Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Currently, giving animals moral rights seems to stretch the definition of a right. Hart claims duties, rather than rights, explain how we should act toward animals. Many of the authors also argue that a right relies on the ability of a person to claim this right. Although there are certain exceptions with people, such as infants, it is claimed that a parent or guardian can claim those right. Those arguing for animal rights say that someone can represent an animal and claim their rights for them. Although this may make sense theoretically, it is much more difficult and confusing in practice. There are many cases when an animal may not have any person willing to represent it or claim its rights. There also may be conflict among people over who can claim its rights. In practice it seems that protection and humane treatment of animals is best expressed through duties and not rights.

The bigger issue is that of legal rights for animals since this seems to have less support than moral rights. US laws view animals as issues of property rights (113) and heavily favor claims made by people rather than animals. This provides little protection for animals under current laws.

Although Wellman did briefly mention examples of animal cruelty, there didn’t seem to be much about how eating meat would be affected by an animal’s moral or legal rights. It seems widely accepted that people have a duty to not abuse or torture animals, but that doesn’t necessarily exclude eating of meat. This reminds me of earlier when Wellman talked about how rights can be overused and can create greater divisions over issues. Many people probably agree that torturing animals is bad, but probably don’t believe that animals have a moral or legal right not to killed for food. Claims of such rights might polarize the issue and distract focus from things like animal abuse.

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