Guide to Animal Rights


[You can download and print a three-panel brochure PDF of this brochure. RPA provides free copies of the brochure on request.]

All that human beings do to and with other animals and their natural homes is animal abuse. Animal abuse has increased for more than 50,000 years. It has never been reduced. A political movement for equal rights of all animals is needed to reduce animal abuse and human misery and bring the American Revolution into the 21st century.

For more than 50,000 years, human beings have abused nonhuman animals in ever larger numbers, in ever more ways. There has never been a reduction in animal abuse. Since human misery is rooted in animal abuse – all that humans do to and with other animals and their natural homes – humans, too, suffer more all the time.

Human governance is based on all human beings’ innate equality and personhood, equal human rights, and efforts to ensure that rights are enforced. No such principles are established as to nonhuman animals. So fur, meat, trapping, fishing, hunting, experimenting, carriage horses, and other atrocities continue and grow despite long-term organized efforts against them. Humans’ ownership and breeding of billions of nonhuman animals keep them subject to cruelty and industrial abuse.

A political movement for equal rights of all animals is needed to begin to reduce animal abuse and improve the plight of humans beyond what the ongoing American Revolution can accomplish. Though widely called “animal rights,” efforts to protect nonhuman animals have not yet constituted a rights movement.

Creating an animal-rights movement requires understanding and promoting rights.

What Are Rights?

Equal human rights – rights that human beings struggle, fight, and die for – are a fundamental policy established in governing documents like the U.S. Constitution and implemented in law.

Equal rights monitored by public vigilance and political engagement and enforced by government enable human beings to lead fulfilling lives by limiting what government and other institutions can do to individual human beings. Examples are U.S. Constitution Amendments 1 to 10, 13 to 15, and 19.

Our species for thousands of years has operated as a de facto government over the rest of the living world, taking upon itself the authority to determine the quality of other animals’ lives without even the possibility of consent from the other animals. Equal rights of all animals are needed to constrain what human beings can do to and with other animals and their natural homes.

What Rights Are Not

In casual usage, “rights” sometimes erroneously refers to humane personal traits like compassion, empathy, respect for others, or conscience-based shopping choices. As constructive and good as such traits and practices are, they are not rights and do not protect or offer recourse as rights do. Nor can they lead to rights of rights-denied persons like nonhuman animals.

Prohibiting crimes such as murder, assault, robbery, or cruelty to animals does not establish any rights. Nor does abolishing an injustice like slavery, or eliminating industrial abuses of human beings or other animals.

Rights are phrased as rights, not as attitudes, prohibitions, taboos, consumer choices, spiritual practices, or other non-Constitutional matters. RPA’s Draft Bill To Establish Equal Rights of All Animals shows how rights of nonhuman animals can be articulated.

What Do Rights Accomplish? Aren’t Rights-Holders Often Abused?

Equal rights are crucial to the ability to lead a fulfilling life because government and other institutions can inflict immense harm if not constrained by enforceable limits on what they can do. The existence of rights alone does not ensure their intended protections. Rights are violated. But without rights, justice, wellbeing, and fulfillment are unlikely and fleeting. The plight of human beings without rights or whose rights are routinely violated because they are perceived as less than human confirms this.

Beyond protecting individual persons and enabling their voice in public affairs, equal rights contribute to a stable society by helping to prevent rebellion and chaos – as we see when invoking rights provides recourse against injustice or oppression.

Denial of nonhuman animals’ rights produces far worse consequences than rebellion: ecological disaster, ever more disease, and others as outlined in RPA’s brochure Human Misery: The Animal-Abuse Factor.

What Is a Rights Movement?

Rights movements mostly aim to implement and enforce human beings’ established rights, sometimes to establish new ones. The civil rights movement’s successes in passing the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts are a good example. The women’s rights movement’s success in passing Title IX is another. Some rights movements aim to establish rights not previously in the Constitution. Women’s suffrage is one.

When a particular group of persons altogether lacks rights under the Constitution, a rights movement on their behalf must aim to establish their needed rights. Nonhuman animals have no rights, so an animal-rights movement by definition must work to establish their equal rights.

What Is an Animal-Rights Movement?

When an animal-rights movement comes to exist – a movement for all animals’ equal rights based on their innate equality and personhood – some important gradual improvements to all animals’ experience can be expected: less abuse and suffering inflicted on nonhuman animals, less human misery from all sources, less moral injury endured by human beings from their part in animal-abuse culture, and partial recovery of the living world from thousands of years of abuse.

The current animal-advocacy paradigm – promoting compassion, fighting cruelty to animals, loving animals, promoting veganism – though good in themselves, cannot reduce animal abuse because they do not address its root causes: humanism, speciesism, carnism, pseudoscience, and other false, abuse-promoting beliefs and ideologies and the long-term momentum of animal-abuse policy, culture, and practice – in short, denial of all animals’ equal rights.

Help Bring the American Revolution into the 20th Century

Distinct from the War of Independence, the American Revolution continues in citizens’, authors’, scientists’ scholars’, artists’, advocates’, organizations’, and government’s endeavors to fully implement the Constitution and its stated principles: justice, liberty, equality, defense, tranquility, and the general welfare. Counterrevolutionaries such as conservatives, oligarchs, free-market and weapons fanatics, racists, misogynists, and fascists have enormous influence. The radical changes of the past 50,000 years – since animal abuse became routine and a source of status and humanist-extremist ideology – necessitate a radical movement for equal rights of all animals.

RPA’s campaigns, literature, website, blog, and presentations are designed to reduce animal abuse and undermine animal-abuse policy, culture, and practice by demanding that our institutions stop indoctrinating the public with false and harmful beliefs about human beings, other animals, and the living world; by promoting all animals’ innate equality and personhood; and by teaching all that promotes equal rights of all animals.

Contact RPA, explore this website, be a part of the Animal-Rights Conversation Corps – help build the animal-rights movement.

Read Up

Many enlightening sources provide knowledge and thought useful for promoting equal rights of all animals. The more we know, the more effective we can be. Consider, among others, …

  • RPA’s brochures Human Misery: The Animal-Abuse Factor and Animal-Knowing
  • Animal Rights page
  • RPA’s Animal-Rights Strategy Bulletin #1: “Lead the Way to Equal Rights of All Animals
  • RPA founder David Cantor’s essay “Beyond Humanism, Toward a New Animalism”
  • Man the Hunted by Donna Hart and Robert W. Sussman
  • A New Green History of the World by Clive Ponting
  • Paradise Found by Steve Nicholls
  • The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris
  • The Enemy of Nature by Joel Kovel
  • Created from Animals by James Rachels
  • Inventing Human Rights by Lynn Hunt
  • Rights from Wrongs by Alan Dershowitz
  • Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
  • In Our Own Best Interest by William F. Schulz
  • The History of Human Rights by Micheline R. Ishay
  • Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement by Sally G. McMillen

Join RPA

Your Responsible Policies for Animals membership donation of $25 or more, by mail or through our Support page, gives you RPA’s unique bumper sticker, newsletter, updates – and the knowledge that you are contributing to the needed change. Ill, indigent, or incarcerated – be a donation-free honorary RPA member on request.

Thank you for considering these thoughts. The situation is urgent. We at RPA hope you will act now.