If you are interested in animal rights philosophy, making a transition to veganism, or in becoming a member we encourage you to come to one of our events. You may also contact us for more information. Please use the tabs at the top of the page to learn more about us.
ARAN is dedicated to abolishing speciesism. We believe non-human animals have the right to freedom from human-caused suffering and the right to live in a natural environment. We seek to achieve this goal through advocacy, education and the promotion of veganism. We support a variety of tactics in the struggle for the liberation of all human and non-human animals.
If you have a question for ARAN please send it to: contact (at) aranebraska (dot) org
What is meant by “animal rights”, does this mean animals would have the same rights as people?
The terms “animal rights” or “animal liberation” represent the view that non-human animals should have certain rights much like people do. This does not mean that animals would have the same rights as people though. Obviously, certain rights, like the right to vote are of no concern to non-human animals and would therefore not apply to them. Animal rights advocates propose that animals should have basic rights, like the right to live in their natural environment and be free from suffering inflicted by humans. In the case of domesticated animals, which have no natural environment, the animal rights position is that these animals should be able to live out their natural lives in a sanctuary or as well cared for companions. Animal rights advocates are naturally concerned about the environment and preserving natural habitats for wildlife.
What is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle choice which intends to minimize the harm caused to animals. Most people who decide to become vegan start with implementing a vegan diet – a plant-based diet which excludes all animals products: meat, dairy, eggs, honey, etc. Often this is done in steps, for example some start with giving up certain types of meat, then all meat, then dairy, eggs and so on; some decide to eliminate all animal products all at once. Whatever way it is done, most people find that living a compassionate life brings joy to themselves as well as others – those they are sparing from untimely death and suffering. People who adopt a vegan diet usually go on to adopt a holistic vegan lifestyle by not purchasing anything, including non-food items, that contain animal products: leather, fur, wool, feathers, etc.; or products which involve animal exploitation, e.g. animal research, animal labor, etc.
What is speciesism?
Speciesism is a form of bigotry that discriminates against individuals because of the species that they are born into. As with other forms of prejudice (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.), specieism draws an arbitrary line between one group of individuals, who are considered equals, and another group of individuals, who are considered inferior. Racism draws an arbitrary line based on skin color, allowing one group of people to discriminate against another because of differences in physical appearance. Sexism draws an arbitrary line based on gender, allowing members of a certain sex to oppress other individuals based on their biological gender. Likewise, speciesism draws an arbitrary line between members of one species and members of another. It is a mindset that justifies discrimination and brutality aimed at others that are not like “us”.
In a speciesist society like ours, the most basic rights of nonhuman animals – such as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are routinely denied to serve the whims of the dominant species. For example, in order to enjoy the momentary pleasures of eating meat, humans imprison animals in tightly confined spaces; mutilate their bodies through forced branding, castration, tail docking, de-beaking, etc.; separate them from their loved ones; regulate their reproductive cycles through forced impregnation; and eventually steal their lives.
In order to see through the prejudices of speciesism, people need to ask themselves, “How would I want to be treated if I was this animal?” If you were a male calf, would you want your testicles severed from your body with a pocket knife? If you were a hen, would you want to live your entire life in a cage so small that you cannot extend your wings? If you were a pig, would you want your life to be stolen from you just because some human likes the way that your muscles taste?
What is sentience?
Sentience is the ability to feel or perceive – most importantly the ability to experience pain and pleasure. Animal rights philosophy is mostly concerned with sentient beings: generally believed to include all animals other than microorganisms, some invertebrates and insects. Animal rights advocates give the benefit of the doubt to all animals even if it is questionable whether they are capable of sentience. Organisms like bacteria, viruses, plants and fungi are incapable of sentience. Regardless of an organism’s ability to perceive they should be treated with respect and preserved, as every life-form is an important part of the eco-system.
Animals in the wild kill and eat other animals, why shouldn’t we?
The above statement is an example of what is called the “appeal to nature fallacy”. If one were to follow this line of logic one could justify all sorts of behaviors from assault to rape and quickly ethics or society based on the rule of law would dissolve. We shouldn’t look to nature as a guide for what is ethical but rather toward our ability to reason and feel empathy and compassion for other creatures who suffer like we do. Most would agree that it is wrong to cause suffering if there is no good reason to – because humans can obtain more than adequate nutrition from plants and because it is not necessary to use non-human animals for labor, entertainment, clothing, research, etc., there is no reason to continue to imprison, exploit and kill them as we currently do.
What about plants, don’t they feel pain too?
Apparently not. Plants lack brains or nervous systems of any kind, so they are unable to perceive or feel anything, although they do react biochemically in complex and fascinating ways to stimuli. In addition, from an evolutionary perspective it does not make sense for plants to feel pain, since they are unable to move away from a negative stimulus.
Even if it were the case that plants could feel pain or think, veganism would still make sense. The animal agriculture industry uses most of the world’s plant crops as animal feed, and less food energy is returned to the world in the animal’s carcasses than went into nourishing them. So, even in this scenario, the best way to protect all life would be to consume plants only. For more information see our blog entry on this subject here: http://aranebraska.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/are-plants-sentient-do-they-feel-pain/
Animals are not as intelligent as people, so they probably do not feel pain like we do. Shouldn’t we therefore have a right to use them in research?
There is no scientific link between intelligence and sentience (the ability to experience pain or pleasure). One need not be intelligent in order to feel pain. If intelligence were the criteria for selecting animals to research on we would have to include infant humans or developmentally/mentally disabled humans. Obviously no one with a conscience would advocate such a thing for we know even those who do not possess what is considered to be “normal” intelligence still feel pain – which proves that animals are not used because anyone in the relevant fields of the scientific community believes intelligence is linked to pain perception but rather because of widespread speciesism.
What is the difference between animal welfare and animal rights?
Animal welfare is a position which does not challenge the idea that animals are ours to use as we see fit whereas the animal rights position does. Animal rights advocates posit that animals have a right to freedom – that they are not ours to use, no matter how beneficial to humanity their use may be. In the case of animal research the animal welfare position is that animal research is acceptable but it must be approved by a committee and an attempt to mitigate suffering must be made if it will not affect the outcome of the tests (which it often does, so the use of pain relieving drugs is limited. Even when pain relieving drugs [most commonly narcotics] are used they often cause dysphoria [intense fear, disorientation and confusion] in non-human animals. In addition, physical pain mitigation does nothing to alleviate psychological suffering which results from confinement). Animal welfarists claim that the sacrifice of non-human animals for research is justifiable because it benefits a large number of humans and non-human animals; they do not advocate for research on humans even though research on humans would be more useful for extracting accurate information – the reason they do not hold the same position with human research is because they believe in human rights – proving that the animal welfare position is speciesist and illogical. Animal welfarists take a similar position on the use of animals for food, entertainment, etc. – that we may use animals for all of these things but we must make attempts to promote well-being – hot air rhetoric as profits are still put over animals, reforms are blocked or over-turned and conditions for animals on farms, in research facilities, and in circuses, rodeos, etc., remain abysmal.
Why do you advocate for “human liberation” as well.
We are advocates for all animals, including humans which are, after all, animals. For us human suffering and animal suffering are inter-related issues – both are social justice issues. The belief in the superiority of some over others leads people to believe that some humans are lesser beings and serves to justify all kinds of wrongs against them; the same attitude exists with respect to non-human animals. As a consequence of our ability to drastically manipulate and alter our environment humans have created quite a complicated mess. A great deal of human suffering is occurring throughout the world in addition to the suffering we create for non-human animals; millions of us starve, are killed in wars, or die from preventable diseases – this is not how the world has to be. Human liberation just like animal liberation means the liberation from systems which create or enable systematic violence, imprisonment, and oppression to occur.
How can I “go vegan”?
Check out our Go Vegan section. You can also ontact ARAN at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you out information on how to make the transition. You might also enjoy coming to one of our monthly vegan potlucks (see the “events” section) in order to get advice and ideas from other vegans.
How do I become an ARAN member?
Simply come to one of our monthly vegan potlucks, the meetings are immediately afterward; feel free to join in the meeting and take part in the democratic process. We only ask that you agree with our mission statement. If you give us your contact information we will keep you updated on events and meetings.