Questions of Morality
Q004 | July 20, 2015
Do animals have rights? Is it OK to ascribe rights to non-human beings?
(1) A policeman witnesses a car crash during a stormy night: a driver looses control of the wheel and his car jumps from a wooden county bridge into a fast river. The car ends up with the tires up and the roof in the water. In the car, besides the driver, there was a dog that now is injured and makes sounds of pain just like his owner. Both the man and dog are in the reach of the policeman, but this guy can carry only one being. Because the water flow is quite strong, one of the two will perish. Even if the policeman will move fast enough, he will not be able to save the second being. Who should the policeman save?
If we accept that animals have rights and that the animal rights are not a second level rights, it is difficult to say which option is morally acceptable. Such an extreme position is supported publicly by the activists of the Animal Rights Movement, but it seems there is a large consensus that the policeman should save the man and not the dog. Moreover, the current laws all around the world seem to sanction the policeman if he would do otherwise.
So, is it feasible to state that animals have rights instead of proclaiming that we have obligations towards them?