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Scott Airey

Dr. Jessica OHara


CAS 137
11/24/16

Animal Rights
Dogs. Widely considered a mans best friend, and well deserving of such a title. Almost

as American as guns and cheeseburgers, Dogs have become part of American society. But this

was not always the case! Animals, including dogs, have been used for strictly utilitarian purposes

all throughout history with human society forgoing the natural rights that they deserve. But

public opinion has been changed from a previously callous view towards animals into the

sympathetic views of today with the help from many prominent figures in humanities history.

Starting with John Locke and continuing past Tom Regan, the voice for Animal rights has only

become louder more widely heard, and will continue to do so until they are granted the rights

that they deserve.

Since the origins of the species, Humans have been using anything and everything to

benefit themselves. It started with sticks and has matured into machines. But what was between?

Animals. In a way, Humans turned intrinsically meaningful beings into simple objects that are

viewed strictly in Utilitarian ways. However, the oppression and utilization of animals has not

gone in vain: their sacrifices have benefitted all life through advancements in anatomy and

physiology. But now that humans have expended all the knowledge to be learnt from Animals, is

it not time to return the favor from what they have given? The Animal rights movement has been

working throughout the centuries to restore the rights that were forgotten but well deserved.
As a species, we prefer to see ourselves as altruistic and kind, when in reality, we are the

most savage beast within the jungle. What started as cavemen killing for necessity has evolved

into a multitude of unspeakable horrors committed against animals. From the live dissection of

animals in order to learn about anatomy, to the mass production and extinction of farm animals,

Humans have been exploiting and betraying the trust that is bestowed upon themselves. As a

practice, the usage of animals didnt start recently: originating in Ancient Rome and Greece, the

usage of Animals was simply part of their society. The cruel and inhumane practices such as

vivisection(the live dissection of an organism in order to understand its functions) were

completely justified as the philosophers and physicians of their time valued the pursuit of

knowledge for its own sake and sought to understand how and why the body malfunctioned, how

diseases developed, how injury affected phsyiology, and the discovery of treatments and cures,

all of which would have been impossible without the usage of animals. They were aware of the

differences between animals and humans but reasoned that the findings in animals could be

applied to humans1. Fortunately, with the fall of the Roman empire and the beginning of the

Dark ages, the experimentation on animals became extremely stigmatized and virtually

disappeared. This lasted up until the renaissance, when the return of scientific experimentation

created a need for discovery once again.

With a name like the Age of Enlightenment, one would think that great change would occur for

the betterment of all species, animals included. Unfortunately, this period only rekindled the

usage of animals within scientific experimentation infringing upon their innate rights. Most

notably starting with Ren Descartes by how he described animals as machine-like, or senseless

automata and rationalized his cruel acts with views of how animals lacked the processing
1 The Ethics of Research Involving Animals. Nullfield Council on Bioethics, London, 2005, pp. 53, The Ethics of Research
Involving Animals.
required to fully understand the pain being inflicted upon them. Luckily, the first sign of hope

for Animal rights sparked when John Locke, a famed British philosopher fully recognized the

fact that animals had the capacity to feel, and published a memo called Some Thoughts

Concerning Education in 1963, in which he stated that Animals did in fact have feelings, and that

the unnecessary cruelty towards them was morally and ethically wrong: not by the actions

towards the animal, but rather by the perpetrators morality becoming cruel and maliceful enough

to want to engage in such activities. All his views on protecting animals were aimed at protecting

the morality of the humans who might engage in such cruel activities, as to avoid the

transference from animal victimization to human victimization. Later in the 17th century, a

German philosopher named Immanuel Kant agreed with Lockes views regarding the welfare of

animals in relation to humans and stated that Cruelty to animals is contrary to mans duty to

himself, because it deadens the feeling of sympathy for their sufferings, and thus has a natural

tendency that is very useful to the morality in relation to other Human beings is weakened2.

During this period of the 17th century, the beginning in the change of public opinion about the

ethical treatment of animals arose from philosophers such as Locke and Kant. While such

vocalization was well-deserved it was not what Animal rights activists today would agree with.

Locke and Kant only vocalized for improved treatment of animals for the betterment of human

morality rather than the innate rights that animals deserve. Even so, it was monumental in

changing public opinion ever so slightly.

After the foundation for Animal rights was set in the 17th century, philosophers in the 18th century

continued building the movement. Most of their ideas were considered blasphemy and ridiculed

in civilized institutions, but they kept trying to provoke change. Men such as Jean-Jacques

22004, Fellow Creatures: Kantian Ethics and Our Duties to Animals in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Grethe B.
Peterson (ed.), Volume 25/26, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
Rousseau or Jeremy Bentham were essential in changing the ideologies around the religious

based anthropocentric justifications of how to treat animals into Human made obligations

towards animals due to their inherent worth. Rousseau stated if I am bound to do no injury to

my fellow-[Humans], 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 to at least to the

privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former3. Now this is the first time that anyone

had ever proposed that animals were deserving of any natural rights based upon the fact that

animals had sentience, rather than the understanding of sentience. Along with the entirety of

society, Bentham completely disregarded the idea of natural rights but he did agree with the fact

that Animals should be given a moral standing due to their sentience. Famously quoted, he stated

that The question is not, Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?4. Now,

this idea changed the controversy between Humans and Animals. No longer would the debate be:

Can they feel it, and if they can, can they understand what they are feeling? Instead it transferred

into a moral dilemma, where the testing had to be justified based upon the benefits gained by the

research derived from it. While important the same argument that led to progress of animals

rights would also hinder the movement later in the 19th century.

Finally, in the 19th century, progress was achieved! For the first time in recorded history

legislation was proposed to maintain certain standards that animals were to be treated with. After

seeing the atrocities and the inhumane treatment of cattle in local farms, Colonel Richard Martin

proposed the first written piece of Animal protection legislation to parliament calling for a fine or

short-term imprisonment for anyone who Beat, abused, or ill-treated any horse, mare, gelding,

3Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Maurice Cranston. A Discourse on Inequality. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin,
1984. Print.

4 Bentham J. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. W. Pickering; London, UK: 1823.
mule, ass, ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep, or any other cattle. It was established as the Ill treatment

of Horses and Cattle Act of 18225 but later became known simply as Martins act. Now, this law

was widely unsuccessful as the social norm of treating animals like dirt was widely practiced and

thought well of; thus, lawsuits made with this act were largely laughed off in court. Even if

Martins act didnt cause any direct change the fact that it was created sparked other laws to be

enacted all around the world! After backlash from the comical treatment of Martins Law, a civil

rights group called the Anti-Vivisection movement started to gain momentum around this period

sparking public interest pertaining to the welfare of animals . This widespread change in public

opinion continued to gain popularity until the first organization dedicated to the protection of

animals was created: The Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection. After

opinions had finally been given an outlet, the animal rights movement finally had a brand to

advertise. Soon, the Anti-vivisection movement was able to coax lawmakers into creating the

first legislation that would control the use of animals in scientific experimentation: Great

Britains Cruelty to Animals Act of 18766. A representative for scientific discovery named

Charles Robert Darwin published a document that raised strong arguments for both sides of the

debate: On the Origin of Species acknowledged the physiological similarities between the

entirety of the animal world as to give a plausible reason for vivisection in the name of

discovery7, but condemned the practice for any other reason than scientific. In a letter supporting

the investigations corresponded with vivisection he describes it as real investigations on

5 Silver Barrel Solutions | April 2010. "CURRENT LEGISLATION." CFAWR | Current Legislation. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov.
2016.

6 Kara Rogers, "Scientific Alternatives to Animal Testing: A Progress Report," britannica.com, Sep. 17, 2007

7 Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. New York: , ; New York Boston, 1925. Print.
physiology; but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity. It is a subject which makes me

sick with horror 8. Darwins explanation of how vivisection was sinful but also massively

important in the production of discovery describes the two sides of the Animal rights debate. On

one hand, the cruel and un-just treatment of animals is an abhorrence to our humanity; but on the

other hand, the usefulness of animals in the betterment of scientific knowledge has proved itself

time and time to outweigh the costs. Today, the moral debate begins in the 20th century on the

basis that humans have expended everything useful to learn from animals, so why does

experimentation continue?

In one of the most ironic aspects of the turn of the century, Nazi Germany became the

dominant leader in animal rights and passed a legitimate declaration for the protection of animals

in 1933 called the Tierschutzgesetz, roughly translated to animal protection laws. They mirrored

Britains pre-existing set of laws from the Cruelty to Animals act of 1876, but were more

intricate with harsher sentences. Nazi Germany continued to establish the highest amount of

rights for animals in recorded history, later banning hunting with Reichsjagdgesetz in 1934, and

Naturschutzgesetz which set environmental standards that had to be kept for the safekeeping of

wildlife. Germany even continued to pass laws in 1937 which protected animals within

transportation9, and at some points, animals had better treatment than certain humans. This

progression of Animal rights was completely lost after the end of WWII, when the Nazi regime

was liquidized. Unfortunately that progress has not been yet regained in any of our societies.

While other countries havent followed Nazi Germanys or Britains stance regarding the welfare

of animals individuals within these countries found new ways to protest. Vegetarianism had been

8 Letter from Darwin to Oxford zoologist Ray Lankester in 1871

9 Boria Sax (2000). Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust.
Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 179. ISBN 0-8264-1289-0.
around for a long time and was nothing new to society, but the origination of Veganism through

the efforts of Donald Watson and his fellow vegetarians created the British Vegan Society10 in

1944. The Moral reasoning behind their cause was that they believe that Human society

oppresses animals in unjust ways through the products and items made at animals expense. Even

today, Veganism is still a popular way for individuals to protest the oppression of animals in their

own way. At this point in history, moral standings on animal rights had been swayed enough to

completely ban animal cruelty and almost all forms of testing in Britain and Nazi Germany, so

what was the rest of the world waiting for?

In a plea for the end of oppression towards animals an oxford student named Peter Singer

published a book titled Animal Liberation 11 in 1975 which is now considered one of Animal

rights activists most influential bases of action. Founding his arguments on the previous civil

rights movements such as the suffragettes, or black liberation movements of his time, He based

the oppression of animals on a term called speciesm, under which animals are given a lower

moral standing on the sole basis of belonging to a different species12. As it became a widely-

disputed movement of the 19th century, many individuals were eager to publish their opinions.

Tom Regan, a soon to be well-esteemed philosopher, published another article called The case

for Animal Rights 13 which agreed with Rousseau previous ideologies where animals had inherent

worth and deserved to be treated with such rights in mind. Now such writings have been

10 "History of Vegetarianism: The Origin of Some Words", International Vegetarian


Union, April 6, 2010

11 Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. New
York: New York Review, 1975. Print.

12 Singer P. Animal Liberation. HarperCollins Publishers; New York, NY, USA: 2001.

13 Regan, Tom. "The Case for Animal Rights", in Tom Regan and Peter Singer (eds.).
Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Prentice Hall, 1976.
extremely influential in changing public opinion but the fact of the matter is that citizens cannot

incite the creation of Animal rights without the Governments assistance.

So, after thousands of years of oppression, what has changed for animals? Public opinion.

Humans have come a long way from watching the live dissections of animals for entertainment

to watching movies such as John Wick. This movie perfectly describes the monumental attitude

change towards the treatment of animals within our society, and is a perfect example of how

times have changed. Basically, dogs are valued in our society in such a manner as they are kin to

humans. After learning his dog has been unjustly killed, John Wick goes on a murder spree and

murders an entire gang of people who would have dared to kill his dog. Our society has changed

in such a manner that even the idea of hurting animals is apprehendable by severe violence in

order to protect those animals. With any luck, this kinship between Humans and Animals will

perpetrate into governmental individuals and bring about Animal rights legislation.
WORK CITED
The Ethics of Research Involving Animals. Nullfield Council on Bioethics, London, 2005, pp. 53, The Ethics of

Research Involving Animals.

2004, Fellow Creatures: Kantian Ethics and Our Duties to Animals in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values,

Grethe B. Peterson (ed.), Volume 25/26, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Maurice Cranston. A Discourse on Inequality. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England:

Penguin, 1984. Print.

Bentham J. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. W. Pickering; London, UK: 1823.

Silver Barrel Solutions | April 2010. "CURRENT LEGISLATION." CFAWR | Current Legislation. N.p., n.d. Web.

28 Nov. 2016.

Kara Rogers, "Scientific Alternatives to Animal Testing: A Progress Report," britannica.com, Sep. 17, 2007

Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. New York: , ; New York Boston, 1925. Print.

Letter from Darwin to Oxford zoologist Ray Lankester in 1871

Boria Sax (2000). Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust. Continuum International

Publishing Group. p. 179. ISBN 0-8264-1289-0.

"History of Vegetarianism: The Origin of Some Words", International Vegetarian Union, April 6, 2010
Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. New York: New York Review, 1975.

Print.

Singer P. Animal Liberation. HarperCollins Publishers; New York, NY, USA: 2001.

Regan, Tom. "The Case for Animal Rights", in Tom Regan and Peter Singer (eds.). Animal Rights and Human

Obligations. Prentice Hall, 1976.