Animal ethics and human rights

Daniel Romero Campoy

People usually argue that animal`s rights recognition would be an attack on human rights. It happens because of three main points: anthropocentrism, speciesism and a misconception of rights. In this brief article I try to explain these arguments. This text is indeed a very short introduction on this issue. I hope the reader feels like wanting to read more about it from these lines. 


Moral anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity. Indeed, there are two approaches. On the one hand, a Kantian ethics holds only Humans and relevant on a moral point of view, because of their autonomy (rational choices) and dignity. So Humans do not have direct duties towards non-human animals. To make animals suffer is not bad in essence but this could come to deteriorate our character respect for other Humans or Humanity. On the other hand, weak anthropocentrism holds we must consider value to nature and other animals too. From this approach, animals matter because they have the capacity to feel pain and pleasure. But their life is not a big issue if they die without suffer. This is called sentiocentrism. This ethics is followed by the animal welfare policies of many countries, including the European Union. However, a weak biocentrism approach maintains that non-human animals have an important moral status because they have subjective experiences, that is, the capacity for consciousness. Of course, not all animals have this capacity. To have it, it`s necessary to possess a central nervous system, that`s why this question is not closed. The capacity of being affected positively or negatively as a subject being is called sentience.  So, once the capacity of feeling suffering or enjoyment is not the only important thing, the life of sentience animals is a big issue. Consequently, we should not kill animals. In addition, Humans can be healthy without consuming any animal products. The British Dietetic Association ( and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics( supports this given scientific evidence, for instance. Veganism is consistent with this idea since it «is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude -as far as is possible and practicable- all forms of exploration and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose» (VeganSociety). So why do we keep eating animals? Maybe because of speciesism.


Some words are especially worthy in order to describe a hidden reality. Although controversial, one of them is speciesism. Richard Ryder coined this term, but Peter Singer  popularized it. We could define speciesism as the prejudice or discrimination (unjustified differential) based on the species. So, this attitude prioritizes the interests of members of a certain animal species over other ones. It is a belief that considers that dogs deserve greater moral consideration than pigs or cows, in spite of all of them are sentience beings. Even they have similar intelligence and social needs. In the field of human rights we argue a lot about compassion, solidarity, vulnerability, domination or oppression. Why not about non-human animals? Because our anthropocentrism criteria block the moral value of other animals. This issue is complex and required a proper explanation, but in summary we believe in a moral criteria which is impartial and arbitrary. Obviously, there are many ways to argue in favor of this moral approach, but I am going to select the two most important ones: 1) humans have special capacities as rationality or dignity, 2) humans have special relations each other to reach pacts or social contracts on how to live in society. On this matter both of them would leave out of moral sphere some people with mental disabilities and human babies. The goal of this article is not to expand on this question, however we could use two important arguments to reject the specisms ones, namely, the argument from species overlap and the argument from relevance, as philosopher Oscar Horta explains very well in some articles (


It is a fact that Law is a mechanism of reinforcement of social habits that maintains the dominance and exploitation for rest of animals. The change of animalist paradigm lies on the rejection of the privileges of certain moral subjects respect to others. Many discriminatory arguments support these privileges over oppressed beings, as we see in relation to feminism, anti-racism or the abolition of slavery. In this point, let’s briefly examine the difference between privileges and rights. 

Rights are based on legitimate claims, whereas privilege is defined as the exemption from an obligation that is granted in an unjustified manner. Also, privilege would be an unfair advantage, a benefit without an acceptable reason. According to this, the exercise of domination and oppression cannot assume rights. Moreover, to use freedom as an example, even John Stuart Mill -illustrious liberal philosopher- did not hold an unconditional freedom: “the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it”. In other words, recognizing non-human animals as non-appropriable does not mean violating the right to property, just as stopping eating animal meat does not break the right to health.


In short, it is urgent to accept the moral status of sentient beings of some animals. For that we must give up our prejudices and arbitrary arguments about it. If we recognize animal rights -as rights to life, integrity and liberty, with clarifications as in human rights-, this does not involve any break to human rights. Because rights are weighted in the case of conflict. To end, if the reader is interesting in this particular issue, I recommend this article I wrote: “Cultural pluralism and the animal question: three cases of conflict”   ( )


Animal Ethics, “Sentience”.

Animal Ethics, “Arguments against speciesism”.

Melina, V.; Craig, W.; and Levin, S. “Position of the Academy of Nutrution and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets”.

Mill, J. S. On liberty. Project Gutenberg.

The British Dietetic Association, “Vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diet: Food Fact Sheet”, 01 jul 2021.

Vegan Society. “Definition of Veganism”.

How can Animal’s Rights improve Human Rights

Monique Falcão

St Ursula University, Brazil

That is an essay about the benefits offered by Animal’s Rights to Human Rights – HR on XXI century.

One of the most important consequences from II WWW was the world campaign to promote HR as absolute values for States and Civil Societies – quite successful at Occident considering internationals and global normative systems for HR protection. One of its main concrete expression is the promotion of public policies for inclusion for minorities, which has been historically neglected or explored.

On social level, the improvement of HR comes from the dialectics between two sources. First, the social claims for minorities inclusions – which guarantee legitimation for respective public policies. Second, the normative force from law in order to obligate social actors and institutions to accomplish public policies – which guarantee legality and rationality for minorities’ social inclusions.

As result, at medium and long term, it is possible to realize material changes in social representations for those minorities, which improves absolute and rational values of individual rights and solidarity on the respective society. The general hypothesis I would like to discuss is that, historically, the gradual recognition and the inclusion of specific social groups has as main effect the improvement of general and absolute values that bases HR.

As a example, if we make the exercise to resignificate Animal’s Rights as a kind of minority rights, it is possible to recognize the same contributions for HR improvement on social level. Mostly when civil society reveals strong engagement.

There are three legal aspects to be highlighted. i) animals are officially object of law which means they don’t have civil capacity to act in lawsuits, and, by law, the recognition of some rights for some species is the exception, not the rule; ii) animal’s protection is officially justified not as autonomous right, but as part of  “environment protection” on behalf of HR – anthropocentric epistemology; iii) Animal’s Rights are procedurally classified as collective right, so the environmental questions officially should be persecuted in collective lawsuits, proposed by Public Ministry or NGO.

The most innovation decisions for Animal’s Rights come from Judicial Power attending social claims, since 30 years ago, founded on 1988 Brazilian Constitution, in which the aspects I and ii are being reshaped by Jurisprudence in order to recognize the enlargement of animal’s rights. The most part of lawsuits is being proposed by NGO, revealing specific and huge demand from civil society to reduce animal abuse.

As illustration, I present some cases of Animal’s Rights in Brazil, where Judicial Activism has as main role the minority’s rights enforcement in a context of a patriarchal and rural-aristocratic society. I) the interdiction of cook fights, bull fights and dog fights although it’s strong cultural and economic relevance for some social and economic groups; ii) the interdiction to promote euthanasia of healthy animals rescued from abuse or from the streets, historically used as public policy for animal population control are the most relevant decisions.

The Legislative and the Executive powers also takes action to increase social rights for animals, to improve Public Power’s liability to fight animal abuse, and to expand economic actors’ liability for non-contractual damages caused to animals.

Those are the legality aspect prevailing Animal’s Rights over traditional social and economic interests.

Besides, several websites, social networks profiles and press agencies specialized in Animal’s Rights have been increasing and becoming popular on the last years. Population controls and denunciates animal’s abuse on public and private space. The “pet” economic sector is strengthening. Veterinary and Animal’s wellness courses are increasing. Vegan market and cruelty-free brands are replacing old practices with animal suffering. Scientific experiments rationalizes animal use to the minimum possible and reduces its suffering. Animal’s Rights movements become respectable and listened by government and companies. Animal’s Rights become part of company’s compliance programs. 

Those are the legitimacy aspect consolidating the increase of social representation for absolute values of individual rights and solidarity.

Historically, minorities’ rights are being gradually consolidated, on waves of improvement. Equality of gender and race, recognition of special rights for children and aged people, social inclusion for disable people are examples of differences overcame in anthropocentric perspective. It’s also happening for Animal’s Rights.

So, from this point of view, the specific contribution from Animal’s Rights to HR is to expand the spectrum of legality and legitimacy beyond anthropocentric epistemology. Even if Animal’s Rights continue to be founded on anthropocentric perspective, its increasing legitimacy and legality allows us to propose the specific hypothesis that there is special social claim to reduce violence and abuse in absolute terms, improving life and individual rights as a rational value to be applied to all speciesand to be respected by all social groups. For social psychology and recognitions theories, its importance can be studied on solidarity conception enforcement, for instance. It can also be studied as expansion of HR scope and enforcement of HR values towards an ecocentric epistemology, in which the species would have absolute values to be respected, largely than only for human specie.