Law & Economics Working Papers
From the earliest times, animals were understood as object of human rights. That result did not depend on some limited understanding of their capabilities for cognition and sensation, but rather rested on the strong sense that without domestication human beings could not secure their own advancement. The modern claims for animal rights cannot therefore be justified by an appeal to some newer and deeper understanding of the subject, but must rest on the claim that what they share with human beings is more important than what separates them. Those common elements do justify some level of animal protection but does not justify the radical transformation of social institutions that would flow from the recognition, as Steven Wise has advocated, of the basic libertarian rights of freedom from human domination and exploitation.
Richard A. Epstein, "Animals as Objects, or Subjects, of Rights" (John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics Working Paper No. 171, 2002).