Regardless, the animal rights position has given rise to animal liberation and the corresponding movement, one which Singer (1973) explicitly parallels with the women’s liberation movement. Animal liberation is essentially the endorsement of participation in direct action which furthers the interests of animals and their rights. Just as feminism created the philosophical foundations which women’s liberation acted upon, animal rights is the philosophical foundation from which animal liberation operates.
In addition to adopting vegan diets, animal liberationists engage in diverse strategies of confrontation with organizations, institutions and individuals. Such actions may include activities which focus on education, media campaigns and investigative work such as those conducted under the name of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Others might engage in eco-terrorist strategies of property destruction and intimidation such as those adopted by the Animal Liberation Front.
(Frieden, 2005) Others might engage in “open rescues,” which involve the public removal of animals from research facilities and businesses without the concealment of identity or acquiring legal license to do so. Such eco-terrorism is the logical extreme for concerned individuals who find the radical reforms sought by deep green environmentalism and the lifestyle adjustments made by advocates of Singer’s position to be lacking.
However, the most pressing concern of animal liberationists is the desire for animal rights to be recognized by means of the legal enshrinement of the rights which affiliated ethicists and philosophers have concluded to exist. By awarding animals the legal rights to their interests, liberationists aim to remove them from the sphere of property and criminalize their exploitation and use. Animal rights theorist Tom Regan (1983) argues a much simpler logic in arriving at a conclusion which promotes the welfare of animals.
In The Case for Animal Rights, Regan maintains a consistency between moral principles and insights which guide the ethical treatment of human life and extend it to permit a similar respect to animals. Regan argues that the reason why we collectively favor humane treatment to the intellectually handicapped classes of infants and mentally disabled is because we ascribe an inherent value that transcends the intellectual categorization. As such, we entitle them to a moral right to dignity.
Regan (1983) asserts the self-valuation of life which manifests as experiencing “subject-of-a-life” is the basis by which ascribe inherent value to individuals, regardless of their intellectual capacity. This basis must therefore extend to non-human creatures as they too have that same experience. If all humans possess a life that matters to him or herself, then so too do animals. However, Regan’s perspective abnegates any absolutist position on the value of animal life.
He establishes a set of principles – namely, the minimize overriding or ‘miniride’ principle and the worse-off principle – which maintain that in a situation where resolution must involve overriding the rights of innocent beings, we must override the rights of the few, and that circumstances in which harm is necessary must at the very least, be mitigated as much as possible. In terms of animal rights, Regan asserts that because ending animal life entails the loss of fewer opportunities than those of the life of a human, it would be necessary to prioritize human life over animal life.
(Regan, 1983) For conservationists and wildlife policy makers, the philosophical crossroads at which these disparate schools of thought meet are of fundamental concern, and must be examined seriously. The simple reason behind that is because the development of wildlife policy and conservation legislation usually centers upon the means by which government and institutions manage wildlife and their habitats in a manner that also complements the interests and needs of human civilization. Wildlife policy arose from fundamentally anthropocentric concerns of resource management.
In that sense, wildlife policy centers entirely around the use value of natural resources and therefore is constructed entirely around the needs of human civilization. Whether this promotes a certain set of pro-animal ideals is merely incidental. Real responsibility to animals takes into account the preceding ethical frameworks in order to develop a truly responsible foundation for the management of wildlife: The cultivation of species desirable for human civilization and the maintenance of their habitats must not be at the expense of the welfare of other species.
Additionally, those who seek the development of wildlife policy along a framework that accounts for animal rights must carefully take into consideration that concern for welfare is not synonymous to the acknowledgement of animal rights. For example, conservation of species or the preservation habits might, on the surface, appear to be a sensitive environmentalist approach to the wildlife, but it does not necessarily follow that such conservation is fair and just for all animal species within the biosphere in question.
Therefore the development of wildlife policy along such lines must also recognize that maintaining the balance between the anthropocentric benefits of wildlife and the conservation of habitats will mean little if such a balancing act is unjust to the rights of animals.
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