we're serious about wanting a cruelty-free world, then global veganism is a technical challenge with technical solutions. Cross-species fertility regulation (via immunocontraception rather than violation of bodily integrity) is the least technically challenging - and also the least costly to implement. But in the long run, more ambitious interventions are feasible as well. e.g.

No one advocates "persecuting" carnivorous predators. Rather the issue is what kinds of sentient being should exist in tomorrow's "wildlife parks". For example, should we support "rewilding" and captive breeding programs for big cats - which will otherwise soon become extinct in the wild thanks to uncontrolled habitat destruction? Or should we consider, too, the interests of their victims?

Is rejecting the ideology of conservation biology in favour of an ethic of compassionate biology an "arrogant" position? I don't see how. Just as we have a duty to protect vulnerable members of other races (cf. famine caused by drought in Ethiopia, etc) rather than simply "let Nature take it's course", likewise we have an obligation to protect vulnerable members of other species who are no less sentient than members of our own. To act otherwise would be racist and speciesist.

Advocacy of phasing out the cruelties of Nature is not confined to "extreme utilitarians". Anyone who believes that no sentient being should be forced to starve, to die of thirst, be asphyxiated, disemboweled or eaten alive by predators should support our compassionate stewardship of the living world too.

I still think (on indirect utilitarian grounds) that our immediate priority should be abolishing the property status of other sentient beings. Protecting their interests in law will entail closure of factory farms and the death factories. But as the dominant species on the planet, our obligation to other sentient being extends further than "do no harm". We need to extend the principles of the welfare state to the rest of our fellow creatures, not restrict those principles to beings like "us".

Obviously, consideration and respect for the fundamental interests of others is more ethical than predation (violation of the fundamental interests of others).

Violates the rights predation. The sterilization of individuals is necessary to prevent population collapses. If a stock collapses then a tragedy occurs. The non-human animals are not aware of it, we do.

Yes, it is irrelevant who is the victim of predation (for the violation of fundamental interest). Sentient individuals are what make sense of ethics. An ethics which disregards the fundamental interests of all sentient individuals is discriminatory ethic.

I stand by my comments made earlier on this issue, here and in the previous thread where this was discussed (, for all the reasons I have stated.

It is frightening to think of the dystopian future of human technological domination and control of all life (including ourselves) through an ever-expanding techno-industrial totalitarian "civilization." Call me a Luddite, but I want to live wild and free rather than enslaved by machines.

A change in the status as property of other animals under the law, or the inclusion of other animals under a legal rights umbrella is not likely to occur unless and until the norms and values of society changes; the law is a reflection of those norms and values. So, I think it isn't the case that nothing will change until other animals are afforded the protection of legal rights. Rather, I think that it will only be after things have changed that it will be possible to enact laws that recognize the rights of other animals. At the same time, I think that efforts to get legal recognition for some particular other animals such as chimpanzees or dolphins are part of the process that will bring about the necessary changes in societies norms and values. (I look at this in the same way that I look at the struggle for equal protection under the law for LGBTQ people. As there has been an increasing awareness in the public's consciousness about the inequities that face them, and as there have been incremental steps towards equality taken in some jurisdictions, the norms and values of the general society have been shifting in the favor of LGBTQ people. But it isn't the case that the laws forced the change on society, indeed, laws and regulations that were enacted in earlier decades were repealed because "the public just wasn't ready for them".) I find it hard to believe that we will go from a society that overwhelming supports and benefits from the use and killing of other animals to a society that affords them the legal protection of rights without first going through a long, slow and messy process that will work to shift the public's consciousness. I differ with people who think that so-called welfare reforms are a sign that this process is not working, and with those who think such reforms are contrary to the goals of that process. On my view, welfare reforms are an inevitable part of this process and while it's possible in theory that such reforms could be avoided, as a practical matter they will be necessary.

As far as what we owe to those other animals who are being killed by "natural" predators in the wild, I find that the currently predominant rights theory isn't up to the task of settling this question. On the one hand, predators are not moral agents who act in an intentionally malicious way towards those they prey upon. It's just what they do, and, holding all else constant, humans ought not to interfere in the lives of innocent others. On the other hand, those other animals unfortunate enough to be the predator's prey have an interest in continuing to live, and the entire basis of animal rights theory is that those other animals who have an interest in living ought to be protected by a right to not be killed. Is it the case that that right only creates an obligation in moral agents? Perhaps it is the case. But then, what that means is that if I too possess a right to not be killed, then each other person only has the obligation to not kill me. That is, no one has an obligation to prevent another person from dying. This leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that Francione, for instance, reaches that no one necessarily has a legal or moral obligation to help a child who is drowning in a shallow pool (see question 17 of the FAQ's at The Abolitionist Approach). Surely we can do better than that.

The question then is: Does an individual's right to not be killed entail an obligation on the part of a moral agent to prevent such an individual from being killed when that moral agent can prevent the killing without thereby causing some greater harm? I think it does. It's an open question whether we will ever be able to prevent lions from killing antelopes without causing some greater harm to others, but I think it's clear that we ought to continue to think about the ways in which we might be able to do so. Otherwise, what our conception of animals' rights boils down to isn't about any right that animals have to not be killed, as a general matter, but only a right to not be killed by us. That seems to me to be much less about the quality of their lives and more about the easing of our own consciences, and surely we can do better than that too.


Brandon, like you I prefer to live "wild and free". Like you, I also prefer a warm bed at night and hospital care if I break my leg or burst an appendix - and to be free from hunger, thirst and fear of predators. So the question is whether the blessings of civilisation should be restricted to the single species or ethnic group to which we ourselves belong? Or extended to the broadest possible range of sentient beings?

Tim's example of the child drowning in a shallow pool raises the issue of complicity. Virtually all ethicists would agree that not pulling the child out (because I don't want to get my trousers muddy, for instance) would be almost as immoral as pushing the child into the pool to drown. By contrast, we currently regard a similar fate befalling a nonhuman animal in Africa as sad but not immoral. For there is nothing we could do about it. But for better or worse, later this century humans will command the computational resources to micromanage every cubic metre of the planet. With power comes complicity. So to give a concrete example, Brendan, would you allow e.g. the mother and baby elephant in
to die a slow and agonizing death because it's "natural"? Or intervene ("interfere") to avert a tragedy?
Advocates of compassionate biology simply argue that our interventions in the living world should be systematic and responsibly planned, not haphazard and piecemeal.

Saving an animal from a natural disaster (though probably not wholly natural given humans' destruction of ecosystems) is different from intervening to stop a lion from attempting to kill a gazelle (or a hawk from eating a mouse or a tuna from eating a smaller fish or a turtle from eating a squid...). In the first case, you can be sure that you are not directly causing any harm. In the second, it's clear your intervention is causing some direct harm by, for example: (1) keeping the predator hungry, possibly leading to starvation [predators are generally only successful about 1 in 10 tries]; (2) possibly weakening the survival skills of the prey (such as a rabbit) who may learn to rely on humans who can't always be around to help; (3) keeping scavengers hungry, including first (like coyotes) and secondary (like vultures) and tertiary (like early humans!) scavengers, who rely on kills of prey by predators for survival.

Studying anthropology, it's not at all clear that civilization has been beneficial for humans. In fact, many anthropology experts argue that humans had it much better in the wild, living in nomadic foraging bands. And there is no doubt that the planet all life depends upon had it better without civilization colonizing and destroying ecosystems worldwide. So, no, I don't want to domesticate and "civilize" all species, I don't even like what has become of our own species!

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