Article

Animal Rights

Mark Rowlands

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online December 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0124
Animal Rights

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The expression “animal rights” is employed in two different ways: one broad, the other narrow. When employed in the broad sense—animal rights with a small “r”—the claim that animals possess rights is used as a way of asserting that animals have moral standing: that they are morally considerable, the legitimate objects of moral concern. Even moral theories that are officially hostile to the concept of rights can accept that animals have rights in this sense. Thus, Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described the idea of rights as “nonsense” but nevertheless argued that animals possess moral standing. And although subsequent utilitarians have generally inherited this antipathy toward the concept of rights, it was utilitarianism that underpinned Peter Singer’s (Singer 1975, cited under Introductory Works, the Basic Argument, and Utilitarianism and Animals) seminal defense of the moral claims of animals. Thus, Singer, certainly in the minds of the general public, is associated with the idea of animal rights even though the moral theory he deploys is officially hostile to the concept of rights. The broad sense of animal rights is, therefore, a very loose sense, and the area of inquiry might instead be labeled “animal ethics.” In a stronger sense—animal rights with a capital “R”—the claim that animals possess rights is restricted to specific moral theories that endorse both the moral claims of animals and the apparatus of moral rights. In particular, the claim is strongly associated with the deontological framework developed by Tom Regan (see Animals and Natural Rights), and also with certain contractualist approaches to understanding the rights of animals (see Contractualism and Animals). This bibliography encompasses animal rights in the broad sense of animal ethics. It focuses on theoretical developments in animal ethics. Tracing the practical implications of each theory or tradition for issues such animal husbandry, experimentation, hunting and other blood sports, zoos, the keeping of pets, and so on has proved to be not only important in its own right but also a significant component in the overall theoretical elaboration of each tradition. Practical work is cited, and practical issues discussed, only to the extent they have impact on the theoretical frameworks.

Article.  8154 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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