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The Dallas Examined Life Philosophy Group Monthly Meetup

  • Sep 13, 2012 · 7:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

TOPIC: Human vs. Animal Rights 

When Nathaniel first recommended this topic I offered to set it up for discussion then quickly realized I didn’t have a clue as to what he was trying to get at.  I didn’t see how these fit together.  There are human rights and there are animal rights and they seemed two entirely different things.  At this stage in evolution, as far as I know, only human animals think (I could be wrong) and the very idea of animal rights is a human animal idea/invention.  I doubt seriously that any other animal other than homo-erectus could be thinking about the rights of their own species (aka “dog rights”) much less the rights of another species. Then….something serendipitous happened.  I received the next film on my NetFlix list Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

I’ve always been a lover of Science-Fiction, and saw the Planet of the Apes (1st in a series of five films) when it was released in 1968, available for immediate download from NetFlix) so I’d had the 2011 film on my movie list.  It was incredible, and had me rooting for the Apes. More importantly, it left me with an improved understanding of how I might start this conversation.  If you can manage to see both films before the start of this MeetUp, I think you’ll have more fun when the conversation begins.

Per Wikipedia, Human rights are commonly understood as "inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being."  And, Animal rights is the idea that some or all nonhuman animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives, and that their most basic interests – such as an interest in not suffering – should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings.  The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences argues that even sophisticated computers are unable to model interactions between molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and the environment, making animal research necessary in many areas.[8] Animal rights, and some animal welfare, organizations—such as PETA and BUAV—question the legitimacy of it, arguing that it is cruel, poor scientific practice, poorly regulated, that medical progress is being held back by misleading animal models, that some of the tests are outdated, that it cannot reliably predict effects in humans, that the costs outweigh the benefits, or that animals have an intrinsic right not to be used for experimentation.  And then Jim chimed in and had better starter questions than I did, so….

What the heck are rights?

Who or what is deserving of rights? Does a gnat that's been circling my head for the last hour have a right not to be dispatched to gnat heaven?

Are rights something that we have or something that we ought to have?

Why do we believe that human rights supersede animal rights?

Are there some areas of research that should be banned from using animals as test subjects?

If aliens from another planet abducted humans for experimentation to cure some of their diseases would we be discussing alien rights vs. human rights?


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  • Sally R.

    I keep thinking about this topic and I thought I had a pretty clear view on the subject, but now I'm not so sure. For instance, do dogs and cats have the same rights as chickens and crawfish? I don't know about you, but I will eat a chicken but not a dog or a pony. And what about worms and spiders (no rights at all in my book). And who gets to decide what their rights are? If a being does not know it has rights we have given it, do the rights really belong to it, or do the rights really exist at all?

    September 9, 2012

  • Rinda G.

    Great questions, Jim. This is a tough subject and deserving of serious discussion. And, I find myself "back in the tree again" (ref Jurrasic Park) thinking that before we can discuss animal, alien, human, group or individual rights we really have to decide what a right (a legal, moral entitlement or permission?) is, and, perhaps more importantly, who has the "right" to determine someone else's "rights"? Britain once determined rights for the colonies , and look how that worked out for them.

    August 24, 2012

  • Jim B.

    Another area that's really been on my mind lately is the question of group rights vs. individual rights. In 2007, the UN adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to autonomy and self-determination, which would include non-interference by industrial cultures. There are over 100 indigenous groups right now that are adamantly, even violently, opposed to any outside interference, including even observation. Among them are the Jarawa in the Andamans. The dilemma is the possibility of individual members of the Jarawa having their rights violated by other members of the Jarawa. If somehow a human rights watch organization came to know this, would they have the right to violate the Jarawa's right to sovereignty and autonomy by intervening in their affairs to rescue the individual being mistreated?

    August 24, 2012

  • Jim B.

    Rinda, Those are all good questions for discussion. I was also thinking of some other questions maybe we can explore too, such as :

    What the heck are rights?

    Who or what is deserving of rights? Does a gnat that's been circling my head for the last hour have a right not to be dispatched to gnat heaven?

    Are rights something that we have or something that we ought to have?

    August 24, 2012

  • Fallon

    If I ever met a Human/Animal, I think I would definitely be okay with it having rights. I guess we're talking centaurs (Chiron), minotaurs (Asterion), gorgons (Medusa), mermaids (Ariel), satyrs (Pan), etc?

    August 18, 2012

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