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The Objectivist position on this topic is that animals can't have 'rights' because they do not possess volitional consciousness. However human abuse led to human rights being solidified in law. Doesn't the fact that some people misuse or abuse animals justify that animals be granted or given rights?

To put it in a different way: one can have a selfish interest in a particular animal not feeling pain, such as it makes him feel pain when seeing it and attempt to grant them rights because of it

asked Oct 29 '11 at 05:46

Fareed's gravatar image


edited Nov 25 '12 at 12:32

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

An alternative solution to giving animal rights is to not trade with that person if the value that that person offers is worth less than the value you put on the suffering of animals. If enough people feel that way (e.g., if the abuse is heinous enough), then that person is SOL.

(Nov 15 '12 at 17:17) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

The Objectivist view is that rights are not granted. Ever. Rights are freedom of action in a social context, and they are determined by our nature as humans. Laws exist that attempt to codify some human rights, but those laws do not grant rights.

This is also why animals don't have rights -- it's because of who/what they are. The character of rights implies the ability to be rational, for example; to make a choice. Passing a law that says animals have rights wouldn't make it so.

The fact that some people misuse or abuse animals doesn't change this, nor does the fact that seeing animals in pain causes you pain.

answered Oct 30 '11 at 02:33

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦

This question is primarily about animal abuse, which raises the issue of man's rights, which the question attempts to resolve by extending the concept of "rights" to animals as well as man.

The question acknowledges that the extension of rights to animals is dubious: "The Objectivist position on this topic is that animals can't have 'rights' because they do not possess volitional consciousness." The question then ignores this statement's meaning, derivation, and significance, and expresses the view that rights are just social conventions. As Ayn Rand pointed out in Galt's Speech (pp. 204-205*):

You who've lost the concept of a right, you who swing in impotent evasiveness between the claim that rights are a gift of God, a supernatural gift to be taken on faith, or the claim that rights are a gift of society, to be broken at its arbitrary whim -- the source of man's rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A -- and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.

It should be clear that this description of rights is not applicable to non-human animals. Animals have no capacity to comprehend the concept of rights (nor any other concept), to choose whether or not to respect the rights of man or of other animals (if other animals are alleged to have rights at all), or to use reason as a guide for producing and trading values. For the most part, animals simply seize whatever they can, ready made, although some species can be described as "builders" (of nests, hives, dams, tunnels, thin fiber webs, etc.); but they do it by automatic instinct rather than by concepts and reasoning. They have no need for "freedom of action in a social context," since animals inherently live by physical force (or submission to man in the case of pets or work animals used by man for such purposes, as a form of property owned by man).

For further details on Objectivism's connections between man's rights and facts of realtiy, refer to the topic of "Individual Rights" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, along with Galt's Speech (pp. 149-151 and 204-211*) and VOS. It is especially important to understand the role of physical force in Objectivism's view of rights and the proper functions of government. A very thorough and systematic development of this connection appears in GS (ibid.).

Although an objective concept of rights does not apply to non-human animals, one might still question whether man's rights include the right to abuse animals. This is especially a moral question -- moral right and wrong -- as well as a political one (whether or not laws against animal abuse violate man's rights). There are several points to consider:

  • It is only one's own animals that would be at issue, since abuse of animals owned by others would be a violation of the property rights of the owners. (Unowned wild animals would be under the jurisdiction of whoever owns the territory where the animals are found, which would be the government in the case of unowned territory. Man also has the right to defend his own property from trespass and vandalism by animals.)

  • How is "abuse" to be defined and determined, and by whom? The potential for non-objective law here is huge.

  • By what human right does anyone presume to tell an animal owner what he may or may not do with his own animals? If the concern is primarily moral rather than political or legal, everyone is free to reach his own moral evaluation of an animal abuser and act accordingly toward the abuser, without resorting to physical force. (A comment has already pointed this out.) But on the political level, what human right does animal abuse violate?

Objectivism rejects the idea that immoral actions should necessarily be illegal. A proper government, in the Objectivist view, is limited to acting as man's agent of retaliatory physical force against others (humans), not as a general enforcer of all manner of moral evaluations. As morally heinous as animal abuse can be, it does not qualify as an initiation of physical force by man against other humans, and thus does not qualify as proper grounds for any use of physical force against an animal abuser in response. The same principle also applies to other immoral actions, such as drug abuse and "hard core" pornography, as long as such actions are performed in a way that does not infringe the rights of others (which usually means, at minimum, acts done by adults in private, out of public view and out of view of, or participation by, children).

*Page references for GS refer to the reprint of Galt's speech in the Signet paperback edition of For the New Intellectual, in which Galt's Speech spans pp. 130-216.

answered Dec 03 '12 at 02:56

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Very complete answer. But what about, let's see, chimpanzees? It's been proven scientifically that they do recognize each one of themselves as individuals. They are even capable of learning a language different from the one they use. So they do accept A is A, of course, in a lesser extent than humans. But they do seem to be able to rationalize. What would objectivism say? Do they, then, get rights?

(Dec 03 '12 at 07:45) Juan Diego dAnconia Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

The topic of animal cognition was already debated at length on this website, here: http://objectivistanswers.com/questions/7035/do-any-non-human-animals-use-concepts.

(Dec 04 '12 at 15:51) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

We should recognize rights of chimps if and when chimps demonstrate that they are capable of respecting the rights of humans.

(Dec 07 '12 at 07:18) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Asked: Oct 29 '11 at 05:46

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Last updated: Mar 20 '13 at 19:00