>The appeal to pain isn't reasonable because it would apply to non-self-aware creatures.
Then perhaps sapience is the criterion? I refuse to believe that it is a justifiable libertarian position to be complicit in someone beating the shit out of his dog, or setting his cat on fire, etc, essentially for the same reason that libertarians draw a line between voluntary and coercive forms of slavery.
>I understand that some humans consider some non-sapient creatures cute, and even anthropomorphize them.
Animal kinship goes a lot deeper than that for a lot of people. It is abundantly clear to anyone who bothers to look, that a number of animals are capable of demonstrating empathy, considerable learning ability, and of course, loyalty. You can argue this is instinctive behaviour, but by that same token, you would have to argue that humans are equally instinct-driven creatures. The capacity to reason doesn't enter into this particular issue.
>Although it may be therefore valuable for some persons to treat these animals and objects in a certain way, enshrining 'rights' for them in law is a much bigger step.
Again, I'm discussing the theoretical validity of animal rights, not necessarily legislature as such. Also, comparing animals with inanimate objects is a strawman, as I mentioned in my previous post.
If an organism can be proven beyond reasonable doubt to possess sapience (thereby implying a degree of agency) and the ability to feel pain (thereby implying that violence against it is either coercive or defensive, never passive), then such would suggest that they do, in fact, have grounds for being defended by the NAP.
>But wait! Animals hunt eachother all the time, often eating them alive!
That doesn't matter; we both agree that animals lack rationality on par with humans, and as such, they behave instinctually. But at the exact same time, the fact that some of the more-evolved animals possess human-like emotional potential implies we must treat them at least similarly to how one treats actual humans. Again, I'm not against things like egg-farming, animal-driven vehicles, shepherding, or even fishing (fish generally tend to lack sapience; dolphins, of course, are not fish, though sharks are, and might well be an exception here), but that's very different from animal cruelty.
The very FACT that some types of animal can display human-like behaviour implies that they have grounds for protection under the NAP, insofar as gratuitous coercive/sadistic violence is concerned.
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