The Left-leaning news and opinion website Salon has made the case via a long-winded article that animals should be considered people too. The article they published uses observations from various scientists and even a neuroeconomist to make the case to wipe away (I assume) the line separating the legal and philosophical distinction between animals and humans using the abilities of orcas and dolphins as the basis of their case.
The one paragraph that stuck out to me reels against the idea of human individualism and calls for the end of individual rights. The paragraph states:
Our traditional definition of personhood is also deeply anthropocentric, based on an experience of the self that encourages highly individualized behaviors. Cetaceans, on the other hand, experience self in a completely different way, one encouraged by an aquatic environment that produces highly social and empathic beings. However, when we start redefining personhood in a less anthropocentric way, there are deep ramifications. That road inevitably leads to the realm of law and legal rights, nominally the province of every person.
The article’s author, David Neiwert, tries articulate his case but, in my view, does not do it well and is hopelessly naive. The one thing that he does not take into account that even though animals may exhibit certain traits that make them out to have above average or even human qualities does not mean they are. An animal is an animal and despite being able to perform certain tricks better than they were originally trained or exhibit positive emotions does not change their fundamental nature.
The basis of the animal rights is based on an erroneous argument since it draws from French Enlightenment philosopher Rene Descartes’ idea that if a being feels pain they have rights. However, as Dr. Edwin Locke of the Ayn Rand Institute states, rights do not depend on someone’s ability to feel pain but on a being’s ability to think. Animals do not have the capacity of deliberation and choice that humans have and are devoid of any such ability. Their primary method survival is predatory instincts via reflexes and association along with sensory perception. Animals do not the capacity for reason nor any sense of morality which is how humans live.
Individual rights are ethical principles drawn from reality that are applicable to beings with the capacity of deliberation and choice. The only beings with these capabilities are humans and the fundamental right is the right to one’s life and to live, and human beings use their reason in order to sustain and enhance their own lives. That includes not only making informed choices but also negotiating with other humans in order to trade or settle disputes. It is because of the civilization we have that humans are nature’s favored species, and that animals are like any other resource on the Earth that human beings can use for our own betterment. That includes utilizing animals in medical experiments in order to help develop life saving therapies and medicines, as food for us to consume or as domesticated pets for company. To give animals the same rights as humans would lead to obliterating human life itself.