Why do animals need rights?
When it concerns animals, it is challenging not to mention that a lot of animals are living and sentient beings that are entitled to basic rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom of movement, the right to adequate care, sufficient food and water, shelter, etc. When I have to mention I am vegan, I am oftentimes asked whether I eat fish and crustaceans, which surprise me. Fish have been proven scientifically to be able to feel pain and fear, but that’s another story.
Chimpanzees, about whom this article will be about, are extremely intelligent creatures - they can recognize themselves in a mirror, communicate through sign language, pursue goals creatively, and form long-lasting friendships. These are the things, the list of which is not exhausted, the person can do. Almost all humans have rights, so why can chimpanzees not? Literally, in all jurisdictions around the world, the legal person is recognized as a person who has rights, which also means the person has a right to be protected from unlawful confinement. No one denies the fact that animals are living beings, sentient beings, but legally they are not protected in many countries across the globe. Since animals are treated as property/things, they cannot exercise any rights, thus, can easily be caught, confined, slaughtered, tortured.
Animals as property existed back in Ancient Rome, where domesticated animals and wildlife animals were distinguished. At the time, domesticated animals were considered subject to ownership, while wild animals were considered as res nullius, which means, they did not belong to anyone. John Locke discussed the difference between human beings and animals and stated that animals lacked language skills, they had no moral worth, and they should be excluded from the moral community.
In modern times, with the progressive world, developments, and changes in moral interests and understandings, the attitude towards the treatment of animals should have been changed too. Since ancient times, some countries have taken major steps to protect animals. For instance, Switzerland amended its constitution in 1992 and recognized animals as beings instead of things. In 1999, New Zealand granted strong protections to great apes. Later on, several European countries, such as Austria, the Netherlands, and Sweden, banned the use of great apes in animal testing. In 2007, the Balearic Islands, an autonomous region of Spain, passed the first legislation in the world that granted legal personhood rights to all great apes. Finally, in 2014, the Supreme Court of India held that all non-human animals should have both statutory and constitutional rights in India. That was followed by a 2015 decision from the Delhi High Court that birds have the fundamental legal right to fly, and a 2018 decision from the Uttarakhand High Court that identified members of the entire animal kingdom as persons.
Treating animals as property is ethically and morally wrong due to the fact that animals are not only living beings but also have an emotional state of mind, many of the animals have been proven to use tools, communicate, create bonds, build friendships. Moreover, it would be wrong not to mention how the entire ecosystem we live in changes with the disappearance of each animal. Thus, saving and protecting species of animals is important and is the human’s interest to continue living in a healthy environment and on a healthy planet.