Moral rights and animals

Inquiry 22 (1-4):23 – 54 (1979)
Abstract
In Section I, the purely conceptual issue as to whether animals other than human beings, all or some, may possess rights is examined. This is approached via a consideration of the concept of a moral right, and by way of examining the claims of sentience, consciousness, capacities for pleasure and pain, having desires, possessing interests, self-consciousness, rationality in various senses. It is argued that only beings possessed actually or potentially of the capacity to be morally self-determining can be possessors of rights. In Section II, normative questions concerning the rights animals might possess if they were to be capable of possessing rights are discussed. The approach followed is that of considering the kinds of argument advanced in support of human rights, and whether these arguments, and the rights they are claimed to establish, are transferable to animals, and whether there are or might be specifically animal rights. In Section III the question of what is or could be the goal of one who recognizes and seeks to respect all rights, animal and human, is raised. In particular, the issue as to whether a goal of maximizing the satisfaction of rights could remain a coherent one if animal rights are acknowledged, is explored.
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Robert Elliot (1985). Critical Notices. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 63 (4):499 – 509.
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