Animals have no rights and are not the equal of humans
The holders of rights must have the capacity to recognize possible conflicts between what is in their own interest and what is just. Since animals lack the capacity for free moral judgment, they cannot possess rights. Human exceptionalism requires that human benefit comes above all other causes.
(1 of 2) Next argument >
Humans are not obliged to respect animal rights because no such rights exist. Therefore, animal testing does not violate any rights. It is ethical to use animals for research purposes. Some philosophers explain the inexistence of animal rights through the concept of the moral community. A moral community is a group of individuals who have certain traits in common. This means that they take on certain responsibilities toward each other and assume specific rights. The human moral community is characterized by a capacity to manipulate abstract concepts by personal autonomy. It does not include animals because animals do not have the cognitive capabilities of humans and do not hold full autonomy (animals do not rationally choose to pursue specific life goals). Hence, humans do not have any obligations towards animals. In this sense, animals have no rights and humans have a higher moral status than animals. Therefore, it becomes permissible to use animals in experiments. The question of whether the experiments harm animals or not is less significant than the potential human benefits from the research. Another related argument is that if animals had such rights, they would have to be held accountable for killing other animals in the wilds. It is a matter of ethics and not of the laws of human societies that animals ought to be treated kindly by people. Eagerness to treat animals kindly does not justify imposing one's hopes and dreams for them on human beings. Overall, humans possess a higher moral status and fundamental rights that animals lack. This situation gives humans the ethical justification to use animals in experiments.
One problem with this argument is that many humans themselves do not fulfill the criteria for belonging to the human moral community. Both infants and mentally handicapped people lack complex cognitive capacities and full autonomy. Yet, their situations do not exclude them from holding fundamental rights. Animals and humans both have rights because they are both subjects of life. This fact implies that they have similar levels of biological complexity and are aware that they do exist. If a being is the subject-of-a-life, then they have inherent value. All beings with inherent value are equally valuable and entitled to the same rights.
Rejecting the premises