How to Do Animal Rights
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How to Do Animal Rights


What's This Free Online Book About?
The Author

Chapter 1.  Introduction to Doing Animal Rights

1. The Broad Setting

The Big Problem
Being Active
The Best Animal Rights Attitude
The Expanding Circle
The Great Leap

2. Mass Extinction

The Sixth Extinction
The Mega Devastators

3. The Animal Holocaust

What is the Animal Holocaust?
Incredible Killing
Not Ours to Abuse
The Most Effective Thing You Can Do

How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 2.  Know Your Animal Ethics & Animal Rights

1. Animal Ethics
Importance of Animal Ethics
Some History
How to Proceed?
Ethical Theories
Ethical Theories Compared
Choosing an Ethical Theory
Do Philosophical Ideas Work?

2. Animal Rights
What are Animal Rights?
Background to Animal Rights
Major Dates for Rights
Animal Rights Theory
Fundamental Animal Rights Positions
Variations on Animal Rights
Are Rights a Cure-all?
Arguments For & Against Animal Rights

3. Comparing Animal Philosophies
Animal Ethics vs Animal Rights
Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare
Animal Rights vs Conservation
Deep Ecology

4. Universal Declaration of Animal Rights
UN Universal Declaration
Declaration of Animal Welfare
Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare

Animals Need You!How to Do Animal RightsAnimals Need You!

Chapter 3.  Campaigning Methods for Animal Rights

1. Campaigning
Your Right to Campaign
Where to Begin?
Keeping Going
10 Essential Campaigning Tips
More Tips

2. Civil Disobedience
What is Civil Disobedience?
Civil Disobedience & Animal Rights
Hunt Sabotage
Arguments For & Against Civil Disobedience

3. Direct Action
What is Direct Action?
Examples of Animal Rights Direct Action
Individual vs Mass Direct Action
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The Battle of Brightlingsea
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
Inset: Background to Brightlingsea
Comparing Direct Actions
Direct Action vs Civil Disobedience
Efficacy of Direct Action
Ethical Code of Practice

4. Action Planning
What is an Action Plan?
Why an Action Plan?
Who Should Produce the Action Plan?
Before You Begin
Operations & Administrations
Creating Your Action Plan
You Should Be Smart
You Should Also SWOT
Make It Happen
A Simple Action Plan

5. Lobbying
What is Lobbying?
Who Can Lobby?
What & Whom to Lobby
Start Lobbying
How to Lobby
Lobbying Techniques

6. Picketing
What is Picketing?
AR Picketing is Like Industrial Picketing
How to Picket
Hitting Back

7. Starting a Group
Anyone Can Start a Group
What to Do?
Name & Logo
Finding Members
A Constitution?
The Group Committee
Group Success or Failure

8. Leafleting
Why Leafleting?
Posters & Placards

9. News Media
Why the News Media?
Make it Newsworthy
Media Tips
A Feature Article?
The Letters Page
News Release
The Radio
Radio Tips

10. Internet
Why the Internet?
The Web
Create Your Own Web Site / Blog
Designing Your Web Site
Capturing Viewers
Discussion Boards

How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 4.  Activities for Animal Rights

 1. Undercover Investigator

 2. Video Activist

 3. Animal Friendly Traveller

 4. Animal Preacher

 5. Animal Rescuer

 6. Investigative Reporter

 7. Media Watcher

 8. Philosopher

 9. Flyer

10. Personal Activist

11. Animal Lawyer

12. Politician

13. Prisoner Supporter

14. Public & School Speaker

15. Aerial Snooper

16. Scientific Investigator

17. Solo Information Worker

18. Street Theatre Actor

19. Teacher

20. Voluntary Worker Abroad

How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 5.  The Law & Animal Rights

1. Terrorism
A Definition of Terrorism
Background to Terrorism
But What Really is Terrorism?
Animal Extremism & Terrorism
Does AR Extremism Work in Practice?

2. Violence or Nonviolence?
Scope of AR Extremism
Can We Justify Violence?
Kinds of Violence
Views For & Against Violence
Is Violence Efficacious?

3. The Law - US & Britain
United States
FBI vs Extremists
Extremist Tactics
Establishment Fights Back

4. Police Arrest
Ben Prepared
In the Street & At Your Door
At the Police Station
Your Tactics
Know Your Rights
Remaining Silent
Having a Lawyer Present
Suing the Police

How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 6.  Assorted Animal Rights Activists

1.  Steven Best

2.  John Lawrence

3.  Andrew Linzey

4.  Richard Martin

5.  The McLibel Two

6.  Ingrid Newkirk

7.  Jill Phipps

8.  Henry Salt

9.  Henry Spira

10. Three Philosophers

How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 7.  Numbers of Animal Raised & Killed

1.  Summary

2.  Chickens

3.  Pigs

4.  Beef Cattle

5.  Fish

6.  Meat Consumption

7.  Fur-bearers

8.  Experimental Animals

How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 8.  Extras!

1.  Mutilations of Farm Animals

2.  The Five Freedoms

3.  Painism

4.  The Forgotten Fur

5.  The Golden Rule

6.  Human Overpopulation

7.  Climate Change

8.  Think Like an Animal

Appendix - World Scientists' Warning to Humanity


How to Do Animal Rights

Chapter 2

Know Your Animal Ethics & Animal Rights

2. Animal Rights
"To spread the concept [of animal rights] beyond our species is to jeopardize our dignity as moral beings, who live in judgement of one another and of themselves." Roger Scruton (1)
On the other hand...
"...animal rights must not only be an idea but a social movement for the liberation of the world's most oppressed beings, both in terms of numbers and in the severity of their pain." Steven Best (2)

What are Animal Rights?

Animal rights are the rights of animals to be protected from human use and abuse and can take moral, legal and practical forms. People who support animal rights believe that animals are not ours to use as we wish for whatever purpose, be it for food, clothing, experimentation or entertainment. Animal rights supporters also believe that we should consider the best interests of animals regardless of the usage value they may have for us.

But what are animal rights specifically, how do animal rights compare with human rights, and are rights a remedy for all moral problems?

Background to Animal Rights

The concept of human rights is often based on a belief in 'natural rights'. Natural rights are assumed to be given by God, or were enjoyed when people were living in a 'state of nature' before people were civilized, or are in some way possessed universally in that rights apply to everyone automatically, indisputably and irrevocably. In the 17th century the English philosopher John Locke was among the first to distinguish certain natural rights. He thought people were entitled to the rights to life, liberty and property.

Alternatively, human rights might be neither natural nor universal. You could argue that rights are only what people are willing to confer as they see fit on others, being the granting of particular benefits by people to people.

The generally held modern view of human rights is that they are:

  • Natural - rulers do not invent them.
  • Universal - they apply to everyone.
  • Equal - they are the same for everyone.
  • Inalienable - you cannot relinquish them.

  • Rights are usually contracted between a country's government and its citizens, like the right to vote, the right to fair trial and the right to free speech, and vary from county to country. Many states make utterances about giving their citizens rights but do not always grant rights fully.

    Major Dates for Rights

  • 1776. The United States Declaration of Independence recognised the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This was the world's first major published statement of human rights.
  • 1789. The National Assembly of France approved rights for the common man, including equality before the law, equal opportunity, freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, freedom of speech and religion, security of property, and taxation commensurate with ability to pay.
  • 1948. The United Nations affirmed its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting out over two dozen rights, including the right of individuals to life, liberty and education, to equality in law, to the freedoms of movement, religion and association and the right to information.

  • For progress on a declaration on animal rights see: Universal Declaration on Animals.

    Animal Rights Theory

    The justification for conferring rights on animals is that animals are in many important ways like humans. Animals are sentient creatures. They feel pleasure and pain, experience emotions, remember, anticipate and learn. What happens to them is important for them, unlike what happens to a rock or a stone. So, if you argue that humans deserve rights, by simple extension you can argue that animals also deserve rights.

    Animal interests, however, are not always the same as human interests. Thus the range of rights that animals need are not always the same as the range of rights that humans need. Animals are not in need of equality before the law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion or fair taxation. Nor do animals have an interest in voting or getting a high school education. Hence, it would be meaningless and silly to talk of giving animals the right to these interests. However, this should not prevent us from bestowing relevant or appropriate rights on animals. Relevant rights for animals can be any benefits appropriate for animals that people wish to bestow on them.

    Relevant rights for animals may include:

  • The right to live free in the natural state of their choosing.
  • The right to express normal behaviour (eg food searching, grooming, nest building).
  • The right to life (ie not be killed for human food or other human use).
  • The right to reproduce (ie pass on their genes to the next generation).
  • The right to choose their own lifestyle (eg not be coerced into experiments or used as entertainment).
  • The right to live free from human induced harm (eg hunger, thirst, molestation, fear, distress, pain, injury or disease).

  • If you believe animals have such rights then you would have a doubtful basis for exploiting animals. You would have a moral duty to support those rights and would be morally corrupt if you did not. If animals have these rights, how could you justify, say, eating animals, using them for sport or keeping them in zoos? Adopting this attitude in practical terms means that you would have to live your life accordingly, such as become a vegetarian or vegan.

    Fundamental Animal Rights Positions

    As for the actuality of giving rights to animals you could say there are three fundamental positions:

    1. Abuse: animals have no moral status.
    2. Welfare: animals should have welfare.
    3. Liberation: animals should be liberated.

    1. Abuse
    This is the attitude that we owe nothing to animals except to make use of them as and how we like. It is the position many people held in past centuries and many people still hold today, especially in China and surrounding countries.

    2. Welfare
    This view is that animals are a resource for humanity, we should treat animals kindly, but humans always come first when there is a conflict of interest. Welfarists acknowledge the need to use animals but try to alleviate 'needless' animal suffering. It is the position most people in the West support today.

    3. Liberation.
    This is the avant-garde position: animals deserve moral status similar in some way to human moral status. There are two types of animal liberationist and both want to abolish the use of animals on moral or other grounds. 'New welfarists' regard abolition as a long-term goal and meanwhile try to ease as much animal suffering as possible by introducing practical welfare measures. The 'hard-line abolitionists' believe welfare is a waste of time and pitch straight for abolition of animal use on the grounds that if there is no abuse there is no need for welfare. Liberationists have a lifestyle quite different to the majority of people, being vegan or vegetarian and reject goods and services based on animals.

    For a comparison of animal rights and animal welfare (and new welfare) see Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare.

    Variations on Animal Rights

    The concept of animal rights has different levels of definition. So to make any discussion meaningful and avoid talking at cross purposes you need to clarify what people have in mind when they speak about animal rights. For example you can distinguish three basic views about animal rights:

    1. Absolute:
    always protect animals' rights, even when doing so is troublesome.
    2. Equal Consideration: give equal importance to comparable interests of animals and humans.
    3. Relative: overrule the interests of animals if you have good reason.

    1. Absolute

    Animals have value in themselves independent of their worth to humans (they are said to have 'intrinsic' value, that is value irrespective of their use to humans) and do not exist solely for humans. Moreover, people must protect the rights of animals even when to do so is difficult for human society. For instance, people should not experiment on dogs to develop a possible life-saving drug for humans even if it means delaying the drug's development by some years. This view is held by animal rightists.

    2. Equal Consideration

    Animals have at least some value in themselves irrespective of human values (they have some intrinsic value), so we should treat them well. Furthermore, people must give equal consideration to the comparable interests of animals and humans. For example, when making a moral decision about the sufferings of a dog and a human, neither want pain inflicted on them, so we should give the same weight of consideration to the dog as we would to the human. If we are not prepared to make a human suffer we should not make a dog suffer. This view may be held by people with a Utilitarian philosophy.

    3. Relative

    Animals have at least some value in themselves irrespective of human attitudes (they have some intrinsic value), so we should treat them well. But although people should avoid causing animals 'unnecessary' suffering, animal rights are relative to human rights, so we can cancel the interests of animals for the benefit of humans if there is justification. For instance, we should use dogs and monkeys in research and their welfare is important, but the well-being of humans is more important. This view may be held by welfarists.

    You need not confine yourself to these three levels when discussing animal rights. You can make up nuances as you like, such as broadening animal rights to apparently non-sentient animals or to the whole of inanimate nature or by coming up with different definitions of animal rights. But keep each basic level in mind to make discussion meaningful.

The Scream - originally painted by Edvard Munch

CLICK TO BUY PRINT. (Text for translation: I heard a loud unending scream piercing nature. Edvard Munch. Animal Holocaust. Mass Extinction. Climate Change. Oy Vey!)

Are Rights a Cure-all?

Rights should be absolute if they are to protect individuals; they cannot be suspended or hacked about to fit in with what someone may happen to want. Yet sometimes there seem to be cases for overriding rights during conflicts of interest. For example, it might seem right to kill some individuals to save others, such as killing mice spoiling a harvest and setting off a famine, or killing predators such as coyotes or foxes eating the last individuals of an endangered species. How should we react to situations like these? We might respond by temporarily adopting another philosophy, like Utilitarianism - that you should act to bring about the greatest good to the greatest number of individuals. Thus we should be aware that rights are not a panacea that can cope with all moral conditions all the time; now and then we may have to look outside rights for other solutions to guide us when dealing with moral issues.

Another problem with rights is that sometimes animals are said to have intrinsic value - have worth in themselves irrespective of their value to humans. As an animal rightist you might claim that all sentient beings are entitled to rights because they have equal intrinsic value. But does intrinsic value really exist? Does it exist independently of humanity? Intrinsic value may simply be a part of the human value system that values things that have no value or are said to have no value. If you do not believe in intrinsic value then you might have to pursue animal liberation via Utilitarianism, not through animal rights. As a utilitarian you could claim that sentient animals have interests and therefore no species (ie humanity) is more important than any other and we should give equal moral consideration to every creature's moral interests.

Rightist and utilitarian outlooks are similar and different. They are similar in that withholding rights or withholding equal consideration of interests is speciesism. They are different in that (according to Utilitarianism but not rights) you might harm sentient animals and humans, so long as the harm benefits the majority of individuals.

Arguments For & Against Animal Rights

Listen to people's arguments for and against animal rights. Break down their arguments into simple statements and add them to these common outlooks to help argue your own case.

1. Drawing the Line
  • Claim: If we grant rights to animals then eventually even insects and plants will have rights. That would be ridiculous.
  • Claim: Animal rights encompass animals who are sentient (chiefly mammals and birds, but also advanced invertebrates like the octopus, Octopus vulgaris). It is Deep Ecology (see Chapter 2: Comparing Animal Philosophies) that makes the case for giving rights to all of nature.

  • 2. Dependency on Animality
  • Claim: Giving rights to animals will severely disrupt society, which would have to undergo enormous changes. Every use of animals would have to stop and we would not be able to live normal lives.
  • Claim: Most people may want to give absolute animal rights where they can and relative animal rights where they cannot. We must do this with good intention and careful consideration.

  • 3. Moral Sense
  • Claim: Animals have no sense of morality. So they do not need moral rights.
  • Claim: We support animal rights because we are moral. Whether or not animals have a sense of morality is not the issue.

  • 4. Comprehension
  • Claim: Only creatures who comprehend rights can benefit from them. Only humans understand rights so only humans can have rights.
  • Claim: Children and severely mentally impaired people cannot understand rights, yet we do not deny them rights. Therefore we should not hold back from giving rights to animals because they cannot comprehend them.

  • 5. Reciprocation
  • Claim: Conferment of rights implies reciprocation. If you have the right not to be killed then you must reciprocate by respecting the right of others and not kill them. Animals cannot reciprocate so they should not have rights.
  • Claim: Animal rights are about how humans should treat animals, not about how animals should treat humans. In any case, we respect the rights of our future unborn generations and they cannot reciprocate.

  • 6. Evolution
  • Claim: Humans kill and eat animals because they evolved to survive by exploiting their environment. It is therefore pointless even to consider giving animals rights and we should continue to exploit them.
  • Claim: Unlike other animals we are not now constrained entirely by evolution. We can reflect on how we should act and can make choices on how to behave. Therefore we can behave morally and give animals rights.

  • 7. Food & Territory
  • Claim: Animals eat each other, so we can eat them. We are all part of the food web.
  • Claim: Animals kill each other for food or to protect their food supply; they have to or they would die. We can decide not to eat animals. Vegetarians do not die for lack of meat.

  • 8. Mental Capacity
  • Claim: People have grater mental capacities than animals so cannot be compared with them. Therefore we should reject animal rights.
  • Claim: We do not use or abuse people who are severely mentally retarded or in a permanent vegetative state. Many animals have mental abilities better then these people. So animals also need rights.

  • 9. Species Differences
  • Claim: Animals and humans are obviously different, so we should treat animals differently to humans.
  • Claim: People are also different from each other (whether intelligence, shape or colour), so where do you draw the treatment line among them? Moreover, there is no acceptable difference that can distinguish sentient animals from people morally.

  • 10. Pain & Suffering
  • Claim: Animals can experience pain and suffering but this does not mean we have to give them rights, only that we should not be cruel to them. We can treat animals well and give them adequate legal protection.
  • Claim: All children have rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by nearly 200 countries. Mentally handicapped people have rights as people. Now we must broaden our circle of compassion to animals.

  • 11. Sentience
  • Claim: Animals are not sentient: they cannot speak, have no thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions or interests. Therefore we should reject animal rights.
  • Claim: We should not make our ignorance of animals a basis for insensitivity. But we know that some animals at least have ideas and a measure of speech, and that animals have feelings, like a need to care for their young, remain with their group and feel safe and well. Therefore animals need rights.

  • References

    (1) Scruton, Roger. Animal Rights. City Journal. Summer 2000.

    (2) Best, Steven. Essay Animal Rights and the New Enlightenment.

How to Do Animal Rights
First published on the Web: April 2008.
© Roger Panaman, April 2008. All rights reserved.