Public Law & Legal Theory
Do animals have rights? Almost everyone believes in animal rights, at least in some minimal sense; the real question is what that phrase actually means. By exploring that question, it is possible to give a clear sense of the lay of the land—to show the range of possible positions, and to explore what issues, of theory or fact, separate reasonable people. On reflection, the spotlight should be placed squarely on the issue of suffering and well-being. This position requires rejection of some of the most radical claims by animal rights advocates, especially those that stress the “autonomy” of animals, or that object to any human control and use of animals. But this position has radical implications of its own. It strongly suggests, for example, that there should be extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, in scientific experiments, and in agriculture. It also suggests that there is a strong argument, in principle, for bans on many current uses of animals.
Cass R. Sunstein, "The Rights of Animals: A Very Short Primer," University of Chicago Public Law & Legal Theory Working Paper, No. 30 (2002).