[extropy-chat] What are animal rights anyway?

Ian Goddard iamgoddard at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 17 04:58:11 UTC 2006

--- Robert Bradbury <robert.bradbury at gmail.com> wrote:

> I think the points made thus far (by Lee, Amara &
> MB) are all reasonable.  I was simply trying to 
> point out that "rights" don't exist the same way 
> other nouns exist (a dog, a cat, a car, etc.).  As 
> pointed out they exist in a social context by 
> agreement between entities (beings?) who can claim 
> or assert those rights.  Where this gets fuzzy is 
> when we start attributing the rights to entities 
> who are incapable of asserting those rights (e.g. 
> animals or pre-human beings) and in cases where you 
> have something which can assert rights (an AI or a 
> self-copy) but there is no "body" to to associate 
> those rights with. 

 In what sense are animals incapable of asserting
rights? If you tried to assert your 'right' to carve
your initials into the side of a lion, of course we
know the lion would not only be capable of asserting
its right to maintain his bodily integrity as he sees
fit, he'd probably assert rights so forcefully you
might be killed in the process! No sane person would
attempt to do such a thing unless they believed they'd
managed to subdue the lion's ability to defend itself.
And of course the same measures (tranquilizer drugs or
some such) could be used to subdue the ability of a
human to assert rights. So the fact that we can often
*overcome* the ability of animals to assert rights
certainly does not establish that they are incapable
of asserting rights; in fact, I think it tends to
*prove* that they do assert rights!

 And on the other extreme, feebleness of ability is
not evidence of incapability. Sometimes when I'm
sitting in my backyard a squirrel sits up in a tree
scolding me. They make a series of sounds only when
some other animal (human, cat, dog) is on their
defined property and they want them to leave. That's
an assertion of rights, even as I can go back to my
reading and ignore the noise, and unlike a lion, the
squirrel being much smaller than I is incapable
exerting any greater punishment on me. But that
variety of 'incapability' is akin to a person's
incapability of preventing a larger gang from
assaulting them. And of course just because party A is
bigger than B and thus B cannot defend against A does
not establish B's incapability of asserting rights. So
I don't see in what meaningful sense animals are
incapable of asserting rights. 

 Note that all that is aside from whether or not we
will or should respect an animal's assertions. In
other words, one way says we can do what we will with
animals because they don't have or assert rights. And
another path says they do have or assert rights, but
our rights supercede their rights, and unless they can
stop us, we'll do as we see fit. ~Ian


"All inferences from experience suppose, as their
foundation, that the future will resemble the past,
and that similar powers will be conjoined with similar
sensible qualities. If there be any suspicion, that
the course of nature may change, and that the past may
be no rule for the future, all experience becomes
useless, and can give rise to no inference or
conclusion." - David Hume 

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list