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What is the difference between human rights and animal rights?

Rights are defined differently by different people. When we talk about rights, we’re referring to life-sustaining needs that are essential to health and wellbeing. For living, sentient beings—including humans and nonhuman animals—basic needs include the right to be free and to choose what happens to our bodies and lives, the opportunity to develop fair and appropriate relationships, and the right to be valued for our intrinsic worth and potential. Sometimes these rights are referred to as natural or inalienable rights.

Currently, many of these rights are recognized in international human rights frameworks, but there is still much more work to be done to ensure every human being has access to these inalienable rights. And there is far more work to be done to ensure that nonhuman beings receive similar protections. History has shown that we cannot adequately address one problem with also addressing the other.

Man and dog

What is structural violence?

Structural violence refers to a form of violence in which some social structures—including norms, beliefs, legal and economic frameworks, and political priorities—can harm individuals, communities, and societies by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

links between human and animal rights

Links between human and animal rights

What is structural resilience?

Structural resilience refers to a form of resilience in which social structures—including norms, beliefs, legal and economic frameworks, and political priorities—can help individuals, communities, and societies be healthy and thrive.

Phoenix Zones Initiative

What are the deep connections between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing?

There are strong, evidence-based links between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing. These relationships are increasingly recognized by medical and law enforcement professionals, scientists, and policymakers. Connections between the suffering of people and animals are fueled by structural violence—unjust systems that trickle down to the individual and to communities.

Structural violence is made possible by social, cultural, political, economic, and legal systems that violate the rights of people and animals. Examples include the disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color, xenophobic patterns that increase the risk for hate crimes against immigrants, cultural traditions that lead to sexual and gender-based violence, and existing economic paradigms that discount the intrinsic value of individuals. In each of these cases, large-scale social forces and institutions can cause illness and death by preventing individuals from meeting their inherent needs, resulting in suffering at individual and population-based levels.

Norms, economic decisions, and laws that allow for the creation of suffering in animals also represent a form of structural violence that can harm both animals and people. For example, animal cruelty is a red flag for child abuse and intimate partner violence, and it can be a gateway to homicide. Similarly, slaughterhouse location is independently correlated with violent crime rates in communities. There are also intersections among different forms of institutional prejudice such as racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and speciesism. More and more, historians, scientists, and health professionals highlight the link between the abusive treatment of animals and the adverse treatment of human beings in society.

Phoenix Zones Initiative

What are Phoenix Zones?

Phoenix Zones recognize the inalienable rights of people and animals, fueling structural resilience. Through respect for liberty and sovereignty, a commitment to compassion, tolerance, justice, and opportunity, and a belief that each individual possesses dignity, Phoenix Zones foster what’s known in medical circles as the Phoenix Effect—wherein individuals can rise from the proverbial ashes and thrive. The Phoenix Effect and Phoenix Zones are also metaphors for how we as a society can rise up and move beyond our collective history of violence.

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How is Phoenix Zones Initiative different from other organizations?

Fortunately, more organizations are beginning to focus on connections between the health of people and animals—and the planet. We go further by working to dismantle systemic forces fueling structural violence and by focusing on the important nexus between individual rights, health, and wellbeing.

Phoenix Zones Initiative forwards an emerging view of human and animal rights—specifically that they are intimately linked and that there is a deep connection between rights and health for both people and animals. We reach across imagined boundaries to reenvision how human and animal rights are perceived and advanced, foster key alliances, and solve big problems hurting people and animals across the globe. We strive for a world in which individuals are not defined by their ties to capital.

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Why and how does Phoenix Zones Initiative take on such big problems?

Our mission is intentionally broad and ambitious. Many people and animals are suffering around the world. They are deprived of living freely and thriving. There are many efforts to address these injustices, but they often occur in silos and they may provide only partial solutions. Despite strides in some areas, the full road to securing human and animal rights is still quite long. Activists working on behalf of people and animals still wage many of the same battles advocates have been waging for centuries if not millennia. Today, we can and must dream bigger and plan on a scale commensurate with what is at stake—for people and animals.

Through adaptive leadership, innovative problem solving, directed research and analysis, and coalition building, we work in direct response to structural violence. Structural violence has not emerged spontaneously. It has been deliberate, divisive, and far-reaching. Addressing systemic contributors to suffering must also be proactive, inclusive, and comprehensive. We strive to address seemingly intractable social challenges in the most strategic ways possible—to create the most meaningful impact possible.

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What about the environment and issues like climate change?

Environmental degradation and human contributions to climate change are examples of structural violence. Threats to human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing have been magnified by the climate crisis and extreme events including drought, famine, floods, and fires. Communities that are already marginalized are the most vulnerable to climate change and environmental destruction. Our global crisis has arisen because we, as a society, have not adequately paid attention to human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing. Adequate solutions will only be identified through close attention to the rights of individuals and their communities.

Phoenix Zones Initiative

Where does Phoenix Zones Initiative work?

We work with partners around the world. We aim to build bridges instead of silos and to help bring phenomenal solutions to scale. Through formal and informal alliances, we can work together to catalyze more rapid progress for people and animals.

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Who can get involved?

Anyone who cares about advancing the rights, health, and wellbeing of people and animals can join us. We aim to fuel a Phoenix Zones Movement marked by structural resilience. Together, we can take on some of the greatest challenges of our time.

If you are interested in being a partner or funder and would like to learn more about our initiatives, please contact us.