In David Quammen essay "Animal Rights and Beyond" the author disagrees with the Peter Singers definition of a being. Singer uses if they can suffer? (551) as criteria to grant animal rights. This, he disagrees with, because to him life is life. Whether it is a monkey or a tree. Whether it is Shrimp or an oyster. He also mentions that in Singers opinion because the oyster does not have a developed nervous system it is not be considered as a being that suffers. However the shrimp which has a developed nervous system is a feeling being and should not be harmed. As far as Quammen is concerned Man is still the measure of All things. "Instead of asking Is the creature a human? they simply ask How similar to human is similar enough? (553)
According to Quammen Singers theory fall short of including other important animals and plants. To him the simplistic maxim that life is life applies to all living beings. Singers conclusions led him to vegetarianism, Quammen does not draw parallels to this point. He ends his essay saying that life is life. Does that mean that Quanmmen will not eat vegetables because they are life. Although he admits that a line must be drawn he does not seem to like where the line is drawn. After quoting singer he says: "Moral philosophy, no one denies, is an imperfect science." (551)
My first reaction to Quammens essay was that he has gone too far. It could be due to his literary background that he has respect for all forms of life and it really broke his heart when the oyster did not make it, that got him so upset. Singer a philosopher by training has had to formulate a logically sound Philosophy for an audience that was not yet convinced about animal rights. The "elaborate book review" that Quammen has written was for an audience that is conveniced of Animal rights and was ready for something more. Perhaps he has suffered from the incident that he mentioned in his other essay concerning the spider. In that essay Quammen, had to kill a spider and her children out of fear using a can of Raid.
In Singers essay he seems to be concerned with the excesses of the establishment in creating a system that abuses animals for useless testing. I believe that the alternatives offered by Singer may not be enough. I agree with his thesis that some of the experiments are frivolous and far fetched to be useful. That we really are talking about a life here and that this life is feels pain and suffering. Whether it is intelligent or not is not the issue it is the torment that the creature feels.
In the example that Quammen offers on where singer draws the line and oyster just falls short. From the writing here it is not clear whether by singers logic that for vegetarian they are allowed to eat oysters or it is justifiable to torment oysters. At any rate, I disagree with vegetarians and the logic behind it. Just because the slaughterhouse workers are not gentle in slaughtering animals for human consumption or the fact that to some people the idea of spilled blood disgusts them is not justification for going strict vegetarianism. If you are that concerned with the issue of meat you can drive down to your local farmer and do it yourself to gently slaughter your animal, or go to a moral butcher. There are gentle ways to slaughter an animal with the minimum amount of suffering.
The American Indians have a different view on life. Theirs is one of harmony with nature, even such an event as a hunt. When the hunter leaves on a hunt he is going on a sort of spiritual journey. The hunt is done with the love of the animal being hunted. Humans appreciate the sacrifice that the animal is doing for the benefit of other species. Silko recounts: "The antelope merely consents to return home with the hunter." (382) Here the hunter is not the one given credit for his successful hunt it is merely that the animal consented to be the one who will save the humans from starvation. Even when the animal is utilized for survival he is used and the remains are given back to the creator. "Waste of meat or even the thoughtless handling of bones cooked bare will offend the antelope spirits." (383) It is as if there is some physical repercussions and not just moral ones, she continue: "Next year the hunters will vainly search the dry plains for antelope." (383) If the people are not respectful for this gift they will be denied of it.
In the beliefs of the American Pueblo Indians the spiritual world and our world are sharing the same physical plane. The harmony must remain and must be respected otherwise chaos will ensue. It is as if the whole of earth is in cooperation and harmony, on the subject of mutual benefit Silko states: "What cannot be eaten by people or in some way used must then be left where other living creatures may benefit." (382) This extends not only to the animal world but to the plant as well rocks. " [T]he clay and the stones -were treated with respect. Because the ancient people all these things had spirit and being." (382)
Alice Walker in her essay "Am I Blue?" touches on a variety of issues and at the end of her essay she sways towards vegetarianism "I am eating misery, I thought, as I took the first bite. And spit it out." (246) From the essay one can see that Ms. Walker questions the morality of other things that we do. Also she questions certain things that were taught with regards to animals such as " that animals actually want to be used and abused by us " (246)
In her essay which is a story of a lonely horse on a 5 acre ranch named blue who was used by his owners to impregnate another horse. The horse, blue, was hurt emotionally and was crazed by the incident. This torment that she describes and interlaces with other abuses that are common occurrences or historical ones, such as slavery, serve to remind us that we must rethink our morality in what we do. She mentions some of the abuses of slavery such as raising of children by black "mamm[ies]". (244) Also the abuses of inter-Racial marriages by soldiers in foreign lands of foreign women. (245) Misconceptions about women, such as "Women cant think" and " love to be mutilated and raped " (246) She seems to be saying that we must go beyond animal rights and question our morality on those issues.
I would disagree with the conclusions that have been made by Quammen regarding animal rights. His offerings seem to be extreme. The opinions of Singer are more practical for implementation. I am not sure of how Singer justifies Vegetarianism as it is not mentioned in any of the readings. I would perhaps agree more so with beliefs of the Pueblo Indians who live in harmony with Nature as whole. Whether it is animal, plant or rock, there is one that calls for cooperation among the species. I am not fully convinced of the existence of spirits for everything and the communications that supposedly take place, for they are a matter of personal belief, but the philosophy of Indians is a practical one that has merit. It has worked for the Indians for thousands of years.
I agree with Singer that we must reconsider the way in which we do testing on Animals and his criteria is an interesting one. But who will make that judgment, he is assuming that the scientist has a moral consciousness. Some people may not. Laws must be set in place and enforced before people will follow them. Alternatives to testing must be seriously considered. If we know that acid will blind mice eyes, no further experiments should be necessary. Reinvention of the wheel should not be necessary. But I believe that economies will change and the testing will perhaps one day replaced by computer models of Animals or even better, human beings. That alone could at least eliminate the harmful and inhumane tests that are performed on animals today.
With that said, I really worry about the morality of corporations who are always looking for faster ways of getting products to the market without even testing them. When people are faced with two choices one of economy over morality, morality seems to fare much worse than economy.
One comedian sums up the current public view on the issue of animal rights. Keep in mind two things that animal rights activitist in the late 90's have gone to some extremes in their cause that eventually end up harming the cause. The comedian's line was as follows: "If electurting a monkey will make a breakthrough in aids reasearch show the &%?dam button and I'll press it!".
Further in the making of the Movie "The Shawshank Redemption" the director Frank Darbanot said that the Humane Society objected to the use of a living bug in the filming of the movie. The next day the lead actor had constructed a mini director's chair with the name 'bug' on it.