Nobody has rights as something intrinsic or consubstantial: the rights of each are nothing but those rules of the social game that protect and benefit them, and are the result of a collective agreement. When religion appeals to a supposed "natural law" or to a "natural morality", it incurs - as is typical of magical thinking - in that "fusion of opposites" that only has a place in delusions and dreams. By definition, law and morality are cultural constructs that we add to nature precisely because they do not exist in it.
This does not mean that rights do not have a natural basis, much less that they are contrary to nature, but that they are not derived or deduced from it in a necessary and univocal way. In fact, we have been in our current evolutionary stage for hundreds of thousands of years and our vision of "human rights" has varied considerably from one era to another, and even from one place to another at the same time.
Racism has been (and in some countries continues to be) one of the greatest scourges of humanity. The Jews believed (and some still believe) the chosen people. The Nazis copied their idea and turned it against them. The ancient Romans called non-Romans "barbarians." Americans exclusively call themselves "Americans" and call the rest of the world Unamerica. Slavery was not abolished until the 19th century, and many Christians (who theoretically believed in equality and brotherly love) had slaves ... There are innumerable and very varied examples that we tend to believe ourselves better than others and deserving of more rights, incurring often in the greatest contradictions, and until as recently as 1948 we did not endow ourselves with a widely agreed Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Historically, we have totally or partially excluded from the rights that today we consider fundamental to foreigners, slaves, commoners, women, blacks, homosexuals ... And although xenophobia, exploitation, classism, misogyny, racism and homophobia are far from having been overcome, at least there is a broad theoretical consensus on the need to overcome them. Why isn't the same thing happening with speciesism, contested only by a tiny minority of humanity? Why does our capacity for compassion for the suffering of others usually stop short at the threshold of pets and we do not even look further? Why do most people consider that abandoning or beating a dog is an inadmissible cruelty, while accepting without flinching the slaughter of the pig or "parties" such as Sanfermines?
As Isaac Bashevis Singer, who knew firsthand the rigors of Nazism, said, with respect to non-human animals we are all Nazis. Will we stop being so one day?
Again, it seems like a rhetorical question, and in a way it is. It sounds like a trick question, and in a way it is. But it is also a true question, the kind that seeks an answer. And as I will try to show in successive chapters, our own survival depends on what that answer is.