Animal rights is the idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own existence and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings.
- The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. [...] A full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
- Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789), Ch. 17, p. 309: Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence
- The entire human species gains at the expense of millions of nonhuman animal species and countless billion of animals that humans enslave, exploit, and kill. In the greatest zero-sum game of all, human advances exist in inverse relation to the massive loss of freedom and life suffered by animals. Thus, the more humans gain, the more animals lose; the greater the human comfort, the more suffering and death for animals; and growth in human population numbers bring extinction to other animals and reduces biodiversity. While helping humanity in highly uneven ways (as determined by class, state power, imperialism, systems of hierarchy, and so on), modern techno-science intensified the misery and slaughter of animals, and exacerbated the destruction of the earth. This is evident in the growing horrors of vivisection, factory farming, slaughterhouses, fur farming, and sundry systems of exploitation, which polluted and poisoned all aspects of their immediate physical surroundings, and provoked catastrophic climate change on a global scale.
- Steven Best, The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century (2014), p. 146
- Many humans look at nature from an aesthetic perspective and think in terms of biodiversity and the health of ecosystems, but forget that the animals that inhabit these ecosystems are individuals and have their own needs. Disease, starvation, predation, ostracism, and sexual frustration are endemic in so-called healthy ecosystems. The great taboo in the animal rights movement is that most suffering is due to natural causes. Any proposal for remedying this situation is bound to sound utopian, but my dream is that one day the sun will rise on Earth and all sentient creatures will greet the new day with joy.
- I don't hold animals superior or even equal to humans. The whole case for behaving decently to animals rests on the fact that we are the superior species. We are the species uniquely capable of imagination, rationality and moral choice—and that is precisely why we are under the obligation to recognise and respect the rights of animals.
- Brigid Brophy, "The Rights of Animals" (Sunday Times, 1965), in Don't Ever Forget: Collected Views and Reviews (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966), p. 21
- I believe that animals have rights which, although different from our own, are just as inalienable. I believe animals have the right not to have pain, fear or physical deprivation inflicted upon them by us. [...] They have the right not to be brutalized in any way as food resources, for entertainment or any other purpose.
- Roger A. Caras, "We Must Find Alternatives to Animals in Research" in Newsweek (26 December 1988)
- Every system of law is a system of education, and, in extending legal sanction to the scientific torture of animals, the State educates the nation in a false view of the relations of man to the lower creatures, encourages selfishness and cruelty and the disregard of the rights of the weak by the strong.
- Many believers in animal rights and the relevance of animal welfare do not critically examine their basic assumptions [...] [T]ypically these individuals hold two conflicting views. The first view is that animal welfare counts, and that people should treat animals as decently as possible. The second view is a presumption of human non-interference with nature, as much as possible [...] [T]he two views are less compatible than is commonly supposed. If we care about the welfare and rights of individual animals, we may be led to interfere with nature whenever the costs of doing so are sufficiently low.
- Tyler Cowen, "Policing Nature", Environmental Ethics, Vol. 25, Iss. 2 (2003), p. 170
- The director of a zoo is entitled to "put down" a chimpanzee that is surplus to requirements, while any suggestion that he might "put down" a redundant keeper or ticket-seller would be greeted with howls of incredulous outrage. The chimpanzee is the property of the zoo. Humans are nowadays not supposed to be anybody's property, yet the rationale for discriminating against chimpanzees is seldom spelled out, and I doubt if there is a defensible rationale at all. Such is the breathtaking speciesism of our Christian-inspired attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote (most of them are destined to be spontaneously aborted anyway) can arouse more moral solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of intelligent adult chimpanzees! [...] The only reason we can be comfortable with such a double standard is that the intermediates between humans and chimps are all dead.
- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (1996), pp. 262–263
- Our ethics and our politics assume, largely without question or serious discussion, that the division between human and 'animal' is absolute. 'Pro-life', to take just one example, is a potent political badge, associated with a gamut of ethical issues such as opposition to abortion and euthanasia. What it really means is pro-human-life. Abortion clinic bombers are not known for their veganism, nor do Roman Catholics show any particular reluctance to have their suffering pets 'put to sleep'. In the minds of many confused people, a single-celled human zygote, which has no nerves and cannot suffer, is infinitely sacred, simply because it is 'human'. No other cells enjoy this exalted status.
- Richard Dawkins, "How would you feel about a half-human half-chimp hybrid?", in The Guardian (2 January 2009)
- The least I can do is speak out for the hundreds of chimpanzees who, right now, sit hunched, miserable and without hope, staring out with dead eyes from their metal prisons. They cannot speak for themselves.
- Jane Goodall. Reported in Janelle Rohr, Animal rights: opposing viewpoints (1989), p. 100; Jane Goodall and Jennifer Lindsey, Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe (1999), p. 6. Occasionally misreported in truncated form, as "The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves", in, e.g., quote honored on EarthE eco money
- In what terms should we think of these beings, nonhuman yet possessing so very many human-like characteristics? How should we treat them? Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so too should we recognize the rights of the great apes? Yes.
- Jane Goodall, "Chimpanzees - Bridging the Gap", in Paola Cavalieri, Peter Singer, The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity (1996), p. 14
- Researchers find it very necessary to keep blinkers on. They don't want to admit that the animals they are working with have feelings. They don't want to admit that they might have minds and personalities because that would make it quite difficult for them to do what they do; so we find that within the lab communities there is a very strong resistance among the researchers to admitting that animals have minds, personalities and feelings.
- The more we learn of the true nature of non-human animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behavior, the more ethical concerns are raised regarding their use in the service of man—whether this be in entertainment, as "pets," for food, in research laboratories, or any of the other uses to which we subject them.
- Jane Goodall, Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe (2000), p. 245
- Opening the eyes, the minds, and the hearts of the American people to the evil of eating animals. I care about this issue because it goes to the core of all I believe in: justice, public health, world hunger, and environmental quality. Other people should care about this because it defines who they are. Animal rights is not so much about "them" as it is about us.
- If they [animals] were capable of formulating a religion, they might differ considerably as to the shape of the beneficent Creator, but they would nearly all agree that the Devil must be very like a big white man. For we have always treated our poor relations in fur and feathers as if they had no rights at all. We have not only enslaved them, and killed and eaten them, but we have made it one of our chief pleasures to take away their lives, and not infrequently we have tortured them. Our ancestors sinned in ignorance; they were taught (as I deeply regret to say one great Christian Church still teaches) that the world, with all that it contains, was made for man, and that the lower orders of creation have no claims whatever upon us. But we have no longer the excuse of saying that we do not know; we do know that organic life on this planet is all woven of one stuff, and that if we are children of our Heavenly Father, it must be true, as Christ told us, that no sparrow falls to the ground without His care. The new knowledge has revolutionised our ideas of our relations to the other living creatures who share the world with us, and it is our duty to consider seriously what this knowledge should mean for us in matters of conduct.
- Though a small proportion manage to lead successful lives, [Animal Rights] theorists cannot restrict their concern to successful r-strategists. Any sentient being is morally significant from an [Animal Rights] perspective, and thus all sentient individuals born into r-strategist species must be taken into account when determining whether r-strategists are flourishing. And the facts about r-strategists’ life histories suggest that they aren’t [...] most r-strategists die very painful deaths, e.g., starvation, exposure, and being eaten by predators [...] most of them die minutes, days, or weeks after birth, and thus do not have the opportunity to experience the enjoyment associated with reaching a stage in life where one has learned to competently manage and be comfortable in one’s environment [...] these facts suggest that, at best, most r-strategists fail to live flourishing lives. At worst, they suggest that most r-strategists experience more suffering than enjoyment in their lives: that they do not even have lives worth living. Furthermore, since one of the defining characteristics of r-strategist species is that they produce far greater numbers of offspring than K-strategist species, it seems that we’re left with an even more depressing conclusion: at best, most wild animals born into the world fail to flourish, and at worst, most do not have lives worth living.
- Kyle Johannsen, "Animal Rights and the Problem of r-Strategists", Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 20, Iss. 2 (Apr. 2017), p. 338
- The free movement of the moral impulse to establish justice for animals generally and the claim of their rights from mankind are hidden in a natural psychic sensibility in the deeper layers of the Torah. In the ancient value system of humanity […] the moral sense had risen to a point of demanding justice for animals. […] Just as the democratic aspiration will reach outward through the general intellectual and moral perfection […] so will the hidden yearning to act justly towards animals emerge at the proper time.
- Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, "Fragments of Light: A View as to the Reasons for the Commandments," in The Lights of Penitence, The Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems, trans. Ben Zion Bokser (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), pp. 317–318
- At one level, this movement on behalf of oppressed farm animals is emotional […] Yet the movement is also the product of a deep intellectual ferment pioneered by the Princeton scholar Peter Singer. […] This idea popularized by Professor Singer — that we have ethical obligations that transcend our species — is one whose time appears to have come. […] What we're seeing now is an interesting moral moment: a grass-roots effort by members of one species to promote the welfare of others. […] animal rights are now firmly on the mainstream ethical agenda.
- The custom of tormenting and killing of beasts will, by degrees, harden their minds even towards men.
- John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)
- All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.
- The "animal rights movement" […] is at once colossally powerful but ultimately hobbled by a weak spot both miniscule and fatal. […] That colossal power emanates from hundreds of thousands of everyday activists who justifiably believe that conscientious consumers can, through a wide variety of measures, take gradual steps toward removing animal products from their diet. These true believers do the grunt work of activism: they hand out pamphlets, write books, blog, make documentaries, start campus veg societies, publish vegan recipes, open vegan food carts, work for animal sanctuaries, run veganic farms, and do basically anything they can to encourage consumers to contemplate the face on their plate. I consider myself a member of this noble tribe. The heel of the movement, by contrast, consists of a handful of radicals, mostly academics, who do little more than set an unrealistic benchmark of success […] First, it seeks to eliminate all animal exploitation, in every realm of life, immediately, and without compromise or strategic capitulation; and second, it aims to eliminate all forms of oppression […] The heel does not want the good, or even the better. It wants perfection.
- There is, in fact, but one great crime in the universe, and most of the instances of terrestrial wrong-doing are instances of this crime. It is the crime of exploitation—the considering by some beings of themselves as ends, and of others as their means—the refusal to recognize the equal, or the approximately equal, rights of all to life and its legitimate rewards—the crime of acting toward others as one would that others would not act toward him. For millions of years, almost ever since life began, this crime has been committed, in every nook and quarter of the inhabited globe.
- All beings are ends; no creatures are means. All beings have not equal rights, neither have all men; but all have rights. The Life Process is the End — not man, nor any other animal temporarily privileged to weave a world's philosophy. Non-human beings were not made for human beings any more than human beings were made for non-human beings. Just as the sidereal spheres were once supposed by the childish mind of man to be unsubstantial satellites of the earth, but are known by man's riper understanding to be worlds with missions and materialities of their own, and of such magnitude and number as to render terrestrial insignificance frightful, so the billions that dwell in the seas, fields, and atmospheres of the earth were in like manner imagined by the illiterate children of the race to be the mere trinkets of men, but are now known by all who can interpret the new revelation to be beings with substantially the same origin, the same natures, structures, and occupations, and the same general rights to life and happiness, as we ourselves.
- Of course, in the wake of the growth of the animal-rights movement, there has recently arisen a hitherto unfelt need to demonise and demean our non-human victims - and those who try to help them - now that our previously well-nigh unquestioned right to kill and exploit them is being challenged. Bloodsports enthusiasts, for instance, currently spend a lot of time cataloguing the alleged depredations of our victims on the environment. Recreational animal-killers go to extraordinarily lengths to avoid admitting that they themselves enjoy hunting and killing other creatures for fun. But then until a few years ago such rationalisations seemed scarcely called for. Selfish DNA had honed our intuitions so that the most agonising bloodshed seemed simply "natural".
- What right do we have to claim, as some might, that human beings are the only inhabitants of our planet blessed with an actual ability to be "aware"? [...] The impression of a "conscious presence" is indeed very strong with me when I look at a dog or a cat or, especially, when an ape or monkey at the zoo looks at me. I do not ask that they are "self-aware" in any strong sense (though I would guess that an element of self-awareness can be present). All I ask is that they sometimes simply feel!
- Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind (1989), Ch. 9
- A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
- Proverbs 12:10, King James Version
- The dissolution of commercial animal farming as we know it obviously requires more than our individual commitment to vegetarianism. To refuse on principle to buy products of the meat industry is to do what is right, but it is not to do enough. To recognise the rights of animals is to recognise the related duty to defend them against those who violate their rights, and to discharge this duty requires more than our individual abstention. It requires acting to bring about those changes that are necessary if the rights of these animals are not to be violated. Fundamentally, then, it requires a revolution in our culture's thought about, and its accepted treatment of, farm animals [...] But prejudices die hard, all the more so when they are insulated by widespread secular customs and religious beliefs, sustained by large and powerful economic interests, and protected by the common law. To overcome the collective entropy of those forces against change will not be easy. The animal rights movement is not for the faint heart.
- Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), pp. 352–53
- What do animal rights advocates want? For most avowed rightists, that's easy: The complete liberation of animals from human exploitation as quickly as possible. Yet while we work diligently to achieve such a status for animals over the long term, we also have a duty to respect the "rights" of those individuals who are currently suffering to a life less miserable. To dismiss opportunities to ameliorate their pain and distress is to treat those animals as mere abstractions rather than as sentient beings inherently worthy of consideration now—a position, ironically, often held by the very exploitive institutions we seek to overturn.
- Kirsten Rosenberg, United Poultry Concerns Third Annual Forum: "Do Animal Welfare Campaigns & Reforms Hurt or Help Animal Rights & Abolition?" (8-9 December 2001, Machipongo, Virginia)
- In consequence of the sensibility with which they are endowed, they ought to partake of natural right; so that mankind is subjected to a kind of obligation even toward the brutes. It appears, in fact, that if I am bound to do no injury to my fellow-creatures, this is less because they are rational than because they are sentient beings: and this quality, being common both to men and beasts, ought to entitle the latter at least to the privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality (1754), preface
- Have the lower animals "rights?" Undoubtedly—if men have.
- If "rights" exist at all—and both feeling and usage indubitably prove that they do exist—they cannot be consistently awarded to men and denied to animals, since the same sense of justice and compassion apply in both cases.
- The charge of "sentimentalism" is frequently brought against those who plead for animals' rights. Now "sentimentalism," if any meaning at all can be attached to the word, must signify an inequality, an ill balance of sentiment, an inconsistency which leads men into attacking one abuse, while they ignore or condone another where a reform is equally desirable. That this weakness is often observable among "philanthropists" on the one hand, and "friends of animals" on the other, and most of all among those acute "men of the world," whose regard is only for themselves, I am not concerned to deny; what I wish to point out is, that the only real safeguard against sentimentality is to take up a consistent position towards the rights of men and of the lower animals alike, and to cultivate a broad sense of universal justice (not "mercy") for all living things. Herein, and herein alone, is to be sought the true sanity of temperament.
- It is of the utmost importance to emphasize the fact that, whatever the legal fiction may have been, or may still be, the rights of animals are not morally dependent on the so-called rights of property; it is not to owned animals merely that we must extend our sympathy and protection. [...] To take advantage of the sufferings of animals, whether wild or tame, for the gratification of sport, or gluttony, or fashion, is quite incompatible with any possible assertion of animals' rights.
- It is asserted that beasts have no rights; the illusion is harboured that our conduct, so far as they are concerned, has no moral significance, or, as it is put in the language of these codes, that "there are no duties to be fulfilled towards animals." Such a view is one of revolting coarseness, a barbarism of the West, whose source is Judaism. In philosophy, however, it rests on the assumption, despite all evidence to the contrary, of the radical difference between man and beast,—a doctrine which, as is well known, was proclaimed with more trenchant emphasis by Descartes than by any one else: it was indeed the necessary consequence of his mistakes.
- Europeans are awakening more and more to a sense that beasts have rights, in proportion as the strange notion is being gradually overcome and outgrown, that the animal kingdom came into existence solely for the benefit and pleasure of man. This view, with the corollary that non-human living creatures are to be regarded merely as things, is at the root of the rough and altogether reckless treatment of them, which obtains in the West.
- The thinking man must [...] oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. True manhood is too precious a spiritual good for us to surrender any part of it to thoughtlessness.
- Albert Schweizer, The Animal World of Albert Schweitzer (1950), p. 179
- It is only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation that it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion, and that the sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite intolerable loathing and disgust.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, in A Vindication of Natural Diet (1813)
- The butchering of harmless animals cannot fail to produce much of that spirit of insane and hideous exultation in which news of a victory is related altho' purchased by the massacre of a hundred thousand men.
If the use of animal food be, in consequence, subversive to the peace of human society, how unwarrantable is the injustice and barbarity which is exercised toward these miserable victims. They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged. It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, On the Vegetable System of Diet (c. 1815; posthumously published, 1929)
- As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.
- Isaac Bashevis Singer, Enemies, a Love Story (1972), Ch. 9, §3
- The animals themselves are incapable of demanding their own liberation, or of protesting against their condition with votes, demonstrations, or bombs. Human beings have the power to continue to oppress other species forever, or until we make this planet unsuitable for living beings. Will our tyranny continue, proving that we really are the selfish tyrants that the most cynical of poets and philosophers have always said we are? Or will we rise to the challenge and prove our capacity for genuine altruism by ending our ruthless exploitation of the species in our power, not because we are forced to do so by rebels or terrorists, but because we recognize that our position is morally indefensible? The way in which we answer this question depends on the way in which each one of us, individually, answers it.
- Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals (1975), p. 185
- My own life has convinced me that the limitations most of us encounter in our relations with other animals reflect not their shortcomings, as we so often assume, but our own narrow views about who they are and the kinds of relationships we can have with them. And so I conclude by urging anyone with an interest in animal rights to open your heart to the animals around you and find out for yourself what it's like to befriend a nonhuman person.
- No one has the right routinely to override anyone else's rights, including those of animals. One must act in everyone's best interests as much as possible. [...] [Since] the law most unequivocally accords rights to persons, and typically denies rights to nonpersons, then practically, there is an imperative to deem sentient animals to be persons.
- A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.
- Leo Tolstoy, Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence (1886)
- The importance of animal suffering seems to be one significant lacuna in the ethical views of most elite thinkers. It's helpful to expand people's hearts and minds on this issue, although we need to make sure to do so in a way that actually helps suffering animals in nature rather than reinforcing some of the other ideas of the animal-rights movement, like that we should "leave animals alone in all cases."
- Brian Tomasik, "Caring About Animal Suffering", Essays on Reducing Suffering, 20 Nov. 2013
- How important it is, then, that the child be taught to govern its passions! How important that it be taught to be kind, gentle, loving, and humane; and in all the range of human thought there is not a better, wiser, or more expedient way of accomplishing this end than by teaching kindness towards God's lower creatures. If children are thus taught they will have instilled into their hearts those principles of action which will make them kind and merciful not only to the lower animals, but also toward their fellow-men as they attain to manhood. Let them be taught that the lower animals are God's creatures, as they themselves are, put here by a common Heavenly Father, each for its own special purpose, and that they have the same right to life and protection. Let them be taught that principle recognised by all noble-hearted men, that it is only a depraved, debased, and cowardly nature that will injure an inferior, defenceless creature, simply because it is in its power to do so, and that there is no better, no grander test of true bravery and nobility of character than one's treatment of the lower animals.
- Ralph Waldo Trine, Every Living Creature: Or, Heart-training Through the Animal World (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1899), pp. 6–7
Hold then the same view of the dog which has lost his master, which has sought him in all the thoroughfares with cries of sorrow, which comes into the house troubled and restless, goes downstairs, goes upstairs; goes from room to room, finds at last in his study the master he loves, and betokens his gladness by soft whimpers, frisks, and caresses.
There are barbarians who seize this dog, who so greatly surpasses man in fidelity and friendship, and nail him down to a table and dissect him alive, to show you the Mesaraic veins! You discover in him all the same organs of feeling as in yourself. Answer me, Mechanist, has Nature arranged all the springs of feeling in this animal to the end that he might not feel? Has he nerves that he may be incapable of suffering? Do not suppose that impertinent contradiction in Nature.
- Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1764), "Beasts"