Animal activists believe that animals should be viewed as legal persons and not as property and that they should be afforded the same respect as humans viz. they should not be used as food, clothing, as research subjects or as a mode of entertainment. Animal rights aim to have animals viewed as legal persons and members of the moral community.
Treating an animal well while we exploit them, or before we kill and eat them is not acceptable since animal rights say that animals have a right to be free from human cruelty and exploitation just as humans possess this right. When animals are not given these rights just because they are not human it amounts to “speciesism.” Animal rights activists believe that the compassion we feel for our own kind should be extended to other animals too, who are capable of feeling pain, fear, happiness, loneliness and kinship. When one walks down this path it is no longer possible to support farming, vivisection, the use of animals in circuses or the keeping of animals in zoo.
Critics argue that animals, although live beings, are incapable of making moral choices and entering social contracts and hence cannot be awarded rights. Their argument being that only those with duties earn rights. They also believe that there is nothing wrong with using animals as other resources such as plants as long as one adopts a humane approach and avoids unnecessary suffering. Plants have life too and just because they do not have eyes that can emote like animals do, doesn’t make them less alive but to extend rights to the plant world as well would eventually mean that the human race would have to go hungry. So finally it does boil down to the fact that we are all part of a food chain and must play our roles in it to keep the planet functioning optimally.
Many animal rights groups are working very hard for the rights of our mute brethren, foremost among them being PETA and Friends of animals. These organizations rope in celebrities to do their ad campaigns as celebrities have more visibility and people relate to them and want to be like them. perhaps one day animals will be awarded their just rights.