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Criticism of animal rights

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Animal interests

The philosopher Raymond Frey, in disagreement with Peter Singer, nevertheless places himself like the latter within the framework of the utilitarianism of preferences. In Interests and Rights (1980), Frey postulates that animals have no interests. Indeed, according to him, animals have no language, therefore no beliefs (a belief being conceived by Frey as the belief that a certain sentence is true), therefore no desires, therefore no own interests.

This assertion that animals have no beliefs or that language is necessary to have them is today contradicted by the knowledge acquired in cognitive sciences and ethologyr. Furthermore, this point of view raises the question of the marginal cases in the human species: some humans, such as newborns or people with mental disabilities, do not have language; according to Frey, these humans can therefore have no beliefs, therefore no desires, therefore no own interests, and only the interests of their loved ones should be taken into account in the treatment accorded to these individuals.

The question of language in animals is also raised.

Social contract theory

Defended by Carl Cohen, Roger Scruton and Francis Wolff, this theory consists of seeing rights as the result of a social contract. Corollary: only beings capable of moral reciprocity can have rights, in other words there can be no right without duty. Since animals are unable to understand either the notion of law or that of reciprocity, they cannot have rights.

In addition to the fact that the absence of reciprocity in animals is disputed by ethological studies, the question arises here again of marginal cases, humans incapable of reciprocity: newborns and young children, certain mentally handicapped or victims of neurodegenerative diseases, as well as future generations. The answer of social contract theorists is that individuals should not be treated according to their own characteristics, but according to the “typical” characteristics of their species, or rather certain “typical” characteristics (no one is proposing to stop caring for the sick on the grounds that the typical human is healthy!) chosen by these authors.

By considering that individuals should be treated on the basis of certain average characteristics of their species, they are directly opposed to the supporters of animal rights for whom individuals should be treated according to their own characteristics. It should also be noted that animal rights have been defended including within the theoretical framework of the social contract.

Domestic contract theory

According to authors such as Jocelyne Porcher or Raphaël Larrère, animals can enter into a “symbolic” contract with their owner: this is the domestic contract, a kind of “work contract”, or “exchange of services” between the breeder and his animals. The terms of this contract are as follows: the breeder works by providing care to the animals and the latter, in exchange, give him the fruit of their work, that is to say their flesh, and therefore agree to die during of slaughter. However, a contract requires the agreement of both parties and the consent of the animals seems to remain purely hypothetical in the domestic contract theory, which has drawn much criticism from animal rights activists who notably claim that animals “refuse their death”.

(Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu)

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