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 in animal use are well elaborated though there are still some areas that remain unclear.
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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 the 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
“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 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.
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.
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.