A Kantian Case for Animal Rights

Most legal systems divide the world into persons and property, treating human beings as persons, and pretty much everything else, including non-human animals, as property. Persons are the subjects of both rights and obligations, including the right to own property, while objects of property, being by their very nature for the use of persons, have no rights at all. I will call this the “legal bifurcation.” We might look to Immanuel Kant’s moral and political philosophy to provide a philosophical vindication of the legal bifurcation, for reasons I will lay out in a moment. But in one way, that would be backwards, because Kant, in constructing the metaphysical categories that he used to talk about rights, was following the tradition of Roman law.
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