In Gary Comstock & Mylan Engel Jr (eds.), The Moral Rights of Animals. Lanham, MD: Lexington. pp. 175-198 (2016)

Gary Comstock
North Carolina State University
A common view of nonhuman animals is that they lack rights because they lack conscious control over themselves. Two thoughts put pressure on this view. First, we recognize the rights of radically cognitively limited humans even though they lack conscious control over themselves. So it would seem mere prejudice to deny rights to nonhuman mammals on the grounds that animals lack autonomy. Tom Regan has been the most eloquent, powerful, and resolute defender of this thought. Second, evidence is growing that healthy adults exercise non-conscious control over themselves most of the time. To deny rights to animals on the grounds that they can only exercise non-conscious control over themselves while affirming the rights of humans who similarly exercise non-conscious control over themselves most of the time also seems prejudicial. Notice that whereas the first thought compares animals to neurally diverse, cognitively challenged humans the second thought compares animals to typically developing, normal humans. In this paper I argue that accumulating empirical data lend increasing support to the second thought.
Keywords animal rights  tom regan  animal ethics  animal cognition
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