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animal rights

Animal rights
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the idea that the basic interests of non-human
animals — for example, the interest in avoiding suffering — should be afforded the same
consideration as the basic interests of human beings. Animal rights advocates argue that animals
should no longer be regarded as property, or treated as resources for human purposes, but should
instead be regarded as legal persons and members of the moral community.
The idea of extending personhood to animals has the support of legal scholars such as Alan
Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, and animal law courses are now taught in
92 out of 180 law schools in the United States. Stephen Wise, also of Harvard Law School, argues
that the first serious judicial challenges to the "legal thinghood of nonhuman animals" may only be
a few years away.
The Seattle-based Great Ape Project is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt a Declaration
on Great Apes, which would see gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos included in a
"community of equals" with human beings, extending to them the protection of three basic
interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture. This is
seen by an increasing number of animal rights lawyers as a first step toward granting rights to
other animals.
Critics of the concept of animal rights argue that animals do not have the capacity to enter into
a social contract or make moral choices, and therefore cannot be regarded as possessors of moral
rights. The philosopher Roger Scruton argues that only human beings have duties and that "[t]he
corollary is inescapable: we alone have rights." Critics holding this position argue that there is
nothing inherently wrong with using animals for food, as entertainment, and in research, though
human beings may nevertheless have an obligation to ensure they do not suffer unnecessarily.
This position is generally called the animal welfare position, and it is held by some of the oldest of
the animal protection agencies.
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