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Rights are the protection of interests. The most fundamental right is the prohibition against coercive exploitation: not to be treated as property, not to be caused pain and suffering. Who ought this basic right apply to? All and only humans? That does not really specify what it is that qualifies them. Being really smart? Being capable of language? These criteria would rule out a number of humans, and why are these criteria relevant to who is eligible for basic rights? All and only sentient beings have one fundamental interest in common: to avoid/escape pain and to continue living to experience pleasure. This includes all humans but it also includes a great many other animals. In the Western world, we believe strongly in liberty, rights, and justice. If we are to be just, we must admit that a great many animals are eligible for basic rights. Just as sexism, racism, and heterosexism are unjust (because sex, race and sexual orientation are irrelevant to the function of basic rights), so too is speciesism. I will argue in Animal Rights: Liberty and Justice for All that justice demands that all sentient beings, not just the ones who happen to be human, are eligible for basic rights, given all of the deeply held beliefs we have in individual liberty, rights, and justice.

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