The debate of the treatment of animals, particularly those which exhibit sentience, has long been a topic over the study of animal behavior. It is widely believed that the main trait that distinguishes man from other animal species (animal meaning nonhuman) is sentience, or "the ability to think, feel, perceive, or experience subjectively" ("Sentience"). John Locke, esteemed philosophical essayist and one of the most influential people of the 17th century, states in his work Concerning Human Understanding of Ideas that an "idea is the object of thinking," and that such thoughts originate from "experience," "reflection," and "sensation" (Locke). Using ideas inspired from Locke's essay, the application of natural rights, another concept Locke is well known for, can be applied to animal species that are proven to experience and feel as humans do.
As early as 2012, the global scientific community has "universally accepted the existence of animal sentience and consciousness" as the result of extensive research and studies done by the University of Cambridge (Bekoff). Cambridge instituted the Declaration on Consciousness, the new scientific standard for the neurological capabilities of nonhuman species, revealing that animals are far more intelligent than previously thought. Unfortunately due to the apparent communication barrier between humans and animals, humans have assumed that animals are inferior beings, when in fact; they have largely the same mental capacities that people exhibit. The recognition of animal sentience begs the question: should sentient animals have rights? If sentience, the very thing that was thought to separate humans from animals, is known to be found in both man and the Animal Kingdom, then it becomes clear that animals should possess the same rights as humans.
To specify, the term "right" is a claim that one can exercise against another.