Animal Rights

  • Created by: emwestern
  • Created on: 02-04-15 18:52

Animal Rights

The acient Greek philoser Aristotle belived that animals existed only to serve human desires and needs. He said that animals were not able to reason and therefore had no moral status and, consequentially, no rights. However, more recently, people have begun to question whether in fact animals do have feelings and, if so, also have rights - in particular, the right to decent treatment from human beings. 

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Animals for Food

Most animal suffering and death in the world is caused by the human need for food and many millions of animals are killed for food in the UK. Intensive industrial "factory farming means that;

  • Farm animals are often kept in very small spaces with little light, which leads to insanitary conditions. 
  • 70% of the UK's eggs come from hend kept in cramped conditions. This keeps the price of eggs low, but means the hens can hardly move. New european Union laws may change this situation soon. 
  • Dairy cows are  often made pregnant by artificial insemination, which increases the amount of milk they produce. This is why some people choose to go vegetarian or vegan.
  • More animals can be produced for food, which means greater profit for the farmers and sellers, but at what cost to the animals?
  • Dairy cows are kept outside in the summer, but in the winter are kept in very cramped sheds.
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Animals for Food - Arguments For and Against

Arguments in favour of killing animals for food;

  • Humans are the superior beings and may do as they like with the animals
  • humans are meat-eaters. Killing and eating animals is part of the natural order.
  • Most animals are bred to be used as food. If this were not so, they would not exist at all.

Arguments against killing animals for food;

  • If animals have rights, then the most important one is the right to live.
  • Humans so not need to eat meat to survive - we can live as vegetarians.
  • Many animals reared in factory farms live in poor conditions
  • Killing animals for food is often does in a brutal way. 
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Animals in Experimentation

Every year in the UK about 2 million experiments on animals take place. Most are medical, whereby animals are used to test medicines and other treatments before they are used on humans. Some animals are genetically modified in order to test the effect of cancer and other life-threatning diseases. 

Other experiments are not for medical reasons, but for purposes such as testing new cosmetics, shampoos and other beauty products.

Most experiments are carried out on mice and rats, but sometimes larger animals have to be used, for instance rabbits, dogs and cats. This sometimes causes controversy and raises the question of whether these larger animals have greater moral status than the smaller ones. 

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Animal Experimentation - Arguments For and Against

Arguments in favour of animal experimentation;

  • Human life is of greater value than animal life.
  • Such experiments provide a wealth of useful information that could not be found in any other way.
  • Animal suffering is limited and controlled by law.
  • Medicines have been developed as a result of experimentation, for example, vaccines to right rabies and polio.
  • Animal experimentation is the most effective way to test for medical cures
  • Animal experimentation has saved many human lives and led to the discovery of cured for many illnesses.

Arguments against animal experimentation;

  • Animals have as much right to live as humans 
  • If we deliverately cause pain and suffering to animals, we are negliecting our power of stewarship.
  • The same results can be obtained using a computer simulation, rather than using animals.
  • Animal experiments are unreliable because the animals are under so much stress.
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Animals for Hunting

A 'Blood Sport' is one which involved causing suffering to animals, for instance fox hunting and bull fighting. Many such activities have been banned by law, but still go on in secret. For example, Badger-Baiting which involves badgers being made into fight dogs - is illegal under the Protection of Badgers Act in 1992. Most famous and controversial of all is 'hunting with hounds' where people ride horses following a pack of trained hounds chasing afox or deer which is eventually caught and killed.

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Animals for Hunting - Arguments For and Against

Arguments in favour of hunting animals;

  • Hunted animals are usually those that are a nuisance to farm animals and may cause farmers to lose stock - for instance, farmers ay that foxes threaten their poultry.
  • Hunting is an ancient and traditional sport that should be preserved.
  • Hunters are skilled and try to ensure that hunted animals die with the minimum of suffering.
  • Hunting is also used as a way of catching food. 

Arguments against hunting animals;

  • Hunting with hounds causes hours of suffering 
  • There are more efficient and gentler ways to kill animals that are a nuisance
  • Hunting one species disrupts the food chain
  • Just because something is acient and traditional doesnt make it right eg. the slave trade
  • Hunting hounds damages the countryside.
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Culling is a method of controlling the numbers of animals in a certain area. Animals are killed in order to reduce the number of them. For example, if there are too many of a certain kind of animal in one placem they may cause excessive damage to crops. in 2008, elephants were culled in parts of south africa because they were a danger to people, were eating many crops and drinking to much water. In the UK in 2008, the Welsh Assembly authorized the culling of certain groups of badgers in designated parts of south west wales to possible spread of tuberculosis in farm cattle.

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Culling - Arguments For and Against

Arguments in favour of culling;

  • It can prevent the spread of disease amongst animals livestock
  • it can prevent damage to crops
  • it prevents the loss of food or water for people or other animals 
  • it can remover animals that are a threat to human life

Arguments against culling;

  • Culling is sometimes done for profit - for instance selling the meat of culled animals
  • Humans should not interfere with the natural way of things
  • there is no need to kill unwanted animals - they can be removed in other ways that do not involve suffering
  • culling is often brutal 
  • culling is only a short-term solution and does not really solve the problem
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Animals as Pets

Animals are widely used as pets in the uk and and the majority of pet ownders use their stewsrship over animals and treat them very well. However, some pet owners are cruel and neglect their pets and every year nearly 1000 people are convicted of cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which puts a legal duty on pet owners to look after their pets properly.

There are also issues about whether all animals are suitable as pets. Whilst some, such as cats and dogs, are clearly domesticated and are well-suited to be pets, others such as rare species or birds, are less well-suited and maybe should not be kept as pets.

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Animals as Pets

Arguments in favour of keeping animals as pets;

  • Many animals are better looked after as pets than they would be in the wild - for example, they get good food and a warm bed.
  • Having a pet helps us to understand animals better
  • Having a pet helps us to learn how to act responsibly towards animals 
  • Having a pet allows expressions of love, companionship and fun.

Arguments against keeping animals as pets;

  • Humans have no right to keep animals in captivity and away from their natural environment.
  • People often abandon their pets - about 10,000 per year have to be rescues by the RSPCA
  • Keeping animals at home means they live in an environment that is unnantural to them
  • Animals have the righ to be free and the right to choose where they live.
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Animals as Entertainment

Many circuses around the world use trained animals to perform tricks and to entertain the audience. In the UK, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 prevents animals from suffering needlessly by requiring their owners and keepers to look after them in a responsible way. In particular, the Act requires that animal owners must;

  • Give their animals a suitable place to live 
  • Feed them properly
  • Allow them to exhibit normal behaviour patterns 
  • Be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease.

In addition, circus trainers may only train animals suitable for the circus environment and in the UK must register with the local authority and the police, both of whom have the power to order a veterinary inspection of all animals. Any circuses found guilty of negllect or cruelty can be closed down.

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Animals as Entertainment - Arguments For and Again

Arguments in favour of using animals in circuses;

  • Circuses help to preserve endangered species, such as tigers. 
  • Circues raise awareness about animals and people appreciate them more and may, as a result, give money to animal charities. 
  • As the superior species, humans should be allowed to use animals for their own ammusement.
  • Circus animals live in a safe environment, free from predators.

Arguments against using animals in circuses;

  • Animals bred in captivity lose their natural instincts and cannot be returned to the wild
  • Humans have no right to remove animals from their natural environment
  • Animals in circuses are sometimes kept in unsuitable cages
  • If we use animals for entertainment, people will think that animals are an inferior species
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Animals in Zoo's - Arguments in Favour and Against

Zoo's are also places where animals are used for entertainment, though many zoos today see it as their main function to protect and preserve endangered species, like pandas and elephants.

Arguments in favour of zoos;

  • it helps preserve endangered species and helps to produce breeding programmes
  • some zoos have good living conditions for the animals
  • Zoos help people learn more about the animals and environment
  • Zoos are leading scientific research institutes

Arguments against zoos;

  • Not all animals in zoos are endangered 
  • it is better to observe and learn about animals in the wild, rather than a zoo
  • many zoo animals still live in cramped conditions
  • we do not need zoos, we can learn about animals from tv or computer programmes
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Religious Viewpoints

Arguments in Favour


  • Animals exist for the benefit of humans - St.Thomas Aquinas
  • Jesus bacame human, indicating that humans are the superior species and are therefore more valuable - Karl Barth
  • The bible teaches that it is permissible to kill and eat animals


  • Animals can be killed for food, thought it must be carried out with the minimum of suffering - this is called the Schechitah Ritual


  • Muhammad taught that animals could be killed for food. They should be killed painlessly according to the halal method.
  • Animals are sacrificed at festivals such as the Eid al Adha
  • Animals may be used for experimentation is there is no alternative
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Religious Viewpoints

Arguments in favour of using animals


  • Hindu holy text makes reference to animal sacrifices as being important in religious rituals
  • performing religious rituals help hindus to attain 'Moksha'
  • 'The animal to be sacrificed is not considered to be an animal; it is, instead, a symbol'


  • At the time of the Buddha, members of the Sangha we allowed to eat meat


  • Sikhs who are not initiated into the Khalsa may chose to eat meat 
  • Animals are a precious part of creation, but are secondry to humanity
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Religious Viewpoints

Arguments against the use of animals


  • Humans have been given stewardship over God's creation and must take care of it wisely
  • Many Christians have campaigned for animal rights 
  • The bible says that God values animal life
  • All life is sacred - to harm an animal is to act against Go'ds creation


  • Animals are part of Gods creation and must be treated with respect
  • The Jewish Decleration on Nature says that humanity accepted responsibility for looking after all of Gods creation
  • Hunting and killing animals for sport goes against the Schechitah rituals for the painless killing of animals for food 
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Religious Viewpoints

Arguments against the use of animals


  • Animals are part of the creation and the principle of ahimsa means that they must not be harmed
  • The laws of Manu say that animals must be protected
  • Many Hindu Gods have appeared as animals 
  • The cow is sacred and shows the link of care between humans and animals


  • All living creatures are interdependent upon each other - everything depends on everything else.
  • Many buddhists are vegetarian. 
  • Members of the Sangha will not permit animals to be killed for sport or for food.
  • A person who ill-treats an animal will recieve bad Karma


  • Animals are part of the reincarnation process and should be treated with respect
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