Descartes famously declared animals as automata. Darwin, on the other hand, believed the mental capacities of animals and people differed only in degree not in kind. The inner lives are hard to study but there is evidence now that it may be a lot richer than science once thought. For an excellent read on this topic, read this article by The Economist:
The inner lives of animals are hard to study. But there is evidence that they may be a lot richer than science once…www.economist.com
One definition of animal rights is:
Animal rights is the idea that animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests — such as the need to avoid suffering — should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings.
What does it mean to provide animals rights? As the definition above explains, its the idea of providing them with the most basic needs, like the right to avoid sufferings. But the definition contains something troubling — the phrase “same consideration as similar interests of human beings”. Providing animals their “rights” starting with “the most basic needs” is only a slippery slope because their will always be some overly emotional human who will demand for more rights for animals, especially if they are guided by the idea of “should be be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings”.
I am of the opinion that if someone is dumb enough that they can’t demand for their rights they shouldn’t be provided with any, unless of course providing them rights helps us, normal humans, in some way. This means we, normal humans, shouldn’t provide full rights to abnormal humans like mentally retarded people. Animals are even dumber than most mentally retarded people and providing them with any rights doesn’t help us in any way, at least none that I could think of right now.
In fact, providing animals any rights does invariably reduce our rights in some form or the other. This alone is a sufficient reason to not accord them any right. Take the case of “humane treatment of farm animals” for example: most people don’t care how their food spent their life before its gets on their plate, therefore mandatory “humane treatment” of farm animals increases the production cost which increases the cost of food for us, all because of providing some rights to animals. Take another case of treatment of pet animals: Animal Welfare Act (AWA) ensures animals “are provided with humane care and treatment during transportation, purchase, sale, housing, care, and handling by persons or organisations using them for research or exhibition purposes or as pets.” This obviously increases the cost for prospective pet buyers.
So why do people even consider giving rights to animals? Thats all because of some melodramatic people who let their lives be decided by emotions and sentiments instead of logic and rationality, people who then form organisations like PETA which further aggravates the problem because now there are some people its cool to join animals rights groups. PETA is known for their extremism, for example, they vehemently oppose using animal furs or leather bags. This is exactly what I was talking about when I said about slippery slope. Not using animals for their furs or leather is in no way more beneficial for me than using them for it, but who can explain this to pigeons?