This class explores the fundamental principles that underlie theories of human rights and asks to what extent such principles also require rights for animals (and perhaps nature more generally). There is no firm consensus on the grounds of human rights – the UN Declaration on Human Rights famously avoided giving any particular defense of rights in the interest of generating consensus on the actual rights themselves. But different theories obviously produce different outcomes in cases where we disagree on who (or what) is deserving of rights and what the nature of those rights might be. We will assess the different theories of fundamental rights and see how they address the different situations of humans and non-humans.
We will also address some contemporary cases, including new situations (like human-animal hybrids) being brought into existence by biotechnology. This is a discussion-based seminar and considerable participation is expected. A final written project can take the form of a paper or a brief depending on the topic.