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Mondays with Murray: Do Animals Have "Rights"?

I’ve always been a big animal lover. I’ve had dogs throughout my childhood and now in my adulthood as well. In my early days as a budding libertarian, the issue of “animal rights” was always a difficult one for me. While I’m certainly no vegan, I’ve always held the issue of abuse of animals – both domestic pets as well as livestock – close to the heart. At the same time, surely animals could not be equated with humans in terms of rights, otherwise it would be against all libertarian principle to kill animals even for food, clothes, or other essential human needs.

So what was Murray Rothbard’s view on “animal rights”? Luckily for all of you, it’s Monday – the perfect time to find out!

From The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 21:

But the fundamental flaw in the theory of animal rights is more basic and far-reaching. For the assertion of human rights is not properly a simple emotive one; individuals possess rights not because we “feel” that they should, but because of a rational inquiry into the nature of man and the universe. In short, man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man: the individual man’s capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal. No other animals or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, or to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor.

Thus, while natural rights, as we have been emphasizing, are absolute, there is one sense in which they are relative: they are relative to the species man. A rights-ethic for mankind is precisely that: for all men, regardless of race, creed, color or sex, but for the species man alone. The Biblical story was insightful to the effect that man was “given” or,—in natural law, we may say “has”—dominion over all the species of the earth. Natural law is necessarily species-bound.

Rothbard bases his views on the concept of natural rights - the idea that man, by his nature, has the capacity to make conscious decisions in order to pursue their preferred means. The concept of human action is the basis from which we can logically deduce that man is a rational and social being.

This same concept does not apply to animals, because they do not posses this ability which, as far as we know, only applies to the species of humans. We don’t think that a lion is “evil” because it goes out and kills other animals in order to feed itself. The lion is not acting using reason in this case, but rather instinct. If a human were to go on a similar killing spree of humans, even if it were in order to eat those humans as food, we would rightly be appalled and decry that person as “evil”. This is what makes human unique; humans utilize not just instinct, but reason.

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Chimpanzees

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"The State is a gang of thieves writ large." - Murray Rothbard

Cyril's picture

Dumbness: in the eye of the beholder?

Well, one can always argue that dumbness is likely, mostly, in the eye of the beholder, anyway.

If one asks me, they can consider any chimpanzee of their choice, I'll still find the creature smarter than Mr. Paul FRAUD Krugman, to name just one out of our own specie.

More precisely:

I'd essentially point out that the chimpanzee DOES HAVE some functioning memory, which is coupled with some rational thinking capabilities as well, such as, say, around cause and effect.

While I seriously question whether the human named above has if only that (memory capability, alone) comparable to a mere goldfish's.

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.

http://Laissez-Faire.Me/Liberty

"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

Cyril's picture

I'm a pet (dogs, cats) owner and here's what I have say:

I'm a pet (dogs, cats) owner and here's what I have say:

IMO, it is a dangerous stretch of language to say, about the animals we care about as our daily companions, anything far beyond that they have a natural right to the life that was given to them (naturally or thanks to us), and not suffer our cruelty.

And that's pretty much it.

Why would someone who pretends to "love" their pets be unfair, arbitrary, or cruel with them?

When I say anthropomorphism is dangerous, I mean it for both our pets and fellow humans. IMO, it can only lead to some disguised form of planning over living creatures under the pretense of what's "in their best interests".

We know all too well where that leads us to: inhumanity, contempt for life, pets or human, because they're now considered "resources" by an elite who forces onto everybody else their self-entitlement to "know better" (than the individual, voluntary, pet owners).

Most people aren't masochists: if they don't like or feel comfortable with this or that kind of pets, they just won't seek to own those. There is no need to have a central authority to decide WHO is allowed to own THIS or THAT pet.

If we'd just stick to the principle of respecting life once it inhabits a creature, pet or human, and denouncing the cases of blatant, physical, gratuitous cruelty against it by the sickest among us, we'd all be better off - pets and humans.

I have a big problem with PETA in that respect, I call it the PETA Paradox - where their set of principles are very peculiar to them only:

while I would expect them to only focus on denouncing factually undeniable cases of cruelty (and case by case, only), instead they seem infinitely more interested in FORCING onto everybody else THEIR VIEWS on how animals ought to be considered and treated, redefining them, pets and other animals, permanently, in a never-ending antagonistic view of the relationships between man and pets, not to mention the feeding habit of our own specie.

We have been eating meat for quite a long time. It is very deceptive to try confuse people in such topics, and oppose it to our affection for animals we have chosen as pets.

Finally, here's the paradox I see:

I have no doubts they secretly or openly wish and push for making THEIR VIEWS enforceable by laws or regulations.

Haven't they learned from the experience of what laws MADE OUT OF A COLLECTIVIST VIEWPOINT LOBBYING can turn into?

Like... The Law Perverted, EVEN FOR MAN.

And they expect it to be better functioning for animals?

I don't think so.

My suggestion to PETA: look and understand better THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUALS IN MANKIND, and what true justice ought to be for them, that will likely shed a new light on how TO EFFECTIVELY treat better animals, as well, by punishing - and HARSHLY, I'm all for it - ONLY those humans who are cruel to them animals, be the latter among our pets or our herds.

'HTH,

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.

http://Laissez-Faire.Me/Liberty

"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

What about aliens? :)

http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/IllegalAliens.htm

more here...

http://www.rfreitas.com/AstroPubls.htm

This guy studied law and has numerous publications about the laws aliens from outer space would be subject to.

www.rfreitas.com

Fine and dandy. But has he ever been on 'The View'?

Until then he has no credibility as far as I'm concerned.

I saw the best minds of my generation, destroyed by pandas starving hysterical naked

-Allen Ginsberg

Animals have

the right to be my dinner.

"Endless money forms the sinews of war." - Cicero, www.freedomshift.blogspot.com

You coudl argue that our

You could argue that our reason is merely our instinct; it is the evolutionary tool we have to survive.

In any case, look at the argument further:

Does a baby have rights? It certainly is not making rational decisions. What about a severely mentally handicapped person? I am sure there are some gorillas and some dolphins that are "smarter" than some retarded fellow somewhere...who has rights.

In your case of the human, what if that human had a genetic predisposition to sociopathy and violence? Like an extreme predisposition that filled his body with adrenaline and anger, or something like that. That would be, basically, instinct.

Ultimately, when it comes to the application of rights, it is difficult to be black and white. Just because you have a mental disorder that makes you incredibly prone to violence doesn't mean I can "let you off the hook". And just because dogs aren't intelligent beings doesn't mean all animal abuse laws are immoral.

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

When did I say

"Animal abuse laws are immoral"?

Babies are future humans; animals are not.

And yes, people with mental disorders should have the same rights as all humans - that doesn't mean
"Let them off the hook" - it means they can still be held accountable for aggression against the body and property of another.

http://lionsofliberty.com/
*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

"Babies are future humans;

"Babies are future humans; animals are not."

But how does that fit into Murray's argument? That if you at any time will have the ability to reason and use logic, you have rights? What if I say, "when we invent the ability to give apes larger brains, they will have the ability to use reason and logic, therefore they have rights"?

Moreover, what is defined by reason and logic? What level constitutes "reason and logic"? Isn't that a shade of gray, where we say that a smart animal has fewer rights than a dumb human?

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

Crazy people have rights, too.

http://www.dailypaul.com/273710/crazy-people-have-rights-too

I saw the best minds of my generation, destroyed by pandas starving hysterical naked

-Allen Ginsberg

Do HUMANS?

Much better question. I say "Rights Are Santa Claus."

I'll take that argument one step further with animals: for people who believe that it is immoral to cause an animal needless pain, animals do have "rights" -- but as with people, such "rights" are useless unless people CHOOSE to enforce them. For people who do NOT hold that moral conviction, animals have no "rights," but those people may still find it prudent to behave as though they do, when they live among people willing to enforce such convictions: societies which pass and enforce laws against cruelty to animals.

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition, http://www.amazon.com/Most-Dangerous-Superstition-Larken-Ros...

Causing animals needless pain

Causing animals needless pain is not a fair comparison- we certainly hold human rights to a higher standard. One could hold a human captive , feed him and protect him and never cause him
"Needless pain"- but we would consider this a violation of that persons rights.

Unless you hold all animals - all life forms - to this same standard the comparison doesn't hold.

http://lionsofliberty.com/
*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

You clearly did not read my essay.

"Natural rights" do not exist, for man OR beast. "Rights" exist only within the context of a defined moral code -- and many different moral codes exist. For devout Hindus and some Buddhists, animals have the same "rights" as humans. For non-vegetarians, animals have NO rights worth mentioning.

Each person's opinion of what is "moral" will define what he believes to be "right" or "wrong." For example, I believe enslaving human beings is morally wrong, and no one has a "right" to do it. Barack Obama believes it's a great idea, as long as the slavemaster calls himself "government."

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition, http://www.amazon.com/Most-Dangerous-Superstition-Larken-Ros...

I would agree that your

I would agree that your rights only exist to the point where you can protect them. Indeed, you may belly-ache that you have "natural rights"....but the protection of those rights is itself not a natural right.

Plan for eliminating the national debt in 10-20 years:

Overview: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/my-plan-for-reducin...

Specific cuts; defense spending: http://rolexian.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/more-detailed-look-a

Heeere's Hoppe....

Here's Hoppe on why natural rights are needed. They are the basis for a social order.

I will go read your write-up now.

Listening to Hoppe

is as much fun as watching paint dry. And he's not much of a painter, either. Blotchy work.

Like Rothbard, he assumes the conclusion he wishes to reach within his argument. He shows only that "rights" accord with his own personal opinion about what is morally right. People DO use other moral standards, so his assumption that his own moral vision should be universally accepted as gospel is just a tad presumptuous. I won't give you a dime for the difference between him and a religious fanatic who thinks anyone who doesn't worship HIS God in exactly HIS way is on the Devil's side.

I mostly share his opinions about what is morally right -- but that's a choice I've made, not a natural law. People can and DO make many other moral choices, so Hoppe's claim to have a monopoly of "natural" right is pure wishful thinking.

Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition, http://www.amazon.com/Most-Dangerous-Superstition-Larken-Ros...

Advocacy Group Decries PETA's Inhumane Treatment Of Women


http://youtu.be/q2z2lTUR5Ao

I saw the best minds of my generation, destroyed by pandas starving hysterical naked

-Allen Ginsberg

Mental Construct

I believe it behooves us to first recognize that "rights" are merely a construct of the mind (which requires the ability to conceptualize). Without the ability to conceive, there are no such things as rights (civil, natural, or otherwise).
I believe "natural right" might be considered as existing by natural logical deductive reasoning, stemming from the auspices of "fairness / equality / respect". Meaning, if we accept that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights, then invariably you will end up with our human/natural rights. Take away the premiss of fairness / equality / respect, and you have no rights at all... only privileges granted by those with power (biggest gun wins / law of the jungle).
As somebody said so well below, rights are only as good as our ability to defend them... individually or collectively. The union of people (a state/nation/band/society) exist for the purpose of enforcing the respect of each others rights. An anarchist environment does not enforce the respecting of rights, in which case the concept of rights may just as well not exist.
As for animals, IMO, humans could assign them privileges, and call them rights (color of right). But unless they can conceive of, and collectively work to protect this concept of rights, they simply don't have any...

Rights are not black and white

I would say, yes, animals have rights. However, rights are not black and white. The way I think about it is to use a child analogy. Children have rights, but not the full rights of an adults. For example, they have a right to life, but not a right to property.

I view animal rights in a similar fashion; I'd say animals have a smaller subset of rights. For example, they have a right not to be abused or tortured. However, they don't have most of the rights that humans have, for obvious reasons.

Neither are "abuse" or "torture"

one could argue keeping an animal in a pen is "abuse" or "torture", and therefore any livestock being held in pens would be having their rights violated. Should all farmers be taken to court and charged with rights violations?

Rights *should* be black and white, which is why it's so important to clearly define them.

http://lionsofliberty.com/
*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*

Define right? Because I

Define right? Because I think most people confuse it with PROTECTION.

If you disagree with me on anything you are not a real libertarian...

Right Defined

I can't sight the case, but I've been advised that the Supreme Court of Canada (1960's?) stated that a "Right is a claim recognized by law". I have contemplated and considered this verbiage, and can't help but agree with it. Apparently it has been used in many other jurisdictions because of its clarity and simplicity. I would not be surprised if one day it's be accepted as a legal maxim.

No,

But my kitties, puppies, horse, sheep and goat all would like to have a say. And I'd let them if I were not in such a hurry to load this arc.

Bon Voyagie !

Drew, by the very grace of GOD through the blood of Christ Jesus.
"there shall come after us men whom shall garner great wealth using our system, and having done so shall seek to slam the door of prosperity behind them." George Washington

its been my opinion for a

its been my opinion for a while that nat rights dont exist, but that if they did, animals would have them too.

there is no valid argument against it that couldnt also apply to humans.

the reality of course is animals have no rights because they cannot assert or defend their rights in an organized political way. their rights extend exactly as far as their power to defend their physical liberty.

the same thing applies to people. their rights extend exactly insofar as their power to defend them, either individually or in organized groups.

but these arent natural rights, they are not part of ethics. they are just facts of political power applied to the end of protecting asserted claims.

any ethical claim that one "must" respect the rights of others for moral, rather than practical reasons, would apply to all living things. just because animals are stupid, or can't follow laws, is no argument against their having ethics based rights. there are plenty of stupid people running around who can't follow laws either. they aren't without rights according to an ethical or morally based claim of rights.

the easiest way out of this intellectual morass is to chuck the premise, recognize the absence of any natural rights, and find arguments that actually correspond w/ reality.

(Standing Ovation For Your Post)

Outstanding stuff! A big up-vote from me. Right down to your summation that I'm re-printing below. That just feels like very clear thinking to me (though, to be balanced, I guess it is just my opinion).

If I can add one thing, a good parallel would be the fight for our 2nd Amendment rights. We're fighting to protect our ability to defend our rights. Also, I'd say that it might be a good illustration of morality - when the other person (or living being) can't defend themselves but you still decide to defend their rights.

By the way, your comment below would be an outstanding tag-line.

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the easiest way out of this intellectual morass is to chuck the premise, recognize the absence of any natural rights, and find arguments that actually correspond w/ reality.
---------------------------------------------------------

Yep.

I agree to some extent. I do believe, by definition that natch rights exist but that animals, by definition, have them too. Domesticated animals are in a special class though since humans have irreversibly altered their natural state. Here is my comment from below:
http://www.dailypaul.com/286073#comment-3081598

If animals have rights

They are guilty violating the rights of animals. Will wolves stand trial, then?

Senator Peter Schiff 2016

Animals and Humans are not equals.

I think that is pretty obvious.

Murray's got it right.

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com


"The State is a gang of thieves writ large." - Murray Rothbard

Try fighting a lion and out

Try fighting a lion and out swim a dolphin and see if you are equal..

If you disagree with me on anything you are not a real libertarian...

Did you miss the entirety of my comment?

I stated animals and humans ARE NOT equals.

Check out the Laissez-Faire Journal at LFJournal.com


"The State is a gang of thieves writ large." - Murray Rothbard