Animal rights and wrongs

July 5, 1996

While I would agree with the general thrust of Roger Scruton's article that assigning rights to animals is a nonsense, I cannot agree with the acceptance of human rights that he uses as the basis for his argument.

The "moral community" he describes may be a convenient model for distinguishing between human and non-human relationships, but I would argue that moral obligations arising within culturally specific human communities are not conceptually the same as those associated with rights.

The former may be said to shape the social framework, whereas the latter are firmly rooted in political structures.

Rights must be conferred, through clear and specific references within the political system.

They do not accrue to human beings just by virtue of being human, because people live in political communities, not just in the moral ones described by Dr Scruton.

These political communities ensure that very few people throughout the world have a claim to human rights. Animals, because they are not part of a polity, cannot occupy any ground within a rights debate.

Gordon Williams "The Cabin" Mill Lane Chichester

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