[Imported from a post I made to my old blog, 10/12/2007.]
I tend to think “human rights”, per se, are a speciesist concept. (As a transhumanist by philosophy, I have to think about the possibility of alien species, human speciation by bioengineering, artificial intelligence, and so forth. A wider perspective, if you like.)
Thus, I attach my concept of rights (life, liberty and property, etc.) not to humanity, but tosophoncy. Sophont life – be it human, AI, human-derived, uplifted animal, alien, whatever – possesses those rights inalienably by virtue of its sophoncy, for such span of its existence that it is sophont, which for humans is (I believe based on what’s currently known) approximately from when cortical brain structures form to information-theoretic death.
(Non-human) near-sophont life – the almost-but-not-quites, great apes, dolphins, smart dogs, etc. – do not possess inalienable sophont rights, but possess subsidiary rights for their own sake in proportion to their degree of pro-sophoncy.
(Non-human) non-sophont life, which is most of the animal kingdom, and all of the plants, fungi, protists, bacteria, prokaryotes and viruses don’t possess any rights, but elsewhere in my value system I stipulate that we ought to treat them, and for that matter, inanimate objects, decently for their own sake.
(Human) near-sophont or non-sophont life, which mostly means humans that are or have been made defective in some way possess rights in the same measure as their non-human equivalents, logically, but practically speaking, we’re always going to treat members of our own species specially even if they’re no more sophont than a rubber-tree plant just out of human nature.