Do All Subjects of a Life Have an Equal Right to Life? The Challenge of the Comparative Value of Life

In Mylan Engel & Gary Lynn Comstock (eds.), The Moral Rights of Animals. Lexington Books. pp. 107-117 (2016)

Aaron Simmons
Marywood University
In The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan defends the view that all animals who are “subjects of a life” have an equal moral right to life. In this chapter, I consider whether it makes sense to think that animals have an equal right to life in light of the challenge that life has less value for animals than humans. This challenge raises two central questions: (1) does life have less value for animals than humans and (2) if it does, does this fact justify the view that animals do not have an equal right to life. I argue, first, that life has greater value for most humans than animals because most humans are capable of experiencing higher qualities of enjoyment in life, in the form of creative, intellectual pleasures. However, this does not justify denying that animals have an equal right to life. Whether beings’ lives deserve strong respect depends on whether the value of life for those beings meets a certain threshold. I argue that the value of life for many animals meets this threshold because it is compatible with the virtue of compassion.
Keywords animals  animal rights  right to life  interest in life  harm of death  comparative value of life  Tom Regan  compassion  subjects of a life  qualities of pleasure
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