Responses to Top Arguments Against Animal Rights

While opponents of animal rights (AR) usually make weak arguments for their case, they are occasionally right. For instance, AR advocates really do believe it is morally wrong for humans to eat animals. But for the most part, their arguments have little or no basis in reality and are easily shown for the fallacies they are.

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Lions Eat Animals

Lion hunting zebra
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One of the most common arguments against animal rights is that there are many predators in the wild who hunt and eat meat-based prey. Why should humans, who are also animals, be exempt?

Animal rights advocates counter that a lion, being a feline, is what is considered an obligate carnivore. Taurine, an essential amino acid, is vital to the health of these big cats. Without it, they will die. And they can only get it from meat. Taurine, however, is made in the human body and can also be obtained from non-meat sources.

Besides, say AR advocates, there are a lot of things that lions do that humans would not. Lions play with their food before killing and consuming it. There have been no studies to suggest that lions feel sorry for their prey, whereas human beings are empathetic to others. Lion social structure is also different. Male lions have more than one partner, a practice humans frown on. Also, a male lion will kill the babies of another male lion in order to perpetuate its own bloodline.

Furthermore, the American Dietetic Association supports vegan diets:

"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
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Animal Rights Is Extreme

Around Fashion Week - Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2015
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Whether animals rights is "extreme" might depend on how one understands the term. Merriam Webster defines "extreme" in three ways:

  1. Existing in a very high degree
  2. Going to great or exaggerated lengths; radical
  3. Exceeding the ordinary, usual, or expected

In the case of animal rights, say its adherents, there is nothing wrong with seeking solutions that are "extreme" and far from the ordinary. In the United States, the "ordinary" treatment of animals causes animals to suffer and die on factory farms, in laboratories, on fur farms, in leg-hold traps, in puppy mills, and in zoos and circuses. An extreme change is needed to save animals from these fates.

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Pets Will Become Extinct

British short hair cat and golden retriever
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It's a common misconception that animal rights advocates want all domestic animals to go extinct. That means not only no more cows, chickens, and pigs raised for meat, but also no cats, dogs, horses, hamsters, etc. raised as animal companions.

Animal rights advocates realize just how strong the human/animal bond can be. The last thing they want is to allow people's pets to be wiped from the face of the earth. Neither does anyone want these animals released into the wild, even though many feral cat, dog, and pig colonies already exist. For those animals that are unfit to survive in the wild, extinction is not a bad thing. "Broiler" chickens grow so large, they develop joint problems and heart disease. Cows now produce more than twice as much milk as they did 50 years ago, and domestic turkeys are too large to mate naturally. There is no reason to continue breeding these animals. To animal rights advocates, these are fates worse than death.

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They Want Eating Meat to Be Illegal

Young girl on dieting for good health concept. Close up female using hand reject junk food by pushing out her favorite fried chicken and choose red apple and salad for good health.
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Eating meat infringes on the rights of animals to live and be free, so animal rights activists don't believe people have a moral right to eat animals, even though it's perfectly legal to do so. Some prominent AR advocates have called for making the slaughter and eating of meat illegal, while others rely on moral persuasion.

But AR activists will never remain silent in the face of what they believe is this injustice—and they have a legal right to free speech that is protected by law. To expect AR activists to remain silent is failing to respect their right to express themselves and advocate veganism.

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Vegans Kill Animals, Too

Low angle side view of car
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It is nearly impossible for a person to live on this planet without causing some suffering and death to animals. Animals are killed and displaced on farms to grow crops; animal products show up in unexpected places like car tires; and pollution destroys wild habitats and the animals who depend on them. However, this has nothing to do with whether animals deserve rights, and being vegan is one way to minimize one's negative impact on animals and leave as small a carbon footprint as possible. One cannot be an environmentalist and a carnivore, say vegans. Which way of life leads to a better planet for the people, for the animals, and for the future of Earth?

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Animals Don't Think

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The ability to think like a human is an arbitrary criterion for rights. Why not base it on the ability to fly or use echolocation or walk up walls?

Furthermore, if rights come from the ability to think, then some humans—babies and the mentally incapacitated—are not deserving of rights, while some non-human animals with the ability to think like a human do deserve rights. No one is arguing for this twisted reality where only the most intellectually gifted individuals of various species in the animal kingdom deserve rights.

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They Do Not Have Duties

Medicinal Leech-hirudo
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This is a twisted argument. All animals absolutely have a purpose in life. Even a tick, a blood-sucking pest, is food for birds. Those white birds standing on cattle are not mistaking the cow for an Uber driver! They are eating the ticks, which help them do their job—to drop seeds on the ground, which will grow into plants. Hawks eat carrion; sharks rid the ocean of overpopulated species; bees are absolutely necessary to the health of our crops' and dogs help the blind. It goes on and on.

And, again, if "duty" were a criteria for rights, that would mean babies, the mentally ill, the mentally incapacitated, or the intellectually disabled would not have rights.

Furthermore, although animals do not have rights, they are still subject to human laws and punishments, including imprisonment and death. A dog that attacks a person may be required to remain confined and/or muzzled, or may be sentenced to die. A deer that eats crops may be shot and killed by a farmer under a depredation permit. If animals can be punished under our laws, say AR advocates, then they should also have rights under those laws.

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Plants Have Feelings, Too

Butterfly At Sunset
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This argument is another one of those ridiculous things people say when they are out of ammo. As far as science is concerned, plants do not feel pain. Even if they did, that would put humans in the same position as lions, since we cannot live without consuming plants. Therefore, we would be morally justified in eating plants.

Also, if plants feel pain, that does not mean that eating plants and eating animals are morally equivalent because it takes many more plants to feed an omnivore compared to a vegan. Feeding grains, hay, and other plant foods to animals so that we can eat the animals is very inefficient and kills far more plants than being vegan.

View Article Sources
  1. United Sates Department of Agriculture. The Changing Landscape Of U.S. Milk Production. 2002.