Live Chat with the Lius on Saturday: Get Your Questions Answered by TOC Co-Champions

Post your questions on the September-October topic (animal rights) for Jeff and Larry Liu, co-champions of the 2011 Tournament of Champions in LD, on this post and have them answered on Saturday from 2-4 PM Central Time.


You’ve asked and we’ve responded. Thanks to everyone for all the great questions. We would like to continue the discussion and hear what you guys think; contribute your thoughts, comments, and questions on this thread! Hopefully, our replies have been helpful and provide a good starting point for researching and thinking about the animal rights topic.

-Jeff and Larry

  • Anonymous

    I got Larry the first time around, but I really wanted Jeff, so I’ll ask again. It seems like a lot of negs just prove that animals are not equal to humans, not that giving them rights is an abomination. For example, the Kantian “they’re not rational” neg seems susceptible to imperfect duties arguments. What is a general way for negatives to get out of this problem and good ways for the aff to take advantage of it?

  • almog gavra

    Does moral standing entail the recognition of rights? (i.e. if i can prove animals have a moral status, should they have rights?)

    • Anonymous

      As we’ve said on other parts of this thread, the question of whether moral standing entails rights depends entirely on how you define “animal rights.” If you define animal rights as moral entitlements, then by definition, proving that animals have moral standing meets your burden. But if you define rights more or less specifically, then conceivably proving only that animals have moral standing might not get you to the further claim that animals have rights.

  • andrew eckholm

     It seems like most of the topic lit leans aff generally, what deontic authors make good args for why it flows neg?

    Do you think Singer is a topical aff? if not, do you think there’s enough common usage + lit etc. to make the T debate easy on the aff?

    How do you think the wording of the topic effects things like skep?

  • do util positions on this topic need to defend that beings have rights in the first place, and, if so, how would you answer this objection?

  • Can a marginal cases argument (i.e. you can’t base rights off of rationality or autonomy because that would exclude infants or the severely mentally retarded) be strategic? I’m worried that negs will merely concede that these people do not have rights and argue that denying them rights doesn’t impact to any standard. If affs want to make this argument, is there a strong aff framework that can bolster the marginal cases claim? 

    • Anonymous

      I think the argument from marginal cases (AMC) is certainly a strategic argument and is one of the primary arguments in the literature. First, I don’t really think that a negative strategy of conceding that we should exclude babies and mentally impaired people is really persuasive to most judges. It seems obvious to me that no judge is 100% tab. Frameworks that you can use to make the impact explicit, however, are some sort of intuitionism framework or a reflective equilibrium ( framework. The other reply is just to explain why they cannot just bite the bullet, why excluding babies is not an acceptable conclusion in the first place, i.e. we were all babies at one point in time, babies eventually become rational contractors, etc. You can say that even if intuitions in general can conflict, this intuition is such a strongly held belief that we cannot just accept the conclusion of excluding parts of humanity. I don’t know if it’s best to make this argument an entire affirmative case, but instead to read it as a “reductio ad absurdum” argument against Kantian/Rawlsian rationality cases. 

  • Vishnu Shankar

    1) Which rights would these animals have?
    2) Where do rights originate from?

    What are some approaches to answering these kinds of questions in the resolution?

    • Anonymous

      Most authors seem to defend that the “animal rights” movement entails giving animals the rights to live free from being eaten, hunted, and used as the subjects of medical research and testing.

      Claims to “rights” will derive from whatever ethical theory you’re defending. A utilitarian might claim that animals have the rights to avoid being eaten, hunted, and used as subjects for medical research because they have the capacity to feel pain.
      Another possible answer to this question in the resolution is that “rights” originate from the capacity to rationally will ends (the Kantian argument). A negative debater will claim that animals do not have such rights because they do not possess rationality.

  • Anonymous

    Hey all, unfortunately we had some technical difficulties so we won’t be able to do a live blog set-up, but we’re going to be responding to comments for the next two hours. Hope everyone who’s online can help contribute to the discussion and ask questions. Thanks!

  • 1. How far would the most strategic aff/neg interpretations of animal rights go – nonviolation, life, equality to humans, legal rights, etc.? And if the aff chose nonviolation, would that ban animal research, racing, and pets (technically against their will)? 
    2. What are some possible word PICs on this resolution? 

    3. Do you think there will be a justice-is-not-the-same-as-morality debate (ex. morality v. legality)?

    • Anonymous

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by how far would “the most strategic interpretations go,” your interpretation should differ depending on what affirmative or negative case you want to run. If the aff chose nonviolation, it probably would entail that, but I’m not sure that those impacts or implications matter for proving the truth or falsity of the resolution. (See comments below regarding implementation – my response to Noah).
      2. Possible word PICs could include animal welfare instead of rights, animal liberation instead of rights, virtue ethics based word PICs. There is tons of literature which criticizes the concept of “rights talk,” so I would consider researching that if you’re interested in word PICs.
      3. I think that’s a possible debate to be had. Rawls, for example, has certain arguments which distinguish political justice from morality. A possible argument you could make here is that morality is more general while justice, which is defined as giving each his due, assumes a quality of fairness or equality. These are probably not the best arguments, but they could be strategic.

  • Howdy boys. Do you think general rights theory is a valuable investment of research time concerning the majority of literature deals with moral approaches to animal rights? 

    And to the Coach (I assume he’s there with you guys, he usually is): What is a value premise? And how may I find one?

    • Anonymous

       Researching rights theory is certainly a good investment of time. To say that “we ought not harm animals” does not necessarily entail that animals have *rights*. If we define rights as entitlements attached to particular individuals, then many arguments that claim that we should not harm animals will still be negative ground. A virtue ethics position, for example, may suggest that a virtuous person would not harm animals because it fosters compassion, or whatever without suggesting that animals can make moral claims on us.

      There’s good literature on the question of whether the status of “rights” should be afforded to animals, whether “rights” can even exist, etc. all of which I expect to see commonly deployed as a priori or word PIC type arguments.

    • Anonymous

      Rights theory is certainly a good investment of time. The statement “we ought not harm animals” does not necessarily entail that animals have rights. Research on the question of what rights mean and what kinds of ethical theories can conclude that beings have rights will be invaluable to your success on this topic.

      **I gave a more in-depth reply earlier…but it got deleted somehow?

  • do you think T-recognition (as in recognition does or does not require implementation) will be a commonplace negative strategy? 
    and which side of that arg do you think is on the side of truth?
    and i second drew mcCormick’s second question.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I think that T-recognition will definitely be a common negative strategy, arguing that the aff should have to defend the consequences of recognizing, e.g. we would become a vegan utopia, we would stop medical testing, etc. This topicality shell is probably defensible, but I think the truer side of the argument is that the aff should not have to defend implementation. The resolution is a question of whether a complete account of justice would acknowledge animal rights, not whether any actor ought to take an action with regard to those rights. Neg consequentialist arguments are irrelevant since they prove that some actor taking an action to respect animal rights would result in bad impacts, but that has no bearing on whether animals have moral standing

  • 1. Is a leather jacket suitable attire for Aff rounds?
    2. How will the interaction occur between “Justice” being in the resolution and the majority of good literature discussing “Moral” Worth.
    3. Same question with regard to ‘Animal Rights” vs “Moral Worth”

    • Anonymous

      The question of justice vs. morality seems to be a non-issue. You could just say something along the lines of:
      I value justice, defined as giving each their due. Animal rights are moral entitlements attributed to non-human animals, so the resolution is a question of whether animals are due moral consideration.

      The question of animal rights vs. moral worth could also be resolved by simply defining animal rights as moral entitlements (just search animal rights into Google, there are definitely sources that define it this way). The rights question is a bit murkier though, because some ethical theories may conclude that we ought not harm animals, but not conclude that animals have rights. A virtue ethicist could say that a virtuous person would not harm animals because it would be uncompassionate (or whatever) without defending that animals have entitlements or can make moral claims on us.

  • Do you think that it is strategic for every aff to be narrowed down to a specific animal or do you think that animal rights entail only respecting the rights of the animals with at least a minimum degree of rationality?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think it’s strategic to narrow down to ONE animal in particular (seems like a hard theory debate for the aff to win), but conceivably it could be more strategic to narrow the debate down to certain phyla or classes of animals. Parametrization seems inevitable on this topic because any advocacy will narrow the topic down somewhat; even Singer draws the line at sentience or the ability to feel pain. You’d probably be better off going the second route and just defining animal rights as respecting rights for animals meeting some qualification. There are probably good common usage defenses of such an interpretation and it will allow you to avoid a messy plans good/bad debate.

  • Natalia Sucher

    How will disads function against util/singer ACs? Would they only be strategic if the terminal impact is extinction since animal suffering would continue any other way, or if the recognition of rights would somehow cause more suffering?

    Is it unstrategic (because of potential perms)/sufficient to negate to argue that rights are unnescesary for justice instead of the alternative, an outright rejection of rights? How could it be changed to be more competitive?

    Who are the possible actors of the resolution? Do you think the “recognition of animal rights” is more strategically argued as a universal ideological shift, or a governmental “recognition” of animal rights? If it was governmental, would the rights be legal? How would “legal” rights get out of common arguments versus “natural” rights (like the right to live)?

    • Anonymous

      1. The DAs and the Singer AC do not function under the same interpretation.
      For the DAs to work, you have to win a T argument that claims the aff
      must defend implementation.

      All the Singer AC claims is that the capacity to feel pain qualifies one to be a moral agent and that animals have the capacity to feel pain qualitatively similar to humans. This AC relies on an interpretation of the resolution as a question of whether a complete account of justice
      would acknowledge animal rights, not whether any actor ought to take an
      action with regard to those rights. If you define recognition as “acknowledgment,” then it’s beyond the scope of the resolution to
      argue about whether some actor acting upon that acknowledgment would
      produce good or bad impacts.

      2. Arguments that claim rights don’t exist or are unnecessary would only run into the problem with perms if you run these arguments as topical counterplans. Instead, you can run them as a priori “truth-testing” type arguments; “the resolution says animals have rights; if rights do not exist, then the resolution is false.” You can’t “perm” an a priori.

      3. I think both are valid interpretations of the actors in the resolution. It can be argued that justice is an individual concept of due, so it’s a universal ideological shift among individuals. It can also be argued that the state is the ultimate arbiter of justice, so the resolution claims that the state should recognize rights. There are certainly good T arguments to be made that claim animal rights are legal rights, and that argument is bolstered if you win that the actor is the government. The legal rights interpretation can get rid of arguments about morality if you read cards about how law and morality are distinct. Appeals to the law usually make reference to things like precedent, which have nothing to do with “natural” rights or morals. 

    • Anonymous

      Hey Natalia,

      DAs on this topic seem to function under a different interpretation than the Singer AC. You would need to win a T argument that claims the aff must defend implementation for your DAs to be viable. Singer ACs merely claim that the capacity to feel pain qualifies one as a moral agent and that animals can feel pain that is qualitatively similar to the pain felt by humans. The case relies on an interpretation of the resolution as a question of whether a complete account of justice would acknowledge animal rights, not whether any actor ought to take an action with regard to those rights.

      You only run into the problem with perms if you frame your arguments about rights bad or rights not existing as a topical CP or word PIC. Instead, frame those arguments as a priori, “truth-testing type” arguments. The aff says animals have rights, but rights don’t exist, so the resolution is false. You can’t perm an a priori.

      I think there are good arguments in favor of both actor interpretations. It can be argued that the resolution mandates a universal recognition of rights because justice is an individual concept of due, so all individuals must make lifestyle changes to accommodate a respect for animal rights. Alternatively, you can say the state is the ultimate arbiter of justice and the only agent with the power to implement the resolution on a large scale. The latter is probably the more strategic interpretation. There are certainly good arguments for why legal rights is the preferable interpretation, and those arguments would be bolstered by you winning the state as the actor. A legal rights interpretation would avoid the debate about morality and natural rights entirely; read cards about how law and morality are not one and the same. Your arguments for why animals deserve rights will then appeal to things like precedent, not morality.

  • Anonymous

    Is the LARP dead for 2 months? How do you see LARPers approaching this topic?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t really see a conceivable way to LARP on this topic. I think many people will try to approach this topic in that way though; for example, affs may read a plan that says “stop overfishing” … “overfishing causes extinction” while negs may read disads such as “stopping medical testing bad” etc. For the aff, these sorts of plans seem at best circular or at worst don’t affirm the resolution at all. To say that we should “stop overfishing” would already presume the value of fish in the first place. OR, how it’s probably run is that if we don’t stop overfishing, all humans will die, which isn’t saying that justice requires the recognition of animal rights, but rather the recognition of human rights. For the neg, a disad seems to already put them one step behind. That is, if the aff need only prove that we “recognize” animal rights, then as long as the aff wins that animals enter into our utilitarian calculi, then they should win. In implementation, that may result in any particular policy option, but the aff already wins the debate if he wins that animals have rights to begin with that deserve consideration.

      That said, another problem with running utilitarianism is whether utilitarianism even entails rights in the first place. Singer seems to prefer the term “animal liberation” or “animal welfare” over the phrase of “animal rights.” All in all, utilitarianism itself does not seem like a particularly strategic position, much less extending that another step into a LARP or plan aff.

  • Long time listener, first time caller. my questions are directed to the liu.
    1. how do you think the singer debate will be resolved? mainly, since singer could be seen to advocate a system of animal welfare, not necessarily animal rights. 

    2. what will carlton bone and andrew eckholm be running at greenhill?

    • Anonymous

      Good questions. I think the Singer debate will ultimately be
      resolved via T-“animal rights”. If you define animal rights as “moral
      entitlements for nonhuman animals” then you may run into trouble with a
      Singer AC because Singer doesn’t necessarily defend that there are
      particular entitlements attached to individual animals, but as you said,
      that we should promote animal welfare generally by avoiding harm to animals. However, if you define animal rights as ““Rights believed to belong to animals to live free from
      use in medical research, hunting, and other services to humans” then conceivably Singer could still affirm because Singer’s position would justify the “rights” of animals to live free from medical research, hunting, and being eaten, etc. There’s a debate to be had there.

  • Anonymous

    To follow up on the last question, what are some reasons it affirms? That seems to me to be more difficult based on the word “requires” and you having to prove justice exists.

    Also, what’s some good theory to run against animal welfare negs that try to steal all your ground?

    Last but not least, what do you think are some good ways for the aff to specify down to animals that can feel pain?

    • hailtohizzelman, if you’re replying to the last question, please click reply; that should help keep this thread organized.

    • Anonymous

      Arguments for why permissibility affirms will appeal to the word “recognition” as opposed to the word “requires.”
      For example:
      Recognition is “the acknowledgment of something as entitled to consideration.”  Thus, permissibility affirms. The word requires in the resolution only establishes that we must always recognize, or consider, animal rights in our moral decisions, not that we must always act to protect animal rights in all circumstances. After consideration, we may choose to act in a different manner if those rights conflict with an equally or more stringent duty.

      Good theory arguments against animal welfare negs could include “topical CPs bad,” “textual competition bad/functional competition good,” and “Word PICs/VICs bad.”

      Some good theory arguments for why the aff should get to spec include limits (you shouldn’t have to defend outlier cases), topic lit (most of the literature discusses sentient beings), and ground (it’s unfair to force the aff to defend snails having rights). Alternatively, you could just find an author who defines animal rights as rights for sentient beings; generally, I would rather face a T debate than an argument for why parametrics are bad.

  • Jay Howard

    What are possible interpretations of animals rights and what does it mean to recognize a right, i.e. acknowledge value, establish as inviolable, etc? And further why would permissibility negate on this topic?

    • Anonymous

      See Jeff’s reply to Drew McCormick, those are two possible interpretations. Another possible T argument negatives may make is that the aff must prove animal rights are equally important as human rights. Some authors advocate animal rights, but say that human rights must take priority. These affs would violate this interpretation.

      Permissibility negates most obviously because of the word “requires” in the resolution. It is not merely the justice *can* recognize animal rights. This is a possible way to negate this topic, namely that it is not a necessary condition for a theory of justice to recognize animal rights, but that justice could if it wanted/needed to. I’m not sure how to warrant this argument exactly, but I’m sure many teams out there (you know who you are) are already working hard on generating some awesome arguments.

  • Anonymous

    What do you think is the best way to beat back the regan argument?

    Also, how would you recommend running a utilitarian position on this topic given the lack of any actor/specific action? 

    Given the wording issues on the topic, how do you think the affirmative should go about frameworking so as to avoid the nearly inevitable neg t shell?

    What do you think a good aff strategy would be on this topic?

    • Anonymous

      1. Which Regan argument are you specifically concerned with?
      2. We would not recommend running utilitarian positions; I think we’ve ragged a lot on util on this thread in a number of other places.
      3. Neg T debates are probably inevitable given the poor wording of the topic. You will like face T on recognition and animal rights close to every debate. Some good tricks to put into your affs include appeals to reasonability, arguments for why you should prefer aff interpretation, and arguments about CX checking abuse. These arguments will give you easy way outs on close T debates.
      4. One stock but strategic AC is a Singer AC with switch-up offense. Read the Singer position but mix it up with offense to other frameworks (like deontology) throughout your case. This case is strategic because it’s difficult for the neg to prove that animals do not experience pain, so the case is hard to turn, and you have a number of options to go for against possible NCs in your 1AR if you lose the framework debate.