The previous chapters have argued that human rights can and should be extended to animals. This final part advocates the recognition of animal rights as new human rights. Accepting animal rights as the next generation of (non)human rights would constitute a seismic shift and likely lead to the formation of a new (post-)human rights paradigm.Footnote 1 Based on the indivisibility and interdependence of human and animal rights, this chapter proposes One Rights as a novel, holistic human rights paradigm for the Anthropocene.

4.1 Synthesis: Naturalistic and Political Justifications of Human and Animal Rights

The philosophical landscape of human rights features a great diversity of naturalistic and political approaches that put forth different foundational and practical justifications—and highlight various facets and functions—of human rights. Naturalistic conceptions are primarily concerned with the conceptual nature of human rights, the natural qualities of their holders, and the individual goods that rights protect. By contrast, political conceptions are primarily interested not in what human rights are, but in what human rights do.Footnote 2 This functionalism adds a useful analytical layer for understanding and contextualizing the historicity, dynamism, and practical importance of human rights.

This book adopted a pluralistic justificatory approach to human and animal rights, reflective of their ‘heterogeneous conceptual pedigree’.Footnote 3 It reviewed a wide range of naturalistic and political conceptions of human rights with regard to the animal question. A cross-cutting theme running through nearly all approaches is the explicit or implicit humanist tenet that human rights are believed to be rights of humans. Naturalistic conceptions arrive at this foundational justificatory nexus between human rights and humanity through different philosophical avenues, each identifying some aspect of (unique or typical) human nature as the rights-grounding feature. While human rights may appear definitionally exclusive of animals from the outset, a closer look revealed nuances of exclusivity across the spectrum of naturalistic theories, which yields more or less space for fitting animals into the human rights framework.Footnote 4 This book distinguished two families of (exceptionalist and non-exceptionalist) naturalistic theories that differ in terms of their commitment or agnosticism towards the idea of human exceptionalism and, consequently, in terms of the programmatic or incidental nature of exclusivity. The first, more senior strand of naturalistic thinking is informed by old humanism and marked by a belief in human exceptionalism. The demarcation from and exclusion of animals is inscribed into the very fabric of exceptionalist accounts, because they rely on a conception of special human nature that stylizes human uniqueness. The second, more junior family of naturalistic theories expresses a new humanism that is indifferent to human exceptionalism. These non-exceptionalist accounts are only incidentally exclusive but potentially inclusive of—indeed conceptually necessarily open to—animals, because they rest on a more realist or materialist conception of typical human nature that is cognizant of humans’ animal nature and natural commonalities with other animals. Overall, the conceptual analysis has demonstrated that naturalistic theories of human rights are not homogenous in their exclusion of animals. Rather, exclusivity can be traced back to one particular strand of human rights theory that rests on an empirically unfounded belief in human exceptionalism, whereas a host of newer human rights conceptions are (perhaps) accidentally yet inherently inclusive of animals.

Political conceptions seek to emancipate human rights from human nature altogether, and instead give practical reasons for instituting human rights protections. This book has examined a range of practical reasons for extending human rights to animals, arguing that human rights are good for animals (the principled argument) and that animal rights are good for humans (the prudential argument). The prudential argument responds to the prevailing antagonistic intuition, which assumes that animal rights will be bad for human rights and subscribes to the (erroneous) belief that withholding rights from animals will serve to safeguard human rights. Whereas exceptionalist naturalistic accounts are conceptually invested in the ideology of human exceptionalism and in excluding animals, the antagonistic assumption reasserts human exceptionalism and exclusivity for practical reasons. Yet, as this book has argued, the antagonistic assumption is mistaken. In fact, the toxic ideology of human exceptionalism works to undermine rather than save human rights. Disrespecting animal rights is more likely to harm human rights, and respect for animal rights is more likely to benefit human rights. Accordingly, this book advanced a synergistic understanding of human and animal rights as mutually reinforcing and interdependent normative projects, for both socio-political and eco-prudential reasons. Humans and animals do not only share a similar human rights-generative experiential basis, but many forms of social injustice against humans and animals are further interconnected. Moreover, some of the gravest environmental human rights threats of our times are directly linked to our exploitation and extermination of animals. Integrating animal rights into the human rights mandate and protecting human and animal rights in tandem therefore appears to be the functionally better normative response to the human rights-relevant problems of discrimination, oppression, violence, dehumanization, as well as existential environmental and public health threats. While this book has placed much emphasis on the prudential (human-centric) argument, this is not to say that animal rights should be recognized purely or primarily for instrumental (anthropocentric or ecological) reasons. As the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court has recently reminded us, ‘animals should not be protected only from an ecosystemic perspective or with a view to the needs of human beings, but mainly from a perspective that focuses on their individuality and intrinsic value.’Footnote 5 Such is the naturalistic and justice-based case for animal rights: because and to the extent that nonhuman animals—as sentient, suffering, vulnerable, oppressed, exploited, and kindred beings—share the relevant human rights-generative features (be they natural qualities or experiences of social injustice), human and animal rights can be grounded in common justifications (be they naturalistic or political).

In conclusion, the in-depth analysis of naturalistic and political conceptions suggests that human rights and animal rights are not only conceptually related, but also practically interdependent, synergistic, and mutually beneficial. Notwithstanding their original humanism, human rights need not—indeed cannot and should not—be understood as an exclusive (human exceptionalist), but rather, as an inclusive (transspecies universalist) normative paradigm that is amenable to an extension across the species barrier. Indeed, a common theme emerging from the review of contemporary human rights philosophy is that the evolving notion of human rights implicitly yet increasingly moves towards the inclusion of animal rights. While animals may not as yet be on the radar of most human rights theorists, and not on the map of human rights law, the inner logic of human rights (both as regards the conceptual structure and political function) has an inherent potential to integrate and protect animals as well. The only hard exclusionary moment is found in old humanism of the exceptionalist and antagonistic variant, which is increasingly anachronistic and problematic with regard to its excluding and harmful effects not just on animals, but also on humans. Human rights proponents would be well-advised to dispense with human exceptionalism as their ideological basis and to take animal rights seriously, if not for principled then certainly for prudential reasons.

Consequently, this book concludes that human rights can and should be extended to animals, and that animal rights ought to be recognized as new human rights. But what would follow from the acceptance of animals as the newest members of the human rights family?

4.2 Human and Animal Rights as One Rights

4.2.1 Defining One Rights

Recognizing animal rights as new human rights means that human and animal rights become part of the same family of fundamental rights—expressed here as ‘One Rights’. On this holistic understanding, human and animal rights are not simply independent instantiations of fundamental rights, but rather, kindred, indivisible, and interdependent rights.

The One Rights approach is a normative complement to the holistic One Health and One Welfare approaches. The One Health concept highlights that fundamentally ‘health means the same for non-human animals as it does for humans’, and One Welfare emphasizes that ‘the concept of welfare is identical when applied to humans or to non-human animals’.Footnote 6 Moreover, both approaches acknowledge the interconnectedness and interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health and welfare.Footnote 7 Along similar lines, the One Rights approach has a conceptual and practical dimension. It is meant to assert that fundamentally, the concept of fundamental (or ‘human’) rights has the same core meaning as applied to humans and animals, and moreover, that these rights of humans and animals are practically interdependent.

The One Rights approach, so understood, is the logical conclusion of the analysis presented in this book. As regards the conceptual dimension of One Rights, the review of naturalistic justifications has highlighted the conceptual indivisibility of human and animal rights. Fundamental rights of all humans cannot consistently be theorized without simultaneously providing fertile grounds for animal rights to grow on. As Paola Cavalieri puts it: on the very basis that establishes them, human rights are not human. This is because the same justificatory arguments underlying human rights also drive us towards attributing rights to animals.Footnote 8 Vice versa, Tom Regan asserts that the ‘theory that rationally grounds the rights of animals also grounds the rights of humans.’Footnote 9 In terms of their conceptual nature, human and animal rights are essentially the same kind of rights, grounded in the same justifications.Footnote 10

With regard to the practical dimension of One Rights, the review of political justifications has highlighted the practical interdependence of human and animal rights. Humans and animals—being part of the same planetary community, sharing many of the same environments, and often living in the same societies and political communities—are naturally and socially interdependent. It seems reasonable to think of human and animal rights, as normative protections of the natural and social preconditions for the enjoyment of rights, as equally interdependent. One Rights is sensitive to the socio-political and ecological interconnectedness of human and animal rights. In this vein—and set against the real-life backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and environmental crises—the Islamabad High Court recognized that animal rights have ‘a nexus with the threat to human existence’ and are an integral part of the human right to life, and thus affirmed the fundamental interdependence of human and animal rights.Footnote 11

Simply put, One Rights means that human rights are animal rights and animal rights are human rights. However, as the following will show, this simplified formula requires more nuance: some old human rights are animal rights and animal rights are a new generation of human rights. It is further complicated by the ambiguous and evolving terminology of ‘human rights’: in actuality, human rights are human and nonhuman animal rights, and animal rights in this broad sense are post-human rights.

4.2.2 (Some) Human Rights Are Animal Rights…

Costas Douzinas notes that once we question ‘the self-evidence of common sense, the intellectual reasons for creating human rights instead of rights for all living beings are not clear.’Footnote 12 One Rights marks a clear departure from the terminologically reinforced truism that human rights are (exclusively) human, and submits that some human rights are animal rights. That is, some of the fundamental rights that humans have are the same kind of fundamental rights that animals (ought to) have, in virtue of their shared rights-generative properties. In terms of the specification of animal rights, there is a range of existing (civil, political, and social) human rights that may be extended and adapted to animals,Footnote 13 to the extent that animals display the prerequisite rights-generative interests, needs, vulnerabilities, or experiences of injustice. First and foremost, this includes the universal animal rights to life, bodily and mental integrity, liberty and freedom of movement, social and family life, freedom from slavery or involuntary servitude, and freedom from torture,Footnote 14 cruel, or inhumane treatment.Footnote 15 Furthermore, certain human rights may be extended to animals not because animals have an intrinsic interest in them, but because such instrumental rights function to better protect animals’ fundamental interests. This includes the right to legal personhood (the right to have rights),Footnote 16 procedural rights such as the right to habeas corpus and access to justice, and possibly also some political rights ensuring that animals’ interests receive adequate political representation and consideration.Footnote 17

Recognizing animal rights as part of the human rights family does not mean that animals have all the same rights as humans, nor that all animals have the same rights as other animals.Footnote 18 First, conceptual continuity certainly does not imply that human and animal rights are coextensive. Rather, animals’ rights must be differentiated in correspondence with animals’ specific capacities, interests, and (functional) needs.Footnote 19 This means that many human rights are not animal rights, as animals do not need many of the rights that humans have, such as the right to freedom of religion or marriage.Footnote 20 It further means that animals may need some additional, ‘zoo-specific’ rights that differ from humans’ rights, such as the ‘fundamental right to be born, to live, grow and die in the proper environment for their species.’Footnote 21 Moreover, just as women, children, and persons with disabilities have a range of specific human rights,Footnote 22 certain animals may have some specific group-based or relational rights that other animals do not have, depending on their natural constitutions and social contexts. For example, domesticated animals, who have been bred, utilized, and made dependent on humans for centuries, should be accorded certain relational positive rights such as a right to health care, food, adequate living, and shelter.Footnote 23 Wild animals may require the right not to be domesticated and removed from their natural habitatsFootnote 24 or collective sovereignty rights. Furthermore, animals who continue to perform services for humans may acquire (non-exploitative) labour rights.Footnote 25

Overall, One Rights thus encompasses a normative continuum of shared and differentiated fundamental human and animal rights.

4.2.3 … and (Human and Nonhuman) Animal Rights Are (Post-)Human Rights

To be sure, recognizing animal rights as the next generation of (non)human rights will send ‘discursive irritations’ or ‘shockwaves’Footnote 26 through the human rights universe—but such was and is generally the nature of old rights revolutions and new human rights evolution. Historically, fundamental rights were enjoyed by some (free adult male) humans, but not by women, children, or (formerly) enslaved people.Footnote 27 It took several rights revolutions for human rights to be extended to all humans. Since the early formulations of the rights of man, human rights evolution has been characterized by a ‘moral extensionism’Footnote 28 and a ‘widening of the circle of rights holdersʼFootnote 29—a gradual process of extending rights to formerly excluded groups. Today, some say the human rights ‘balloon’ is fully expanded or even overstretched, but surely those (nonhumans) who remain right-less would beg to differ.Footnote 30 As Conor Gearty submits, there is no reason in principle why the ‘outward momentum’ of human rights should be ‘permanently blocked at a species barrier’.Footnote 31 Just as old human rights have been formed in reaction to historical experiences of injustice and specific political threats to humans, new human rights continue to emerge as new (or entrenched) forms of injustice become more widely recognized or as novel threats to old human rights appear. Both these conditions for human rights (r)evolution are present with regard to animal rights: a growing awareness of animal injustice and the intersecting oppression of humans and animals, as well as an increasing interdependence of humans and animals in the face of new existential risks arising in the Anthropocene.

Extending human rights to animals would certainly mark a (non)human rights revolution, though in some respects, this may be less revolutionary than it appears. For one thing, (human) animals already have human rights, and in this trivial sense, human rights are naturally animal rights. Furthermore, in a legal sense, the human rights universe is already populated by nonhuman right-holders, notably corporations, which are entitled to (some) international and constitutional human rights protections.Footnote 32 In a philosophical sense, recognizing nonhuman animals as a new class of right-holders is but a progressing continuation of the natural rights and human rights tradition.Footnote 33 But in a more profound sense, the nonhuman rights revolution has paradigm-shifting implications for the concept of human rights.Footnote 34 It marks an ‘animal turn’ or ‘posthuman turn’ in human rights, after which human rights are no longer human, but more-than-human rights—they are (human and nonhuman) animal rights.

On a conceptual level, One Rights generally and fundamentally means that human rights are not (just) human rights at all. Rather, we need to rethink the concept of human rights as a larger category of (human and nonhuman) animal rights, and actual human rights as a subset of animal rights. Accordingly, the term ‘human rights’ becomes a misnomer, and we may need to ‘recast the nomenclature of “human” rights’.Footnote 35 Just as the historically antecedent ‘rights of man’ have been replaced by the more (women-)inclusive term ‘human rights’,Footnote 36 perhaps the phrase ‘human rights’ should now be retired to make way for a more (animal-)inclusive notion of (human and nonhuman) animal rights.Footnote 37 What results from the deconstruction of human rights, then, is not their destruction, but their reconstruction as a wider set of human and nonhuman animal rights. In this sense, human rights turned into (human and nonhuman) animal rights are post-human rights—not ‘rights of posthumans’, nor an anti-humanist regression, but rather, a post-humanist progression of human rights.

4.3 One Rights as Holistic (Post-)Human Rights Paradigm for the Anthropocene

What this book set out to do was the deconstruction of (old) human rights and their reconstruction as (human and nonhuman) animal rights under a holistic One Rights paradigm. The themes of this book are part of a larger conversation about shifting legal paradigms, and emerging post-humanist paradigms, in the Anthropocene.Footnote 38 Law is traditionally and unapologetically configured as an ‘essentially human institution’.Footnote 39 It is a decisively ‘anthropocentric institution’ that is not only made by and enacted through humans, but also centres on the (rational) human as its (main) legal subject and entrenches the primacy of human interests over virtually all other concerns.Footnote 40 This old ‘juridical humanism’—expressive of anthropocentrism and human exceptionalism—belongs to the hallmarks of Western legal culture, but is increasingly seen as problematic and anachronistic.Footnote 41 The growing discontent with traditional humanism is fuelled by the insight that ‘Anthropocentrism is inextricably connected to the rise of the Anthropocene’.Footnote 42 Enabled by a permissive legal system, unrestrained human dominance over the natural world has grown into a full-blown planetary crisis. Perhaps the ‘silver lining to the onset of the Anthropocene’ is that it has opened up the ‘discursive space’ necessary for critically re-examining and reconfiguring the law.Footnote 43

Francesca Ferrando submits that posthumanism (in the sense of post-anthropocentrism)Footnote 44 is ‘the philosophy of our time’ and the philosophical approach that best suits the ‘geological time of the Anthropocene’.Footnote 45 Indeed, in order to resolve the monumental problems that have been facilitated by anthropocentric humanism, it seems warranted to foster normative paradigms of a post-humanist, post-anthropocentric nature. Posthumanism proposes a ‘new way of understanding the human subject in relationship to the natural world’,Footnote 46 one that abandons or softens ‘the idea that humans are a superior species in the natural order.’Footnote 47 Whereas anthropocentrism postulates the ‘centrality and privileged position of humanity vis-à-vis the rest of the world’,Footnote 48 post-anthropocentrism asks us to decentre the human and to consider ‘the pluralistic symphony’ of human and nonhuman voices that have been silenced and excluded by old humanism.Footnote 49

Human rights is one such paradigm that needs to be modernized to better fit the new reality and challenges of the Anthropocene. Posthumanist ideas have already infiltrated into human rights discourse.Footnote 50 Efforts to rethink the traditionally humanist institution of human rights through a post-anthropocentric lens range from ‘greening’ old human rights (what might be called ‘environmental human rights law’)Footnote 51 to recognizing rights of nature, which may be considered the ‘epitome’ of non-anthropocentric rights approaches.Footnote 52 Animal rights, too, fall squarely into this category of post-humanist rights that seek to overcome the ‘anthropocentricity of “human” rights as such.’Footnote 53 Although human rights—and law at large—will realistically always retain a certain degree of anthropocentrism, Catherine Redgwell notes that traditional humanism is being displaced by a ‘dilute anthropocentrism’ that recognizes the ‘interrelatedness and interdependence of the natural world of which human beings form a part.’Footnote 54 This book has tentatively furnished a post-humanist, post-anthropocentric, post-human rights paradigm—one that emancipates human rights from its exceptionalist foundations, includes nonhumans, and is sensitive to the interdependence of humans, animals, and their shared environment. And while beyond the scope of this book, the One Rights approach could (and perhaps should) also accommodate the rights of nature.Footnote 55 Indeed, integrating human, animal, and nature rights under a holistic One Rights framework might be considered the next logical step, and may be an important topic for future research.

Jack Donnelly notes that human rights ‘ultimately rest on a social decision to act as if such “things” existed—and then, through social action directed by these rights, to make real the world that they envision.’Footnote 56 We, as a society and global community, have long decided to treat human rights as exclusive things, created by and for humans. Yet, our commitment to human exceptionalism has forged a real world that is inhospitable to many marginalized humans, and will likely become inhabitable for large portions of humanity unless we embark on a ‘dramatic change of direction’.Footnote 57 For human rights—and humanity—to survive in the Anthropocene, we need to let go of traditional human rights exceptionalism or ‘supremacism’.Footnote 58 As this book has sought to show, embracing a more inclusive version of (post-)human rights as (interdependent human and nonhuman) animal rights promises to achieve better rights-protective outcomes for humans, animals, and their shared planetary home. Indeed, One Rights may help us link up into a true ‘planetary community’,Footnote 59 governed by a post-anthropocentric human rights culture.