According to the laws of most nations, animals are covered under property rights. That means the value of their life is dependent upon market forces and demand. If something happens to a pet, unless there is cruelty in the actions taken, the responsibility involves replacing the “property” of that pet instead of addressing a fundamental right of life.
For that reason, some nations and jurisdictions have begun to protect the rights of animals as living beings instead of as property. Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom have overhauled many of their laws to provide better protections for animals so that their welfare can be guaranteed.
The primary benefit of giving animals rights is to protect the general welfare of society. Not only are animals living creatures, but people who take their fury out on an animal are just a few steps away from doing so to humans. By identifying people who take these actions early, the rest of society can be protected while the individual in question can be entered into a rehabilitation program.
The disadvantage with animal rights is that it equates animal life with human life. With much of our diet coming from animal muscle protein, such a legal structure would change the entire agricultural community and potentially create many more food deserts throughout the world.
Here are some additional facts to consider when looking at the pros and cons of animal rights.
What Are the Pros of Animal Rights?
1. The death of an animal doesn’t really benefit a human.
Humans may eat animals, but animal protein isn’t necessary for human survival. Vegetarians and vegans prove this every day. If we kill animals, then we create a gap in nature’s evolutionary process that can affect the rest of the world. Sustainable food approaches, when combined with a greater respect for human life, could create a healthier society.
2. Saving animal lives would save our water supply.
Animals have a large water footprint. It is one of the most resource-intensive items in our current food supply. To produce just 1 pound of beef requires almost 1,800 gallons of water. One pound of pork requires nearly 600 gallons of water. In comparison, producing an equivalent number of soybeans or corn would cost 216 gallons and 108 gallons respectively.
3. Animal testing is not a guarantee of safety.
The number of medications that are safe for animals to take, but unsafe for humans, could fill a list the length of your arm. There are also a handful of medications that are safe for humans to take, but are quite harmful to animals. Although there is a similarity between humans and certain animals, there are enough differences that make the data gathered become unreliable.
4. Preventing animal rights is a costly venture.
Many of the animal testing procedures that are initiated never result in a product and the figures continue to rise. In the 1990s, up to 92% of products that were tested on animals never made it to market. By the 2010s, the figure rose to over 98%. These tests all come at a cost and that money needs to come from somewhere.
5. Animals have a certain intelligence to them.
Chimpanzees have the same ability as humans to manipulate their environment, use tools, and finish specific tasks. An adult pig has a comparative intelligence to a 3-year-old human child. Dolphins have a complex language and can recognize themselves in the mirror, which proves self-awareness. Elephants have complex social groups, display empathy and grief, and have an outstanding memory. If we saw many of these traits in humans, we’d expect that person to have rights. Why should an animal be any different?
6. Allotted funds could be used elsewhere.
Money that is being spent on animal testing right now could be dedicated to food programs that feed the hungry. Most food programs around the world can average $0.20 per meal provided. In the United States, about $16 billion is spent every year on animal testing. If just half of those funds were sent to food programs, that would create 40 billion extra meals to feed the hungry.
What Are the Cons of Animal Rights?
1. It would change medication testing processes.
Many of the research projects which involve new medications test the products on animals before testing them on humans. The goal of doing so is to protect human lives by seeing how a medication would react. Some animals, such as rats and chimpanzees, have a DNA profile that is very similar to humans. The data gathered can help researchers understand more about the medication they’re working on to benefit human societies.
2. We need to test new items on something.
It is unethical to try experimental products of humans. Some could argue that it is immoral. Even with informed consent, research that causes harm to a person may not be classified as being beneficial to society. By using animals as a last line of defense to measure the effectiveness of various products, the harm that an untested and dangerous item can cause to humans is naturally limited.
3. Not having animal rights reduces human risks.
Although there are honest questions about the effectiveness of animal testing, it boils down to an us vs. them debate. Having an animal die because there are unforeseen consequences of a drug or product means a human being doesn’t need to die. In the chain of life, human life is superior to animal life, which some argue makes the sacrifice worthwhile.
4. There would be added enforcement costs.
By offering animals rights that are equivalent to the rights of humans, an extra layer of law enforcement would need to be added to our criminal justice systems. People would be spending more time in prison because of charges related to the new rights afforded to animals. Added officers and officials would be needed for enforcement. Since existing laws often afford many rights to animals already in terms of proper treatment, spending this extra cost to provide equivalence may not be the right choice to make.
5. Animals would require a human representative.
Our current legal system recognizes the advancements of humanity. To represent animal rights, a human being would be forced to represent an animal who may have had their rights violated. Although some cases show clear-cut evidence of abuse or neglect, there would be an added level of interpretation to some cases that could make animal rights be more about “getting even” with others rather than be a true case of seeking justice.
The pros and cons of animal rights should cause us to question our belief structures. How we treat animals is a reflection of how we treat others. Giving animals more protections under the laws that govern property may make sense, but giving animals an equivalency may not. There is no easy answer or compromise to this debate.