Can Animals Have Rights?

Brian Kuehmichel
May 7, 2011

I recently read an article "Ventriloquists for the Powerless" by Thaddeus Russell in reason magazine, June 2011 issue. Here the writer was commenting on the precarious position of giving voice to voiceless animals as propounded in a recent book. The article took in the comparison of others speaking on behalf of people groups and the inability to rightly express what they themselves have not expressed. Here the position of many animal rights activists is presented so as to demonstrate the destination of their view.

In this book, the author tried to give voice to animals. He assumed he could, by viewing the actions of the animals, interpret their actions into conscious thoughts of resistance and rebellion against their handlers and trainers. The book's author asserts that these animals have been conscious of their oppression and want to be freed from such tyranny. Let us briefly assume he is right and these animals need a higher voice than their own. What the book's author and his cohorts have failed to consider is how selective they have been and how neglectful of the whole mass of animal organisms. For if it is right to speak for any individual animal at all, at any time, then it is also right to speak for all of them entirely. Let's see where this goes for a moment.

The animal list does not just entail mammals, it also includes fowl, creeping cold-blooded animals, insects, stationary shelled marine life, and varied multi-cellular and unicellular organisms. Each one of these has the same "right" as any other animal to conscious thoughts of resistance and rebellion against their handlers, trainers, aquarium and terrarium managers, lake and land owners, puddle splashers and house dwellers. They even have the "right" to object to any human disturbing their journey by "breathing them in" with the air or "using them" maliciously for digestive purposes, or by washing their skin, or to expel them from the warm dark recesses of the body by defecation so as to destroy the animal's "right" to an undisturbed habitat. Certainly these animals have every "right" to put a stop to each and every anti-biotic used to diminish their quality of life so that the human host might survive.

To be consistent, all animal rights activists must immediately cease and desist from ordinary human functions of life because they are asserting mastery over each and every animal organism they host on their skin and in their bodies. Moreover when they walk or transport themselves about they vastly increase the number of organisms they assert mastery over by adversely affecting or crushing out their pre-eminent lives. How about tilling the soil to grow food crops? No way, because a myriad of the wonderful little things have every "right" to conscious thoughts of resistance and rebellion against any who disturb their present pastimes for some self-centered human purpose of eating to stay alive.

Animal rights advocates have clearly demonstrated themselves to stand on the side of hypocrisy by taking the life of so many defenseless animals in their life journey. While the activists are busy with the processes of moving about for speaking engagements, or writing on paper their bold self-defeating ideas, or any number of other daily things they are assisting in destroying so many more of the helpless critters that need an advocate. Ask the animal rights advocates who should live, human or animal, when the activist has an infection raging in their body? The whole cohort of animal rights activists just simply fail to surrender to the absurdity of their position.

To advocate for animal rights leaves them with the obligation to live entirely without offending, impeding, diminishing or destroying any of those they claim to speak for, which they clearly cannot do. And it reduces those advocates to being on par with the animals whose thoughts or desires they essentially claim to know and understand.

Have you realized that advocating for animals' "rights" gives animals duties and obligations, too? The animals must clearly take a position for some "rights" and then those same animals must also carry the moral obligation of not defrauding any others (animal or human) of those same rights. What about the most simple principle, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" Will that apply to the animals as well? Who will try animals in court for crimes or punish them for wrongs? Will they pay you for your services to them? In your time of need which of the little creatures will give testimony in court on your behalf? And just who will translate? I certainly hope it is not the same author who hears them speaking now or interprets their actions into conscious thoughts!

The only one who can ever speak for any animal of any shape or size is the very one who clearly states He as "God created great whales, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind." in Genesis 1:21 and "Thus says God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it" in Isaiah 42:5. And concerning these wonderful animals of all shapes and sizes He clearly tells us "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." in Genesis 1:26. Any position other than the one of dominion by man over the animals as authored by the Creator of them all is reduced to foolishness and absurdity. Which position do you want to hold?


The basic platform or starting point offered by animal rights groups is the premise or belief system of micro-life organisms proceeding and developing into macro-life organisms. Thus to have a large multi-system organism you must have passed through layers of prior smaller organisms by evolution. Therefor whatever argument is proffered by animal rights groups, it must comport with that belief system and work equally well for all layers of micro-life organisms up through various types of macro-life organisms. If no argument for animal rights can be made consistent within that entire belief framework then the basic premise of the belief system is inherently flawed and unworkable.

The only belief system that can be consistent with micro-life organisms up through various types of macro-life organisms is that of the gift of life from a creator who made categories of living organisms. These are non-breathing and breathing organisms. Non-ventilatory organisms (those without lungs) include single cellular, some multi-cellular, arachnids, insects, mollusks, worms and the like. These do not have a dedicated organ called lungs in which to take in air and exhale waste gases. Their oxygen intake and waste gas output is accomplished through diffusion processes. Non-ventilatoy organisms and animals incorporate oxygen by diffusion into the body systems and their waste gases diffuse out from their body systems. Some tissue areas are much more effective or permeable than others to accomplish this process. For example, insects use micro-tubules placed in both sides of their abdomens that allow for better penetration of oxygen into their bodies and outward diffusion of waste gases. When the insect moves these tubules pulsate by tightening and releasing in conjunction with the muscular movement of the insect providing air exchange into and out from the tubule itself. The inner walls of the tubules are protected and more permeable to gas transfer than the remaining exoskeleton.

The breathing or ventilatory organisms use internal lungs by which to inhale to intake oxygen and exhale to remove carbon dioxide and other waste gases. Minimal diffusion occurs through the external tissues while the lungs are specialized organs with tissues that maximize diffusion across their permeable membranes. Lungs provide vastly more surface area for diffusion than insect tubules. Lungs provide for warm-blooded metabolic rates with sustained work loads compared to cold-blooded creatures which slow down with lower temperatures or after a brief burst of energy expenditure.

Inside the whole group of ventilatory creatures our Creator made a great differentiation between lower animals (fish, fowl, wild beast, domestic animals) and their capacities. Humans who were created in His image and likeness were provided with vastly higher capacities by design. The concept of animal rights pre-suppose the mental acumen to grasp, use, and not contradict or deny those rights for others in that category.