What would animal rights look like?

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What would animal rights look like?

What if we were to grant rights to animals? All of them, not just chimpanzees or whales and dolphins….

What about my rights?

What about my rights?

Let’s say we grant the right to life and the right to freedom to the animals who share the planet with us. What would we be doing differently? How would this affect our everyday life?

I’ve been really curious about this question for some time. We spend a lot of time working to promote animal rights, but do we have a clear idea of what this would actually mean if fully implemented?

Well, right off the bat we’d all be vegan. No more stealing milk and eggs and flesh from animals. The grains and soy and water that are now used to raise animals would be used to grow food for humans, with much more efficiency. Animals would no longer get dumped in the trash because they are too small or “surplus.”

The land with soil that we can’t utilize for crops would be returned to wildlife. We would have to go to great lengths to ensure that our farming does not impact habitat or animal lives. This might mean enclosed farming or indoor farming.

In place of manure we would be utilizing green manure systems, composting, seaweed, etc. All methods would be veganic. These methods are currently being practiced by various farms around Europe and North America.

Quite likely most of the animals that we now raise for food would no longer exist, unless in sanctuary-type settings. They have been bred to a point that they will likely not be able to survive on their own. Some of them, chickens for example, don’t actually exist in the wild. During the transition period they would have to be cared for in sanctuaries until they all eventually die.

We would no longer use animals for entertainment – unless perhaps filmed from a distance. No more of Disney’s staged “wildlife” films. No more rodeos. We would not be taking our children to “learn” about animals at zoos or aquariums. Instead, children could learn about them via films or even by taking carefully planned trips to where the animals live.

Likely our architecture and transportation systems would be different. We would have to build to preserve habitat to the greatest extent possible, not just when it’s convenient or good public relations. This would mean keeping to the smallest footprint possible, and including animals and their habitat in our plans.

I picture buildings that are a part of the landscape, that allow for animals to migrate through our cities and towns. Instead of right lines scored against the earth, our building would follow natural patterns. We would have to observe and fully understand the impact of new construction on the lives of any inhabitants before building.

Highways or trains could be elevated or underground. I doubt that we would have cars as we know them now. Possibly electric cars, solar powered maybe.  One thing that would be definite is that our environmental efforts would have to be real, because damaging the environment would be the same as dumping garbage in someone’s house. Real care would have to be used to ensure no harm is done.

Quite likely we would lead simpler lives, with fewer posessions, traveling less, consuming less. This would be no utopian system, but we would act with more consciousness of the impacts, and extended impacts, of our actions.

Scientific research would be different, and I would bet more efficient and quite improved. Instead of expending so much energy on ineffectual animal tests (and developing the animal models required for those tests), researchers would be have to develop working alternative systems for testing. Of course, we would never think of conducting any tests of consmetics or household cleaners on animals. We probably wouldn’t even be using a lot of those potentially toxic chemicals anyway, due to the risk of negative impact on the environment.

This is less of a concrete view of what the world would look like if animals had rights than I had wanted it to be. It is difficult to be that speculative, especially with the state of animal rights today.

What I think is quite clear is that we wouldn’t really have to give up much, except for our pointless pleasures, the things that used to be considered gluttony. We would actually have to take care of the world around us, instead of burning it out like we’re doing now. We are certainly capable of living more harmoniously with the other inhabitants of this planet than we are now.



May 24, 2009 at 2:58 am

hey…just to throw this in…
chickens…well, if there were chickens back in the wild..they would perch on trees…I mean wild chickens DO perch on trees right? hahah

I’ve seen such photos anyhow..rather cute.
(the chicken or the egg? answer? CHICKEN FROM THE TREE!) =p


May 24, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Hey, that’s true. They do like to perch in trees, and it is possible that they could survive in the wild. At least, some of the breeds would have a better shot at surviving. Kind of like feral pigs are able to survive in the wild.


May 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

Your post really caught my attention and I appreciate your request (via twitter) to comment here.

This theory is simplistic because it is a humans perspective on what is best for animals. Granted, the same could be said about my rebuttal but one thing is undebatable, humans are the superior species. As humans (with many flaws of our own), I can not imagine we could be smart enough to know what the correct answer is but we need to be doing what we can. This discussion is part of that process. With all due respect I am submitting four points to discuss in rebuttal to this theory.

1- First, what are animal rights? This theory of laws or liberties we understand being extended to animals is simplistic. This theory applies human attitudes and thoughts to non-human beings incapable of understanding or comprehending their meaning. Animals (even domesticated livestock) live on instinct, humans (and maybe a few Chimpanzees) have the unique ability to reason that many times counteracts our instincts. Anger for instance often times instinctively tells us to strike or hit another, but our ability to reason keeps us from acting on that instinct (most of the time). This theory is simplistic because it does not address the responsibility that comes along with “rights”.

With rights come responsibility, animals in their instinctive nature do not nor could not understand responsibility. Remember, humans have these same rights too. What if an animal violates a humans right to life? Say a bear, eats a human? Or perhaps a more realistic scenario, a “family” of cockroaches decides to violate a humans right of freedom and invades their house? Would animals understand the consequences? I think not.

On the other side of this rusty coin, what would all the mole crickets and ground hogs think when you covered up there habitat with an indoor farm? I have a feeling you’d be getting a call from a very prominent class action lawyer on how you have unscrupulously abused the power of eminent domain on his “clients”.

2-This theory could not be sustainable in the most populated areas like Vancouver, Calgary, New York, Chicago, LA or Toronto. Those areas, where the most people are, can not be altered to fit into your theory. If so, how would that look? Would those people be forced to live in sanctuary’s to live out there lives too until we could de-populate those environment killing centers? Forget the electricity, water, sewage and waste they create, the infrastructure alone, is prohibitive to this idea. This theory (while you admit is less than concrete and non utopian) neglects the negative impacts to the human element.

3- This theory is unrealistic from a food production standpoint. Did you know that 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops? And that grazing animals more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food? Furthermore, unless you force everyone to grow their own vegetables (yes even those city dwellers in the high rise apartments) or create synthetic food (in a lab) your theory could not feed everyone. Indoor farming? How environmentally friendly is that? Build a huge green house that uses fossil fuel (okay maybe solar power) to control the climate, lots of irrigated water, and chemical fertilizer to grow the same amount of food? Impossible. My point is, with out livestock the society in this theory would have very little success in producing enough food for everyone, especially without animal derived protein.

4- Even if this Utopian Veganic world could exist, what would be the end result? I mean the very end. Would our planet survive another million, ten million years? Perhaps, but in the very end, this planet will die just like the other planets, stars and galaxies we can study and observe. I think the end result of this theory is ultimately to create a false sense of security, accomplishment and satisfaction for the very short period of time each of us have on this earth. In the end, everything lives and everything dies. Whether a soybean plant or a pig, death of one gives life to another and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life.

In closing, I want to agree with you on a couple of points. Animal welfare, is important. It is our responsibility to care for them in the best way possible. Egregious acts of abuse do exist, this does not include harvesting animals for human consumption, and those acts of abuse must continue to be addressed. Secondly, Americans (North Americans) do consume way too much. Less consumption of current products (food, gasoline, entertainment, etc.) would improve our lives and probably the environment.

Again, thanks for the invitation, I tried to keep my comments on the issue itself and not on you as an individual, so forgive me if I have mistyped. Your latest blog post is a great reminder to us all about respecting each other. I look forward to discussing this issue even further if possible.


May 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Dear Jaeg,

Glenn’s idea of a vegan world, while others will certainly have varying translations of this utopia, is not just a human’s perspective on what is best for animals – it’s an animal’s perspective on what is best for animals. Being vegan is not about being perfect and not about, for example, not crushing any bugs to build an indoor farm; it’s about making decisions through compassion, and attempting to treat animals the same way that we would want to be treated.

Humans are as much the superior species as the U.S. is a superior country – just because one group acts more dominantly, doesn’t grant it superiority.
Is it the ability to reason that makes something a sentient being? Some of my favourite people are extremely unreasonable – animalistic even.
Is it the trait of responsibility that makes something a sentient being? If so, death to all babies.

The other day, I saw a garden that had been planted on an empty lot in downtown Vancouver across the street from a gas station. It’s not hard to imagine similar gardens on every street corner and on the rooftops of buildings.

Grazing animals more than doubles the area needed to produce food… Um, another reason to raise more veggies? The insane amounts of carbon dioxide emitted through “meat” production, the creation of excessive methane, and the pandemic diseases that arise from factory farming make a very strong case for vegetarianism as the environmental choice.

Another point that needs clarification – protein is protein. It does not have to be derived from an animal to do its job. Did you know that most meat eaters consume too much protein? And that red meat diets were found, in a study of over 500 000 people, to contribute to an earlier death (Washington Post:, http://ow.ly)?/1kcw)?

But hey – everyone and everything is going to die anyway, so why don’t we live it up and roll with the Lion King circle of life. As long as we’re at the top of the chain, it’s all good.



May 28, 2009 at 9:05 am

This is the definition of sentient that I found @ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sentient

sen·tient (sěn’shənt, -shē-ənt)
1. Having sense perception; conscious.
2. Experiencing sensation or feeling.

Using this definition, there is no mention of an animals lack of ability to reason. So I would like to see if we could use a more accurate term to describe animals. All sentient says is that something is conscious. Animals are conscious beings. Their lack of an ability to reason is what separates them from humans and ultimately makes us the superior beings. If you agree or disagree with the idea of superiority then maybe we should start this conversation there.

The ability to reason does make the difference. The babies and unreasonable people argument fails to address the ability not the action. Like your superiority argument, just b/c a person does not act reasonably (express reason) does not mean they do not have the ability. It is the ability that separates us.

I am glad that they are growing gardens in Vancouver but I would like to know how well that garden does with tomatoes in January. If the rooftop garden theory is to be applicable you’ll need fellow gardeners to supplement off season veggies. And vice versa of course. Or we could develop that idea even further and set up a distribution system so that we could have fresh vegetables of all types and varieties year round. Oh wait, I think we already have an agriculture system in place to do just that!
I would also like to know if hypothetically, all the roof tops and open spaces in Vancouver could be converted in to gardens, would enough volume be produced so that the city would not have to import any food?

I would like to comment more (and will later) but I have to go for now. I’ll leave you with this thought.
What does it mean to treat animals “humanely”? Is what is best for a human always best for an animal? Why?


May 28, 2009 at 9:40 am

BTW, Jaeg, the cheekiness of my reply is laced with joy that you stumbled onto an animal rights blog and I’m happy that you acknowledge the brutality against animals that is currently taking place, though it is in large part happening within the raising of animal’s for human consumption.

Also, I had a further thought…
Glenn – do you think there is a future place for the harvesting of meat in labs, such as PETA has proposed?


May 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I am not joyful about the discussion but I am thankful for it. A rational and respectful dialog of the issue is good for everyone. Even if we don’t convince the other that we are right!

To continue the discussion about meat consumption, I think you might have misread my statement on grazing. Livestock grazing doubles the amount of land that COULD BE USED not needed to be used to produce food. Grazing livestock creates more land suitable for growing crops, not take it away. That’s okay, I read to fast sometimes too.

Secondly, protein is not protein. As with many things in life it is about quality not quantity. Animal protein (like beef) is much higher quality that plant protein (like that found in peanuts). The quality of the plant protein simply doesn’t ‘match up’ to animal proteins such as beef because not all of the essential amino acids are provided. As a high-quality protein source, lean beef provides all of the essential amino acids or “building blocks” that people need for optimal health in fewer calories than plant protein sources such as beans and nuts. Did you know that it would take more than seven tablespoons of peanut butter (680 calories) to get the same amount of protein from a piece of 3 oz. lean beef (180 calories)? Or that a three-ounce serving of lean beef provides about the same amount of protein as 1½ cups of beans but in half the calories? I like getting more for less! Don’t you?

Thirdly, the statements about meat production and the environment lack scientific credibility. (I am working on a response to Glenn with specific points about the page you referenced.) In short, the IPCC’s report estimate for livestock’s contribution to GHG emissions (18%) is a GLOBAL estimate, and
not applicable to the United States or other developed countries. The entire U.S. agriculture sector accounts for only 6 percent of annual U.S. GHG emission, according to EPA
(http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads09/InventoryUSGhG1990-2007.pdf). Of this, livestock production is estimated to account for 2.8 percent of total U.S.emissions. In short, if the issue is livestock emissions then we need to talk about the carbon sinks created by livestock too. Grazing animals has a net positive effect on the environment by offsetting carbon emisions from other sources.

Fourthly, the NIC study has many problems and can not be considered a credible, statistically significant source for red meat and health concerns. Please go here http://is.gd/It4X to read about why. Also, despite popular perceptions, data indicates most Americans are not over-consuming protein.
As many as 19 percent of adult men and 31 percent of adult women have dietary protein intakes of all sources that are below the current Recommended Dietary Allowance.

Lastly, my argument is not a “Lion King” analogy. I want to emphasize that our responsibility to be stewards of the land and of the animals is paramount b/c we do have only a short time here. I believe man has dominion over animals and the land and it is our responsibility to care for and respectfully harvest both land and animal for human necessity. Because of these responsibilities we must maintain the priority of human life, not for ourselves but for creation and the responsibility we have to care for it.


May 28, 2009 at 7:09 pm

1. We do not grant rights to humans based on any responsibility. Children and the mentally disabled have rights even though they are not able to understand those rights.

For a full discussion of rights, I’d invite you to read Tom Regan’s Empty Cages. He is far more intelligent and eloquent than me, and lays out the argument for animal rights much better than I can.

Not to sidestep this point, but it’s not really the point of my post. It was really about what the world would be like if animals were granted rights, not about whether we should grant them rights.

2. I think that we could make our urban environments to reduce their impact. Urban areas actually collect humans in a central location. The real trouble would be rural areas, since those are currently the remaining wildlife habitat.

Let’s look at Vancouver, where I live. We already have taken great efforts to co-exist with coyotes and raccoons in the city. If we put our minds to it we could improve on this system quite well, I should think.

There are already people working on systems that recycle human waste into usable material. I’m sure that science could come up with solutions to the problem of human pollution, once it was needed.

Also, since cities are so completely urban, they are really human habitats. It would make sense for them to remain so. But, we would no longer be doing things like growing lawns or using pesticides. This is really going to have to happen anyway, for our own future, but would have the added benefit of creating habitat for birds and small animals. And it would be healthier for our children.

3. Right now, we don’t use all of the land that could be used for agriculture. Nor do we need to. Architects and planners are already working on enclosed agricultural buildings that could grow our food without having the environmental impacts of our current system. I’m sure that humans are smart enough to develop safe indoor farming systems that don’t utilize chemicals and petroleum based fertilizers. How exactly that would work remains to be seen, but I do know that organic farms have yields that are equal to if not better than most “conventional” farms.

In Canada, 70% of the grain grown feeds animals raised for food, at a tremendous loss of energy and efficiency. We already grow enough food to feed everyone, but we waste it by processing it through animals.

With improved (and less selfish) food distribution systems the world could be nutritiously fed without the use of animals. Farmers in North America and Europe are already experimenting with methods free of any animal waste or by-products, and having success.

The cattle that graze on the land that you mention almost all end up in feedlots getting “finished” on a diet of corn and soy. Leave out the animals and then all that corn and soy is available to feed people, at a huge gain of protein and calories.

Also, the land that is currently being grazed in the US is degrading because of this grazing. Cattle grazing is a leading cause of desertification, plus many animals are endangered or at risk because of this system. With the cattle gone (who are not native) the native populations of animals could return to their native habitats.

4. You might as well ask this of any change. Why bother giving women the right to vote? It’s not going to make the planet last any longer.

But, this change might make humans and animals last longer on the planet. A considered and concerned approach to living, which would be necessary when we have to think about the whole earth and all of its inhabitants, would likely mean that resources would be preserved. How many illnesses might be prevented when we stop pumping the world full of chemicals? And not having to worry about swine flu or bird flu?

Does giving a human meaning to the death of an animal justify death for that animal? Probably not.


May 29, 2009 at 7:49 am

Oh, and just one comment about protein. Scientists have shown that North Americans eat more than twice the amount of protein that we need. And they have also shown that a varied vegan diet provides plenty of protein (and all other nutrients as well). If vegan and vegetarian diets were bad for us, how come vegans and vegetarians are healthier and live longer than meat eaters?


May 29, 2009 at 9:10 am

1- Perhaps granting of rights is for another discussion. But again, it is the ability to understand the rights and be responsible for the rights that makes the difference not the rights themselves. This is evidenced by our shared compassion on those that do not have this ability. It is us who care for them not others that lack the ability.

2- Reducing urban impact is a good thing. Agreed! However, the big challenge is population, more people every year, urban sprawl is a detrimental side effect. What do you suggest to counter act the irreversible trend?

3- Does cattle grazing damage the land? No. In fact, cattle serve a valuable role in protecting the environment and ecosystem with their ability to convert forage humans cannot consume into nutrient-dense food such as meat and milk. Cattle grazing can be used to minimize the invasion of non-native plant species and to reduce the risk of wildfires by decreasing the amount of flammable material on the land. America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to caring for the nation’s environmental resources and place a high value on the quality of the land.

A combination of livestock and wildlife management on grazing lands has resulted in better species survival than when these activities are practiced separately.
• In the Eastern and Central United States, wildlife is almost entirely dependent on ranch, farm and other private lands; so, ranchers play an important role in the survival of native species.
• A California-based study (Conservation Biology, Summer 2005) shows cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining the wetland habitat necessary for some endangered species.

The United States has 16 million more acres of forestland than it did in 1920.

Feeding grain to livestock allows for the efficient production of high quality protein we need in our diets and cannot get from other food sources. Besides, in the U.S. only 20 percent of total grain production is used to feed livestock.

It also is important to remember that grain isn’t the only thing cattle eat. All cattle eat grass for the majority of their lives, whether they are conventionally raised or grass finished, and they have the unique capability of converting grass that people cannot eat into nutritious food for people.

For more information like this above that will challenge your thinking about livestock and the environment visit our website. http://beeffrompasturetoplate.org/environment.aspx

4- Good question about human meaning on death. The opposite was my original point, does human meaning on life, justify granting rights? I don’t like answering a question with a question though. So, more directly, I believe man has dominion over animals and the land and it is our responsibility to care for and respectfully harvest both land and animal for human necessity. Because of these responsibilities we must maintain the priority of human life, not for ourselves but for creation and the responsibility we have to care for it. I do not view this issue as justification, I view it as a solemn responsibility that we all have.

Lastly, a rebuttal on protein. I read the article on complementary proteins, interesting read. I agree with the author that a varied diet (combined with regular exercise) is best. Not saying that meat is the only protein, just that it is the most efficient protein. No other protein source is as nutrient dense as beef and with so many new lean cuts of beef you can receive more nutrients for less calories. But hey, if you want to go the other route for political, or moral reasons that’s up to you. Nutritionally, beef is not the only source but it is the best!

Building with animals in mind | Liberation BC blog

June 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm

[…] habitats for animals, within an urban setting. This continues the theme I began in my “What would animal rights look like?” post a few weeks back. Can animals live in high-rise blocks? If the plans come to fruition, […]

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