I've been thinking about this lately and I cannot come to a consistent conclusion.

Do animals deserve any rights? If so which rights and to which animals? For example: testing medicine on chimps

Is it possible to come to any conclusion without using arbitrary qualifying attributes for such rights?

Furthermore, if we agree that animals deserve rights. Then should they not deserve ALL the rights any human has?

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    There's an enormous literature on this subject. How much research have you already done? Jul 25, 2012 at 8:58
  • unnecessary infliction of pain is a characteristic of sadism proeminent in psycho/socyopathic individuals, it may begin with animals and spread to humans as object of it. It would be in the best interest of humans to avoid this. Nowadays people even talk about "universal rights of water" - does water have rights? Perhaps it would be more correct to say "rights to water" and "rights to animals".
    – Tames
    Jul 29, 2012 at 19:33
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    As MD said, this is a huge area. Historically, we prefer questions like this to be narrowed down to specific concerns rather than asking for (essentially) a complete overview of the entire field. What have you learned so far? Even a search of this site will provide you some background info: see this and this for starters.
    – stoicfury
    Jul 30, 2012 at 6:45
  • Whether animals "deserve rights" is overly broad and does not meet the scope requirements defined in the FAQ. Do aliens deserve rights? These kind of questions, without respect to a specific argument, author, or passage, do not generate the kind of answers we are looking for on the site. Closing for now. Remember, closing isn't permanent; with editing this question can be narrowed in scope and nominated for reopening.
    – stoicfury
    Jul 31, 2012 at 8:12

2 Answers 2


"Rights" are a rather problematic concept.

Let us first consider whether humans have any rights, and if so, how they get them and what it means to have them.

One way to proceed is to identify some characteristic of humans--possessing a rational will, let's say--and then try to deduce from that what behaviors are acceptable. This leads to efforts like Kant's Categorical Imperative, which rephrased slightly can be taken as a statement of human rights. Leaving aside all the problems in this approach (e.g. humans are rather irrational, goals aren't adequately treated, the naive idea of will is problematic, etc.), you can then ask to what degree various animals share those qualities that make humans deserving of rights. And then you end up--unless you're going on genetic composition alone and setting a very high threshold indeed on similarity, or, like Kant, simply not examine animals very carefully and instead follow the prejudices of the time--deciding that animals should also have rights. Schopenhauer argued such fairly prominently, and perhaps the most prominent current philosopher who advocates for animal rights for these reasons is Peter Singer. (N.B. this is my characterization of Singer; I am not entirely confident he would agree, as I am not aware of him characterizing his position exactly as I have done.)

Alternatively, one can view rights as not intrinsic properties but as those most sacred commitments that societies make to their members. Thus it is not anything intrinsic about the individuals that renders them deserving of rights, but rather that it is a promise by society. Societies may wish to make such promises for a variety of reasons: perhaps the individuals feel sad when they see certain atrocities happen, or perhaps the society is strengthened when its members feel confident that they do not have to worry about certain horrors being visited upon them. In any case, this view of rights leaves one with much less insight into whether animals also ought to have rights. Since very few other species (perhaps none) can understand a statement of rights, there would be no impact on confidence, and personal unease can vary dramatically from person to person. As a practical matter, this seems to be the way that rights are actually decided, however, and "arguments" generally involve invoking sympathy by showing pictures of particularly cute animals in distress, or by stating that the distress is minimal or not worth worrying about; or they can be a little more general and involve higher-level concepts like cultivating compassion and avoiding inflicting pain. I am not sufficiently impressed by the quality of any of these arguments to recommend any source, though I will note that Singer does not entirely avoid this type of reasoning either given his choice of rights-endowing features.

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    It could also be argued that the notion of right is a juridical one, and so it's a product of human (peaceful) coexistence. Unless you stick to the classic liberal point of view (which sees rights as natural and intrinsic to every human being), then rights must be taken as contingent features of the way human societies organize at any moment, namely the description of what the expected behavior of it's members is. Furthermore: rights, under any interpretation, are positivistically meaningful only for humans, because law just limits human actions towards themselves or their environment.
    – Mono
    Jul 30, 2012 at 16:09
  • An animal won't change it's behavior just because it has been entitled with rights; so, in essence, "animal's rights" can only be (meaningfully) interpreted as a contraction of "people's rights regarding to animal's integrity".
    – Mono
    Jul 30, 2012 at 16:12
  • @Mono - I was lumping juridicial notions under the general category of "societal" (it doesn't really matter whether it is enshrined in law explicitly, or implicitly, or merely a deeply-held custom). Anyway, I basically agree with everything you said. Well, everything in the first comment. Rights tell you how you are to be treated as typically phrased, so animal rights are "how people must treat animals" much as human rights are "how people must treat people".
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 30, 2012 at 16:13


Something has the rights asserts that something has ability to force. Domination in whatever degree. Without this, fulfilling the rights will be useless.

That's why when we asked whether animals have rights? This confirms that the animal has the ability to impose what makes right.

Coercion involving consequences. And we're going to get opposition from the animal, if we do not do the right for animals, is the arrival of natural law that comes to us in the form of extinction. And if this continues, this will bring the ecosystem imbalance.

This understanding has been quite clear to us that animals has the rights to be considered, because he is also responsible for human survival.


It is the fact that the persecution against the elements of the ecosystem will affect the lives of others.

That is the consequence, but that's all we can do, except that one day the animals can talk to us forward thinking and shows how the animals also have a stake in our survival.

But while animals can not communicate well to voice their rights, their rights is an implied rights that can be captured (understood) by any intelligent creature.

A simple example is a baby has rights, if not met, and die, it is possible to make us sad. Babies can not speak for the rights, but by implication, its rights can be found on other more intelligent creatures.

I will try to simplify my explanation.

Action & Reaction

  • We are always associated with a cause and effect.

  • Causation can be a reaction to the action.

  • Objects are considered to have no awareness, like a wall. When we hit the wall, and wall will give the opposite reaction. It shows a reaction. Objects can also indicate the action which is a function of an object. At the level of inanimate objects, this is an action and reaction (within the law of physics).

  • In animals, it also can occur, that is when we generally interfere, then the animal will react to defend themselves by attacking or away from us.

  • Similarly, in humans. Humans have the ability to demonstrate action and reaction.

All react as mentioned by the 3rd law of motion from Newton. It can be happened to inanimate objects, animals and humans.

Differentiation on Action & Reaction

At the level of

  • Inanimate objects, this is an action and reaction.

  • In animals, is also a reaction to the action but with additional functions such as reaction instinct is the source of action that we couldn't find on inanimate objects.

  • And in humans there is also a function of action and reaction as in inanimate objects and animals. The difference is that humans have the ability to plan actions and reactions, so that actions and reactions can be directed to sustain or alter specific conditions.

On the human level, action and reaction get a very strange term when applied to animals or even objects. In humans, the action and reaction can be referred to as the "duty and the rights".

Understanding from Different Directions

We may not apply the terms of the rights and obligations to inanimate objects but must use the terms action and reaction.

But we may also use it as far as we understand its limits. This is generally used in poetry.

  • For example:

    • O the whole of nature.
    • Demanding your rights, but it's far away from you, because I have taken all your rights.
    • O if you are entitled to human nature,
    • then your right is the obligation to issue gold and diamonds that I could use to beautify my world.
    • That is my right and so natural.
    • You with your limitation, and I'm also with different limitations
    • O Mother nature and me

    I do not want use this poetry to answer this question. This is just an example of "Unconventional Explanation".

    Just to assert that we could understand something from any possible directions. As long as we use consistency, then we can use it to deepening and widen our understanding.

From Philosophy to Science

But I want to reiterate here that with the deepening understanding of the action and reaction, there is one thing that is consistent, namely that the reaction and action of various levels, asserted consequences.

And this understanding should conclude that when someone asks, is there any rights for animals? We can get into the basic understanding that the rights and obligations may be understood as: the action and reaction (just like when we try to understand the material in terms of the particle)

If we asked, for what reason our everyday behaviors may be approached in terms of particles, or discussed in terms of action and reaction, or of other fundamental aspect, which is difficult and it feels strange to be understood by us (when compared with the use of language in our lives)?

  • It's to find the consistency of a behavior that is less obvious to understand. Because may be we couldn't see a clear distinction on the events from the level of everyday life. That is why we are dealing with fundamental level of understanding.

    But understanding at fundamental level (such as: law at the particle level, action and reaction law of physics) can not be applied easily (irrelevantly), such as "hit the wall, the wall will give a reaction, and the wall has the rights to defend itself", but it must be interpreted as "the wall has the opposite reaction (defend), which is indicate there is reaction and action. Rights on the wall according to 3rd law of motion from Newton can be interpreted as a reaction. Just like actions and reactions from animal and human.

  • And once we find out where lies the consistency, here we can learn, how far this basic understanding can be pulled back to the level of human life, to explain how humans should behave (the appropriate fields for this is "Philosophy of science").

    Once we determine (find out where lies the consistency) that the consistency of the rights and obligations in a fundamental level can be considered as a reaction and the action, further, here we can learn how we can pulled back this understanding to the level of human life (everyday life). It's philosophy of science)

    It can be concluded that:

    • P -> Q (If there are rights and obligations, then, there are actions and reactions)

    All the rights and obligations are always dealing with relevant actions and reactions.

    • Q -> R (If there are actions and reactions, then, there are consequences)

    • P -> R (It can be concluded that the rights and obligations are always dealing with the consequences)

From Science to Philosophy

Back to the question.

  1. So when we asked about: whether animals have the rights in any possible level?

    • It can be formulated as: "Do animals have consequences in our relationship?
  2. Similarly, if we asked, whether the wall (or any inanimate objects) has the rights to us?

    • It can be formulated as: "What are the consequences of wall ties with us?

    These questions can be answered by understanding that: animals, wall, and any object within reach as far as interaction with us, have certain consequences relevantly.

    We have a right and obligation to the animals and anything, to make correct placements for something, specifically for us, generally for something else.

    Our rights and our obligations to animals and inanimate objects is to maintain the balance for the ecosystem.

  3. There is no absurd understanding here, because "the wall has a right to defend itself, but not, as envisioned in humans".

    It's not about conflicting one understanding to different situation irrelevantly. It's not about giving the rights to animals or giving the rights to the wall or similar things the same as giving the rights to human. It's not about giving the rights to anything equally.

    But this is only way to ensure:

    • Whether there is or there is no consistency on our understanding

    • How far for an understanding can be widen to let us see an understanding from any different angles.

    • Further this can be used to determine where to put ourselves or any other things fairly, correctly.

The points are:

  • Understanding the rights and obligations like this, will make us realize that

    • Everything have their own rights and obligations with different levels, in the sense of having the action and reaction, having the consequences.
  • Once again, whether animal (or anything) have rights? Then we can answer that animal (or anything) has rights.

    • In the fundamental understanding: the animal (or anything) has relevant consequences to our relationship (one of which is understood as an imbalance in the ecosystem can harm humans).


  • from deepening understanding, it asserts that, "there is no way for us to understand the rights and obligations except by relate it to understanding about consequences", or it's meaningless. As i already mentioned at previous edited post.

  • So hopefully, this kind of understanding will direct us to widen our capabilities to see possibilities for broader control of action and reaction relevantly.

Consequences oblige us to provide the right (proper interactions) for something else.

Eventually, I hope this explanation can smooth the transition from the explanation in the fundamental level to the level of everyday life, so this helps us to understand "the make sense of it", without losing consistency.

  • Thank you for your response. If I am understanding you correctly you are saying it is in our best interest to keep the animals alive and well because otherwise it has a negative impact on us. Isn't that just consequentialism though?
    – Aman
    Jul 25, 2012 at 4:53
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    If I have the "right to trial", does that mean I can force a trial to happen even if others don't want to give me a trial? In what sense? Perhaps I have misunderstood you, but your assumptions of the preconditions for rights seems incorrect to me.
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 29, 2012 at 18:50
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    @Seremonia - I appreciate the effort, but it is still full of unintuitive assertions with little to no support. For example, although it is probably true that humans could not survive without any animals, it is not a standard to formulate rights as applying to anything on which humans are dependent. (What are the rights of oxygen, for instance?)
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 30, 2012 at 15:05
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    @Seremonia - You are using "rights" in a highly nonstandard and unhelpful way. The wall has the right to self defense?! That's so far removed from how we typically use the terms that I don't think you're even answering the same question. (I suppose English is probably not your native language, but even so--this is really far removed from how the terms are used.) I don't think further "clarifications" will help, since we're in such danger of being unable to communicate meaningfully by virtue of not using the same terms to mean the same things.
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 30, 2012 at 16:22
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    Babies are unlike oxygen in that babies (1) are our offspring and (2) will, if nurtured appropriately, turn into reasoning adults with high probability. It is this aspect of being a baby--that is, that a baby is a young human--which causes us to afford it some rights, not just in the nebulous way that actions have consequences (e.g. striking a wall with one's fist will generally stop one's fist, possibly hurting it and/or the wall; but this has nothing to do with the conventional meaning of "rights"). Anyway, this forum is not for discussion; I think there is little point continuing.
    – Rex Kerr
    Jul 30, 2012 at 18:17

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