Yep, I live with that cat… her name is Tera.
The question is whether or not Tera has rights.
It’s clear that I have duties to Tera. I’m responsible for her well-being, which includes food, a litter box, vet visits and affection. I have these duties because I decided to take her, that particular cat, into my home. Those duties continue until she dies or I find another arrangement for her (oddly enough, my ex-husband would like to have her, but she’s happy with me…so…).
The question is, tho — whether she has rights just because she exists?
For human beings, it seems pretty clear that we have rights. We more or less articulated (i.e. invented) the concept of rights, with the implication that there are some rights that are basic to all human beings. Exactly what those rights ARE is an open question, but it seems to me that there are at least some concepts within the umbrella of rights that apply to all human beings.
Is it the same for all animals?
I’m still not so sure. I have plenty of vegetarian and vegan friends. They decline to consume animal products to some extent. The vegans will have nothing to do with products that have ingredients that started in animals. The vegans are a different lot, more often than not they’ll consume some kinds of dairy, sometimes they’ll consume seafood or eggs etc. For all of them, a juicy steak is right out, but after that they’ll make distinctions.
Maybe they’re right, we ought not eat animals.
I absolutely agree that I have duties to my cats, just as I have duties to my friends and family, but that’s because I made that individual commitment to those beings. I don’t have duties to strangers (except in extraordinary circumstances) any more than I have duties to a cat across the world. Or, maybe I’m wrong…
I do tend to agree that we ought not intentionally mis-treat animals. Factory farms make me uncomfortable. We have plenty of cosmetics, so we probably ought not test them on animals (and a lot of companies don’t)… but, I’m torn in terms of medical testing.
IF it’s the case that
a) we are humans
b) humans are animals
c) medical procedures tested on other animals can help humans
d) utilitarianism is the strongest support for animal rights (Singer’s a major utilitarian)
then .. it seems that medical testing could produce the greatest overall increase in utility, all BEINGS (humans and animals) considered.