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Debating In The Classroom: Animal Rights

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Disclaimer: When engaging in debates, it is important to remember that most discussions are based on a variety of perspectives and opinions. Thus, it is important to bring to the table various views, arguments, and ideas to the discussion in order to further explore the complex issues at hand. This blog post is intended to provide some of these talking points, so that we may have a more productive and engaging debate and explore the various facets of the issue in question. It is important to note that these views do not necessarily represent the views of Be Monsterful Ltd or its staff, they are simply presented as topics of discussion. Furthermore, the arguments presented here should not be taken as facts, but rather as potential catalysts for further exploration and investigation. Ultimately, debates and conversations allow us to come to a greater understanding of the complex issues at hand, so it is important to have productive dialogue in order to fully explore all of the potential angles.


We have attempted to create arguments that will remain valid over time; however, the world is constantly evolving. Be wary of accepting everything you come across, especially if it is suspect or already known to be inaccurate. Legal systems and regulations often change quickly, so do your due diligence and research thoroughly.


This blog is designed to be international, but the writers are based on the values and systems of British society, which may not necessarily be applicable to the jurisdiction in which you are debating. It is important to take into consideration local customs or differences in values when interpreting the arguments presented in this blog, as the debate within your own country may have its own intricacies which are not reflected in the broader global debate.

Before evaluating our blog for ideas, try to brainstorm your own arguments. The points offered in our blog might not be comprehensive or thought-provoking, so it's best to not rely on it too heavily. Practising generating your own points is important, as the motion announced during debates may not be listed in our blog.


Does each argument have its own merits when standing alone, or can it only be used as a counter to the opposing side's argument? Where key points clash, they have been directly arranged against each other. However, some points may be used to rebut an argument rather than giving their own positive case.


In the classroom


Teachers should adjust the format of their lessons to best fit the material. When creating debates, they should ensure that each side has the same amount of time to present their viewpoint and the same number of participants.

The class can be actively involved in the debate through the roles of chairperson and timekeeper, floor debate, and audience voting. Additionally, students can be given peer assessment sheets to evaluate the debate as it happens or can be assigned as journalists to write a summary of the debate for homework.


Teachers have the freedom to choose any topic when working with younger learners or in language classrooms, as the main purpose is to enhance speaking and listening abilities. Debates can be a powerful teaching instrument to impart knowledge and comprehension in other areas of the curriculum.


The teacher must determine the ratio of weight given to the student's debating skills versus their knowledge and understanding of the topic during the assessment of the debate.


Teachers may find it beneficial to use topics from our blog (or ones they generate) to conduct ‘hat’ debates in the classroom. To do this, teachers should write out the topics and place them in a hat, then randomly select two students. The chosen students should draw a topic and each speaks on the matter for a brief timeframe. Alternatively, teachers can have the students practice ‘rebuttal tennis’, where they take turns providing rebuttals to each other. This activity is a great way to involve large numbers of students and can be used to introduce a new topic, review student learning, or just to engage students.


Animal Rights


Many debates about animal rights exist, such as those surrounding vegetarianism, animal testing for cosmetics or medicines, and laws against animal cruelty in bullfighting. At the core of these debates is the question: what rights, if any, do animals have? It's important to note that denying animal rights does not necessarily mean that unrestrained cruelty to animals is permissible; rather, it implies that animals do not possess a strong moral weight associated with rights. Defining exactly what rights involve can be challenging, so both sides should ensure that they are precise about what having certain rights would entail, instead of using the concept loosely.


Pros


It is inaccurate to claim that animals lack the capacity for complex emotions and thus should not receive rights to ensure their welfare, as they have the ability to form strong relationships and experience various emotions such as grief, joy, and love.


It is clear that rights do not only apply to those who actively contribute to society. Even those who cannot contribute, such as people with disabilities, young children, visiting foreigners, and people in comas, are still afforded certain rights and protections. Therefore, animals, who are also excluded from social life and incapable of upholding civic duties, should also be eligible for rights.

The granting of rights is motivated by the aim of safeguarding sentient creatures from cruel and unnecessary pain. Pain is a widely embraced negative experience that people strive to dodge. Animal pain and human pain have equal gravity. Notwithstanding, the capacity to feel pain varies in accordance with the nervous system of the sentient creature. It is feasible to grant rights compatibly with this understanding. To understand this, few individuals think that fish, seafood, mammals, and birds should all receive the same rights, owing to the difference in their nervous systems and the level of potential pain each one may experience. Rights can be conferred in relation to the level of potential pain and the rights required to guard against unnecessary pain.


Cons


A fundamental part of having a right is the freedom to make independent decisions which are then respected. We refer to 'free speech' as an example of this; we can decide what we wish to say, and cannot be compelled to express something else. Choices are essential for creating our own identities, as well as allowing us to control our lives. Animals do not have the capacity to make choices because they are instinct-driven and incapable of thoughtful introspection when it comes to living. Therefore, bestowing animals with rights would be futile.


Animals are not part of the social system by which people receive rights. Rights are a human concept reliant on mutual respect. Obtaining rights requires contributions such as taxes and voting, which animals do not participate in. Therefore, it would be misguided to assume that we should treat animals similarly to humans by granting them rights.


Many argue that what matters is not an animal's capacity to reason, but its ability to experience pain. Animals feel pain differently than humans; their nervous systems are less advanced, so their pain carries less weight. This reality is particularly important since the rights of animals are often sacrificed for some benefit to humans, such as testing medicines that can save lives. The pain caused by testing on animals is far less severe than the pain we strive to alleviate in human lives, making it "worth it". If giving animals rights prevents us from testing treatments, then we are not properly balancing harms and benefits.

Possible motions


A motion in a debate outcome is a proposal presented to the audience to be debated and voted on. It is made by the debaters and then voted on by the audience or judges of the debate. This is usually the final step in a debate, to decide the victor.


This House would abolish all legislation safeguarding animals.
This House believes that the concept of animal rights is illusory.
This House ensures animals have the same rights as humans.

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