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Editorial by Harry Mather, Vegan Views 88 (late Spring 2001)

If we talk of animal rights, we are often told that having rights involves responsibilities and duties, and therefore animals cannot have rights.

We should ask such persons whether they approve of the RSPCA. If someone ill-treats an animal, and unfortunately this does happen, or neglects to feed them or fails to treat their illnesses, they can be prosecuted and punished. If you ill-treat a cat or dog, society will condemn you. Yet when legislation was first introduced at the beginning of the 19th century, there was an outcry against this government interference. Some actually said that if they wanted to flog their horse to death, that was entirely their own business in which outsiders should not interfere.

If people now say that animals should be protected against cruelty by humans, this can only be justified by saying that animals do have rights, because we consider them as sentient creatures capable of feeling pain.

You are allowed to chop up your chair or smash a stone because you think of them as things that are unable to feel or suffer. But if you do not treat animals with the same brutality it means that you make a distinction between animate and inanimate objects and you believe animate objects have some sort of feelings. Is it not this that gives them rights?

Our last issue asked readers to tell us about their daily menus. This has brought a great response and I am sure will be of interest to everyone. We will be happy to have further contributions to this column.

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Cross-reference: Animal Rights