1. The Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights – Principle One

Abolitionists maintain that all sentient beings, human or nonhuman, have one right—the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.


Animals are classified as property and are used exclusively as resources for humans. Although we claim to regard animals as having moral value and to not be just things, their status as property means that they have no moral value; they have only economic value. We recognize that treating humans as property is inconsistent with recognizing humans as members of the moral community. We accept as a fundamental moral principle that all humans, irrespective of their particular characteristics, must be accorded the basic moral right not to be property. On this principle rests the universal condemnation of human slavery. The property status of animals means that animals are considered to be things, irrespective of what we say to the contrary. There is no way to distinguish humans from nonhumans that can justify withholding from all sentient nonhumans the same right that we accord to all humans. We need to recognize that all sentient beings are equal for the purpose of not being used exclusively as human resources. The Abolitionist Approach maintains that all animal use—however supposedly “humane”—is morally unjustified.