To start a discussion like this, I would look back to the basics of where rights come from. Initially there is the law of nature: eat or be eaten. We Sapiens distinguished ourselves by banding together and using our minds to overcome larger adversaries. In doing so, the “mega” breeds of many species became extinct. Eventually, we developed advanced communication techniques: language, writing, recordkeeping, and numeric systems. Through shared ideas, like religion, it became capable for Sapiens to successfully interact in large groups to create societal structure. Around this time is when the first known recoded laws (Hammurabi) were forged.
While laws create a code that allows society to maintain its structure and rights protect against inequality, they are simply constructs that we, as a community, agree upon. Animals are not a part of these rights because they have no bearing on whether the community is maintained or crumbles. Still, we, as intelligent beings, have a duty to treat all life with respect. Indigenous peoples have a delicate, unique grasp on this subject. Following one’s nature in not allowing cruelty to intrude into action is necessary to enjoy a full life. Yet even the smartest of creatures live a primitive life, separate from that of humans.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are to be enjoyed by all living creatures, but there must be structure to a society. Sapiens must remain in a class completely separate from that of other species on the planet, otherwise confusion will be the byproduct. It is important to take the intelligence and quality of life animals have into consideration; if humans can better those lives than we should do so. But we mustn’t forget that there is a vast difference between what we have built and what anything else has built.
Human rights, narrowly defined, are fundamental liberties that humans enjoy by virtue of being humans. Nobody gives people rights since such liberties are innate and natural. Accordingly, not even the government can take away the liberties from individuals (Wiesel pg, 3). However, certain quarters have argued that such fundamental liberties should extend to apes and cetaceans. Concerning the above, apes and cetaceans should have rights and fundamental freedoms.
Even though apes have no rights, the government and international community should develop legal infrastructure and policies that extend apes’ rights. Such rights must not have to be similar to those that humans enjoy, but at least some essential freedom that protects them from certain treatment. Such rights and freedom need to include freedom from torture and cruel treatment. Notably, such freedom would protect the apes from the cruelty that Zoo owners subject the apes in the name of making money. If nobody gave humans the liberties they enjoy today, then it is only fair that such rights should naturally flow to the apes.
Moreover, the apes should enjoy rights that stop humans from separating them from their families and natural habitats. It is cruel to take such animals away from their natural environment, considering that they have the cognitive abilities to perceive and have emotions. Also, the government and international community should protect such animals from being caged for commercial reasons. People who want to watch wild animals should go to the national parks to see the apes rather than having private individuals mistreating apes in small cages that subject them to mental anguish.