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Although mostly considered to be a modern topic, philosophers such as Descartes and Kant and the philosophical theory of the social contractarians have expressed opinion in this matter.Rene Descartes held the belief that animals are no more than highly complex machines, therefore lacking all consciousness as well as the ability to feel pain, pleasure, etc.
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, first in the United Kingdom and later in other European states and North America, governments passed laws to protect animals from at least some forms of cruelty, such as whippings and beatings, and from being deprived of food and water.
The suit was brought by a group called the Nonhuman Rights Project, on behalf of two chimpanzees named Leo and Hercules.
This enlightened vision was a tremendous advance over earlier, more restricted views about who matters morally; yet it still excludes a far larger number of beings who can both enjoy life and suffer: nonhuman animals.
They, or at least those capable of feeling pain, which at a minimum includes all vertebrates, are also entitled to concern.
Pain is pain, irrespective of the species of the being that experiences it.
Concern for the welfare of animals is not a new idea.
In seventeenth-century Japan, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the so-called Dog Shogun, enacted various rules protecting animals, especially dogs.
The Hebrew Bible requires that the Sabbath be a day of rest for oxen, as well as for humans, and other texts command Jews to relieve the suffering of animals, even if they belong to an enemy.
This is from the philosophical argument for animal rights by Angus Taylor: "If we ascribe certain moral rights to humans on the basis of particular qualities such as the ability to suffer or the capacity for self-awareness, then we cannot deny those rights to non-humans who possess the same qualities.""If we ascribe certain moral rights to humans on the basis of particular qualities such as the ability to suffer or the capacity for self-awareness, then we cannot deny those rights to non-humans who possess the same qualities." The whole idea is not as far-fetched as one might think.
In Europe, several countries have taken up the cause of animal rights.