Animal Rights

I hope to review Gary Francione‘s Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? here next month. I’ve found much of what I’ve watched and read thus far from Francione compelling. In the meantime, here is a good snippet on the topic of animal rights from Corin Bruce’s essay, Green Anarchism: Towards the Abolition of Heirarchy,

The idea of animal rights proposes that the kind of moral consideration that is often granted to members of our own species should be extended to non-human animals as well. This thinking goes hand in hand with green anarchism, because it can be seen to argue — upon recognising that the hierarchies that pervade our own society should be abolished — that the hierarchies that involve the human subordination of other species of animals should be abolished for much the same reasons.

Central to this approach is the notion of ‘speciesism’, which refers to a prejudice in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species, and against the interests of members of other species. This type of hierarchy is not based upon the recognition of any actual capacities held by members of other species, but instead on the mere fact that they are not members of our own group. Importantly, the logical structure of speciesism is argued to be the same as all other forms of social hierarchy. For example, it is integral to the attempted justification of racism, which locates what someone’s race happens to be as a basis for dominating them, and just as well to sexism, which depends instead on one’s sex. As such, proponents of animal rights argue that speciesist logic is just as irrational as that of any other form of domination: just because someone else is different to me, does not mean that they do not count morally, or that they can be dominated as if they were a resource for my own ends.

If we remove the veil of speciesism, and recognise the capacities that non-human animals often genuinely do possess, then what are we left with? Despite the sometimes vast differences between humans and non-human animals, one property that we seem to hold in common is that which is argued to be crucial for moral consideration: ‘sentience’. Sentience is understood as the capacity to be conscious of the world, or in other words to have experiences from one’s own point of view, which — perhaps most importantly for animal rights — translates into the capacity to feel pain and pleasure. It follows that when a sentient non-human animal such as a pig, donkey, or fish is dominated by a hierarchical structure, that they suffer harm in much the same way that a human being does. As such, it is argued that what species one happens to be a member of is ultimately irrelevant, and that it is whether or not one is sentient — be they human or not —  that is crucial for moral consideration, meaning that anarchist struggles should be broadened to include animal liberation as well.

See also David Graham, Walter Block, and C4SS Senior Fellow Roderick Long on the issue. Chapters 2 and 5 of C4SS Senior Fellow Gary Chartier’s book, Anarchy and Legal Order, briefly touch on the issue as well.

In an email exchange, Gary also shared the following: “By far the most interesting libertarian writing about the issue of animals is Stephen R. L. Clark. (Stephen sometimes calls himself a libertarian, sometimes an “anarcho-conservative.”) I would heartily recommend The Moral Status of Animals and Animals and Their Moral Standing.”

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