The Star Wars Rights of Sentience was one of the best-known clauses of the Galactic Constitution. It spoke out against speciesism and set out the rights that all members of the Galactic Republic were entitled to, including these:
- The formal outlawing of slavery.
- The declaration that all sentient lifeforms were equal, and should be treated as such.
- All Republic citizens were entitled to all rights enshrined in the Constitution, including suffrage, protection from undue hardships, etc.
When the Constitution was written, the Rights of Sentience was one of its most radical sections.
Rights of Sentience Similarities
The Rights of Sentience is similar to the real-world Magna Carta, or the English Bill of Rights. Considering that the Galactic Constitution was in large part inspired by the United States Constitution, it can be assumed that the Rights of Sentience is the in-universe equivalent of the United States Bill of Rights. The laws enshrined within the Rights bear resemblance to the real world Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th and 15th) and Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sentience Ahead of Their Time
It is obvious the Star Wars writers were ahead of their time. They understood that we Must change and adapt and let go of our former ways in order for all sentient beings to prosper, including human beings.
Human Rights Abolitionist
From the 13th century, man has become aware of the need for Sentient rights. The first Abolitionist Approach centered on the slavery and torture of Chinese Islanders (Filipinos, etc.) and those slaves from India. This was mainly in Europe and the UK. The solution was not treating them better, it was to not use them as a resource at all. Sentient Beings should not own other Sentient Beings. Humans should not use humans as a resource. Within a few decades, people started seeing there was no difference between brown slaves and black slaves, and the slaves from Africa were added to the movement.
It took a lot more time for the Abolitionist Approach to cross the Atlantic to America. Slavery in the USA was highly profitable and many did not want to be deprived of the benefit of using other humans as natural resources. A hard fought war ensued, with huge casualties on both sides. Slavery lost and Abolitionist Approach to Sentient beings using others as a resource became the law.
On the 18th, 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, there was an awakening. Humans began understanding that we should not use animals as a food resource. The “civilized” man saw cannibals among the uncivilized tribes. The conclusion was that if eating meat from humans was wrong, was it any less wrong to eat meat from animals? Vegetarianism was born and proved to increase the health of many adherents.
In the mid 20th centuries, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi proposed to the Vegetarian Society of the UK that there should be a moral or ethical measure to being a Vegetarian. A smaller group was formed within the Vegetarian Society of the UK, with a Society officer leading it. They called themselves the Non-Dairy Vegetarians.
Later the same officer coined the term Vegan to mean a non-dairy vegetarian, a vegetarian diet free of dairy and eggs, and a person who follows it. If you eat a Vegan diet you are a Vegan! He started a newsletter called The Vegan News and withing a month, there were Vegans all over the world. The Vegan Society of the UK was later formed and likewise other Vegan groups around the world.
Additional meanings of the word Vegan were freely added by different groups. With no one group controlling what Vegan means, and with many groups contradicting each other, it is at best confusing and actually nearly impossible to find a universally accepted meaning for the word Vegan.
Moving Toward the 22nd Century and Beyond
In human rights, humans realized the value to not using other sentient beings (humans) as resources. In animal rights, humans are extending the same right to other sentient beings. Today we have begun to communicate directly with other species of animals. They are beginning to tell us directly how they feel and what they think.
The New Abolitionist Approach is, as it always has been, about abolishing the practice of using sentient beings as a resource for other sentient beings. It is about Sentient Rights!
Star Wars hit the nail on the head, we need a Galactic Constitution that ensures the Rights of Sentience! We need to be VeKind.