ETHICS AND ANIMAL RIGHTS
The Rights of Animals and Living Matter to Life on Earth
A Position Paper
Prof. Michael Haliprin
William Paterson University
The position of Peter Singer is that all animals are equal in the sense that they all can sense pain and suffering. They can also feel pleasure. His criteria for judging animal rights are the animals capacity to suffer pain and enjoy pleasure. Since they can feel pain just as a retarded person or a child. They should be treated as equal. He equates racism with specism. We should rise above this and give animals their due. He does however argue for a range of the quality of pain. There is a difference between a hunter and Murderer. A difference between rescuing a human or a dog. He does not specify the quantity of pain or pleasure. Humans derive greater pleasure from rescuing a human versus a dog. Therefore it is of a higher ratio of pleasure over pain for a human to rescue.
Contractualist (The rights view):
The position of Tom Regan is that human life as well as animal life has an inherent moral value. Just as one human life is no less valuable than any other so is animal life. That is it would be problematic to judge one human life to be less valuable than others i.e. babies, the senile, and the comatose. So it would be to judge that animal life is less valuable than human life. They deserve full moral status just like the less fortunate humans. "All who have inherent value have it equally, whether they be human animals or not." Further he states that the rights view does not tolerate any form of discrimination. He also states that the theory also extends to humans as well as animals. Further its application is uncompromising and abolitionist. This also extends to commercial animal agriculture as well as hunting and trapping, be it for commercial or sporting ends.
Moral Argument or Moral Theory:
David Carruthers argues against the Animal rights movement and states that it is thoroughly misguided. He states that the movement for animal rights is a reflection of the moral decadence in our society and not as moral positive. Further, He argues that the failings of animal rights movement is the lack of their understanding of the human rights issue. He argues that animal rights issues are easier to digest than Human rights. Human rights is seen by simpletons as a political issue or that the abuse of human rights has been brought about by political posturing.
He argues that many things [in addition to animals] that matter to us do not give rise to moral rights or duties. Such as Ancient buildings, oak trees and works of art. He also states that things that do not have moral standings have indirect moral significance. People care deeply about works of art and maybe under a moral obligation not to deprive future generations from experiencing them. Same with animals even if they do not have a moral standing it does not follow that we should mistreat them. We have an indirect duty towards animals arising out of the legitimate concerns of animal lovers.
He also argues that animals have some moral standing not to the extent of equal rights with Humans. He gives the example of the burning house in which you have only time to rescue either the human or the dogs that are in the cage. The natural human reaction is to rescue the human.
He maintains that under Rawls contractualism animals would not have moral rights as they do not count as rational agents. Those that argue that under contractualism animals would be assigned rights under the veil of ignorance argument would be invalid. This would lead to animals attaining full rights, such as the right to own property. If it is allowed that animals may have representatives to speak on their behalf behind the veil of ignorance there would be no good moral reason not extend this to others [such as mountains and plants] not to have representatives.
Further when contractualism is made by human beings in order to facilitate interactions between human beings and to make possible a life of co-operative community. This would extend to all those who are descended from rational agents (human beings.) This would infants, the senile and the mentally defective.
The author concludes that there is no basis for extending moral protection to animals beyond that which is already provided. There is no good moral ground for forbidding hunting, factory farming or laboratory testing on animals. There is no good no reason to encourage the feelings of [extreme] sympathy for animals as those feeling would divert our attention from the claims of those who do have moral standing namely human beings.
I believe that the Animals Rights issue is blown out of proportion. Animals or any other living thing for that matter do have a right to this earth as much as we do. With that said, I do take the opinion that everything on this earth is for the utility of humanity. This said does in no way shape or form give any one the right to abuse, destruction, cruelty and any other form mischief. Animals should not be abused or made to suffer pain or as least pain as possible. When they are slaughtered for food they should be done so with the least painful method that will produce healthy meat. Past methods of slaughter that did not properly drain the blood from the animal produced very unhealthy meat. Animals should not be made to watch other animals being slaughtered. These methods of treating animals kindly have been around with us for a long time.
Any one that doubts that animals feel any pain should watch a wounded animal. Any child that kicked a cat or dog will notice that once kicked the animal will squeal in pain and retreat. Although, personally, I am not an avid meat eater I do believe in the right of humans to eat meat. I would personally prefer either chicken, tuna, salmon or shrimp to any meat dish. I do however eat meat and support the rights of others to eat meat. Although technically you could get all the nutrients that one would get from meat from other sources why go out of your way when meat is readily available. I do however agree that we, in west especially, do eat too much meat. I believe that consuming this much meat is not a healthy practice. Doctors will tell you that this much meat is not good for us. Most of our health problems occur because of this.
Outline of Argument:
IF I had a choice in what to give my money, to save a local animal shelter or human suffering in some faraway country I would choose to end as much human misery as possible. I believe that if you end human misery, you will end all misery. If people were not so poor they would not be destroying all they can see in front of them. If you were to burden the third world countries with debt, while enticing them with TV programming of course they are going to use every bit of resources they have to meet their debt and seek that better and comfortable life that you are bombarding them with.
Further there is a flaw in the logic of the argument of specism. Who gives one species more rights than the other? Who gives the right of the Lioness to hunt Gazelles in the plains of Serengeti, and I none? Is it because she has claws that can maul the gazelle with one blow? It is here where the logic breaks down.
Why should I be a vegetarian, while the Bengal tiger enjoys meat and an occasional native, a human prey? By logic of that argument we should turn all carnivores into herbivores. Try feeding that Serengeti Lioness tofu! Perhaps we, as a nation, eat far too much meat. That is no reason to turn vegetarian. Perhaps we are too mean and abuse animals far too much. Or perhaps we have become so sedated and jaded that we have never seen an animal slaughtered for food. Once we see the slaughterhouse we are disgusted and turn vegetarian. I admit that I am a little soft, if I see meat not cooked or that does not look appealing to me I will not touch it. Perhaps I will go days on end without eating meat. I however do not espouse vegetarianism nor do I expect that anyone should follow that way of life. There is a nutritious value in meat, which no one can doubt, that leads to healthier muscle growth.
The argument that states that man can live on bread and water alone. Yes, humans can survive on a very meager diet but who would want to volunteer to subject himself to such hardship except the most dedicated of saints, mystics and gurus. This is no life for the entire human nation.
If our daily meat intake was to go down perhaps not only the price of meat would go down the whole industry would experience a decrease and therefore fewer animals would be wasted. Wasted here means not used up by humans or carnivorous animals. Or better yet, the less industrialized nations, read third world, would enjoy meat for a change. Further why should we just stop at living animals? Why not just carry out that argument to plants, are they not living? Or is it that their life does not count in the scheme of specism? Why does plant life have to suffer. Maybe we should just inject ourselves with manufactured chemicals and vitamins that sustain our existence. Should we not eat anything organic, that CH combination, that life is made of. I realize that this is carrying it too far, but by the same token the logic of the specism argument just does not cut it. Where one should draw the line. Why stop at life, and a feeling of pain? To me that drawing of the line is confused and convoluted logic. Does an animal have to scream or squeal in order for us to judge that it feels pain?
Why not just treat all animals, plants, and inanimate objects just with respect and morality. To me a person that goes and destroys a house, one that is habitable, uproots trees that give fruit, kills animals for no reason than the kill are all no different. Perhaps the fault lies not in that we do not have a moral theory to rely upon but we have no moral to rely upon.