The second half of the XX century saw a new approach to the problem of the relationship of man with animals. Previously, animal advocates have not raised the question of whether they have any moral duty to animals. The new animal rights movement emerged in the late 60s and early 70s. It proclaimed that animals have the same rights as any other creature on earth: to live, and to not suffer. Animal rights advocates argue that not exercising the moral right of animals is the same discrimination as the oppression of people of another sex or another race. Therefore, people do not deserve a special place in the moral community.
The independent value of a living being is determined not by its usefulness but by the ability to subjectively perceive its individual life and the degree of its well-being. People do not deprive the moral status of infants, mentally disabled people, and the elderly, from whom there is little benefit to society. Differences in the legal group of humans and animals also do not play a decisive role since legal norms are changeable. To ensure this, it is enough to recall that quite recently, the rights of Negroes were no different from the rights of livestock. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize the moral status of animals on an equal basis with humans.
It is of interest to dwell in more detail on the most prominent figure of the animal rights movement. Tom Regan, Ph.D., justifies animal rights from the standpoint of logic. In his book “The struggle for animal rights” (1987), he takes a firm position on this issue and argues that almost all human relationships with animals are exploitative. At the same time, animals have the right to meet their needs and realize their realistic goals; since animals have moral status, they also have rights. Moral rights of animals follow from recognizing the individual self-worth of animals, a value that does not depend on the benefits to humans.
On the contrary, Jan Narveson supports the lack of animal rights, which he confirms in the article “On the case of animal rights”. He claimed that animals are not conscious because they have no intelligence. Narveson says that animals do not use verbal expressions or signs to support the idea that animals lack consciousness. Thus, just as a clock can tell the time better than a human, animals can perform some tasks better than a human. According to Narveson, a dog, like a watch, is nothing more than a machine and, first of all, has no curiosity. This theory compares animals with a tool to meet human needs.
However, numerous proofs are proving the presence of intellectual activity in animals. In an animal, reactions to the environment proceed, as in humans, according to three types; indeed, these may be innate reflexes. Nevertheless, animals also have intellectual activity, processing information coming from outside and making independent decisions. The study of animal behavior has shown no gap between man and other living beings on earth. With the complexity of the organization of animals – from one species to another – their similarity to humans increases. And this once again confirms the groundlessness of discrimination of living beings by species and the validity of the bioethical approach to the relationship between humans and animals.