Aug 15, 2011

Resolved: Justice requires the recognition of animal rights.

The September / October 2011 Lincoln-Douglas debate topic has been released:
Resolved: Justice requires the recognition of animal rights.
It's a fairly straightforward sentence with a lot of deep philosophical implications, and is a great way to start the season.

To get started, here's a thought-experiment.

An alien spaceship descends on your hometown, bug-eyed spindly-legged creatures emerging from its bowels. "Great," you think. "This is gonna be great." You've always wondered whether there was intelligent life elsewhere in the universe--and here it is, practically knocking down your door.

Actually, it is knocking down your door, and vaporizing your furniture, and corralling you and your family into cages, until you're whisked off to some distant galaxy, ostensibly to serve as entertainment for Emperor Garthron of Planet X.

You try to reason with your captors. Their eyes are blank with apathy, however; they cannot hear, nor can they understand your rudimentary bleating. They ignore your gestures and are unfazed by your scribblings. Your actions are meaningless to them, beyond the detached interest of idle alien curiosity.

How would you convince one of these aliens that their behavior is unjust, and that they've violated your rights?

Or would you even bother to try?

Clearly, your rights exist regardless of your ability to articulate them to an outsider. But what if the situation were reversed, a la District 9? Would intelligent aliens have rights?

Or, more to the point, what if animals find themselves in the same position regarding their human neighbors?

How wide is the circuit of our moral concern? Should it include organisms of different species?

Why do we care about animals?
Suppose you feel anger or sadness about recent reports about whales' susceptibility to industrial toxins. Your sentiments could arise from many sources: appreciation of the whales' beauty and power and intelligence; pity for their helplessness; respect for their unique place in nature, or for divine mandates for environmental stewardship. You could also take a different tack, highlighting their instrumental value--for instance, their essential role in the oceanic ecosystem, or their utility as a food source.

The last makes the problem particularly acute. It's tough to concede rights to something you might grill on the barbecue. Here the culturally arbitrary nature of our attachments becomes evident: some folks dress up their dogs in funny clothes, while other folks eat them. (And if dogs have a right not to suffer, why not whales?)

How do we define "animal?"
Dictionary.com (based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary) gives us at least three workable definitions.
1.any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli: some classification schemes also include protozoa and certain other single-celled eukaryotes that have motility and animallike nutritional modes.
This scientific definition would set up an interesting affirmative:
All humans have rights.
All humans are animals.
Therefore, some animals have rights.
Thus, we affirm the resolution.
The second and third definition are much narrower:
2. any such living thing other than a human being.
3. a mammal, as opposed to a fish, bird, etc.
The former sets up a distinction between human rights and animal rights, which is the traditional manner of thinking about such things. The latter is even more restrictive, making it so the affirmative would have to defend rights for whales and grizzlies and gibbons, but not for lobsters, snakes, or chickens. (Serious efforts to grant rights to apes and to cetaceans already exist.)

Which animals would have rights?
The definition chosen points to a potential answer; other arguments might revolve around distinctions based on sentience or intelligence.

Which rights would these animals have?
Hard to say. In Spain, for instance, non-human apes have rights of life and freedom from suffering.

Where do rights come from?
If they come from God, we may have to turn to some kind of scripture to answer the question.
If they're inherent, we have to figure out whether they're inherent in animals.
If they're social constructions, we have to decide whether our society admits nonhumans.
If they're contractual, we have to wonder whether non-signatories are covered by the contract.
If they're legal constructs, we have to determine whether the law assigning rights to animals is wise.
If they're a matter of utility, we need to know whether a life with animal rights increases utility.

Recommended Reading
The SEP's entry on the moral status of animals.
Lawrence Hinman's list of relevant links and resources.

As always, your ideas and questions are critical. Fire away in the comments.

Note: this is a slightly modified repost of the topic preview from last year, since, following custom, the Sept/Oct topic is the least popular top choice from the 2010-2011 list.

54 comments:

C said...

I don't get it. This wasn't one of the topics listed in the NFL's list of potential resolutions.

Veggehead said...

Well what my question is "How far does animal rights go?" Do we give them voting rights or do we just not kill and eat them? What are the limits of their rights and how do we make that the standard for both sides?

Jim Anderson said...

C, every year, the NFL takes the least popular "winner" from the previous year's choices, and makes it the Sept/Oct topic. The 2011-12 topics won't start until November (and the first will post on Oct. 1).

Veggehead, the difference between positive and negative rights will definitely be huge here. I'll be posting more analysis as the weeks roll on. I love, love, love this topic.

37f5dc68-c798-11e0-ade3-000bcdcb471e said...

Me and my friend met today to discuss the resolution, and one problem we were constantly coming back to on the Aff was that if we were to affirm, would major corporations such as McDonalds and Burger King be in violations of these rights, and if they were, would they be shut down by the government, costing thousands of people their jobs and adding to the country's unemployment rate?

Nesh said...

My question is, Didn't we as humans create this system of justice that the resolution speaks of?

Anonymous said...

I do not like anything on the aff side... people will say that there are animals with "near human intelligence" and like arguments. This is not a good argument on several levels... First, that only occurs in certain cases. Not a true reason to affirm, and secondly if they were so smart they would protect their own rights

Anonymous said...

If we were to affirm, would we be forced to shut down multi-billion companies that serve slaughtered animals? If so, wouldn't we be putting thousands of people out of work? It seems like the affirmative world is unpractical.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is any reason why we need to assign animals the same rights as humans. I think that different rights can be inherent to humans vs. animals. And because of those differences, I think that on the affirmative you could make the argument that humans can still eat animals, we just have to be humane about it, i.e. yay small sustainable farming and boo Cargill.

Another approach on the affirmative is to make the argument that because the resolution is asking about whether the institution of justice has to recognize animal rights, we need to talk about the societal level implications. Therefore, the affirmative could advocate that a just society would benefit from the recognition of animal rights. 1. More prosecution for animal abuse cases. 2. Less animal testing = more human testing = faster FDA approval = more effective treatments. 3. More humane treatment of edible meats, no growth hormones (dangerous to humans).

These are just gut instincts on the topic.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous above

It's true that if we were to recognize animal rights, they would not necessarily be the same as the rights humans possess, but with the example you give it seems self-serving for the human race. Where animal rights come from, what rights they have, and why they have those rights specifically is gonna be an issue. To simply say we can kill and eat them, but can't treat them badly is somewhat of a contradiction.

As for the justice approach, you're gonna have to be specific about the definition of justice, or what justice really is and what it applies to. Is justice a human-only concept? If we talk about justice and its benefits, is it utility for humans only? and if it is or isn't, why?

Anonymous said...

I think I may run util as my value criterion for justice(value) on the negative side. Affs will run it, but they are going to have to find(or make up) a definition of util that ive never seen. It's "the greatest good for the greatest number of people". Clearly the negative side does the most good for people, or the human race by allowing us to continue to eat animals

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can protect rights for animals without taking away the billion dollar industries... moreover without denying people to own pets. Only 6.5 percent of people neither own a pet, nor eat meat so idk who is "just enough" to give rights to these animals in the affirmative world.

Anonymous said...

I am having some difficulties deciding what would be some good neg arguments other than the animal testing benefitting humans?

Nesh said...

if you run the animal experimentation on the neg, your gonna get pounded with Speciesism from the aff. On the neg, I'm running something like assigning these animals rights that we created under this system of justice that we created is wrong. Something like that

Anonymous said...

Ok so I am still just looking up information on the resolution and brainstorming but I was thinking since the resolution says... "Justice requires the recognition of animal rights" then couldnt the Aff run that in order to reach justice we just need to recognize and enforce the rights we already give to animals (such as animal cruelty laws, ect...) but not necessarily giving animals new rights (such as not to kill and eat them)???? Im still thinking this over and looking things up so im not sure how well it could work but what do you think?

Anonymous said...

Should you define animal rights as one definition or two seperate definitions one being animal and one being rights?? I was thinking defining it as one for the Aff but seperately for the Neg?

Kevin From Idaho said...

As the Affirm you would not have to provide any ideas or plans on how we give them rights, or simply ensure them. Obviously the intent of the resolution wouldn't be to shut down major cooperation such as McD, or BK. The intent is very amusing to me because I cant quite put my finger in the direction of where to start. If anyone would like to discuss this topic with me with Idea's/Potential Value/Criterion / or Arguments. Let me know. My Email is Roxberry229@hotmail.com

harma dogshead said...

try chewing through this one: according to chalmers, there is no physical, 3-dimensional or scientific reasoning for the existence of experience; that is, it isn't reductively plausible. since this is the case, I only know of my own consciousness; everybody else might as well be a philosophical zombie (wikipedia is your friend) for all I know, since I can't reductively prove their consciousness. If consciousness is the basis of 'rationality' of an actor and all my peers are philosophical zombies, then what makes them any different from animals, and if rationality is the basis of justice which seeks to recognize the 'specialness' of certain entities, then why should anything or anyone receive justice in the first place? they are no more products of deterministic reality, capable of being reductively understood, than any other facet of my own reality.

harma dogshead said...

http://yanko.lib.ru/books/philosoph/chalmers=the_conscious_mind=en.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_zombie
these might help clear up the rambling, It's late at night here

Greenwald said...

What are your thoughts about a running a K for this resolution?
Any suggestion?

Jim Anderson said...

Wow. A lot of great questions. I've started answering them here. More soon.

Anonymous said...

this will never be solved, because there is no solution. even if there becomes a valid argument that everyone agrees on there will be no course to solving this issue

Jim Anderson said...

Latest Anonymous, which is what makes arguing about it so much fun.

Anonymous said...

"when we assign rights to animals, we protect their welfare, which not only improves their lives (and the environment), but may make us more moral as human beings."
This approach you take--isn't it faulty? When we treat animals in such a way, aren't we using them as a means to an end? We're basically giving them rights so that we can become better people. Wouldn't justice, or morality, mandate that we have to treat them as an end in and of themselves if we were to give them rights?

Colt said...

Does the DOJ or anywhere reputable define rights or animal rights? Also definition of Justice?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, that brand of morality--the Kantian approach--argues that no one should use persons as a means to an end.

Which makes for an interesting question: must rights-holders be persons? If something has rights, is it automatically a person? And in what sense, given the debate about corporate personhood?

Colt, I'm not sure, although I'd tend to doubt it, as the DOJ concerns itself with human / civil rights.

Debater said...

Hey guys I want to let you know that I am willing to trade evidence to the community out there i just ask in return for evidence my email is

tradingevidence {At} yahoo[dot]com

37f5dc68-c798-11e0-ade3-000bcdcb471e said...

Hey, first thank you for responding to my McDonalds/Burger King question.

Me and my friend were arguing because she said knocking animals out then killing them was a less torturous way of killing them. I disagreed by saying that she was trading physical torture for psychological torture since animals would realize they are being put to sleep and will never wake up. I also commented that the end result was the same (the animal dies). Is that a legitimate argument or me just trying to find a way to get around her argument?

Also, if drugs we give to animals have a different effect on humans, is that legitimate grounds for terminating animal drug testing?

Corky said...

Could an animals' unability to communicate be used on the NEG side? For instance: Animals have no way of communicating with the rest of the Human community. Thus there is no way to enforce *law* upon animals. (I.e court). Because Rights are bestowed upon Humans, responsibilities are as well. Though animals cannot have these responsibilities as they cannot respect other's rights nor abide the law.

Jim Anderson said...

37f5etc, it'd be difficult to prove that animals realize they are being put to sleep. Where would you find good evidence for that?

If animal testing is ineffective, it's a legitimate reason to terminate testing drugs on animals. However, that may be tangential to whether animal rights ought to be recognized. It's certainly a block against kinds of arguments in favor of testing--but if animals have rights not to be tested without consent--and it's pretty difficult, if not impossible, to provide evidence of consent--then efficacy is a red herring.


Corky, certain negative rights (i.e., the right not to be killed) may have no concomitant responsibilities. For example, a baby can't (rationally) communicate with other humans, but (in most rights-based schemes) that's not a reason to deny babies the right not to be killed. The same would apply for a comatose, or even sleeping, human being.

Certainly some rights--civil rights like voting or a trial by jury--seem ridiculous when applied to animals. But the resolution doesn't tell us which rights we're recognizing.

Anonymous said...

The sole thesis of my case is displaying to basic syllogism of how 1)These are rights, 2)Humans have rights because of X, 3)Animals have X, 4) Therefore, they have rights. And in order for us to be consistent with the system of justice, we must provide equity to animals and humans, making my value justice. But what would a matching criterion be?

Corky said...

@Jim

MY rebuttle to that would be the potential of humans, and (not quite sure how to word it, help me out here please). Aided Direction from non-infants etc.

Im pretty sure the first rebuttle is quite self explanatory, so i'll move on to the second.
What I'm propsing here is that even at a very small age infants begin to differintiate between right and wrong, more ever they can began to understand the communication from a more cognitively developed human (parents) one way or another. Thus Because HUMANS in general have the moral of responsibility and fit the social contract their off springs have the potent to learn this as well and may have Aid in the right direction.
Another idea would be possibly the idea of 'Justice being served'. Coming back to when there are rights, there are responsibilities Where as animals cannot be tried as that is complete ridicule there is no way of holding animals responsible. Everything comes back to the aspect of Morality however. We are not screening and filtering individual humans. The idea of wrongs and *RIGHTS* reside in humans and just do not in animals.. Thus we must negate.
--Any critiques?

Corky said...

Has anyone thought of using Utility as a Negative critereon? AS Utility is commonly defined- The greatest good for the greatest number of *people*?

JohnM said...

How does one go about arguing where rights come from? There are certain worldviews where God(or certain gods or any god), social constructs, legal constructs, contracts, or utility do not matter. Arguing that rights are inherent is only supportable by someone saying so(unless I missed an argument for this), an authoritative logical fallacy. It seems to me that determining where rights come from(or for the neg, if they exist at all) is crucial to forming a case for either side of this topic. Thank you for your thoughts Mr. Anderson.

Harma Dogshead, be careful using that argument. If you used that against me, I would just turn around and say that my opponent has made an ad hominem attack on me(and if I feel desperate, I might also include the judge in that). I ran into this type of bind with the juvenile topic last year.

Anonymous said...

Penis.

Anonymous said...

I have to debate on this topic on Tuesday and Im a novice debater. This will be my first time ever! I was wondering what would be some good contentions for affermative and negative!(:

lordylordylordy said...

What is a good value and criterion for AFF? i was thinking justice, but it seems all to vague.

Anonymous said...

can you hurry the fuck up with your responses? jesus, it's not that difficult you know -_-

Anonymous said...

HUMANS AREN"T ANIMALS YOU FUCKS

Anonymous said...

laziest. man. ever.

Anonymous said...

Hey first thnx for responding to my animal testing question a few weeks ago (i was also the mcdonalds guy)

I'm having trouble with my affirmative argument. My current plan is to make small changes to current system to make a practical, but more moral system. One change i plan on making on the aff is making so animals aren't awake when their heads are chopped off or skin removed. In order to support this in cross x, i was planning on asking my opponent why we have doctors knock us out b4 surgery. Obviously, it's to avoid being in pain. In my first rebuttal, i would say imagine going through surgery awake, and comparing that to 12 billion animals on a 4 hr basis. To put it short, we wouldn't want it to be done to us, so is it fair to do it to animals when it can be avoided?

I know it's a lot, but please help me out, i really need help
Marc

Anonymous said...

well, if you look at the resolution grammatically, rights does not have an apostrophe, meaning that the animals do not possess the rights. thus eliminating the aff. animals cannot possess rights

Mo said...

Are you going to post any possible value/ value criterion pairs?

Jim Anderson said...

As you might have noticed, my blogging has all but vanished these past two weeks. Am I lazy? No. I've had a major life change, and school has resumed. Don't expect quick answers; do expect a major announcement.

tehe said...

MAKE A V/C LIST NOW

Anonymous said...

what philosophers do you think match up with the neg and aff cases?

About9inches said...

This is a redonculous topic.

AboutNineInches said...

This is a redonculous topic.

Anonymous said...

What are some examples of value criterions for this resolution?

Anonymous said...

As of today there are NO reasons for animal testing. They have various other was such as cell cultures. But it's more $$ so they continue to torture animals. Check out Huntington Live science. The place is full of sadists. As to animals rights. They feel, have emotions suffer pain. They should have the same respect as humans.

nylon1 said...

Reposted as words missing in previous post. Should have read:

As of today there are NO good reasons for animal testing. They have various other methods that do not require animals, such as cell cultures. But it's more $$ so they continue to torture animals. Check out Huntington Live science. The place is full of sadists. This kind of work is useless for the most part. Read up on SPLENDA testing and how they force fed bags of it till dogs died. WHY? Not only is this wrong to torture but it's useless info. Also many animal tests for medical purposes are useless as they need to be tested on humans.. or human cell cultures. As to animals rights. They feel, have emotions suffer pain. They should have the same respect as humans.

Colton(LA) said...

I would like to say to nylon1, while there maybe other ways of testing, science has not progressed far enough to where animal testing can be thrown out the window. Not only that you must look to the Animal Welfare Act which sets up that the minimum amount of care must be given to any animals in the industries. Think about it, so many cures and other things have been found due to animal testing. Wonder why smallpox and polio and other diseases are not such huge threats..you got it animal testing. If something has brought so much to the table of course we would be weary to get rid of it.

Now to my question; as far as the AFF goes what are some strong recommendations for VC pairs.

CCHS said...

You talked about taking the strategy towards aff that humans have rights and humans are animals. What type of Value and Value criterion pairs would you suggest?

JJ1 said...

Would it be plausible to argue that rights, in any form, do not exist, thus, naturally, the demand that justice require something that does not exist cannot be affirmed.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually thinking about saying, for AFF, that if we infringe on animals' rights (animals as non-human), then we are exposing our society to violence which we will be influenced by, and start to use more towards each other. Also, any civilization or nation is judged not how it treats the strong and priviliged, but how it treats the weak and needy. Hmmmm?