Duties to Non-Human Animals


In reality, all humans owe a duty to the non-human animals for several reasons. For instance, the non-human animals have a right and do not deserve the torturous and agonizing death that some of them get exposed to, such as the hold traps. Notably, some non-human animals go through pain, suffering and deprivation, which eventually deny them the fundamental right to life. Indeed, this move might disallow them the right to live comfortably.

However, the perception has received criticisms from Cohen’s point of view, whose argument is that only the being that can or make proper claims deserves a right. Furthermore, since the non-human animals cannot respond to, or exercise moral claims, he believes that at no point, do they deserve a right. Therefore, the issue is debatable and the people may differ on various perspectives, depending on one’s understanding.

Convincing Argument

Regan argued that since the animals are only seen as a means to the human ends, they end up being surgically manipulated; some eaten, while others are exploited for monetary gain or sport. His argument is more convincing, considering the fact that the non-human beings also have a sense of life. Regan was categorical and stated that “Your duty is to do the act that will bring about the best balance of Satisfaction and frustration for everyone affected by the outcome” (Cohen & Regan, 2001).

Cohen also argued that the human’s morally regards the others more than the non-human animals. It is also possible that the non-human animals could have moral regards to their fellows than to human beings (Cohen & Regan, 2001). This could be attributed to the cordial co-existence among various species of wild animals, but not the human beings.

Rationale for the chosen Position

The rationale for favoring the position is that, the human fraternity owes a duty to the non-human animals, especially regarding utility of the animals. The manner, in which the humans relate or treat the non-human animals, is sometimes traumatizing (Cohen & Regan, 2001). It is critical to consider why someone would intend to gain from the animals if he/she does not care about their welfare? For sure, it is grossly irrational and unjustifiable to surgically manipulate, eat and exploit non-human animals for monetary gain or sport (Cahn, 2011). Indeed, this is not acceptable to the human beings who proclaim ethics and moral values of reasoning.

Certainly, the claim that non-human animals cannot respond to, or exercise moral claims does not give the freedom to subject them to unjust treatment (Cahn, 2011). Notably, as the human beings consider their life important, so do the non-human animals. This clarifies that the human beings should not disregard the importance of life to the non-human animals, thus they need all the necessary protection from undue treatment and probable termination of their life.

It does not auger well to merely expect financial or prestigious gain from the non-human animals whose welfare do not traumatize the person (Cahn, 2011). As much as the human beings do not deserve unfairness, the non-human animals too, should not be discriminated. In fact, the domestic and non-domestic roles of non-human animals should determine the mode of treatment that the human beings subject them to. Having this principle in mind, the human beings really have direct and indirect duties to the animals (Cahn, 2011).

Own Critical Comments

The other side of the debate, discrediting the rights of non-human animals, seems to lack the moral and ethical principles of decision making. In essence, implying that the non-human animals do not respond to, or exercise moral claims is an insensitive perception because such animals have their own ways of expressing their feelings and desires. Though such expressions might not be understood by many human beings, the non-human animals themselves, under the various groups do understand each other and respond appropriately to the call for urgency.

The other problem with the argument is that it claims rights cannot arise from non-human animals because they lack the capacity to make free moral judgment. This made the author to claim that such animals do not have right and can never have any. However, this position is controversial since each animal has some sense of morality. The only difference is that the term morality is relative and depends on one’s perception. What the human beings believe to be moral might not be considered moral to the non-human animals, and the vice versa occurs. Probably, this is an indication that the judgment of moral or immoral act, varies according to one or group’s perception and orientation, thus should not be used to apply to other groups or categories of animals.

Take an example of a lioness who would like to guard her children against predators, or a lion who intends to protect his territory. In fact, those non-human animals would do whatever they consider moral to protect either the young ones, or the territory respectively. Even if this would mean killing the assailant, the animals would do exactly that, and become really justified that they have fulfilled their moral obligation of protection of the cubes or territory for that matter. However, for the human being, this action would not justify a moral conduct and some would think that the only option is to kill the animal(s).

This becomes an antagonistic issue between an issue considered to be philosophical and the fact. In own perception, just as much as human beings set moral laws for themselves and others, the non-human animals also formulate the rules that govern their existence and relationship with others. In fact, there are certain things, which the non-human animals consider as trespass, and would do whatever it takes to prevent such from happening.

Therefore, they punish the trespassers within the moral parameters, which they have set. In most cases, trespassing into other non-human animals’ territories attracts a death penalty. For example, animals such as lions, leopards, crocodiles, and hippopotamus among others would kill the human trespassers, whom they consider as their enemy. Indeed, this does not mean that such actions are out of moral principles as this position is merely based on human perception.

In addition, as Cohen believed that the human being wants to be morally autonomous, it is apparent that the non-human animals would also like to remain morally autonomous within their environmental context. This is justified by Cohen’s response about committing animals to moral justice. In his response, he argued that even the human beings such as the brain-damaged, the senile and the comatose among others, who may not make ethical claims, deserve their right (Cohen & Regan, 2001). Therefore, it should equally apply to non-human animals, meaning that the latter also deserve the rights.


In summary, just as the human beings deserve the rights, the non human animas also deserve the rights, proper treatment and adequate care. In addition, life is very significant to all the animals and that the human beings owe a duty to the non-human animals. In this regard, the non-human animals should not be exploited for monetary gain or sport.


Cahn, S. M. (2011). Exploring Ethics: An Introductory Anthology, (2nd Ed). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cohen, C. & Regan, T. (2001). The Animal Rights Debate, (Philosophers Debate Contemporary Issues). New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

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