Friday, 23 March 2012

An answer to Tibor R Machan’s question ‘Should Animals have human rights?’

Of course not. They should have animal rights, right?

In his short article, entitled ‘Should Animals Have Human Rights?’ in this week’s The Big Issue (no. 992, March 19-25 2012) Tibor R Machan argues his case as to whether ‘human-style rights for animals should exist’ His main argument is that we humans have a moral dimension in our lives, whereas animals do not, and that because of this they are not entitled to rights (specifically, human-rights): ‘Any careful observation of the rest of nature will make it evident that applying moral criteria to how non-human animals live is an error... Ascribing rights to animals is misguided, just as it would be to ascribe guilt to them when they carry out their killings in the wild.’ Machan mixes his terms. Of course animals should not have human rights, they are not human, but animals still deserve rights.

            Machan suggests that because animals seem to have no sense of morality, human empathy for animals is not a sufficient reason to act in the interest of animal rights. He attacks the vegan lifestyle explaining that ‘vegans want everyone to act as vegans choose to, namely to refrain from killing and other wise using animals (exactly why it’s okay to kill fruits and vegetables is a complicated story told by them).’ His portrait of the militant vegan, as the slaughterers of carrots and apples, is misguided. The story is not a complicated one: vegans harvest and eat fruit and vegetables. No pain. No slavery.

 ‘Whatever may be wrong with the way some animals are treated by many human beings, it cannot be accounted for by reference to the rights of animals.’ What is wrong with the way that many animals are treated by many human beings can certainly be accounted for by reference to the rights of animals. Machan admits that humans have a sense of morality. We are capable of moral thought. Then why should we not exercise this sense of morality fully?

I implore Machan to reconsider his perception of animal rights not as based on human rights, but rather a legitimate form of empathy.