Looking into the steady gaze of my pet cat, I could easily imagine that she's experiencing the feline equivalent of boredom. It might then seem difficult to understand how she could be bored, since she has few restrictions placed on her daily activities. She can't destroy household items or family members, she must always use the litter box when performing certain bodily functions, and she can't go prowling in a few areas of the house for sanitary reasons. Overall, it's a liberal kitty-contract. In return for her adherence, she gets a safe place to live, regular meals, and plenty of human companionship. I've even overlooked many violations of the no-destruction rule over the years despite her taste for the cords of expensive electronic devices. Still, I can't help but imagine that she's bored with her mundane existence as a pet and yearns to stalk birds in the wild rather than intently observe them through the windows of my house.
Whether my cat is bored with her life or simply tired of the lack of variety of her meals, she'll continue in her present state until I decide otherwise. This apparent inequity exists because society doesn't give animals most of the same rights it does humans. The reasons for this generally have to do with animals being incapable of some kind of thought, usually rational or moral, that humans possess. Despite the second-class citizenship of animals that exists today, there is a heated debate in society over what, if any, rights animals are entitled to. The animal rights debate is an important one for human civilization, since its outcome will determine whether we can ethically continue such practices as eating animal meat or byproducts, keeping animals as pets, and using them in our scientific experiments. To examine arguments in favor of giving animals the same rights as humans, I'm looking at the site "animal-rights.com".
The animal-rights.com site explains its position by presenting a series of frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers. One relevant question asks what the definition of a "right" is and what rights can be given to animals. The site's response nicely explains the difficulty of even defining the notion of a right before finally settling on a few fundamental concepts. One concept is that a being possesses a right to some action if society agrees that we must ethically refrain from actively preventing that being from performing the action. Living is perhaps the most notable example of an action that a right-endowed being would have the right to perform. I think the writer's definition of a "right" is effective. He defines rights in terms of something more tangible, actions, but his definition doesn't take sides in the debate by stating which rights are inherent to a being. That debate is left to the writer's argument.
The writer first argues that it's at least theoretically possible for animals to have rights. He argues that, since society has no philosophical reasoning which...