Equal Consideration of Human and Animal Interests

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1123
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor

Introduction

The principle of equality, as argued by Peter Singer, calls for humans to treat all animals in the same manner they would treat a fellow human being. Singer’s focus on animal rights is shaped through a utilitarian interpretation. Although Singer presents a sound defense, he failed to recognize the existence of both the hierarchy of values as well as the strata of pleasures. In this paper, I will refute Singer’s claim that to favor human beings, in situations where the interest of animals is the same as that of humans, is discrimination.

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Utilitarianism and Speciesism

The idea to offer equal welfare treatment to animals stems from a utilitarian outlook, whereby, in life, human beings strive to minimize pain and maximize happiness. Singer argues that if all beings can suffer and feel pain, then they should be treated alike. This argument is sound since animals can bleed, feel pain, and reproduce, therefore, they should be treated as humans. This first premise means that we ought to look upon animals’ interests as our equals. Singer agrees that animals exhibit preconditions for having interests in self-preservation and the ability to feel both pain and pleasure. For example, cats often recoil when their tails are touched as it is the most sensitive part of their body. On the other hand, they purr when they are feeling loved and comfortable.

If sentience entitles humans to equal consideration of interests, then animals that can experience pain and pleasure must also be accorded equal respect of interests. This second premise means that when devising a strategy that creates the maximum balance of pleasure over suffering, humans must be aware of their influence on all sentient beings. Consistent with the theory of equal considerations of interests’, the only defensible boundary of concern for the welfare of others is suffering. Pain is a definite commonality.

Singer argues that many animals have demonstrated to be as intelligent as human children and sometimes, even better because of their instincts. Singer claims that intelligence is not a factor to consider when choosing to treat or mistreat an animal. This third premise means that the ability to think abstractly and communicate the plan for the future should be reflected when favoring humans over animals. Singer illustrates that when presented with the option of either saving the life of a mentally challenged human being or an average individual, a majority of people would save the latter. If both humans and animals are in pain, the choice of whose life to save would be difficult. Humans are more likely to save fellow men from death owing to their in-built features, and not merely because they are members of the same species.

Objection to Singer’s Principle of equality

My first objection to Singer’s first claim is that although all beings can feel pain, they cannot be treated alike. I hold the belief that all beings, including animals, deserve more consideration, which is proportionate to the value of their lives. I do not hold the belief that animals ought to share equal rights with human beings. Nevertheless, in particular circumstances, animals unquestionably deserve better treatment. Further, I object to Singer’s argument that requires equality amongst all species because animals are not as rational as humans and cannot take part in cooperative arrangements with humans.

My second objection to Singer’s position on equal consideration of both humans and animals is that there is nothing wrong with humans favoring fellow human beings. If humans challenge their sense of kinship, they weaken the basis of ethics. The example of a snake that is about to bite a mentally challenged person who is sleeping in the park can be used to explain further. Using Singer’s argument, humans should allow the snake to bite the mentally challenged person since beating the snake will inflict more pain and suffering on the snake than the snake’s bite on the individual. In my opinion, the snake must be stopped before inflicting pain on the mentally challenged person. Singer failed to recognize the existence of lower and higher pleasures as well as their differences.

Ethical Implications of Treating Animal as Human Beings

Singer’s argument that we should treat animals the same way we would treat humans has ethical implications because animals are not endowed with intrinsic moral worth. According to Singer, humans are ethically wrong when they limit the principle of equality on animals and perform experiments on them, inside research laboratories. However, when the hierarchy of values is considered, the contribution of humans to the well-being of both animals and humans is vast. For instance, the tremendous suffering that animals in testing and experimentation, undergo outweighs the benefit that both humans, as well as animals, derive from them. As such, human beings should limit the use of animal experimentation and testing to situations that benefit all. Additionally, humans should replace the cruel treatment of animals with compassionate care.

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Singer’s argument of the principle of equality is centered on utilitarianism, which acknowledges the hierarchy of values. The need to consider animals as equals in humans is directly applied in the legal context of animal treatment. In the social context, animals are seen as lesser than humans both in cultural and religious approaches. Rather than justify the need to protect animals from mistreatments, humans ought to build a proper ethical relationship with animals. The all-purpose principle of equality, which favors animals, does not apply to an egalitarian society where somatic capabilities, morality, as well as intellect are equated. The moral worth of humans cannot be identified through functional intellectual abilities.

Conclusion

As I have presented evidently in my objection to Singer’s argument, animals should be accorded fundamental rights just like humans since their genes, way of life, and abilities have a close resemblance to human beings. The principle of equality as it appears in Singer’s first premise needs to be construed differently from the word “equality” as it appears in Singer’s third premise (meaning egalitarianism) – otherwise at least one of those premises would be vastly implausible. Nonetheless, in that case, Singer’s argument is soundly invalid. It can be protested that I have understood Singer’s argument critically. I can think of only one further realistic interpretation of Singer’s argument. It employs similar first two premises but has a dissimilar third premise. Whereas humans have to be more sensitive to the pain and suffering of animals during medical research, the ethical good derived from such experiments cannot be replaced by concerns on whether or not the animals undergo pain during tests. In sum, if it is unfair to mistreat any human being, no matter what he or she is like, then it must be wrong and irrational to mistreat those animals that have abilities analogous to those of human beings.