When it comes to animal rights theories, there are many approaches and beliefs. However, just two theories are given more importance than the others, and they are the utilitarian theory and the rights-based theory.
The utilitarian theory was put forth by Peter Singer, who was a professor at Princeton for bioethics. While the rights-based theory was put forth by Tom Regan, a professor at North Caroline State University, and Gary Francione, a professor at the Rutgers School of Law Newark.
The utilitarian theory believes in judging any act for right or wrong based on the consequences of the act, while the right-based theory judges the act immaterial of the consequences.
The utilitarian theory does not give any credit to rights of animals. However, it also says that when an act is done, it should ensure that the animals do not have to undergo unnecessary suffering, and at that point it should be give similar weightage as one would give a human. Basically this means that if an individual undergoes suffering immaterial whether he is a human or a non-human, then there is no need to give more importance to either one.
On the other hand, the rights-based theory believes that animals are alive, and there they have moral rights. These moral rights should not be disregarded. In fact, this school of thought believes that animals have moral as well as legal rights; and the legal right is that they should not be treated as property.
Another school of thought is abolitionism. Although this falls under the purview of rights-based theory, abolitionists mandate that no animal or non-human being has the right to be owned. Those who support this theory claim that in order to reduce the suffering of an animal, one has to do away with ownership.
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