The concept of animal rights is, arguably, one of the most controversial issues of our time. At the present moment, animal rights remains a contentious matter due to its basic grounding in moral principles which essentially highlight the importance of animal welfare and treating non-human sentient beings with utmost dignity. According to Nurse & Wyatt (2020), the current conception of animal rights recognizes the importance of allowing non-human animals to live on their own terms without being subjected to harmful and exploitative human desires. However, critics of this moral philosophy remain quite critical of the introduction of this emerging concept and claim that animal will eternally remain subservient to humankind. This debacle has sparked numerous debates on the fidelity of mainstreaming the idea of human rights led by progressive countries such as the United States and Britain.
Moreover, these countries now equate animal rights to human rights and currently advocate for the protection of non-human sentient beings from torture and inhumane treatment by individuals typically expected to serve as their guardians. It is for these reasons that most developed countries have become the center of animal rights lobby groups calling for the legal protection of animals through legislation. Britain’s Animal Sentience Act of 2021 and the US Animal Welfare Act of 1966 remain some of the most prominent laws enacted to safeguard animal rights in contemporary times. The primary objective of each of the above-mentioned pieces of legislation was to enshrine the humane treatment of animals into acts of law as an official recognition of the drive towards offering basic welfare protection for non-human sentient beings. Today, animal rights activists such as Leo Anguiano and Nathan Semme remain at the forefront of animal rights campaigns while actively striving to highlight the overall significance of such efforts in realizing positive change in the treatment of animals globally.
Animal Rights as a Necessity for a Progressive Society
Debates and candid discussions surrounding animal rights are necessary today and relevant when attempting to create a progressive society. It is quite evident today that humankind has focused exclusively on raising the collective consciousness by emphasizing on the importance of forming a global community based on fairness, equality, liberty, and dignity. Such efforts provide a unique explanation on how we have managed to reduce wars, conflict, and strife while countering dangerous vices such as tribalism, racism, ethnocentrism, and sexism. Yet, this progress can only be achieved by also considering the overall importance of ethics and the adoption of moral principles which bring out the best in humankind.
Acknowledging the significance of animal rights, therefore, goes a long way in nurturing the basic ideals necessary for inculcating a progressive and futuristic society. This process should entail the total rejection of the anthropocentric assumptions made by humans regarding our superiority to non-human sentient beings and the realization that animals too deserve protection from harm and exploitation. The integration of this concept in the mainstream should, therefore, take the form of animal’s right to equal consideration in the greater scheme of things given that such a perspective is bound to expand the scope of animal rights and its application. Besides, animal rights seem like an ideal framework for cultivating human advancement by recognizing our symbiotic relationship with non-human sentient beings as a sub-set of post-humanism (Mclaughlin, 2016). These ideas are repeated periodically in major world religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, and Shintoism as a pathway to improving the human condition while promoting environmental sustainability.
Animal Rights as a Safeguard against Abuse and Exploitation
The enactment of animal rights is also fundamental as an integral measure in preventing the wanton abuse of non-human sentient beings and their subsequent exploitation by humans. At the core of this particular idea is the full recognition of animals as animate creatures with the capacity to feel pain and experience suffering like human beings. The act of safeguarding animals from all forms of abuse and exploitation, therefore, falls squarely within the scope of legislation such as Britain’s Animal Sentience Act of 2021 and the US Animal Welfare Act of 1966. Apart from outlining the manner in which pets should be treated within the context of a cultured society, these laws also extend their protection to farmed animals by stipulating basic standards for treatment. Their tenets cover relevant animal rights issues such as outlining basic guidelines for the sale, purchase, handling, and transportation of non-human sentient beings regardless of their purpose but with the sole aim of promoting their welfare.
These guidelines also strive to offer an acceptable level of psychological protection to animals. particularly farmed animals and non-human primates. It is, therefore, no wonder that both the Britain’s Animal Sentience Act of 2021 and the US Animal Welfare Act of 1966 are explicit in their prohibition of inhumane lab experiments on animals and engaging in violent acts such as dogfighting. Biller-Andomo (2015), consider this a step in the right direction given that the premise acknowledges the fact that animals also suffer in a manner similar to human beings, sparking critical conversations on animal consciousness among reformist legal scholars. Such arguments have steered the drive towards a complete revaluation of the legal status of animals as one of the primordial steps towards curbing incidences of animal cruelty and the subsequent promotion of humane practices.
Link between Animal Rights and Environmental Sustainability
Animal rights and the enactment of federal and state legislation safeguarding animals remains a necessity, especially given that it is associated with environmental sustainability. Over the past decade, climate change activists such as Greta Thunberg have warned of the potential of a grand environmental catastrophe due to the systematic failures of the leadership class in realizing its urgency. This reality is also projected to result in the unprecedented destruction of a wide range of animal species likely to result in a major ecological imbalance globally. Animal rights, thus, play a significant role in averting this phenomenon by relying on systems protecting animals and ensuring populations remain at an optimum level for posterity. Designating animals as non-human persons ensures these life forms thrive in a global landscape known for experiencing a rapid rate of change and ultimately promoting environmental sustainability (Aaltola, 2016). This shift in meta-ethics is also bound to promote the inclusion of divergent schools of thoughts on animal rights and our role in championing equal rights for non-human sentient beings. A realization of the association between animal rights and environmental sustainability also shatters and demystify the myth of human supremacy over non-human sentient beings.
The epistemological axiom of human supremacy over animals is a controversial point of view criticized by its detractors who encourage open debate on the importance and significance of animal rights today. Animal rights, through legislation such as Britain’s Animal Sentience Act of 2021 and the US Animal Welfare Act of 1966, highlight the importance of exploring this new perspective with the main aim of ensuring that it remains a relevant issue in contemporary times. Animal rights is now viewed as a necessary precondition for progressive society, a safeguard against abuse and exploitation, and one of the most significant strategies to adopt when seeking to promote environmental sustainability. Full acknowledgment of this reality is, therefore, a crucial imperative for human development and the welfare of non-sentient beings and will eventually go a long way in ushering moralistic ethics within the sphere of mainstream society in the current global environment.