An excellent introduction to animal rights would be to watch this short video which compares the fundamental differences between animal welfarism and animal rights.
Animal rights in a nutshell is the belief that all animals (which includes human beings) should not be abused, enslaved, tortured, murdered or otherwise cruelly treated.
We do not believe that the earth exists for the benefit of our species, or that we are more important than other life forms. Each individual is of worth and exists for their own benefit regardless of species, gender, race or other discernable characteristic.
In extreme cases when lives are threatened it may occasionally be necessary to use force to protect self and other innocent victims from attacks and oppression. However we believe that there is no excuse for the systematic violence we are witnessing which kills and maims innocent creatures in their billions for fashion, profit, food, cheap labour, amusement, research, oil or any of the other myriad of so called cop outs used to defend what are no less than atrocities inflicted for personal gain as opposed to survival.
Amongst these innocent creatures are human men, women and children, slavery still exists affecting millions as does racism, the subjugation of women, the persecution of gay people, the suppression of religious and political beliefs, testing products on vulnerable populations by some drug companies ad infinitum, we utterly condemn human rights abuses and believe that the disgusting way humans behave towards one another is one of the many examples of humans NOT being superior to other animals.
One example of abuse of humans in medical research is J Marion Sims founder of the Women’s hospital in New York in the nineteenth century. This monster experimented on countless poor women with 2 of them, Mary Smith,(an Irish woman) and Anarcha, (a black slave) suffering 30 “operations”. Even so this man’s portrait is still exhibited in the corridors of some medical schools (Mary Daly, Gyn/ecology, the metaethics of radical feminism, 1978, the Women’s Press, London).
Other animals are not machines, they have like us evolved over millions of years to have the capacity to feel emotion, to suffer, to have a sense of humour and to enjoy life and therefore we oppose their oppression just as we oppose atrocities carried out against fellow humans. Avoiding involvement in the abuse of animals as far as is practicable is what we are aiming for which is why animal rights people are vegan and avoid all products made from animals including meat, eggs, wool, leather, and wherever possible anything tested on animals. The overriding principle driving all activists is compassion for all living beings.
The following books explain in greater detail why people campaign for animal rights.
Gary L. Francione, Rain without Thunder – The Abolitionist approach to animal rights.
Stephen Best, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the liberation of animals, 2004, Lantern Books, New York.
Andree Collard and Joyce Contrucci, Rape of the Wild, man’s violence against animals and the Earth, 1988, the Women’s Press, London
Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy, When elephants weep, the emotional lives of animals, 1996, Vintage, London.
Jon Wynne-Tyson, The extended circle, an anthology of humane thought, 1986, Cardinal.
Marjorie Spiegel, The dreaded comparison, human and animal slavery, 1988, heretic books.