- 1) Singers’ argument on animal use
- 1.1) Speciesism is analogous to racism and sexism
- 1.2) Singer’s utilitarianism approach
- 1.3) The criterion that gives a being an equal consideration
- 1.4) Singer’s attitude towards animal use
- 2) Evaluation of Singer’s arguments on animal use
- 2.1) The potential of Singer’s arguments on animal use
- 2.2) Criticism of Singer’s arguments on animal use
- 2.2.1) Inadequacy in protecting the rights of animals
- 2.2.3) The problems arisen from Singer’s utilitarian approach
- 3) Conclusion
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My assignment is based on those work and arguments presented by Peter Singer onâ€ All animals being equalâ€. Reference has also been made to other related sources.
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Peter Singer has long been considered as one of the pioneers in the scope of the modern animal . In his book "Animal Liberation", he follows Jeremy Bentham, a utilitarian philosopher’s viewpoints like the arguments that the fundamental interest in not suffering to develop his own arguments to support his claims that the circle of moral interest should be expanded to non-humans and all animals are equal. He describes his views on animals as follows: “I have never really been fond of animals. I certainly wasn’t an ‘animal lover” when I became involved in the movement. I just came to be persuaded that animals should be treated as independent sentient beings, not as means to human ends.” In this essay, a delineation of Singers’ arguments has been provided on animal use: (1) Expanding the circle of moral consideration, (2) The Principal of Equal consideration of interest and (3) Having the capabilities of suffering is the prerequisite of receiving equal considerations. Then, the Singer’s attitude towards animal use has been delineated. In the final part, the Singers’ arguments on animal use have been evaluated which shows that most of Singer’s arguments in backing his stance on animal use are well elaborated though there are still some areas that remain unclear.
Peter Singer is the well-known philosopher who pioneered the animal welfare movement. In his article, "All animals are equal," he has emphasized the importance of the rights of the animals. The concept of speciesism has been emphasized here which is an attitude or a prejudice of bias towards the interests of the members of particular species members and against those who belong to the other species. This article has been reviewed and delineated to evaluate the arguments of the singer on animal use.
1) Singers’ argument on animal use
1.1) Speciesism is analogous to racism and sexism
In the article, the author has made an analogy between racism, sexism, and speciesism:
“Speciesism- the word is not an attractive one, but I can think of no better term- is a prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of members of one’s own species and against those members of other species. It should be obvious that the fundamental objections to racism and sexism made by Thomas Jefferson and Sojourner Truth apply equally to speciesism.” (Peter Singer: All Animals are Equal)
As written by the author, the difference between the three types of discrimination is that the discrimination applies to the different group of species. Therefore, he believes that the reason why racism and sexism are not justifiable should also apply to speciesism. Thus, he brings out the idea that the basic principle of equality should be expanded to non-humans. He argues that the basis for equality is the equal consideration and the idea of equality id moral, not factual. Therefore, the prerequisite for the rights is the capacity for suffering. Thus, without speciesism, the inequality cannot follow.
1.2) Singer’s utilitarianism approach
In Singer’s argument that the basic principle of equality should be expanded to non-humans and that all animals (both humans and non-humans) should have equal rights may well be faced with some opposition. Carl Cohen argues in the following way:
Animals lack this capacity for free moral judgment. They are not beings of a kind capable of exercising or responding to moral claims. Animals, therefore, have no rights.
Confronted with such arguments, Singers responses as the following:
There are important differences between humans and other animals, and these differences must give rise to some differences in the rights that each has.
The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment: it requires equal consideration. Equal consideration of different beings may lead to different treatment and different rights.
In his response, he explains the difference between equal consideration and equal treatments where equal treatment entails that we give the exactly same treatment to all animals and equal consideration means that “beings who are similar in all relevant respects have a similar right to life- and mere membership in our own biological species cannot be a morally relevant criterion for this right” In other words, Singer means that we do not need to treat every animal exactly the same, just as we do not treat men and women in the same way, for example it is meaningless for us to talk about men's right to have abortion. However, this does not hinder us to consider all animal’s interest.
1.3) The criterion that gives a being an equal consideration
Singer does not deny the fact that all animals are different in terms of actual abilities, however, he believes that we should not base on animals' actual ability to differentiate who are going to get equal consideration. He also argues that if equal consideration is given based on one's actual abilities, for instance, intelligence, rational thinking, then human beings themselves do not all be treated with equal consideration as by applying the marginal case arguments like infants, human beings with mental and intellectual disabilities. Instead, influenced by Jeremy Bentham, he brings up the idea that the interest of animals should be well considered since non-humans same as human beings, has the capacity of enjoyment and suffering.
The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we speak of interests in a meaningful way.
1.4) Singer’s attitude towards animal use
Singers have developed arguments to support his viewpoint in the use of non-human animals. Richard Hanley, an Australian philosopher, simply calls the arguments as the Suffering arguments. I will elaborate Singer’s Suffering argument to delineate his viewpoint in animal factory farming and animal experimentation.
Hanley has also paragraphed Singer’s Suffering arguments in a logical manner:
S1: If we can prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it.
S2: Animal suffering is bad.
S3: We can prevent most of the animal suffering produced by factory farming without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance.
C: We ought to prevent most of the animal suffering produced by factory farming.
Singer has argued against the killing of animals for clothing and factory farming since he believes that animals are sentiment creatures that have the capability to feel pain and suffer, while the animal-rearing actions will impose huge and unnecessary pain on them. For instance, meat and clothing from the rearing of animals are not the only options for humans to consume for survival, so Singer views animal experimentation, factory production of meat and commercial animal use as imposing unnecessary and enormous pain to animals and thereby is unjustifiable.
As a utilitarian, Singer does not hold an absolute view that animal use should be completely prohibited; Nozick gives a description of Singer’s utilitarianism views:
S1: Maximize happiness for all living beings
S2: Stringent side constraints on what a human may do to another human and
S3: Animals may be used or sacrificed for the benefit of other people or animals only if those benefits are greater than the loss inflicted.
Singer determines whether it is right or wrong to use animals as mean hinges on the utilitarian cost-benefit calculus. Thus, there are still conditions where Singer finds animal use is justifiable:
I do not believe that it could never be justifiable to experiment on a brain-damaged human. If it really was possible to save several lives by an experiment that would take just one life, and there were no other way those lives could be saved, it would be right to do the experiment. But this would be an extremely rare case. Certainly, none of the experiments described in this chapter could pass the test.
Singer adopting the utilitarianism approach believes that animal use is acceptable if it can save a considerable number of people.
2) Evaluation of Singer’s arguments on animal use
2.1) The potential of Singer’s arguments on animal use
The author has talked about the welfare of animals in almost all his works like
Practical Ethics, Animal Liberation, Animal Factories.
In Singer's arguments, he has distinguished some easily confused terms in a clear manner and is well backup by examples. For example, the differences between "equal treatment" and "equal consideration"- equal treatment means giving different groups of species the exact same set of rights while equal consideration means giving the different group of species the same weighting in terms of respect and consideration. This clarifies opponents' view that human and non-humans are not equal since there are actual differences no matter in terms of behavioral, physical and biological terms, so they cannot be given the equal set of rights.
The people fail to see that the interests of the animals in avoiding the pain and suffering are similar or greater than that of the humans in eating tasty food. Therefore, the author has argued that eating the meat should be allowed only when the flesh of the animals are produced without suffering. But, he doubts that whether this is possible or not. Then, he says that the practice of hurting the animals for sports, entertainment, etc. is not justified. The experiments done on the animals should be avoided.
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2.2) Criticism of Singer’s arguments on animal use
2.2.1) Inadequacy in protecting the rights of animals
Singer's utilitarianism approach in promoting equality of animals may not sufficiently protect non-humans from depriving of their rights to receive equal consideration as other species. In other words, it implies that animals' well-being does not merely hinge on whether their sufferings can be avoided, but it also includes other elements. As Martha C. Nussbaum suggested:
"Nonhuman animals are capable of dignified existence."
“Dignified existence would seem at least to include the following: adequate opportunities for nutrition…..freedom to act in ways that are characteristic of the species.”
Nussbaum believes that animals (both humans and non-humans) should be given the opportunity to live up to their potentials and exercise their nature instinct and abilities.
To make the idea of Nussbaum more vivid, Cochrane illustrated it with an example:
"Consider the practice of dressing bears in human clothes and getting them to perform tricks, as carried out by certain circuses. A purely utilitarian assessment of such practice considers only how those circus acts affect the overall utility. Does the training of the bears, the way that they are kept, and their adornment with human clothes or their performance to audiences cause the bear to suffer in any way? If not, and other things being equal, then a utilitarian would ordinarily consider such practices to be permissible. The capabilities approach [Nussbaum's point of view], also asks whether these bears are leading dignified lives and flourishing as the types of being that they are."
In the above example, we can see that Singer’s utilitarian approach may not be as sufficient as Nussbaum’s capabilities approach in terms of protecting animals particularly the non-humans from humane and injustice treatments since imposing pain and sufferings are simply one of the inhumane ways to treat non-humans. Therefore, Singer’s approach may not be exclusive enough to protect animals from unjust treatments.
2.2.2) The social-bondedness view
In Singer's argument for principle for equal consideration, he holds the view that animals having the capabilities of suffering deserve equal considerations. Otherwise, it is considered as speciesism. However, Singer fails to consider the social bonds which exist between members of a particular group of species and these existing social bonds between animals will affect the grant of equal consideration to another group of species.
Mary Midgley illustrates this viewpoint with a critical analogy:
"The special interests which parents feel in their own children is not prejudiced, nor is the tendency which most of us would show to rescue, in a fire or other emergency, those closest to us."
Midgley's analogy implies that if one group of species gives a greater weight of consideration to its members against members of another group of species, this can be justified by the existence of social bonds between members in the group and this may not be necessarily the violation of speciesism.
2.2.3) The problems arisen from Singer’s utilitarian approach
Unlike the deontologists, Singer being a utilitarian, he holds the view that animals can be sacrificed if the benefits are greater than the loss inflicted in action. In other words, this implies that humans can impose harm to animals if the outcome is favorable. Tom Regan give an analogy about Aunt Bea who is an old and rich person. Through the analogy, Regan brings up the question whether Aunt Bea should be killed, so that he can get huge profits which can be donated to myriads of depriving children, thus bringing great joy to them. Applying this analogy to the case of animal use, we can see that Singer's approach may well result in a favorable consequence. Thus the actions itself may not be morally right. In Singer's utilitarian approach toward the use of animal, his arguments may simply ignore the rightness or wrongness of the treatment towards the animals itself. Thus, this makes his stance in promoting animal rights shaky.
Moreover, Singer believes that animal experimentation is permissible as long as the benefit exceed the suffering. However, the cost-benefit analysis will vary as the target which they are favoring changes since the cost and benefit of an action is merely a relative concept and cannot be measured accurately with a standardized measurement. Besides, it is as well very difficult for one to predict the benefit brought by an action. For instance, at the time scientists conduct experiments involving the use of animals, it is very difficult to predict whether their experiments can bring a profound benefit which can expense the sufferings brought to the animals. It is also determined whether the benefit of the action exceed the cost since this can be very subjective and somehow depends on which side the decision makers are favoring. Douglas Slogan gives a precise example to illustrate this idea:
Intensive factory farming and the attendant suffering of massive numbers of animals can be justified by utilitarianism, as it usually is if the benefits in efficient food production are deemed more valued than the suffering of the animals.
Slogan’s use of the word “deemed” much implies that the cost-benefit analysis in determining whether animal use is justifiable is not adequately objective enough.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that Peter Singer has brought forward several concepts and arguments: "Speciesism is analogous to racism and sexism", "Expanding the basic principle of equality of humans to non-humans", "Equal consideration does not equal treatment" and "Having the capabilities of suffering is the prerequisites of receiving equal consideration”. Most of Singer’s arguments in backing his stance in animal use are well elaborated though there are still some areas (as stated in section 2.2) remains unclear.