No rights for animals

Rights are the exception in nature, not the rule. Species consume other species. Territoriality approaches rights, because territoriality shares elements (though far from all) with property rights, and rights generally can for the most part be expressed in terms of property rights. But just because some birds and mammals are territorial in some sense, that does not give me a reason to enter into any territoriality arrangements with them. Birds respect territory because they have a good reason to, not for any other reason. Similarly, I have a conscience presumably because it's in my long term interest to. But it is not, except perhaps accidentally or in contrived situations, in the interest of humans, individually or in groups, to habitually respect the rights of animals.

I think where rights differ sharply from territoriality is in the human practice of teaming up against violators. Territoriality is, or at least is stereotyped to be, one on one. But what gives human law bite is not that an individual will defend himself (all animals defend themselves), but that where there is a conflict, humans all around will decide who's right and side with the one in the right. This happens all the time though nowadays it's largely taken over by the state and its police, who jealously guard their privilege to identify and team up against malefactors. Vigilantes not welcome wherever a state holds sway. But it's essentially the same as in anarchy: where there is a conflict, the good guy (if there is one) and bad guy are identified and essentially all of society goes after the bad guy (be it directly through vigilantism or mediated by a government with its police force).

Animals can't do this, or at least, their ability to do this is strictly limited. If you murder a human and are seen doing it, then your description can be spread far and wide and you will not be entirely safe in human society anywhere. But go up to a dog, even in plain view of other dogs, and kill it, and you are safe, in large part because dogs have no ability to spread information about your actions. If dogs had that ability, then things might be different. But they don't. And same with cats, horses, birds, snakes, whatever. You can predate on non-human animals openly without fear of "animal society" turning on you. You can't do that with humans.

We are fundamentally all predators. Predation is how we survive. It is also how we provide luxuries for ourselves (e.g., leather and fur, and even just wood if you include predation on plants). Since it is what we are it is nothing to be ashamed of. If we are to avoid predating on other animals - including other humans - it had better be for a damn good reason, one that is damn good when considered from the point of view of self interest. I think the case against predating upon other humans is an excellent one, and not at all altruistic. But the case against predating upon animals is much weaker. Those who advocate it simply fail to provide compelling reasons other than quasi-religious ideas. Essentially the animal-rights crowd seem mainly to base their ideas on a simple and direct analogy between humans and animals. Humans have rights. Animals are a lot like humans (this is undeniable). Therefore (they seem to conclude) animals have rights. It is evil to kill and dissect innocent humans. Therefore, they seem to reason, it is evil to kill and dissect rats, monkeys, cats, and so on.

It's not all that weak an appeal to intuition, because analogy is a common and useful tool when reasoning about rights. However, I argue that it is incorrect for the reasons that I have outlined above.

(this was a comment which I've promoted to a blog entry)

 

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Let me play the comfortable

Let me play the comfortable role of the devil's advocate.

If you murder a human and are seen doing it, then your description can be spread far and wide and you will not be entirely safe in human society anywhere.

That is not entirely true, if you kill some guy from the other tribe or even kill the whole other tribe, you may be safe in yours.

But go up to a dog, even in plain view of other dogs, and kill it, and you are safe, in large part because dogs have no ability to spread information about your actions.

What if a hippie sees that and sues you for cruelty towards animals. Well, he, has rights, but then you're saying you get rights by your ability to report crimes unrelated to you. That implies a duty which seems incoherent... a misanthropic man who doesn't bother to report crimes should have rights.
One answer is that you are trying to determine not who should have rights but which specie. In that case the point would be valid but why should rights be granted to species and not specific members of each specie... separating by specie seems artificial.

Yes

That is not entirely true, if you kill some guy from the other tribe or even kill the whole other tribe, you may be safe in yours.

Yes. I brought that exception up in a followup comment.

That implies a duty which seems incoherent... a misanthropic man who doesn't bother to report crimes should have rights.

I addressed this also. This (or a similar enough example) is brought up by Phil.

separating by specie seems artificial.

It is psychologically realistic. I explained why that matters.