Animal use has been a hotly contested moral subject for many years. The question is whether animal eating or experimenting is morally justified or not. As such, the rational debate about the right or wrong way to treat animals is made more challenging by the profound love that many people feel for animals. For theorists, it raises important questions about the basis of ethics. Some theorists believe that animals are machines and how they react to thing is simply due to the non-conscious internal mechanism that results in animal behavior. However, this attitude changed over time when people started believing that animals can actually suffer and experience pain. Since then, numerous organizations have been founded which still fight for animal rights. Additionally, a lot of independent individuals also came forth to advocate that just like human beings; animals have an integral moral value and this should be taken into account when using them for experiments. Therefore, is there a statement on animals' ethics that both sides could agree on? The proposal is that: there is a right and wrong way of treating animals.
This text will discuss the perspective of Peter Singer, an Australian theorist who believed that animals have an inherent moral value. Afterward, the text will introduce another philosopher Tom Regan who majorly agreed with Singer but believed that not only do animals have a moral value, they also have rights. Additionally, the essay will also highlight the perception of critics and questions that arose after their views.
Singer argues that animals should be treated like human beings since they are capable of experiencing pain. For him, animal suffering is the backbone of moral consideration and it does not matter whether the animals do not have cognitive abilities just like human beings (Singer 48).On the other hand, Singer also puts forward that lower organisms such as bacteria do not deserve moral consideration since they do not experience pain and suffering like human beings (BBC). While Singer argues that some animals are lower than others, he still maintains that if we do not treat animals' right, then we are committing speciesism. This means that human beings value their species more than any other species. It also means that many at times, animals are sacrificed for the sake of humans, so that human beings can lead a better life. This does not only apply to animal experiment but also the use of animals for meat. Through his book Animal Liberation (1975), Singer is widely credited for inaugurating this text which sheds light on the modern animal rights and how humans treat animals. It is this book that gave the animal rights movement basis about animal ethics and liberation.
On many levels, Tom Regan agrees with Singer particularly in regards the moral consideration of animals. However, go goes a bit further and explains that animals also require rights just like normal human beings. In Ben Isacat's book titled How to do animal rights, Regan states that "All animals are somebody with a life of their own" (Isacat 271). He maintains that animals are a subject to life and should have the right to live just like humans. His position clash with Singer's who maintains that human preferences outweigh animal interests. Regan states that it is better for animal rights should have intrinsic value (Isacat, How to do animal rights). He maintains that this will prevent people from putting their interests before animals whenever it best suits them. He says it will also stop the exploitation of animals for the benefit of human beings. In his book Animal Rights, David DeGrazia also comes up to defend animal rights. He explores the implications of how animals should be treated as regards to diet, zoo, and research (68-98). He believes in the utilitarianism approach where the right action balances the benefit over harm (DeGrazia 22). He argues that just like human beings, animals have interests and so the principle of equal consideration should be applied.
Certainly, there are philosophers who do not agree with Singer and Regan such as the Cartesians theorists who believe that animals are only machines to be used. One of the clearest denials of animal ethics is Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who believes that animals are automata that act conscious yet they are not (Regan and Singer 14). Descartes argues that the behavior of animals can only be described in mechanistic terms and that no conscious episode takes place. According to Rene, the mechanistic approach does not apply to human beings for these reasons: Humans are capable of complex and new behavior. Their actions are not the result of simple responses to stimuli but are instead the outcome of our perception about the world. Secondly, humans are capable of delivering speech that expresses opinions and thoughts. As such, he was aware that some animals might make sounds that might be assumed for speech, such as a parrots asking for food, but argued that these sounds are sheer mechanically induced actions. Descartes maintained that only human beings can engage in communication that is impulsive and expresses thoughts.
Overall, there is a never-ending debate about whether animals have rights or not. As highlighted in the text, different philosophers have differing opinions on animal ethics. Some believe that animals are capable of experiencing pain hence should have intrinsic value while others believe that animals are only robots to be used. Either way, as described in the text, it is evident that there is a proper and improper way of treating animals as described by the theorists.
BBC. Moral status of animals. n.d. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/animals/rights/moralstatus_1.shtml>.
DeGrazia, David. Animal Rights: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford, 2002. 21-22.Isacat, Ben. How to Do Animal Rights. Lulu.com, 2014. 271-275.-. How to do animal rights. n.d. <https://www.google.com/search?q=To+Regan+on+animal+rights&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab>.Singer, Peter. Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
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