Although there are similarities between humans and other animals, there are also many differences in abilities and interests.
Fully 71 percent supported some kind of legal protection for animals, and 25 percent said that animals should have the same rights as people.
As a life-long animal lover, I am deeply sympathetic to arguments that we should treat animals humanely. But the moral issue of how we should treat animals is a different and much wider matter than the issue of what legal obligations there should be for protecting animals.
For instance, it is normally immoral to lie to your friend, but that does not imply any legal rights or protections. Similarly, it is immoral to nail a cat to a wall, but that does not ground a legal obligation to refrain from such monstrous behavior.
I suspect that the percent support for granting animals some kind of legal protection is based on just this confusion between concern about the welfare of animals and a proper ground for rights.
In fact, I think that the proper basis for individual rights—which I take to be Ayn Rand's theory of rights—excludes extending rights or legal protections to animals.
This article will simply describe that theory and then employ it to rebut arguments that claim an extension of rights to animals is morally required. In Defense of Animal Rights The two main types of argument put forward for animal rights come primarily from two philosophers: Peter Singer and Tom Regan.
With few exceptions, the philosophic arguments one finds in the philosophy journals or on the Internet follow more or less the arguments made by either Singer or Regan see Keith Burgess-Jackson's "Animal Ethics" blog.
Therefore, this article will focus on the essential ideas of their arguments. Singer is a controversial, even infamous, Australian philosopher who is currently a professor at Princeton. He is the intellectual inspiration for many animal-rights groups as well as environmentalist groups and is the author of several books and articles on animal rights, including his Animal Liberation.
He is also well known for his work on other issues in ethics, including euthanasia, famine, and abortion. And his appointment at Princeton sparked tremendous protest because of his views defending the killing of certain kinds of severely disabled newborns.
Regan is also the author of several widely used textbooks on moral and social thought, as well as countless articles on animal rights and related issues. His argument is extensively laid out in his The Case for Animal Rights.
Both Regan and Singer argue for the same ultimate conclusion: Nonetheless, they get to this conclusion in different ways. Singer's method is based on the moral philosophy of utilitarianism and on concerns about equality, while Regan's approach is focused on the kind of value possessed by both animals and humans.
Utilitarianism is a moral theory that defines the good as that which maximizes the overall happiness or pleasure in the world and minimizes the overall unhappiness and pain.
What is bad, then, is that which fails to increase happiness or that which increases overall unhappiness. Utilitarians have historically been reticent or unable to offer a defense of individual rights. After all, rights—as principles that protect certain kinds of actions—are likely to interfere with the maximization of overall happiness and minimization of overall pain.
For instance, the outlawing of dangerous drugs like ecstasy or methamphetamine might be seen as best under utilitarianism because it decreases the amount of pain and suffering caused by the use of these drugs.
However, such a ban conflicts with individual rights to liberty and property. Utilitarianism therefore jettisons the notion of rights in order to focus on maximizing overall happiness. As a utilitarian, then, Singer is not interested in presenting a theory of rights as such but is primarily concerned about the proper treatment of animals.
He refers to his position as "animal liberation" as opposed to "animal rights. For that reason, I will refer to Singer's position as a pro-animal-rights position.
The Marginal-Humans Argument Like almost every other defender of animal rights, Regan and Singer depend on the so-called marginal-humans argument, which begins with the following observation: There are normal paradigmatic humans; they have the features and capacities that we think of when we think of humans: Then there are those outside of that paradigm--marginal humans--that lack some or all of these capacities.
These include infants, young children, the severely mentally retarded, the permanently comatose, and probably the senile. The argument goes something like this: If normal, adult humans have rights by virtue of being rational beings, then, according to the marginal-humans argument, infants and severely retarded humans cannot have rights on this basis because they are not capable of being rational.
So, either rationality is not the sole basis for rights, or these marginal humans do not have rights.By Peter Singer From: ANIMAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN OBLIGATIONS Edited by Tom Regan and Peter Singer. Second edition Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, A liberation movement demands an expansion of our moral horizons and an extension or reinterpretation of the basic moral principle of equality.
The basic principle of equality, I shall.
b. it is an object of direct moral consideration or concern In this case, a Singer utilitarian may want to _____ the research, and a Regan animal rights advocate would want to _____ the research.
a. condone; condone b. abolish; abolish Peter Singer asserts that our .
Philosophy. Peter Singer: Equal Consideration For All. Peter Singer's approach to animal liberation does not assume that animals have inherent rights, but rather that the interests of animals should be given their due consideration.
First published in , Animal Liberation was a philosophical bombshell. It forever changed the conversation about our treatment of animals. It made people—myself included–change what we ate, what we wore, and how we perceived animals. By Peter Singer From: ANIMAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN OBLIGATIONS Edited by Tom Regan and Peter Singer.
Second edition Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, A liberation movement demands an expansion of our moral horizons and an extension or reinterpretation of the basic moral principle of equality.
The basic principle of equality, I shall. Philosophy. Peter Singer: Equal Consideration For All. Peter Singer's approach to animal liberation does not presume that animals have inherent rights, but rather that the interests of animals should be given their due consideration.