Animal rights jurisprudence refers to the legal framework that governs the
rights of animals, and the legal obligations of humans towards animals. Animal
rights jurisprudence has evolved over time, from treating animals as mere
property to recognizing them as sentient beings with their own interests and
The legal recognition of animal rights has been a relatively recent development,
and it has been influenced by a number of factors, including changes in public
attitudes towards animals, scientific research on animal behavior and cognition,
and the work of animal rights advocates.
There are various theories that are given by different jurists about the rights
of animals. Several countries had several different opinions about the animals
and most of the countries considered animals as properties and haven't
recognized them as individuals with rights. But much later due to moral aspects
the debate of animal rights has arouse.
It is necessary to trace the centuries-old philosophers' thoughts and works in
order to establish the jurisprudential status, and the historical growth of laws
and precedents must also be investigated in order to comprehend the contemporary
status that is granted to animals.
Natural law theory
Several Jurists had different opinions in natural law theory. The basic concept
of this theory is that eliminating animals from moral concern, but acknowledged
a duty not to ill treat them based on the consequences of cruelty humans are
capable of inflicting on another species. The two justifications for removing
animals from moral concerns were thought to be their lack of reasoning and their
use of language.
Aristotle believed in human supremacy. According to him the human beings are the
supreme beings in this world and it is not wrong to utilize animals for his
needs. This was reflected in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Man was to have
dominion over all animals on the planet.
Natural Law theories, commenced by Aristotle, claim that rationality is the
morally relevant feature that differentiates humans from other animals. As a
result, human beings often use non-human animals at their disposal, which has
propelled factory farming and the mistreatment of animals. The ability to reason
is what distinguishes humans from other animals. 1
According to Aquinas it is justifiable to kill the animals for the survival of
the human beings and for their consumption purposes. According to his belief law
is made by the God for the Human beings on this planet and hence the natural law
doesn't take animals into consideration.
His ideology states that animals must be treated as things that are useful for
the human beings. According to him, the animals can't be provided with any
rights and justice system. He was one of the best thinkers and a Christian
theologian of that time. He did not give any importance for the rights of
animals and the legal or moral recognition to them. He just gave the importance
for humans and human needs in his theory.
The famous theologian Descartes has developed the 'Animal Machine' theory that
asserts that the violent grumbles of canines being beaten or tormented were only
the noises of a faulty machine, rather than screams of excruciating pain.
According to him the animals are just with out feelings and are considered to be
as machines for the human usage. This theory lack the basic understanding about
the feelings of animals.
Humphrey the priest is the 1st person who recognised that animals must be well
treated. He also stated that humans and animals have a divine connection which
can not be broken by any other force. Since times immemorial the animals have
been a part of human beings lives and hence giving them proper treatment is a
moral duty of every human being on this planet.
Hobbes theory was entirely against the ideology of giving rights to the animals
or even giving them proper treatment as a moral duty. This was because animals
can't give their consent due to the language barrier that they have and due to
the understanding levels that lack in them. They also can not give their consent
for the social contracts that are established in the world.
Hence, due to these reasons Hobbes feel that animals need not have any moral
treatment or legal recognition but they can just be seen as objects that are
useful for the human survival.
According to John Locke animals are just the natural resources like any other
plants and trees. They too can be acquired and be used by the people as they use
their property and can also be considered as property in the eyes of law. We can
have 'natural rights' on the animals just like we have the natural rights on
other properties as well.
According to this theorist animals should not be ill treated and they must be
provided with some rights as human beings. Animals are also similar to human
beings and have feelings just like us. Hence, they should not be entirely
excluded and neglected without giving any rights instead they should be ensured
with proper treatment and a few rights as required.
Theorist Immanuel Kant states that animals are "man's instruments," and they
require protection only in order to assist humans in their interactions with one
another. "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with
He stated that there are certain similarities that exists between men and
animals but still it is not the duty of human beings to look after the animals.
Kant's view was considerably more concerned with obligations than with rights.
However, because these obligations are absolute and include considering each
rational individual as an end in themselves rather than just as a means to a
goal, he should be classified as a rights theorist.
Kant thought that morality is founded on a globally binding intellectual
principle known as the categorical imperative. He defined the categorical
imperative as a reasonable principle that we must always obey regardless of our
conflicting inclinations, and all moral responsibilities are derived from this
basic rational need. Unlike Hobbes, who also grounded morality on rational
criteria, Kant's view of reason was not purely selfish.
Kant felt that because our treatment of non human animals does not fall within
the categorical imperative, we do not owe them any direct responsibilities. As a
result, our "duties" to animals are in fact indirect duties to humans.
Positive Law theory:Jeremy Bentham:
He is one of the most important theologian who stated animal law theory and is
the main philosopher of the Positive Law Theory. He supported animal rights and
wanted to end the suffering of animals. He took a very different approach
compared to any other theologians. He compared animals to human beings and has
stated that treating the animals in abusive way is like slavery and racial
This philosopher believed that there is so much in common that is shared between
animals and human beings. According to him it is better to stay with animals and
learn and grow along with them instead of just being separated from them and
looking down upon those living beings. We all trace our existence from these
living beings and hence they are very much important for our survival in the
This theory was established on the grounds that animal suffering must be
considered in the present world. It did not give equal moral status to animals
as that of human beings but has considered the ill treatment by which animals do
suffer. This was because the animals lack the reflective capacities that are
present in the human beings.
Previously, merely human interests were considered important; however, this
changed with the introduction of the concept of equal consideration of human and
animal concerns by philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Peter Singer, a well-known modern
philosopher, expounded on this in his 1975 book Animal Liberation.
According to Peter Singer utilitarianism does not start with rules but with
goals, and thus has greater normative specificity because actions are prescribed
or proscribed based on "the extent to which they further these goals.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the first utilitarian theorists argued that the
interests of non human animals should be treated equally with those of humans.
They did not, however, perceive the practical repercussions of this philosophy,
such as a rejection of animal exploitation or concern about wild animal
suffering. However, modern utilitarians have recognised that utilitarianism
entails rejecting speciesism.
According to Salmond, human beings are the only living beings that are natural
persons. He did not consider animals to either be legal persons or natural
persons. They are just things that are the objects of legal rights and
responsibilities, but they are never the subjects of them. Even though the
animals are capable of acting and have interests, their actions are neither
legal nor illegal, and the only legal rights that may be given to them are the
right against cruelty and the right to be a beneficiary under a trust.
The community has a legitimate stake in the well-being of even dumb animals, and
where the interests of animals and humans collide, the latter are chosen.
Singer passionately favors' animal rights, claiming that his utilitarian
viewpoint respects all people and animals equally while rejecting the assumption
that humans are always more important merely because they are human, which he
refers to as Speciesism.
Singer, a vegetarian advocate, argues that the major harm to animals in society
is caused by intensive farming and the terrible techniques employed in animal
testing, which he outlines in detail in Animal Liberation. When we evaluate the
animals' interests in living and not suffering, we may conclude that these
practices' are not ethically defensible under utilitarian philosophy, owing to
the enormous number of animals engaged worldwide.
The fundamental criticism of utilitarianism is that it does not examine how
awful or good a situation is for distinct individuals, but instead combines all
of the positive and negative aspects of the circumstance. Consider the following
Both have the same total quantities of pain and pleasure. However, in one of
them, a few people have all the pleasure and none of the suffering, while the
rest have all the suffering and none of the pleasure. In the alternative
situation, everyone shares the same amount of pain and pleasure. Many people
favor the second scenario and, as a result, hold ideas such as equality and
prioritarianism. Those who support utilitarianism are apathetic, claiming that
distribution is unimportant.
Singer criticizes a restrictive definition of personhood, arguing that certain
sentient animals might be more entitled to personhood than some people, based on
their particular capacity to suffer and to what extent, and supports contentious
ethical issues like as abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide.1
Equality is the main concept of Egalitarianism. According to this theory it is
preferable for everyone to have a satisfying degree of happiness rather than for
some to enjoy paradisical circumstances while others are in a really miserable
Egalitarians argue that no right should be recognized if it protects the better
off by limiting improvement of the worst-off's status. This theory opposes all
types of discrimination. Since Egalitarianism promotes equality discrimination
of any sort on the animals
Types of Egalitarianism
According to this type of egalitarians any kind of inequality is preferable than
a more equal state. For them equality is not just treating everyone equally but
to have equality amongst equals.
This section of people do not agree that all inequality is bad or wrong, but
believe that inequality is only undesirable when individuals are not responsible
for it, not when it is someone else's fault that they are worse off than others.
According to Egalitarianism taking advantage of animals is not allowed. Animal
exploitation widens the gap between humans and animals, making their lives
unpleasant. As a result, equality suggests that we should reject animal
exploitation and, as a result, advocate a vegan diet.
Egalitarianism encourages us to work to enhance animal welfare. We may do this
by promoting care for all sentient beings and opposing speciesism. As a result,
egalitarianism encourages involvement in animal welfare activity.
Egalitarianism advocates for aiding animals that, while not directly exploited
by people, are being hurt in ways that we can help. This implies that we should
encourage initiatives to assist wild animals and so alleviate wild animal
Prioritarianism is an ethical philosophy which states that we should make
everyone's situation better, but should focus especially on those who are less
fortunate. Based on some interpretations and views of prioritarianism, we should
simultaneously alleviate suffering and improve individual happiness. However,
doing so for those in worse conditions is more vital than doing so for those in
better positions. Other kinds of prioritarianism believe that enhancing
happiness is not an important aspect. We should solely focus on alleviating
pain, and alleviating the suffering of those who are less fortunate. That is
more essential than alleviating the suffering of those who are better situated.
Prioritarianism prioritises improving net happiness, but it also considers how
pain and happiness are divided between individuals. It is more vital to raise
the happiness of people who are unhappy than it is to increase the happiness of
those who are happy.
Prioritarians that agree with suffering-focused ethics will prioritise reducing
suffering above enhancing pleasure, and will prioritise minimising the suffering
of people in poorer circumstances. If they give not just partial importance, but
absolute precedence to reducing suffering above promoting pleasure, their point
of view is known as negative prioritarianism.
Sufficientarianism is a distributive justice theory. Rather than being concerned
with disparities per se or with improving the status of the poorest among us,
sufficientarian justice seeks to ensure that each of us has enough.
Sufficientarianism holds that all persons should be in a sufficiently excellent
state. There is a level below which one lives a miserable life for
sufficientarians, and it is critical that all persons achieve or surpass this
standard. Sufficientarians prioritise people below the threshold because it is
more necessary to aid those below the threshold than those above it.
However, once all people have reached the threshold, sufficientarians are either
slightly or wholly apathetic about how things are allocated. This distinguishes
sufficientarianism from prioritarianism, because prioritarianism favours the
least fortunate even if everyone enjoys a nice life.1
Sufficientarianism is a philosophy of justice that emphasises the idea that
everyone should have enough. When it comes to economic distribution, Frankfurt
emphasises that the ethically significant issue is that everyone has enough, not
that everyone has the same. According to Roemer, this may be seen as increasing
the number of those who have enough.
Modern contractarianism and moral standards are derived on the concept of a
contract or mutual agreement. The goal is for the parties to come to an
agreement that is agreeable to everyone.
The concept of Contractarianism derives from the 17th and 18th century social
contract theories concerning the legitimacy of political power. These theories
emerged during the time of the Enlightenment, when established ideals were being
challenged. The denial of divine right of monarchs was especially important in
the development of social contract theory. The social contract hypothesis was
created to provide a solution to this challenge.
Thomas Hobbes -
According to him the inherent state of mankind was pre-political; nobody had
control over another, and no one had any obligation to assist safeguard the
interests of others.
He described this condition of nature as one of war, in which life was generally
was very tough for everyone and each living being has to run for their survival.
Hobbes believed that people come together willingly to form a political system
in order to avoid this perilous condition. Each would see that life in its
natural nature is hazardous, because each individual is capable of injuring
others while also being vulnerable to injury.
In Scanlon's theory, individuals are motivated both by their own self-interest
and by basic respect for other persons.
Scanlon ensures fairness by:
- assuming that all individuals want to reach an agreement that will be
acceptable to all and
- stipulating what counts as reasonable grounds for rejecting a principle.
In Rawls point of view, the "original position" should be hidden behind a "veil
of ignorance" that prevents them from knowing what their own position in society
This implies someone may be born into a poor or wealthy household, for example,
and not knowing would maintain their neutrality.
Animal Right Theories:
These theories propose that animals have inherent rights that should be
protected. These rights may include the right to life, liberty, and freedom from
pain and suffering. Rights-based theories reject the idea that animals are mere
property to be used by humans and argue that animals have their own inherent
Rights theories can refer to moral rights or legal rights. Moral rights are
generally conceived of as rights that a being is born with or possesses by
virtue of their nature. Legal Rights are government-recognized laws established
and upheld to protect some interests.
There are 4 types of theories. They are:
Rights holders possess rights as one of their inherent characteristics. We must
either recognise and respect those rights or fight for them to be recognised.
Based on the constructivist views, the ideal explanation for the way to treat
morally significant individuals is to grant them rights and respect those
rights, or to fight for those rights to be respected.
Constructivist theory does not accept that rights holders have rights as
something intrinsic. Rather, it claims that individuals choose to grant them to
each other. It defends this as a good thing to do.
This theory claim that there are some rules that we must always follow
regardless of the circumstances.
This theory implies that we should focus on maximisation of the rights that are
respected and minimise the rights that are infringed, regardless of whether we
or others respect or violate them, and whether the violation occurs now or in
"Speciesism" refers to the belief that only humans are ethically considered.
Richard Ryder invented this word in the 1970s while campaigning in Oxford to
describe a widespread sort of human centred prejudice that he believed was
related to racism. He argued that it was wrong to favour one's own species while
exploiting or injuring members of other species. Peter Singer popularised the
phrase and emphasised on how speciesism, without moral justification, benefits
When there is a conflict between the interests of members of his own race and
interests of members of another race, the racist breaches the concept of
equality. The speciesist permits his own species' interests to take precedence
over the larger interests of members of other species.
This concept that humans have the right to utilise nonhuman creatures, and it is
widespread in modern culture, according to experts. According to studies,
persons who favour animal exploitation are more likely to hold racist, sexist,
and other prejudiced ideas, which helps to legitimise systems of inequality and
oppression based on human supremacy and group domination.
Pure speciesism takes the concept of human superiority to its logical
conclusion, claiming that the most insignificant human desire is more essential
than the fundamental requirements of other species.
Many individuals believe that humans are so much superior to all other
categories of organisms that biological processes do not apply to them. This
profound isolation of humans from all other forms of life promotes environmental
catastrophe and an intractable sense of loneliness among humanity. Nature has
only utilitarian or use worth, not inherent value, according to this humanist
The majority of the abilities supposed to differentiate humans as ethically
accountable beings appear to have been observed, however in the non-human world.
Because human behaviour and cognition have deep origins in animal behaviour and
cognition, techniques that seek to draw strong behavioural or cognitive
boundaries between humans and other animals remain problematic. As a result,
attempts to show human uniqueness by pinpointing specific capacities are not the
most fruitful when considering the moral position of animals.
Hence, according to the changing times the theorists had come up with new
ideologies and it is necessary to trace the centuries-old philosophers' thoughts
and works in order to establish the jurisprudential status, and the historical
growth of laws and precedents must also be investigated in order to comprehend
the contemporary status that is granted to animals.
Here is the HTML code with the provided information formatted as a bulleted list without hyperlinks:
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- Rachel Tobias, Allowing Animal Rights: Contra Natural Law Arguments, IDEAEXCHANGE.UAKRON.EDU (Mar. 20, 2023, 5:40 PM)
- Animal Ethics Org, https://www.animal-ethics.org/rights-theories/ (Mar. 29, 2023)
- Advocates For Animals, https://www.advocates-for-animals.com/post/what-is-utilitarianism-and-how-does-it-apply-to-animal-welfare, (Mar. 30, 2023)
- Gary L. Francione, Animal Rights Theory and Utilitarianism: Relative Normative Guidance, Volume 5 Issue 3, Between The Species page 1, pages 1-30 (1998) https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1054&context=bts
- Animal Ethics. Org, https://www.animal-ethics.org/utilitarianism/
- Advocates For Animals, https://www.animal-ethics.org/egalitarianism/, (Mar. 30, 2023)
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- Gosseries, Axel, Sufficientarianism, ROUTLEDGE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY (Mar. 30, 2023 8 PM), https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/sufficientarianism/v-1/sections/what-is-sufficientarianism
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- Sufficientarianism, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufficientarianism/ (Last Visited Apr. 1, 2023)
- Contractariansm, https://www.animal-ethics.org/contractarianism/ (Last Visited Apr 2, 2023)
- RIGHTS THEORIES, https://www.animal-ethics.org/rights-theories/ (Last Visited Apr 3, 2023)
- Gruen, Lori, "The Moral Status of Animals", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/moral-animal/
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- bbc.co.uk, https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/animals/rights/speciesism.shtml
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