Animal rights: More than one challenge to face

By on October 31, 2002

The perfect image of the family dog sleeping peacefully in front of a cozy, warm fire place can be abruptly corrupted by the violent images of dog fights that are only thought to be shown in the movies.
In reality, animal abuse occurs regularly, usually resulting in the death of the animal. There are a few people who believe that animals should be entitled to the same rights as humans. Steven Wise is a lawyer who defends animal rights in court. However, developing legal theories concerning animal rights will be difficult for Wise. He will have to define and support all of the claims he makes, in order for them to be accepted in the legal realm.
There are obvious differences between humans and non-humans, but they are not defined legally. Wise claims that his “work is directed toward breaching the legal wall that separates humans from non-humans.” In order to support his beliefs, he will have to define what makes humans and non-humans different.
For example, the difference between a human’s ability to read and write compared to that of a non-human animal. Once the differences have been recognized, he will be able to demonstrate why these inequalities should not affect the rights of the non-human animals.
This particular task will be very difficult, since many people consider their domestic animals to be possessions rather than individual beings within society. Wise will have to face this challenge in order to support his reasoning behind animal rights.
Before we are able to define what rights other beings have, we must assess our own rights. Steven Wise reports that he is “trying to apply those traditional sources of our most basic rights – liberty and equality – to non-human animals.”
Simple explanations of these rights will not persuade the legal scholar. In depth explanations and detailed examples will be necessary, if Wise wants his theories to be accepted. He will have to provide a definition of liberty and support the connection between the liberties of humans and animals.
For example, the same liberties given to humans cannot be given to non-humans. The freedom of speech, for example, does not apply to non-human animals. Wise will have to prove that the liberties of protection and life are the rights that apply to some animals. Once he is able to support this argument, Wise’s theories will be accepted legally.
Another difficulty Wise will face is the question of the scientific research, which his theories will be based upon. Although he is not directly involved, many people will question the interpretations of the research, and the way he applies it to his theories. For example, research supports the idea that not all animals are qualified to be given legal rights. Arguments surrounding the research will constantly challenge Wise, although his only concern is law.
Attempting to define legal theories about animal rights will be complicated. Many people who create theories, like Hobbes and Locke are faced with challenges which must be accepted. For example, Hobbes makes many assumptions about human nature, to which there are exceptions. Since animal rights theories are a controversial issue, like abortion and capital punishment, it will constantly be debated. However, persistence and sufficient scientific support will create a strong backbone for Steven Wise’s animal rights theories.


About Foeleana Sansevero