The issue of ‘animal rights’ has very often taken a back seat to the issue of ‘human rights’. Particularly in South Africa, a debate is needed around the question as to whether ‘right’ are in fact divisible or not and whether one can, from a moral/ethical and philosophical perspective argue that while humans must enjoy a set of rights, other sentient beings do not or cannot enjoy the same rights. Kai Horstheke brings this question into sharp relief in this book which deserves wide coverage.
Do other-than-human animals matter morally? Most, if not all, reasonable people think they do. But, if they can be shown to possess characteristics and abilities that would qualify them for having moral standing, what exactly is the extent of this status?
This book makes the case for the moral equality of animals. Their status may not be identical to that of normal adult human beings, but it is nonetheless equal, relevantly similar – in a surprisingly large number of instances. If sexism and racism are wrong, insofar as they involve the devaluation of certain individuals, on the mere grounds that they are not members of an elite sex or race, then speciesism is also wrong – insofar as it involves exclusion of other animals on the mere grounds that they are not human.
This book argues, further, that inclusion and protection of nonhuman individuals is best achieved by the progressive legislative recognition of their moral rights. The realization of animals’ rights and ‘animal emancipation’ can be seen to imply ‘human liberation’, the act of humans freeing themselves from the role of subjugators, from the dominant relationship they have with the rest of animate nature, and from dependence on animals at the expense of the latter’s lives, freedom, and well-being.