Do animals actually have rights? Who can grant these rights and who should control these rights? The discussions concerning animal rights are arising more and more often, and there are both supporters of animal rights and their adversaries. The purpose of this essay is to consider the pros and cons of animal rights and to discuss the existing viewpoints on this question.
It is common knowledge that the state of the environment is getting worse each year, and that many animal species are under threat of disappearing, while many of them have already disappeared forever. The question is, whether humanity will be able to live without animals. Evidently, this is impossible. Animals serve as friends, companions, research material, food, transport and guardians for human species.
Many defenders of animal rights state that the humanity is misusing its power, brings unnecessary harm and cruelty to animal world and that animal rights should be acknowledged along with human rights (Sherry, 2009). However, the opponents of this viewpoint respond with creating the picture of full support of animal rights; they state that if animals receive equal rights with human beings, then all medical research will stop, there will be food shortage, invasions of stray and wild animals etc. The adversaries of animal rights also consider it to be absurd to care about every living creature, because in this case the very fact of human life will harm some animals, insects and other living creatures.
Both sides are describing extreme situations. Our civilization is currently on one side of the extreme: we are consuming much more resources, food and life space than it’s necessary for normal existence. In fact, if such rapid consuming trend continues, in some 100-150 years the Earth might become short of natural resources, wildlife will be almost destroyed and the whole ecosystem will be damaged. Climate changes and environment catastrophes in different parts of the globe already show signs of future troubles. It is true that the humanity is just excessively treating the surrounding world, mostly due to the belief that humans are dominating species and that other forms of life and nature are meant to serve their needs.
There is a second branch of animal rights defenders, who argue that human beings still need to perform a certain exploitation of other living beings, but this should be done only in cases of extreme necessity. The supporters of this viewpoint describe a human rights model of Tom Regan (Owen, 2009). He stated that individual rights cannot be harmed and “can only be overridden in extreme situations”¯ (Owen, 2009), e.g. when overriding the right of an individual will allow to prevent greater harm to other individuals, when these actions are in a necessary chain of event aimed to prevent greater harm to other individuals, or when these actions provide a hope of preventing a greater harm to other individuals (Sunstein & Nussbaum, 2005). Thus, the violation of individual (in this case, animal) rights should be justified with extreme circumstances.
This viewpoint had be equally applied to animal rights; it elaborated a strong morale and ethics, which is aligned with the reality of life, but at the same time eliminates unnecessary harm and cruelty done to living creatures. For example, these “moderate”¯ defenders of animal rights state that scientific experiments on animals still might take place, but they should be designed to involve as little animals as possible, cause as few deaths as possible and avoid animal suffering (Sunstein & Nussbaum, 2005). The supporters of this point of view suggest that humanity should adopt a morale of using their dominant position only if it is justified by extreme biological or other needs. In my opinion, this approach should be extended not only to animals, but to using natural resources, and should eventually integrate in all spheres of human life. I believe that respect to nature, to other living beings and to each other is the only way the humanity can survive and prosper.