Animal Rights

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), Indian anti-colonial activist
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This free ESL lesson plan on animal rights has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Animals are vital for humans. They provide us with the food we need to survive, and they have made uncountable contributions to medical advancements. Yet in doing so, animals have suffered at the hands of humans. They are kept in cramped conditions on farms, and they have endured inhumane treatment in labs. In an attempt to remedy this suffering, humans developed the concept of animal rights. While these rights don’t afford animals the same rights as humans, for example the right to life or the freedom from exploitation, they do aim to ensure that the lives of animals are as comfortable as possible. In this ESL lesson plan on animal rights, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what rights animals should have, why they need these rights, and the ways in which animals are mistreated.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Animal Day, which takes place in October, or International Animal Rights Day, which takes place in December. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Chicago Tribune | Why Americans have such bad taste in beer

The article reports the story of a legal case in which lawyers argued that two chimpanzees were being detained illegally in a lab. It goes on to question whether the belief that animals should not have the same rights as humans is “speciesist.” At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Dispelling myths around animal research” by Understanding Animal Research which explains how and why animals are used in testing, and what the law about this is in the UK.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the difference between human rights and animal rights, whether animals are capable of feeling like humans, and the standard of animal welfare in the students’ countries.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with animal rights such as factory farming, fre-range and animal testing. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about animal rights. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as keeping animals in zoos, hunting animals for fun, and their thoughts on bullfighting.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of animal rights. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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