Rostrum’s Law Review | ISSN: 2321-3787

Perceiving Animals as ‘Right-Holders’: Understanding The Concept of ‘Animal Rights’ and ‘Animal Welfare’


Animals have been a crucial part of human lives since ancient times, having been used for several purposes like food, farming, entertainment, warfare, sports and more. Their importance in human lives has never been denied, but they have also not been given due acknowledgment of a status that is explicitly protective or beneficial to them. For centuries they have been treated as property or commodity and continue to be treated the same. However, there has been a constant philosophical tussle regarding animal rights and animal welfare, where two schools of thought strive to achieve protection of different degrees. While the former advocates complete non-usage of animals for any purpose whatsoever aiming at total non-exploitation, the latter permits and believes in using animals for human benefit but within ‘acceptable’ limits not causing gratuitous harm or suffering, aiming at prohibiting unnecessary exploitation. Animal right visionaries argue that not providing non-human animals with specific rights amounts to speciesism, under which animals will always continue to be treated as second-fiddle and will have no respite from exploitation. On the other hand, animal welfarists claim that there is a natural hierarchy between humans and animals, which cannot be completely done away with although animals should not be subjected to unnecessary harm. In recent times, animal law has gained tremendous momentum, where humans are seeking to increase protection for animals and prevent cruelty towards them. In this movement, where the goal is a better life for animals, animal rights and animal welfare are more often than not inter-changeably used by many. This paper is a humble attempt to analyze the various ethical theories and approaches in animal law jurisprudence, with an intention to bring out the difference between the two ideologies. The author will deliberate over whether non-human animals can be given ‘rights’ per se as human beings are and attempt to reach a commonplace for sustainable and best possible status for non-human animals.


“The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’”

  • Jeremy Bentham

This quote by English philosopher, jurist and social reformer Jeremy Bentham is by far the most quoted when debates related to animal rights or animal welfare crop up. From a layman’s perspective, one might have all the sympathy towards animals but at the same time might not be willing to equate them with humans. On the other hand, from a counter perspective, one might be willing to go to extremes in order to uplift status of animals at the cost of affecting human needs and desires. However, when the debate regarding position of animals is sparked, there are various philosophical conflicts that come to surface, whereby a concrete conclusion on their status seems difficult to arrive at. For several decades now this tussle has been in existence, and although at the end of most philosophies the desired output is a humanitarian approach towards animals, there has nevertheless been a bone of contention between many. While some argue that animals deserve the same moral status as humans asking for equating rights of humans and animals on the same pedestal, others argue that animals cannot be given the same moral status as humans and the latter has only a moral obligation or duty of care towards the former. Additionally, a third view states that animals are in fact subservient to humans and were placed on this earth to serve humans in making their lives better. Amongst all these conflicting contexts, what needs to be seen is how far animals have come and risen above these conflicting theories in terms of making their lives more valuable.


According to ancient religious and philosophical theories, animals do not warrant a direct moral concern.[1] One of the first philosophers to express about the position of animals was Greek philosopher Aristotle, who believed in the natural hierarchy of living beings, which he called the Great Chain of Being with plants at the bottom, moving through lesser animals, and on to humans at the pinnacle of creation, each becoming progressively more perfect in form.[2] He believed that souls are the perfect expression or realization of a natural body and are manifested in certain ‘faculties’ like nutrition, movement and reason corresponding to different stages of development. He further elaborates that these ‘faculties’ are mathematical figures where the highest is the human rectangular soul representing reason and rationality, within which is the square animal soul representing sensation and movement and ultimately the triangular plant soul within the square representing nutrition and growth. Therefore, a plant at the bottom of the hierarchy has only a vegetative soul, animals a vegetative and sensitive soul whereas humans at the top of the order have in addition to vegetative and sensitive, a rational soul. He structures the human soul into three tiers:[3]

  • Calculative – Intellectual Virtue
  • Appetitive – Moral Virtue
  • Vegetative – Nutritional Virtue

The vegetative tier is the most irrational element, atop which is the appetitive faculty responsible for emotions and desires, falling both in the rational and irrational category.[4] He considers the appetitive tier irrational because even non-human animals possess the desires which are stimulated by this faculty and at the same time categorizes it as rational because humans also undergo these desires but have the distinct ability to control them with the help of reason. It is this ability to control their own desires is what Aristotle considers as moral virtue and the focus of all morality.[5] He believed that owing to this grading on reasoning ability, the lesser reasonable beings existed to serve the ones with more reasoning ability.[6] Thus, plants existed for animals and animals for humans. Equating and applying this logic in the concept of slavery, he gave the example of barbaric tribes, who he thought were less rational than Greeks, existed in order to serve as slaves to the latter.[7] Even though this logic of slavery has been completely refuted in modern times, the logic of hierarchy when it comes to non-human animals still remains deep-rooted.

In furtherance of Aristotle’s views, Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas merges Aristotle’s philosophy with religious Christian theology and states that humans occupy a place in the universe between God and animals. Fairly similar to Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being theory, Aquinas states that God is above humans, who serve Him and since animals are below humans, it naturally flows that animals serve humans and exist to serve purpose to human lives. Aquinas believes that if a being cannot direct its own actions then others must do so; these sorts of beings are merely instruments, which do not exist for their own sake but for the sake of others.[8] Since animals lack this ability of directing their own actions, which is in fact directed by humans, they owe their existence to serving as instruments for human beings. He believes that the ultimate end of the universe is God, and only human beings are capable of gaining knowledge and understanding this end. Hence, all other beings that exist on this earth exist for the sake of human beings in order to facilitate them in achieving this final end of universe.[9]  Aquinas denied that we have any duty of charity to animals, adding that the only reason for us to avoid cruelty to them is the risk that cruel habits might carry over into our treatment of human beings.[10] Aquinas’ philosophy had such a great impact and influence on the Roman Catholic Church to the extent that even as late as in the middle of the nineteenth century, when permission was sought from Pope Pius IX for creating a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Rome, he right away refused it on the ground that granting permission to creating such a society would mean human beings have duties towards the lower creatures.[11]


German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, affirmed Aquinas’ view and propounded an influential moral theory according to which autonomy is a necessary property to be the kind of being whose interests are to count directly in the moral assessment of actions.[12] He stated that the moral status of animals was dependent on the notion of ‘will’ and although both humans and animals have desires, it is only the former who has the will to control and stand back from the desires, and thereafter decide which course of action to take. Hence, it can be deduced that since animals, unlike humans, do not have this ability it is implied that they do not have a will and therefore are not autonomous. This non-autonomous characteristic of animals deprives them of any exclusive moral status. Rather than simply relying on the fact that it is “natural” for rational and autonomous beings to use non-rational beings as they see fit, Kant instead provides an argument for the relevance of rationality and autonomy.[13] He believes that every human has an innate right to freedom, i.e. independence from being constrained by another’s choice, and irrespective of whether one is strong or weak, with or without legal rights, the weak would nevertheless be able to act on their own judgment.[14] This unique ability is not because of intelligence but because of rationality, which is the normative capacity to reflect on reasons for beliefs and actions.[15] He further argues that the intrinsic value or dignity that a being possesses finds its root in rationality or autonomy and since animals lack the same they do not have an intrinsic dignity or value.

However, Kant goes on to claim that human beings have a duty to treat animals humanely not because they owe it to animals but rather because they owe to themselves and fellow human beings.[16] It is an indirect duty towards animals, where the aim is actually to cultivate kindly and humane qualities in oneself. Kant thought that animals should not be hurt or killed unnecessarily, and if at all it needs to be done, should be painless and quick. He further adds that animals should not be used for experiments merely on the basis of speculations of attaining success, they should not be expected to work harder than what humans would do and when they work for us they should be treated with respect as members of the household, being entitled to a comfortable retirement when they can longer provide service.[17] He believed that non-human animals are proper objects of love, gratitude, and compassion, and failing to treat animals in accordance with these attitudes would be demeaning to humans.[18]


As opposed to Kant, who even though does not believe in moral status of animals but considers that they nevertheless deserve humane treatment, Rene Descartes associates animals with machines and believes that they have mere mechanical value. He believes that animals might only act as if they are conscious, but in reality they are not, which does not make it incumbent upon humans to take into account their interests or well-being. According to Descartes, all animal behavior can be explained in purely mechanical terms without reference to inner consciousness or awareness.[19] This mechanistic approach is not applicable to humans because humans are capable of more complex and novel behaviour, whereas animals act and react only in terms of responses to stimuli rather than using their inner conscious self. Secondly, human beings can express their thoughts in the form of speech whereas what animals do are mere utterances, which is a mechanically induced behaviour.[20]

Descartes propounded two independent arguments against reason and thought in animals:[21]

  1. Language-Test Argument – Under this he talks about the human ability to express occurring thoughts through declarative speech, which he believes to be independent of stimuli and action. Thus, irrespective of one’s immediate perceptual environment and actions or needs, thoughts can nevertheless occur and declarative speech can be produced. The absence of speech in animals is indicative of them being without any occurrence of thoughts. Although animals produce cries, sounds, calls or songs (like in parrots, magpies), it would not amount to declarative speech, where words or signs are put together to declare one’s thoughts to another. He further reasoned that this inability was not due to presence or absence of speech organs, comparing the situation with humans having verbal and hearing impairment, who despite non-functioning of necessary speech organs devise a method to declare their thoughts. He wraps the entire argument to conclude that all modes of consciousness depends upon the existence of thought and since animals lack thought, they are devoid of consciousness and hence are mere mindless machines.

This argument has been criticized by few on the grounds that the inability of speech is not due to absence of thought but rather due to the incapacity of producing and understanding potentially infinite number of expressions from a finite array of expressions. Moreover, declarative speech is not the only criterion for judging presence of thoughts, other behaviour like insight learning could also be equally indicative of occurrence of thoughts in animals.

  1. Action-Test Argument – While in the above argument he intended to prove lack of thought, in this he argues the lack of reason in animals, whereby they can apply or act on general principles to different open-ended situations. He says that animals do follow certain general principles, however they lack the ability to act on reason and apply or transfer the knowledge of these general principles to new or novel circumstances, which may arise before them.

Although some philosophers agree to Descartes’ view of lack of reason, critics of this argument have pointed out that some animals do have the ability to transfer their knowledge and apply it to different situations, whereas others argue that it cannot be said that animals have zero reasoning and intelligence rather their intelligence and reasoning is domain specific.

This notion about non-human animals finds its place in Descartes’ most popular philosophy of ‘mind-body dualism’, where he argues that mental entities and physical entities are completely different from one another and it is possible for one to exist without the other.[22] Although all humans are similar in physical entities, they are not identical rather they are identical in souls or the mental entity, which constitutes their consciousness. The complexity in behaviour in humans can be explained through this mental substance, whereas the same need not be done or is not required in case of animals. [23]

This Descartes’ theory of complete lack of ‘thought and reason’ was refuted by Scottish philosopher David Hume, who argued on a test of analogy that since animals and humans are closely associated in behaviour, which in humans is a result of well-knitted ideas/thoughts in the mind; likewise, it can be deduced that animals also behave in similar manner as a result of forming similar association of ideas in their minds.[24] Contradicting this argument, supporters of Cartesian theory state that merely because humans and animals are close to each other on the scale of evolution does not necessarily render the latter as conscious beings. All human experiences are conscious experience owing to presence of higher order of thoughts, as opposed to animals who do not have the same and therefore it cannot be substantiated that they are conscious beings.


‘Greatest happiness of the greatest number’ – this essentially sums up the entire philosophy on which utilitarianism rides. Utilitarianism, in its purest form, means that an action is better than another to the extent to which it leads to a greater balance of happiness over unhappiness.[25] Thus, the aggregate well-being or happiness of all involved in a particular situation is what should be kept in mind. Jeremy Bentham, the founding father of modern utilitarianism, was the first to expressly include the interest of animals in ethics. He brought about a change in perspective and attitude towards animals and ruptured the philosophy that animals are inferior beings and humans, on account of being rational beings, can subject them to any treatment they like.

Bentham argues that the sentience of a living being is relevant consideration, and keeping pain and pleasure as the defining factors there should not be any dichotomy between humans and non-human animals. According to utilitarianism, the wellbeing of every individual counts and if humans in their moral decisions do not take into account the positive and negative experiences of others, then the sum total of happiness is affected.[26] Hence, in order to achieve maximum happiness of maximum number, every bit of happiness and suffering must be taken into consideration, including that of non-human animals.[27]

Bentham wrote:[28]

“The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? Nor can they talk? But, can they suffer?”

He emphasized on the capacity of a being to suffer as the indispensable quality, which should be the benchmark in order to determine how non-human animals should be treated or to give them ‘equal consideration’. If rationality was the only criterion to determine how other animals should be treated then that would also essentially leave out many humans, like infants and mentally challenged, from the purview of humane treatment.[29] If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration, irrespective of the nature of the being because the principle of equality manifests the suffering of one being shall be considered equally to the suffering of another being.[30]

Bentham’s utilitarianism was believed to be more hedonistic and premised on consequentialism, where the morally right action would be one with the best overall consequences.[31] Hence, classic utilitarianism or act-utilitarianism theorists believe in maximizing the happiness in the outcome of acts. An individual’s right, whether humans or animals, cannot override the overall promotion of utility.[32] Thus, the use on non-human animals would be acceptable if the happiness their exploitation causes is greater than the harm that is caused to them; in situations where happiness can be maximized by causing harm or suffering to a few sentient beings, irrespective of the nature of the being, doing so would be justified.

On the other hand, preference utilitarian thinkers focus on maximizing preferences or interests rather than happiness or pleasure.[33] Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, known as one of the founders of modern animal rights movement, is credited with bringing a revolution in the world of animal rights and animal welfare. He builds on Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy to propose the logic of ‘equal consideration of interests’. He describes the principle as “The essence of the Principle of Equal Consideration of Interests is that we give equal weight in our moral deliberations to the like interests of all those affected by our actions”.[34]

He states that every living being has an interest in happiness and in not suffering, hence to consider the interest of only humans and showing complete disregard to that of non-human animals is discriminatory. If the interests of animals can be ignored, then based on the same reasoning the interest of certain category of human beings should also ideally be ignored, however, it is not done so. Enumerating on Bentham’s sentience theory, Singer argues that all the external signs and behavioural patterns, which are indicative of pain or suffering, are similar in humans and other species, especially mammals and birds, who are considered more closely related to human beings.[35] He further argues that the nervous system and physiological responses in animals and humans are alike, especially in animals of higher order like mammals; therefore, there should be no reason to concede mind to humans and deny it to animals because both species have the capacity to feel pain.[36] Refuting the argument that attributes consciousness in beings to language and verbal ability, Singer says that language or verbal communication might be necessary to express thoughts at some level, but the ability to feel pain is more primitive and is independent of language. If language was crucial then human infants and young children, should also be allowed to suffer. Singer puts forth the theory of ‘Marginal Cases’, where he compares animals to marginal humans such as infants, senile, severely cognitively disabled and the like, and argues that if one is justified in denying direct moral status to animals, then the same should also be denied to such marginal humans. He reiterates that there are no good reasons, scientific or philosophical, for denying that animals feel pain and if it cannot be doubted that other humans feel pain, then one should not doubt that other animals do so too.[37]

It would be arbitrary to limit sentience within the boundaries of intelligence and rationality because even in the absence of these characteristics, sentience still exists. Deliberating over the issue, Singer elucidates on the concept of speciesism, equating it with racism and sexism, where in case of clash of interests between species dominance or preference is given to members of own species. It cannot simply be stated that the pain felt by one species deserves more importance than that felt by the other. However, he agrees, that it is not about equating a human cancer victim to a non-human cancer victim, and inarguably the former undergoes greater ordeal.[38] It means that due care should be taken when comparing interests of different species and in situations where member of one species is likely to suffer more than the other, the principle of equal consideration of interest should be applied in order to prioritize to relieve the greater suffering.[39] Animals and humans undoubtedly differ from each other in a lot of ways, but to be non-speciesist would mean to give equal consideration if not equal status. For example, if it were to be decided to conduct scientific experiments either on animals or on adult human beings, who were to be randomly kidnapped from public places, members of the former species would undergo pain only during the experiments while members of the latter species would additionally face terror, fear and dreadful anticipation of being kidnapped and being experimented upon.[40] In this case, if at all experiments need to be conducted, preference should be given to experiments on animals rather than on humans by giving equal consideration to the suffering that both the species would undergo – this would be a non-speciesist approach.

Critics of this approach point out that it is impossible to compare the sufferings of different species and hence applying the principle of equality when there is clash of interests between humans and non-humans makes no sense. However, applying Singer’s theory would essentially mean that even if humans prevent or refrain from inflicting suffering or pain on animals to the extent that their own interests are not affected or harmed, like the interests of animals are harmed in any case, there would nevertheless be far-reaching changes in the attitude towards animals and in the way that they are treated. The shift in approach from complete disregard to animals to treating them with fair amount of dignity and non-suffering would then be achievable.


As opposed to Singer’s welfarist approach, American philosopher Tom Regan promotes not for additional protection under utilitarianism, rather for a complete radical approach of animal rights. Regan argues that animals do not have an indirect moral status or unequal status as compared to human beings but rather deserve the same moral status as humans.[41] In his famous work, ‘The Case for Animal Rights’, Regan explains the concept of ‘subject-of-a-life’ as the basis of inherent value, stating that being alive is not the only criterion for considering an individual of having inherent value; had that been the case then one would owe direct moral duties to everything that was alive including blades of grass and potatoes.[42] On the other hand, ‘subject-of-a-life’ means more than merely being alive and more than merely being conscious.[43] Elucidating further, “individuals are subject-of-a-life if they have beliefs and desires; perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; an emotional life together with feelings of pleasure and pain; preference- and welfare- interests; the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals; a psychophysical identity over time; and an individual welfare in the sense that their experiential life fares well or ill for them, logically independently of their utility for others and logically independently of their being the object of anyone else’s interests. Those who satisfy the subject-of-a-life criterion themselves have a distinctive kind of value – inherent value – and are not to be viewed or treated as mere receptacles”.[44] Hence, one either is a subject-of-a-life or is not – and all those who are, are so equally.

Regan puts forth the concept of ‘moral agents’ and ‘moral patients’ – where moral agents are those who are capable of possessing multiple sophisticated abilities, including the ability to determine what is morally right or wrong, what should or should not be done on moral grounds; hence, they are or should be held accountable for their actions. On the contrary, moral patients are those who lack these prerequisites that enables behaviour control or the ability to articulate or choose from a variety of actions, which would be morally right or wrong to do. Therefore, on the premise that moral patients do not have the understanding of what is wrong or right, they cannot be held accountable for their wrong actions because only moral agents can do what is wrong. Human infants, young children, and mentally deranged or enfeebled of all ages are paradigm cases of human moral patients.[45] Thus, the subject-of-a-life criterion is equally relevant for moral agents and moral patients, attributing inherent value to both.

Regan further provides the following principles to justify his stand of according moral status to animals in the form of animal rights:[46]

  • Principle of Respect – According to this principle, all individuals possessing inherent value must be treated in ways that respect that inherent value; it does not just mean treating them as individuals having inherent value but rather respecting their value.
  • Principle of Comparable Harm – Harms are of two kinds, one which causes inflictions and the other deprivations. While the former diminishes the quality of life of an individual affecting its overall welfare, the latter denies opportunities for doing what will bring satisfaction despite the individual’s interest to do so. Two harms can be compared when they diminish equally from an individual’s welfare or from the welfare of two or more individuals; death being a comparable harm.
  • The Minimize Overriding Principle – This principle, also known as the miniride principle, states “Special considerations aside, when we must choose between overriding the rights of many who are innocent or the rights of few who are innocent, and when each affected individual will be harmed in a prima facie comparable way, then we ought to choose to override the rights of the few in preference to overriding the rights of the many”. Since, all moral agents and moral patients have a direct duty owed towards them of not being harmed and an equally valid claim towards the same, consequentially it means that both have an equal prima facie right against being harmed. When the question of probable harm arises, because the right is equal, no one individual’s right can be considered to be above that of another.
  • The Worse-off Principle – Since, the above miniride principle can be applicable only while preventing comparable harms, to complement it the worse-off principle was propounded, which states “Special considerations aside, when we must decide to override the rights of the many or the rights of the few who are innocent, and when the harm faced by the few would make them worse-off than any of the many would be if any other option were chosen, then we ought to override the rights of the many”.

Therefore, Regan demands complete abolition, dissolution and elimination of practices that utilize animals in any way whatsoever. He does not believe in the welfarist approach that professes against animal suffering and agrees that animals should not be harmed or undergo pain yet allow those practices or industries to continue.[47] The fundamental problem lies in viewing animals as resources, for the benefit and use of humans, and once this notion becomes acceptable there is only so much that one would do to minimize or even take into account their harm or happiness.[48] Although Regan also relies on the argument of marginal cases, but he dissents from the utilitarian view, which gives preference to the individual’s interest rather than the individual whose interests are being considered, and patrons for complete rights and moral status for animals.

One of the main critics of this theory, Carl Cohen, argues against animal rights stating that the concept of rights in itself is ‘essentially human’ and cannot be applied to animals, and merely because animals are sentient and share traits with humans does not render them to an equal moral status as humans.[49] He agrees that humans should not inflict gratuitous harm or suffering on animals but that does not mean complete abstinence from using animals for all purposes. Furthermore, it also has practical implications, like economic and scientific consequences.[50]


India has since long adopted a welfare approach towards animals, and the primary legislation dealing with cruelty to animals, i.e. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is in fact a welfare legislation, which expressly in its statement of objects and reasons mentions ‘promoting measures of animal welfare’ and ‘prevention of infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals’. Even the new bill pending before the Parliament since 2011, the Animal Welfare Bill, in its nomenclature itself uses the term ‘welfare’. Despite legislative measures, the ground reality remains contemptible. However, in the year 2014 with the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v A. Nagaraja[51], a petition against the ‘Jallikattu’ or bull-taming sport in Tamil Nadu, the apex court of the country along with reiterating the importance of existing welfare provisions also expressly recognized ‘rights’ of animals. The court held that “all living creatures have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being…that animals have also got intrinsic worth and value.”[52] Furthermore, the bench held that the statutory provisions given in Section 3 and Section 11of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, where the former casts duty upon the persons in charge of animals to ensure their well-being and the latter a beneficial penal provision, essentially give corresponding rights to animals and should be treated to be of the same effect as Part III of the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights to citizens of the country. Condemning the idea of speciesism and reasserting the internationally recognized “Five Freedoms”, the apex court further expressed that Articles 51A(g) and (h) of the Indian Constitution, fundamental duties dictating compassion and humanism are the magna carta of animal rights and the rights and freedoms of animals have to be read along with these articles. What is indeed worth applauding is how the court extended the scope of Article 21 to bring within its purview animals, expanding the definition of ‘life’ to include animal life as well; “life means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity”.[53] Additionally, the court explicitly recognized certain rights of animals like, “right to live in a healthy and clean atmosphere and right to get protection from human beings against inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering; right to get food and shelter; right to dignity and fair treatment; rights against human beings not to be tortured”.[54]

This approach of the Supreme Court evidently showcases the growing importance of animal rights and animal welfare, at the same time insinuating the fact that they have not placed both the concepts in exclusive water-tight compartments rather have attempted at a commonplace where the ultimate well-being of animals is to be considered supreme.


Walking through all the theories, whether advocating for a welfare status or a complete radical approach of rights for animals, the bottom line remains achieving a best possible status of animals. While only a few theories are entirely insensitive towards animals, most philosophies, based on various reasoning and arguments, ultimately arrive at a conclusion that asserts the well-being of animals. A welfare approach has been widely adopted across the globe, which seems like a more plausible route to attain the wellbeing of animals because one cannot turn away from the reality that human beings and animals are inter-dependent on each other due to various reasons. An abolitionist approach towards use of animals could have repercussions affecting economies, trade, scientific development and more. The principle of not inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering and implementing the internationally recognized five freedoms, should act as the guiding force to uplift the status of animals from being used as mere resources or being treated as per human whims and fancies to a status where their interests, pain and happiness are given equal consideration. Rather than drawing a line in between demarcating welfare and rights into distinct black and white, one should aim at making the best of the grey areas in between, so that a balance can be accomplished keeping the interests on animals and humans on an equal pedestal.

This Article is written by Sohini Mahapatra, Research Associate-cum-Teaching Assistant, National Law University Odisha, Cuttack. This article is an invited manuscript for the current issue.


[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Animals and Ethics, available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/anim-eth/ (Last visited on August 16, 2016) (‘Animals and Ethics’).

[2] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, History of Evolution, available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/evolutio/ (Last visited on August 16, 2016).

[3]Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Aristotle (384—322 B.C.E.), available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/#H6 (Last visited on August 16, 2016).



[6] Peter Singer, Ethics and the New Animal Liberation Movement, 1985, available at https://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/singer01.htm (Last visited on August 16, 2016).

[7] Id.

[8] Animals and Ethics, supra note 1.

[9] Id.

[10]Peter Singer, Animals, 1995, available at https://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1995—-04.htm (Last visited on August 16, 2016).

[11] Id.

[12] Animals and Ethics, supra note 1.

[13] Id.

[14] Christine M. Korsgaard, A Kantian Case for Animal Rights, 2012, available at https://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~korsgaar/CMK.Animal.Rights.pdf (Last visited on August 17, 2016).

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Animals and Ethics, supra note 1.

[20] Id.

[21] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Animal Minds, available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/ani-mind/ (Last visited on August 17, 2016) (‘Animal Minds’).

[22] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Rene Descartes: The Mind Body Distinction, available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/descmind/ (Last visited on August 17, 2016).

[23] Animals and Ethics, supra note 1.

[24] Animal Minds, supra note 21.

[25] Utilitarianism, available at https://www.utilitarianism.net/ (Last visited on August 17, 2016).

[26] Animal Ethics, Utilitarianism, available at https://www.animal-ethics.org/utilitarianism/ (Last visited on August 20, 2016).

[27] Id.

[28] Peter Singer, Equality for Animals?,1979, available at https://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1979—-.htm (last visited on August 20, 2016).

[29] Oriol Caudevilla Parellada, Jeremy Bentham, A Pioneer, available at https://www.derechoanimal.info/images/pdf/Jeremy-Bentham.pdf (Last visited on August 20, 2016).

[30] Singer, supra note 28.

[31] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Consequentialism, available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/conseque/ (Last visited on August 20, 2016).

[32] Nonhuman Animal Ethics – Animal Ethics and Philosophy, Utilitarianism and Animals, available at https://nonhumananimalethics.wordpress.com/about/ (Last visited on August 20, 2016).

[33] Id.

[34] Animals and Ethics, supra note 1.

[35] Peter Singer, Do Animals Feel Pain?, 1990, available at https://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/singer03.htm (Last visited on August 20, 2016).

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Singer, supra note 28.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.

[41] Animals and Ethics, supra note 1.

[42]Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, available at https://puffin.creighton.edu/PHIL/Stephens/Honors%20Courses/HRS318/Regan~case%20for%20animal%20rights%20[abr].pdf (Last visited on August 21, 2016).


[44] Id.



[47] Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, available at https://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-m/regan03.pdf (Last visited on August 21, 2016).

[48] Id.

[49] Animal Rights, The Animal Rights Debate, 2011, available at https://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=e091785646f639f92af0616ad5a2c5ca&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ1529600102&u=gotitans&zid=6523f9ba22a6b0ca8371921748157331 (Last visited on August 21, 2016).

[50] Id.

[51] Animal Welfare Board of India v A. Nagaraja, (2014) 7 SCC 547.

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] Id.

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