Almost everybody grew up going to zoos and circuses, wearing leather, and eating meat. People also visited pet shops and bought and kept their beloved “pets” and even went fishing and wore clothes made from silk and wool. Well, it turns out that while people did not care to find out the effect of all these activities on animals, they were going against animal rights. The debate about whether non-human animals have rights still rages on with some people saying they do while others saying they are non-human and thus do not. This debate is however irrelevant because animals, just like humans, are entitled to fundamental rights.
Animals have an inherent worth just like human beings and this value is completely separate from how they might be seen as being useful to humans. Every being that has a will to live should be able to enjoy the right to freedom from suffering and pain. It is thus wrong for society to view nonhuman animals as existing solely for human use. When it comes to such emotions as fear, loneliness, joy, love, and pain, the same feeling a human being has is the one an animal has. Each attaches immense value to their life and fights to keep it and that is why animals too try to avoid harm as much as they can. It is surprising that humans see no wrong in snatching this freedom from animals (Smith, 2012).
Denying animals their rights is based on no meaningful argument but prejudice that is conducted by humans. This is because it is only prejudice that makes humans to deny others, including animals; the rights that they expect to have for themselves (Smith, 2012). Prejudice is morally unacceptable in the society whether it is based on species, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or race. It is this prejudice that makes humans to think of some animals as food and others as companions or pets. If a dog should be kept at home for security purposes, why should a cow for instance be butchered for its meat? Society should give similar levels of attention it gives to different forms of prejudices against humans to prejudices against animals because they are not justifiable.
Animals are sentient just like the human species and it is only speciesism that sends humans into treating them differently. Cochrane (2012) defines speciesism as the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of nonhuman animals. Out of this assumption, humans have developed an incorrect belief that they are the only species among all species that deserves to be treated morally. Speciesism is wrong because when animals such as chickens, pigs and cows are slaughtered, tortured or confined for their meat, they suffer. Such sufferance is unjustified because morally, there is no reason that creates a distinction between nonhuman animals and humans. The reason for which people have rights, which is to prevent unjust suffering, is the same reason why animals should have rights.
Human rights opponents may argue that animals do not deserve rights because rights should be accompanied by responsibilities. They may say that humans are granted rights and are at the same time expected to be responsible by for instance abiding by universal laws. Since animals may not be in a position to exercise such responsibility, opponents feel they should not be entitled to any rights (Cavalieri, 2004). They are however forgetting that animal rights are essentially about allowing animals to live freely, free from human exploitation and use. This is a fundamental right that any creature should naturally enjoy by virtue of being a living being. It is not like animal rights involve animals coming to scramble for economic, social or political opportunities with humans or compete with them in any manner.
Opponents may also contend that animals do not have the capacity to make free moral judgment and thus deserve no moral treatment. It is for example often argued that animals are selfish in their behavior and are only interested in their own wellbeing and not of other beings. The argument goes on that on the other hand; humans will always offer a helping hand to others even if it means getting disadvantaged in the process. This argument fails to recognize that some animals such as chimpanzees at times show behaviors that are truly altruistic (Isacat, 2014). Moreover, it is not true that humans will always help fellow humans since there are situations in which a person would actually rejoice when another person is experiencing difficulties.
Animals should have rights because they are living beings with the right to live freely as long as they have the will to. Humans are not in a position to determine when an animal should die or what its life should be like. Animals have an inherent value that cannot be separated from them just like humans. They value their lives very much and are sentient and this is why they try to avoid any harm that may come their way. There is no moral ground upon which humans should deny them their rights. Moreover, granting them their rights will take nothing away from humans.