Equality in animal rights

Should animals be granted the constitutional right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Courtesy of stock.xchang

Should animals be granted the constitutional right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Courtesy of stock.xchang

One of the central tenets of American liberty is the principle of human rights. At the very heart of The Constitution lies the conviction that America’s citizens inherently possess fundamental civil liberties, but only if these citizens are human.


As part of Environmental Awareness Week, the Ethics Center will present the 25th annual Environmental Ethics Symposium: Animals and the Law, April 5 & 6 in LI 120.  The two-day symposium will explore relevant issues and current events about animals and their legal status.


The panel of renowned speakers will include two of the nation’s top animal law professors, Kathy Hessler and Pamela Frasch, both from the Center for Animal Law Studies at the Lewis and Clark Law School.  Their lectures will contrast and reconcile the ideals of animal activism with America’s current legal and educational realities.


Peter Young of the Animal Liberation Frontline is recognized for his civil disobedience on behalf of animal rights. He is best known for his 1997 raids on six different fur farms, which resulted in release of at least 8,000 mink and fox.


Young was sentenced to 88 years in prison for this, but due to a technicality he only spent two years behind bars, according to UVU Professor of Philosophy Chris Foster. Young claims that his participation in the vegan straight-edge scene has had the strongest influence on the course of his life and animal activism. Young will be speaking Friday at 10 a.m.


Ethologist and Primatologist Debra Durham, Ph.D., is an international expert on our “cousins” the chimpanzees. She will be educating the audience about an important recent breakthrough in chimpanzee research: a partial banning of it.


“We want to educate the public and engage students in the active conversation about the role of animals in the law,” Foster said. Foster, along with Karen Mizell, organized the conference to address this topic as its importance escalates in relation to agriculture, bio-medical research, food health, the environment, animal ethics and the law. Students from a surprisingly broad spectrum of disciplines and interests will find it rewarding to attend.


The issue of animal rights has long been an ongoing and sometimes heated debate. Some animal activists lobby for greater legal protection of animals, while others claim that animals deserve civil rights equal to those that humans receive. Mounting scientific evidence suggests many animals, specifically the great apes, elephants and dolphins, possess the same capacities for intelligence, emotion and morality as humans do.


Opposition to animal rights comes in many forms as well. Some animal activists, including organizations such as PETA, have come to be perceived as frenzied extremists, not to be taken seriously by the general public.


While most reasonable people would disagree with senseless animal abuse and cruelty, many are essentially uninformed about the actual treatment of animals, the amount of tax dollars used to fund animal experimentation, and the government’s sanction of the exploitation of animals for commercial gain, cosmetic testing and medical research.


On average, the general public likes animals. We own pets, visit zoos and aquariums and would cringe to see someone viciously beat a dog.


In answer to a question put forth by Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton University, “Is another shampoo worth blinding rabbits?” most would probably say no, and then wonder if the shampoo in their shower was tested on animals. Public awareness is key to change, but a large-scale shift in public opinion can be a long process.


Should animals and humans dwell as a community of equals? Do animals have intrinsic worth which entitles them to the right to life, the legal protection of liberty and the prohibition of torture? Perspectives will inevitably vary.


Roundtable discussions will be offered at the end of each day. Stop by the Library on Thursday and Friday to listen, learn and share your thoughts and questions.


Thursday, April 5

10–11:15  |  Animal Law: In the Real World – In Education

Pamela Frasch, J.D.

Assistant Dean, Animal Law Program

Exe. Dir. of the CALS, Lewis and Clark Law School



11:30–12:45  |  Muzzling a Movement

Dara Lovitz, J.D.

Author, Muzzling a Movement



1–2:15  |  Speaker’s Lunch



4:00–5:15  |  Learning from Difficult Cases: Tillikum v. Sea World

Kathy Hessler, J.D., LL.M.

Clinical Professor and Director, Animal Law Clinic

CALS, Lewis and Clark Law School



5:30–6:15  |  Roundtable Discussion


Friday, April 6

10–10:50  |  Animal Liberation Above the Law: In Defense of the Animal Liberation Front

Peter Young

Animal Liberation Frontline



11–11:50  |  The Activist Attorney

Shannon Keith, Attorney

Founder, Animal Rescue, Media, and Education



12–12:50  |  Speaker’s Lunch 



1–1:50  |  Cousins: Chimpanzees and the Law

Debra Durham, Ph.D.

Ethologist, Primatologist



2–2:50  |  Jill Ryther, J.D.



3–3:50  |  Roundtable Discussion


By Lindsey Nelson
Staff Writer

2 thoughts on “Equality in animal rights

  1. It’s great to see that such discussions are taking place – the world and civilization has come so far – this type of thing is constant reminder that history will always move in the direction of liberty, equality, and justice for all living beings.
    Two centuries ago some people could be considered others property… no longer.
    About century back woman could not vote in any democracy… no longer.
    About half a century back blacks and racial minorities would be subjected to governmentally sanctioned inferior status in the southern US, South Africa, etc… no longer.
    A few decades back LGBT people could have been jailed for the sexual orientation they were born with… no longer.
    As the movements for gender, racial, and sexual equality moves forward so shall the movement for giving dignity and rights to every living being.
    Social progress is inevitable – it is natural law of…

  2. [part 2]
    …(of) civilizations. As civilizations develop and people become more educated they can understand about what it must be like to be the person being discriminated against. This leads to social change…

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