HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 40 no. 2 (2011)

Human and Nonhuman Animals: Equal Rights or Duty of Respect?

Wilfried Vanhoutte

Discipline: Philosophy



Contemporary philosophy is said to focus on particular issues, rather than on comprehensive syntheses. The following contribution intends to join this trend by offering some reflections on the “animal rights” debate, which is to be situated within the wider context of environmental philosophy. While classical Western concepts of man were anthropocentric, recent cultural developments have triggered a rediscovery of Nature, especially of nonhuman animals, while focusing on their affiliations with us, humans. Appropriate relations with those animals require a respectful attitude on the human side, as if those animals had full moral and legal rights. But is this not an illusion? Can we talk about real “rights” for animals, or should we just remain aware of them having their own feelings and take care not to hurt them, unless for a “serious” cause? While taking note of the wide variety of animal species and habitats (a dog is not a fish, while pets are different from farm animals or animals in the wild), the answer to this question may have its bearings on one’s personal choices regarding food, clothing, entertainment, etc.