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Animal Rights

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:

Please note that the views expressed in these pages are mine, and mine alone.  They do not necessarily reflect the views other members of my family, past or present employers, or any other person or group with which I have been affiliated.
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Last Updated 24 July 2005
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