Animal rights

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Animal rights refers to the extension of rights to animals.


  • "There is injustice; you can challenge it. There is a way to live a life of integrity, of trying to do the least harm possible, of integrating political beliefs with what you eat and how you treat others. Welcome to a feminist-vegan vision for the world."
  • The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. [...] A full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
    • Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), Ch. 17, p. 309: Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence
  • Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. They move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
  • I believe that animals have rights which, although different from our own, are just as inalienable. I believe animals have the right not to have pain, fear or physical deprivation inflicted upon them by us. . . . They have the right not to be brutalized in any way as food resources, for entertainment or any other purpose.”
    • Naturalist Roger Caras, ABC-TV News, U.S.A. (Newsweek, December 26, 1988). Quoted in Awake! magazine, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, July 8 1990.
  • The director of a zoo is entitled to "put down" a chimpanzee that is surplus to requirements, while any suggestion that he might "put down" a redundant keeper or ticket-seller would be greeted with howls of incredulous outrage. The chimpanzee is the property of the zoo. Humans are nowadays not supposed to be anybody's property, yet the rationale for discriminating against chimpanzees is seldom spelled out, and I doubt if there is a defensible rationale at all. Such is the breathtaking speciesism of our Christian-inspired attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote (most of them are destined to be spontaneously aborted anyway) can arouse more moral solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of intelligent adult chimpanzees! ... The only reason we can be comfortable with such a double standard is that the intermediates between humans and chimps are all dead.
  • Nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering nor for it. Nature is not interested in suffering one way or the other unless it affects the survival of DNA. It is easy to imagine a gene that, say, tranquilizes gazelles when they are about to suffer a killing bite. Would such a gene be favored by natural selection?
Not unless the act of tranquilizing a gazelle improved that gene's chances of being propagated into future generations. It is hard to see why this should be so, and we may therefore guess that gazelles suffer horrible pain and fear when they are pursued to the death - as many of them eventually are. The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease.
  • It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.
  • You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity, expensive races, — race living at the expense of race.
  • The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
  • The least I can do is speak out for the hundreds of chimpanzees who, right now, sit hunched, miserable and without hope, staring out with dead eyes from their metal prisons. They cannot speak for themselves.
    • Jane Goodall Reported in Janelle Rohr, Animal rights: opposing viewpoints (1989), p. 100; Jane Goodall and Jennifer Lindsey, Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe (1999), p. 6. Occasionally misreported in truncated form, as "The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves", in, e.g., quote honored on EarthE eco money.
  • In what terms should we think of these beings, nonhuman yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes? Yes.
    • Jane Goodall "Chimpanzees - Bridging the Gap", in Paola Cavalieri, Peter Singer, The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity (1996), p. 14.
  • Researchers find it very necessary to keep blinkers on. They don't want to admit that the animals they are working with have feelings. They don't want to admit that they might have minds and personalities because that would make it quite difficult for them to do what they do; so we find that within the lab communities there is a very strong resistance among the researchers to admitting that animals have minds, personalities and feelings.
  • The more we learn of the true nature of non-human animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behavior, the more ethical concerns are raised regarding their use in the service of man—whether this be in entertainment, as "pets," for food, in research laboratories, or any of the other uses to which we subject them.
    • Jane Goodall Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe (2000), p. 245.
  • Anyone who tries to improve the lives of animals invariably comes in for criticism from those who believe such efforts are misplaced in a world of suffering humanity.
    • Jane Goodall Reason for Hope: a Spiritual Journey (2000), with Phillip BermanP. 217.
  • How can you find any pleasure, Herr Kersten, in shooting from behind cover at poor creatures, browsing on the edge of a wood, innocent, defenceless. and unsuspecting? Properly considered, it's pure murder. I've often bagged a deer, but I must tell you that I've had a bad conscience each time I've looked into its dead eyes.
  • We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.
  • Animals do not survive by rational thought (nor by sign languages allegedly taught to them by psychologists). They survive through inborn reflexes and sensory-perceptual association. They cannot reason. They cannot learn a code of ethics. A lion is not immoral for eating a zebra (or even for attacking a man). Predation is their natural and only means of survival; they do not have the capacity to learn any other.
    • Edwin A. Locke, author of The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators (2000)
  • The custom of tormenting and killing of beasts will, by degrees, harden their minds even towards men.
    • John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)
  • All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.
    • Mahavira, Ācharanga Sutra, Book 1, lecture 4, lesson 1, as translated by H. Jacobi, quoted in The Boundless Circle : Caring for Creatures and Creation (1996) by Michael W. Fox, p. 262.
  • What right do we have to claim, as some might, that human beings are the only inhabitants of our planet blessed with an actual ability to be "aware"? [...] The impression of a "conscious presence" is indeed very strong with me when I look at a dog or a cat or, especially, when an ape or monkey at the zoo looks at me. I do not ask that they are "self-aware" in any strong sense (though I would guess that an element of self-awareness can be present). All I ask is that they sometimes simply feel!
  • In consequence of the sensibility with which they are endowed, they ought to partake of natural right; so that mankind is subjected to a kind of obligation even toward the brutes. It appears, in fact, that if I am bound to do no injury to my fellow-creatures, this is less because they are rational than because they are sentient beings: and this quality, being common both to men and beasts, ought to entitle the latter at least to the privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former.
  • The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, as quoted in Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2000) by Richard Ryder, p. 57.
  • It is only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation that it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion, and that the sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite intolerable loathing and disgust.
  • The butchering of harmless animals cannot fail to produce much of that spirit of insane and hideous exultation in which news of a victory is related altho' purchased by the massacre of a hundred thousand men.
    If the use of animal food be, in consequence, subversive to the peace of human society, how unwarrantable is the injustice and barbarity which is exercised toward these miserable victims. They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged. It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery.
  • As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.
  • The animals themselves are incapable of demanding their own liberation, or of protesting against their condition with votes, demonstrations, or bombs. Human beings have the power to continue to oppress other species forever, or until we make this planet unsuitable for living beings. Will our tyranny continue, proving that we really are the selfish tyrants that the most cynical of poets and philosophers have always said we are? Or will we rise to the challenge and prove our capacity for genuine altruism by ending our ruthless exploitation of the species in our power, not because we are forced to do so by rebels or terrorists, but because we recognize that our position is morally indefensible? The way in which we answer this question depends on the way in which each one of us, individually, answers it.
    • Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals (1975), p. 185
  • A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)
  • Hold then the same view of the dog which has lost his master, which has sought him in all the thoroughfares with cries of sorrow, which comes into the house troubled and restless, goes downstairs, goes upstairs; goes from room to room, finds at last in his study the master he loves, and betokens his gladness by soft whimpers, frisks, and caresses.

    There are barbarians who seize this dog, who so greatly surpasses man in fidelity and friendship, and nail him down to a table and dissect him alive, to show you the Mesaraic veins! You discover in him all the same organs of feeling as in yourself. Answer me, Mechanist, has Nature arranged all the springs of feeling in this animal to the end that he might not feel? Has he nerves that he may be incapable of suffering? Do not suppose that impertinent contradiction in Nature.

    • Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764), "Beasts"


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