Given all the things that are wrong in the world, I don't normally put animal rights at the the top of my list of issues. Reasonable people can disagree about whether the benefits that can come from certain activities - such as testing new drugs or medical treatments on animals - can outweigh the suffering and death that animals are forced to endure as a result. But there can be little doubt that, all things being equal, making animals suffer and die is a bad thing. So while I am not an absolutist when it comes to animal right, I do generally support most animal rights causes.
Here's my philosophical view of animal rights. In a nutshell, for a living creature to have a right to life, it has to be sentient. It has to have a brain that is developed enough to be self aware and understand the concept of death (which is why I support abortion rights but oppose the death penalty). Do animals meet this definition? I'm not an expert in animal intelligence, but I believe that for at least most animals, they do not. So no, I do not believe that every animal necessarily has an absolute right to life.
But there is a secondary issue. Even if animals don't have sufficiently advanced intellects for me to conclude that they have a right to life, it is obvious that animals can feel pain and can suffer psychological trauma from inhumane treatment. So I do believe that animals should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering.
Thus, any decision or action one can take to reduce the amount of pain and suffering endured by animals is a good thing. I do eat meat. And I wear leather shoes. And I consider both of those facts to represent moral shortcomings on my part. But some choices are easier: I won't buy fur, I try to avoid buying products that are tested on animals, and I strive to reduce the amount of meat I eat. Different people will have different levels of comfort and will balance the these issues in different ways, but I do think that people should stay conscious of the consequences that their actions have on animals, and to try to reduce the negative impacts of those actions. I also support legislative efforts to protect animals where the suffering involved in a practice cannot be reasonably justified by a social benefit.
Here are a couple of sites with anti-fur action ideas:
24 July 2005