“All sentient beings, human or nonhuman, have one right —
the basic right not to be treated as a resource (or property) of others.”
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." - Declaration of Independence - July 4, 1776
Most children in America, as well as many more around the world, hear or memorize these words every year. To give context to the idea that “all men are created equal”, it should be noted that France (our allies in the Revolutionary War) had abolished slavery within the French Kingdom in 1315. By the 18th century, Abolitionism was in full swing in the UK. Courts from 1569 on had been ruling against the property ownership of one sentient being by another. A notable case was an African slave named Somersett. This case had grabbed the nation’s attention in England and very likely been known by all the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It had reached Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Court of the King’s Bench.
In his judgment of 22 June 1772, Mansfield declared:
The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.
This was all years before the American Declaration of Independence was signed, and America became a nation. A hundred years later, an American Abolitionist Movement would be in high gear, and President Abraham Lincoln would issue his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
The problem is, and always has been, the chattel (“personal property”) ownership of a sentient being by others. True Abolitionists today see the problem as one of property ownership. Therefore…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all sentient beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Specifically, that all sentient beings, human or nonhuman, have one right — the basic right not to be treated as the resource (or property) of others.