Anthropocentrism and animal rights

“Anthropocentrism, natural harmony, sentience and animal rights: are we allowed to use animals for our own purposes?”. An essay by Prof. Giuseppe Pulina addresses the crucial issues of contemporary animal rights activism.

Is it allowed to breed and sacrifice animals for our purposes? Do animals have rights? Are all animal species sentient beings? These fundamental issues emerge increasingly in the public debate under the pressure of strongly animalist impulses and as a logical consequence of a growing collective sensitivity towards respect for all living beings. Sensitivity can also become a political issue, as demonstrated by the recent amendment to the Italian Constitution. In fact, in the new reformulation of Article 9, in addition to protecting the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, and in the interests of future generations, the State is obliged to ensure forms of animal protection.

The issue is complex, and a strongly polarized debate can lead to extreme forms of struggle, as shown by some initiatives – fortunately sporadic – carried out by fringes of animalism. What is needed instead is a comparison, especially at the scientific level, because confusion about principles can generate emotional impulses and consequent wrong regulatory choices.

This is the direction of the recent scientific contribution of Giuseppe Pulina, Professor of the Department of Agriculture of the University of Sassari and president of Sustainable Meats, published in the n.13 of the scientific magazine “Animals” on “Anthropocentrism, natural harmony, sentience and animal rights: are we allowed to use animals for our own purposes?” (here, the full original paper, in English)

The scientist’s background, a full professor of Special Zootechnics and professor of Philosophy and research ethics is oriented to affirm the lawfulness of animal husbandry for human purposes, from the satisfaction of the primary need for food. Yet Pulina, applying the scientific method, in his essay wants to move away from the dichotomy “in favour – against” while expressing an opposite point of view to those who define animals (sentient beings) as holders of objective rights.

It is permissible to raise #animals for our purposes if they meet priority #HumanRights such as #food and #health, but it is also obligatory to respect our right to care and protect them. Click To Tweet

This is the essay’s starting point: the question of animals as sentient beings, an intrinsic quality that has also entered into the regulatory provisions of many countries but that, if not well defined in scientific terms, can lead to misunderstandings and wrong consequences.

For the author, deriving the recognition of the universal rights of animals from their sentient beings is a logical leap not allowed because recognizing an animal life free from fear, restriction, and suffering is not an animal, but a human right. Prof. Pulina is unafraid to go against the tide of mainstream thought the media conveys.

For this reason, at the outset, he introduces an epistemological premise proposing a “semantic cleansing”. The goal is to clear the discourse from ambiguous terms such as harmony, referring to nature, and sentience referring to animals, to affirm that there can be only one point of view, the anthropocentric one.

The study continues by presenting the thesis that it is impossible to attribute rights to animals but that the protection of their welfare is a human right, and that corresponds to the duty of states to enact laws in defence of animals.

In conclusion, it is permissible for the author to breed animals for our purposes if they respond to priority human rights (food and health). Still, respecting our right to care and protection is also mandatory.

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.