Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know

Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know

Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know

Animal Rights: What Everyone Needs to Know


In this compelling volume in the What Everyone Needs to Know series, Paul Waldau expertly navigates the many heated debates surrounding the complex and controversial animal rights movement.
Organized around a series of probing questions, this timely resource offers the most complete, even-handed survey of the animal rights movement available. The book covers the full spectrum of issues, beginning with a clear, highly instructive definition of animal rights. Waldau looks at the different concerns surrounding companion animals, wild animals, research animals, work animals, and animals used for food, provides a no-nonsense assessment of the treatment of animals, and addresses the philosophical and legal arguments that form the basis of animal rights. Along the way, readers will gain insight into the history of animal protection-as well as the political and social realities facing animals today-and become familiar with a range of hot-button topics, from animal cognition and autonomy, to attempts to balance animal cruelty versus utility. Chronicled here are many key figures and organizations responsible for moving the animal rights movement forward, as well as legislation and public policy that have been carried out around the world in the name of animal rights and animal protection. The final chapter of this indispensable volume looks ahead to the future of animal rights, and delivers an animal protection mandate for citizens, scientists, governments, and other stakeholders.
With its multidisciplinary, non-ideological focus and all-inclusive coverage,Animal Rightsrepresents the definitive survey of the animal rights movement-one that will engage every reader and student of animal rights, animal law, and environmental ethics.


In the phrase “animal rights,” the word “animal” is rarely, if ever, understood to refer to humans. Instead, it is virtually always a reference to living beings outside our own species. Humans are, of course, primates, mammals, vertebrates, and so forth. Since all of these categories are animal categories, it can be said that scientifically humans are “animals” in every sense of the word. Further, since humans clearly have rights (however we end up defining this term), in one minor sense it is true that everyone already acknowledges that at least some animals (namely, humans) have and deserve rights.

But the driving issue in the animal rights movement discussed in this book is the question of which other animals, that is, which other primates, other mammals, other vertebrates, and so on, might also be said to have rights? If the answer to this question is that no others now have them, is it the case that any of the living beings beyond the species line need or deserve rights of one kind or another?

We later turn in this chapter to more discussion of just who and what fits into the category “animal.” Here we turn to some preliminary issues that can be seen better if we look at the other important word in this controversial phrase.

The word “rights” gives virtually any discussion a special quality. Because many people today assume that only humans should have legal rights, controversy can arise when someone laims that various nonhuman animals already have the important protections we call “rights.” Some highly respected lawyers today have said, “Without question, they have rights already.” Others insist, “They absolutely do not have rights today.” What is at issue in such discussions about “animal rights,” as we will see, is a range of different protections that humans can offer to other living beings.

As noted throughout this book, many people in a variety of contexts today easily resort to the word “rights” to signal that something very important is at issue. A major reason for this is the fact that “rights” is an idea that we use when we talk about our own importance as living beings. But for well over a century now, people wishing to protect valued beings outside our species have also resorted to talk of “rights” in order to signal the importance of the issue.

So one reason any informed citizen or student of life needs to know what is meant by “animal rights” is that many people use this phrase to signal something very important to them. Examples could be drawn from dozens of societies around the world. Consider one that comes from the internationally known reformer of Islam, Tariq Ramadan. Islam is a religious tradition that began with the Prophet Mohammed, who himself did not talk in terms of . . .

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