Case in Point: Animal Rights What’s in a name?

Case in Point: Animal Rights What’s in a name?

Article Discussion: “Animal Rights What’s in a name?”

The argument of animal rights raises many and varying points of view. In the article “Animal Rights What’s in a name?” Tome Regan draws a connection between the Deep Ecology movement and animal rights proponents, which could be a considered a uniting force between the two groups which have fundamentally been opposed. To fully appreciate Regan’s argument one must understand the that Deep Ecology perceives animals as a resource and the protection of the environment extends to these resources, thus the protection animals is by default derived from conservation. This view is in contradiction to animal welfarists whom believe that animals are not resources but living entities with inherent rights. The linchpin argument that Regan provides is that the fundamental idea of protecting animals is a unifying force.

As a result of sport hunting and commercial usage of animals many species have been endangered and some driven to extinction. Urban sprawl and depletion of natural habitats such as the rain forest have been factors contributing to the loss of animal life. From these problems the obvious implications of depleting species seems clear. The unbalancing of nature has led to many situations where humans have endangered themselves by creating unsustainable environments. Case in point is the overfishing of lakes which unbalances the ecosystem by removing fish which provide other animals with sustainability. This scenario has played out repeatedly.

Science and technology has offered many solutions to these problems and especially when concerning animal rights. Today it is possible to restock lakes with fish and by controlling periods of hunting animals are not driven downward in population to dangerous levels. However, this does not solve the larger problem of human consumption driving commercial fishing and farming which leaves a huge ecological footprint. The ever expanding human population demands large quantities of food to be farmed which continually causes the loss of environment to animals.

The primary solution which Regan offers is the conversion of thought away from merely protecting and conserving wildlife, to rights based thinking when considering animals. In this thought framework animals would not be managed but instead left alone. This is a fundamental shift in thinking from the idea that animals are somehow inferior but are instead equal with respect to rights. The same application social contract that is the basis of human rights (in which humans believe themselves to have inherent rights) becomes the same contract with animals. This means that as humans we do not interfere with nature but instead leave it alone because it has the right live for itself.

The problem with this thinking is that animals do not abide by a social nature. They in fact live to survive and if this means killing another animal to do this then it does this without thought or compassion for the other animal’s rights. This a major issue in both Deep Ecology and in animal welfarists in that extending freedom to animals and making them inclusive of human understanding denies the nature of the animal itself. Predatory animals hunt and kill other animals out of necessity. Non-predatory animals live to survive and use nature in the same manner that humans use plant life for survival. While Regan’s philosophy paints and beautiful view of coexistence it denies humans as being another predator. The truth is that without eating meat and commercially raising animals many humans would starve and perhaps would not have achieved the level of civilization they maintain today.

However, without the domestication of large animals…which provided a constant food supply and helped us to till the recalcitrant earth, large-scale agriculture could not have arisen. It is agriculture that liberated us from full-time foraging, thereby giving us the leisure to invent writing, sophisticated technology, and the arts.

Meat eating may not merely have helped create civilization. Craig B. Stanford, in The Hunting Apes, argues that it may have created humankind,… “the essential recipe for the expansion of the human brain (Stanford, 1999).”

This idea presents a perplexing problem in which conservationism and animal welfarists seem to concentrate of philosophic concepts and the applications of moral derivatives. Perhaps the solution to these problems lies not in the animals and perception of animals, but in the scientific analysis of human needs. Using the scientific method for analysis of the problem of human needs may provide sufficient solutions to the need to eat animals. For instance if sport hunting is not necessary for survival perhaps it should be discouraged. As well if the raising of cattle is destroying the eco system such as through deforestation then perhaps the solution lies in the reinvention of cattle farming. Examples such as these are not farfetched reasoning since the application of science has begun to solve many problems associated with these issues. For instance, the conversion or cattle waste into clean burning fuel is already being done on larger scales (Oliver, 2008).

Animal welfarists, deep ecology believers, and conservationists all seem to lack a scientific approach when discussing these issues. The application of the scientific method to these issues could develop new thinking when it comes to understanding these issues. When the hypothesis of the research changes from one of questioning philosophic ideas to the study of practical solutions, then perhaps the issue of animal rights will become less complicated.


Stanford, C. (1999). The hunting apes: meat eating and the origins of human behavior. Princeton University Press, 3. Retrieved from http://press.princeton.edu/books/stanford/front.pdf

Oliver, R. (2008 , January 8). Animal waste: future energy, or just hot air?. Retrieved from http://articles.cnn.com/2008-01-07/world/eco.about.manure_1_manure-methane-carbon- dioxide?_s=PM:WORLD

Tom Regan. (1985). “Animal Rights: What’s in a Name?” in Andrew Light and Holmes Rolston III, eds., Environmental Ethics, 70.

Photo by İrem Türkkan on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Wed, Jan 20, 2021. Case in Point: Animal Rights What’s in a name? Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/case-in-point-animal-rights-what-s-in-a-name

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