How Not Knowing About Animal Rights Makes You a Rookie

Animal rights and veganism.

Two terms that are synonymous with each other.

Does being vegan mean you are also an “animal rights activist”?

Or is “animal rights activist” something you have to strive to?

Did you also know that there is a difference between moral and legal rights?

While this piece isn’t meant to be an exhaustive discussion on the subject, the aim is for it to serve as a primer. Which we hope will encourage you to do your own research.

What Are Rights?

As mentioned above, there are essentially, two separate “rights” for other animals.

Legal rights, and moral rights.

So what’s the difference between the two?

Legal Rights
Legal rights are those rights set down in legislation.

For example, dogs have a legal right used in fights.
Dog fights are a “prohibited event” under s20(1)(b) of Qld’s Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.

Another legal right for dogs would be not to have their ears cropped. s23(1) Animal Care and Protection Act2001 (Qld)

This also includes things like pre-stunning of slaughter animals, increased cage size, etc.

The problem with this is that legislation changes with each successive government. It also takes a long time for legislation to be enacted, usually playing catch up to societal values.

Traditionally, this approach isn’t referred to as “animal rights”, instead it known as “welfarism”.

Moral Rights
Moral rights are those rights that are morally assigned to other animals.

What this means, in a Reader’s Digest version, is, if it wrong to do something to a human, it is also wrong to do that same thing to another animal.

For example, we wouldn’t breed, artificially inseminate, female humans for breast milk. So, we shouldn’t do the same thing to females of other species.

Tom Regan made the greatest inroads with moral rights in his book “The Case for Animal Rights”. In this book Regan talks about the “subject-of-a-life” being the requirement to have rights assigned.

Years later, Gary Francione used Regan’s work, in conjunction with Peter Singer’s to create his “Abolitionist Approach To Animal Rights”.

Where It Gets Tricky

Being an animal rights activist isn’t as simple as updating your facebook profile.

For example, let’s say that you are a supporter of Trap, Neuter, Release programs.

Following the moral rights position, TNR infringes/ignores the rights of the animal who is trapped.

Remember, if it isn’t ok to do it to a human, it isn’t ok to do it to another animal.

Then there is the question of the right to life of the animals that the released and neutered animal will kill.

Animal rights are one of those pesky little things that you can’t turn on and off when you want to. Or when it will get you a few social media high fives.

Will You Support Animal Rights?

Don’t take the easy road and say you are an “animal rights activist” on Facebook.

Actually speak up for animal rights?

Say no to campaigns that infringe upon the rights of other animals.

Don’t talk about “suffering” or “cruelty”, talk about the rights that these practices are ignoring.

Do your own homework, and read up on books by Tom Regan.

Ask questions.

If you don’t ask questions, how do you know what you are thinking is the right thing?

Encourage others to become genuine animal rights activists. Not token facebook ones.

What are your thoughts?