As far back as the days of the Roman Empire (752 B.C. to 1476 A.D.), humanitarians have argued over the issue of animal rights (Treanor 28). The debate continues today with ever growing intensity with no end in sight. On one side, those who believe that animals have a right to a free and happy life just as humans; on the other side, those who believe that “the benefits of animal experimentation… far outweigh whatever harm is done to animals through the experiments” (Treanor 51); in the middle are those who believe that animals are not necessarily equal to humans but should be treated humanely nonetheless (O’Neill 10).
Let us first investigate the position of those in the animal rights corner. In Animal Rights: an Opposing Viewpoints Guide, we are introduced to Panbanisha, a chimpanzee who has been taught to communicate with humans using an electronic keyboard (O’Neill 15). She talks about what she likes to eat and drink, about other chimpanzees, even about her feelings (O’Neill 15-16). It is easy to see how someone who met Panbanisha might reject the idea that animals have no feelings or consciousness at all (Treanor 32), a common argument of those in the opposing corner.
Research also shows that animals from African grey parrots to New Zealand robins to chickens to rhesus monkeys seem to have some innate mathematical ability (Tennesen). In one study, the monkeys’ abilities rivaled that of the college students they were testing against (Tennesen). Again, if you believe that animals are capable of higher thinking like mathematics, it might be more difficult for you to think an animal is not capable of suffering or feeling anything at all.
Animal rights activists also believe that animals should be granted legal rights, yet another point of controversy. Animals have always been viewed as property under the law and people have always viewed themselves as dominant to “lesser creatures” (O’Neill 17). Steven Wise...