The belief that animals hold intrinsic value is an important basis for animal rights.

Wikipedia lists the main positions used as a basis for the intrinsic value of animals as:

  • behaviouristic, as a morally neutral value that the animal's own (hence intrinsic) species-specific behaviour seeks to satisfy.
  • utilitarian, as a formal basis to grant animals specific rights, based upon the idea of sentience and interests, defined by ethological knowledge, and defines corresponding human obligations
  • deontological, as respect for the animal's telos or striving and consequential fundamental rights
  • attitudinal, as prima facie respect for all living beings, regardless of qualities like sentience

What are the main positions used as a basis for the intrinsic value of humans, but against the intrinsic value of other animals?

  • 2
    I find this a good question. Would downvoters care to explain themselves?
    – Turion
    Mar 10, 2017 at 9:43
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    @Turion unfortunately, questions - even benign and interesting ones - that invite answers "against veganism" always get downvotes around here.
    – ecc
    Mar 14, 2017 at 10:12
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    @ecc Although the answers may be "against veganism" in a sense, I'd welcome an answer that briefly mentioned why each position was flawed :)
    – nloewen
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:39
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    @nloewen of course. That was what I meant. If this site is going to become a circle-jerking eden-garden where only one opinion prevails, we might as well pack everything and close the shop :)
    – ecc
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:41
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    @pharap Maybe. I was testing the boundaries of what would work on this site a bit with this one.
    – nloewen
    Mar 25, 2017 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


There is a dispute about whether chronesthesia, the mental ability to be aware of one's past or future also known as mental time travel, is limited to humans or whether it can also be found among non-human animals.

So far, there is no scientifical consensus on this question. While some studies indicate that certain animals have chronesthesia (for instance birds), others argue that mental time travel is uniquely human and animals might only exhibit future-oriented behavior.

Some argue that animals not having this ability may be killed without ethical implications as there is nothing to be taken away from the animals. However, this can only refer to the action of ending the animal's life and leaves out the harms that this sentient being might have to endure during the preceding life and the slaughtering itself, which would be nevertheless relevant for ethical consideration.


This also belong to philosophy, so we will have ask for their help to get answer to this question.

This article deals with human life value, but also covers animals value:

What is it about human life that makes it valuable?

I can think of two plausible candidates: (a) consciousness, and (b) a holistic relation of our bodies and consciousness.

Do all animals have value?

If it is consciousness (or even an embodied consciousness) that has value, then it seems very likely that other animals also have value because it’s pretty obvious that other animals also have minds.

Animal consciousness is confirmed by various studies and is summed up on this Wikipedia article:

In 2012, a group of neuroscientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which "unequivocally" asserted that "humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neural substrates."

So, there seem to be no special difference between us humans and other animals.

A similar question was put on Philosophy SE site and it received a very interesting answer:

I think we should avoid a moral basis in absolute human value, which seems to me to culminate in the tradition of trophy hunting, where human comfort and enjoyment is of value, and the lives of animals hold little intrinsic value. Instead, we should look at the agreements 'negotiated' by our societies and our genes, and consider where everyone's best interests lie, but accept that we will always value those more like ourselves higher than others to some degree.

Of course, that's not a definite answer (it's philosophy, after all, much more questions than answers), but it leads us to the idea that humans might have more intrinsic values.

This article tells us about various intrinsic value of humans. I think that some of them do not apply to animals. E.g.:

  • Moral nihilism - None
  • Humanism - human flourishing
  • Rational deontologism virtue or duty

Conclusion: Animals have intrinsic value (at least consciousness that has been studied for quite a while), but humans seem to have more.

One scenario I can imagine can deny intrinsic value of animals is denying that they possess consciousnesses, but as already mentioned, this is very unlikely.


I will try to improve the answer, but I cannot provide a definitive answer. I also think that such an answer is next to impossible to find, as proof of impossibility is usually much harder to find even in exact sciences:

To prove that something is impossible is usually much harder than the opposite task; it is necessary to develop a theory

Also, some believe that proving a negative (evidence of absence) cannot be done:

In 1992 during a presentation at Caltech, skeptic James Randi said "you can't prove a negative". He claims that it is impossible to 'prove' a negative assertion (such as 'telepathy does not exist').

Coming back to your question. I will try to make it more answerable by narrowing and getting it closer to vegetarianism: what human intrinsic values that seem absent in animals also entitle humans to hunt/kill/eat animals?

I am going to use convenient items from the list of intrinsic values:

  • Hedonism - pleasure - entitles human to hunt for pleasure
  • Utilitarianism - utility - allow humans to kill and eat animals because they need it to get high quality proteins
  • 2
    Thanks for the answer. I'm looking for basis by which one might conclude that humans do have value but other animals do not. Whether or not anyone here thinks those basis are valid. While I can see some of those in your answer, they don't really seem to be the focus.
    – nloewen
    Mar 13, 2017 at 18:14
  • "Conclusion: Animals have intrinsic value (at least consciousness that has been studied for quite a while), but humans seem to have more." It seems we don't have more consciousness --we are destroying the planet, all habitat (including our own) ourselves; that doesn't seem very "conscious."
    – M.Mat
    Mar 16, 2017 at 4:19

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