AR-FAQ - #01

#01 What is all this Animal Rights (AR) stuff and why should it concern me?

The fundamental principle of the AR movement is that nonhuman animals deserve to live according to their own natures, free from harm, abuse, and exploitation. This goes further than just saying that we should treat animals well while we exploit them, or before we kill and eat them. It says animals have the RIGHT to be free from human cruelty and exploitation, just as humans possess this right. The withholding of this right from the nonhuman animals based on their species membership is referred to as "speciesism". Animal rights activists try to extend the human circle of respect and compassion beyond our species to include other animals, who are also capable of feeling pain, fear, hunger, thirst, loneliness, and kinship. When we try to do this, many of us come to the conclusion that we can no longer support factory farming, vivisection, and the exploitation of animals for entertainment. At the same time, there are still areas of debate among animal rights supporters, for example, whether ANY research that harms animals is ever justified, where the line should be drawn for enfranchising species with rights, on what occasions civil disobedience may be appropriate, etc. However, these areas of potential disagreement do not negate the abiding principles that join us: compassion and concern for the pain and suffering of nonhumans. One main goal of this FAQ is to address the common justifications that arise when we become aware of how systematically our society abuses and exploits animals. Such "justifications" help remove the burden from our consciences, but this FAQ attempts to show that they do not excuse the harm we cause other animals. Beyond the scope of this FAQ, more detailed arguments can be found in three classics of the AR literature.

The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan (ISBN 0-520-05460-1) In Defense of Animals, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-06-097044-8) Animal Liberation, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-380-71333-0, 2nd Ed.)

While appreciating the important contributions of Regan and Singer, many animal rights activists emphasize the role of empathetic caring as the actual and most appropriate fuel for the animal rights movement in contradistinction to Singer's and Regan's philosophical rationales. To the reader who says "Why should I care?", we can point out the following reasons:

One cares about minimizing suffering. One cares about promoting compassion in human affairs. One is concerned about improving the health of humanity. One is concerned about human starvation and malnutrition. One wants to prevent the radical disruption of our planet's ecosystem. One wants to preserve animal species. One wants to preserve wilderness.

The connections between these issues and the AR agenda may not be obvious. Please read on as we attempt to clarify this. DG

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. Jeremy Bentham (philosopher)

Life is life--whether in a cat, or dog or man. There is no difference there between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is a human conception for man's own advantage... Sri Aurobindo (poet and philosopher)

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. Thomas Edison (inventor)

The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men. Leonardo Da Vinci (artist and scientist)

SEE ALSO #02-#03, #26, #87-#91