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Why “Animal Rights” Is a Contradiction in Terms

By Michael Mountain

Hundreds of organizations say they work for ‚Äúanimal rights.‚ÄĚ But the only animal with legal rights is the human animal. No other animal has any rights at all. None.

How come?

To have a legal right, one must have the ‚Äúlegal capacity‚ÄĚ for a right. If one has this capacity for a legal right, one is a legal ‚Äúperson.‚ÄĚ No nonhuman animal has been recognized as a legal ‚Äúperson.‚ÄĚ This means that no animals, other than humans, have legal rights.

The only animal with legal rights is the human animal. No other animal has any rights at all.
Statutes provide some protection for some nonhuman animals. It may be illegal to starve a circus elephant or withhold medical care from a chimpanzee in a zoo. But the elephant and the chimpanzee have no legal right to that kind of care (similarly, there are statutes that prevent you from stealing someone’s car, but the car itself has no legal rights, since the car is not a legal person with the capacity for any legal right).

The Nonhuman Rights Project is determined to cut the Gordian Knot that binds every nonhuman animal to perpetual rightlessness. Judicial acceptance of the overwhelming scientific evidence and strong legal arguments why our nonhuman plaintiff is a legal ‚Äúperson‚ÄĚ with the capacity for legal rights will open the first crack in the legal wall that has for so long separated humans from every other animal.

At that point the term ‚Äúanimal rights‚ÄĚ will begin to carry real meaning, and we will begin to argue which legal specific rights a nonhuman animal should have.

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