Should animals have rights? It is an interesting question that people ask over and over.  There are several points that should be considered when thinking about whether humans should perceive animals as beings with rights.  Most people who are in the animal rights movement maintain that animals are sentient.  While their claims are not without merit, there are others who claim they are not.  In this article, I would like to explore Peter Singers idea that, “the case for equality between men and women cannot validly be extended to nonhuman animals” (Singer 1), but instead animals must be afforded rights based on an animal-centric measuring stick.  There are many who think that animals should be used for medical experimentation.  In 1986 Carl Cohen published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which he argued that humans had an obligation to use animals for medical research.  In the summary of Cohen’s article which was written by Nancy Weitzman, she says,

Animals lack the capacity for free moral judgment.  They are not beings of a kind capable of exercising or responding to moral claims.   Animals, therefore, have no rights, and they can have none.  This is the core of the argument about the alleged rights of animals.  The holders of rights must have the capacity to comprehend rules of duty, governing all including themselves.  In applying such rules, the holders of rights must recognize possible conflicts between what is in their own interest and what is just.  Humans have such moral capabilitiesThey are in this sense, self-legislative, and are members of communities governed by moral rules and do possess rights.  Animals do not have such moral capacities” (Cohen, sec. 4).

This raises some salient points that may not be ignored.  Based on Singers work on this issue, and that of many others, the question of whether we should use animals within research is not a black and white one.  From an emotional aspect, it is black and white, but not from an intellectual point of view.    Animals must, however, warrant some consideration regardless of their stature relative to humans.  While animal rights arguments are not completely sound, neither are the arguments of those who seek to completely ignore the fact that animals feel pain, hunger, thirst, and loneliness.  It is a mistake not to side with Peter Singer in this regard, and it is also a mistake to deny the need for the type of medical research that may only be conducted on living subjects.

Cohen is correct that animals cannot be truly extended rights.  There is no practical way to represent the interests of an animal properly, and it is precisely because of this, that they may not be granted rights.  Any person who was to claim they represent an animal could never be sure they are advocating the animal’s desires. What they believe is the animal’s desires will always be just a subset of their own anthropocentric desires superimposed upon the creature. These desires would be nothing more than what one “believes” is the animal’s desires based on his or her own world views.  Thus, the individual when advocating “animal’s rights,” is advocating for what they would believe are their own rights, were they the animal.

On the opposite side of the argument, Singer is correct.  While animals may not claim the same rights as people, humans may claim an ethical duty to treat animals a certain way.  At current it is obvious that animals should not be subjected to undue suffering at the hands of humans.  It is ethical to ensure they live in some measure of freedom.  They do not have the right to be not be treated as prey for the predator, and even should society think they do, this is not the right to of society grant.  It is either nature or Gods prerogative, whichever you subscribe to.  Just as humans can be prey so too can animals, and sometimes they are the prey of humans.

As far as medical experimentation, this is an ethical violation. Only humans should be used for medical experiments, because only humans may voluntarily consent to be the subjects of experiments.  Therefore, experiments on animals should cease, and only experiments of which human beings are willing to volunteer for should be conducted.