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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 95, Issue 1, Winter 2021

Paul A. Macdonald Jr.
Pages 95-116

Acknowledging Animal Rights: A Thomistic Perspective

In this article, I show how it is possible, working from a Thomistic perspective, to affirm the existence of animal rights. To start, I show how it is possible to ascribe indirect rights to animals—in particular, the indirect right to not be treated cruelly by us. Then, I show how it is possible to ascribe some direct rights to animals using the same reasoning that Aquinas offers in defending the claim that animals have indirect rights. Next, I draw on elements of Aquinas’s metaphysical worldview in order to buttress the claim that animals have direct rights. I then respond to an attempt to ground the ethical treatment of animals, but not direct rights for animals, in natural law. In conclusion, I affirm that it is permissible to use animals to further the human good so long as in doing so we respect the direct rights that they possess.

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