Singer believes his view provides a basis for condemning the killing of animals for meat. Explain and critically assess his argument. One interesting thing to focus on: does his argument apply when the animals have good quality of life and are slaughtered painlessly?
Singer provides the reasoning for the belief that the basic principle of equality on which humans relate with each other is still to be used in the relations of humans with other species. The moral principle on which this principle rests allows humans to embrace each other regardless of the differences that exist between them (Singer, 1999). Singer’s views are that, the moral principle on which the concept of equality for all human beings across race, gender, professions, and social status can’t be limited to humans only. He argues that, having accepted the moral foundation as basis for relations with those of our species, the same should be applied when relating with those without our species, and in particular animals.
Singer reckons that this suggestion might seem bizarre, primarily because some will argue that it’s a waste of time to concentrate on equality for animals when so many humans have not yet been given real equality (Llorente, 2009). This reflects the popular prejudice that exists barring the serious consideration of animal’s rights, a similar prejudice that existed among slave-owners barring them from taking the interests of blacks seriously. This essay therefore seeks to establish whether the Singer’s views form a basis for condemning the killing of animals by humans for food and whether his arguments hold when animals have a good quality life and are killed using painless methods. This will be done through review of literature on morality and the moral obligation that humans have in regard to their relation with animals.
Singer’s views provide a basis for condemning the killing of animals for meat
As Singer states, the issue of rights and equality first came up through the agitation for freedom by black slaves (Singer, 1999). Soon after, women in the American society were next in the agitation for freedom and equal rights. It is therefore to put in focus these two cases when considering the rights and equality for animals. At the time, the oppression for blacks and women was considered as being the most important moral and political issue of the day. As a result, they were and still are issues that are worthy the time for anyone concerned. Animal rights on the other hand, are an issue that has been popularly left for old ladies in tennis shoes (Llorente, 2009).
Whether animals have rights is nothing more than an issue that requires one to understand the nature of the principle of equality and the rights of an individual. In qualifying the rights and equality of a person or group, it doesn’t depend on what they are like, or the abilities they possess. According to Singer, whether some people are members of our race or not does not form the basis for considering them equal and entitled to a given set of rights as we do (Singer, 1999). This cuts along the fact that some are less intelligent, not members of our race, and have a different way of life. According to Singer, this should also be applied to other beings, in particular animals, and not exploit them simply because they are less intelligent, they don’t talk, and can’t express pain in ways understandable to us.
According to Clark (1997), probably one of the major concerns for the protagonist or anyone that is considering the issue of animal rights is whether animals really do have rights. The notion of rights has been, with specificity to the United States of America (USA), initiated with the blacks movements that agitated for the rights of the black person in American to be considered as a full citizen and not as a second-class citizen, then the women rights for them to be considered as full citizen and in particular, be accorded the right to vote and equal pay for work as their male counterparts (Regan & Singer, 1989). Animal rights activists therefore faced the challenge of having to qualify that animals too have rights.
Whether animals have rights is more often viewed in relation to human rights and gauged on the notion that, rights is an attribute of humanity and therefore, animals are not humans consequently don’t qualify for rights. However according to Cavalieri & Singer (1993), the Ape project provided evidence to the fact that, animals and in particular chimpanzees in Tanzania demonstrated ability to use tools, express a variety of emotions, convey abstract concepts within themselves and with humans, and made decisions based on reason. These are characteristics that were thought to be unique to humans and as a result of these findings; the difference between humans and animals is no longer easy to define. According to Fano (1997), the difference between humans and animals is merely on degree and this has triggered the proposal of granting animals the same legal rights as children and mentally retarded persons.
As a result of the Ape project, there has been the goal to grant apes the right to life, freedom from torture, and liberty (Clark, 1997). The Great Ape Project made a milestone in establishing that the difference between humans and animals is not limited to the animalistic and humanistic aspects, but mere on degree, which is the same thing that differentiates human.
The other question that has been used to argue whether animal deserve rights is on the issue of morals. According to Fano (1997) and Clark (1997), the issue of morals is erroneously founded on humans’ considerations of morals. To this end, the fact that a lion has to kill a zebra for its survival is considered as being immoral, forgetting that it is the way of life for a lion. This is furthered by the fact that animals d not have the power to learn any other way for their survival as man can be taught by therapists, psychologists, or other persons. Therefore, and as argued by Putnam (1990), morals is an attribute for humans because they have the power of choice and learning alternative ways that are considered better for self as well as others. An animal on the other had is confined to its ways because of its nature. The issue of morality therefore can be relied upon to qualify human rights, even among humans as even the worst criminals still are accorded human basic rights.
Does his argument apply when the animals have good quality of life and are slaughtered painlessly?
As it has been established above, the right to life as well as equality for animals is principally on the fact that, animals have a life and it is not upon humans to decide when an animal is to die. The moral foundation for animal rights and equality is the understanding that, animals are alive, have a life, and it is not the obligation of humans to decide when an animal is to die or kill any animal (Llorente, 2009). Since the 19th century when animal rights campaigns were initiated, there has been progress but not causing the entire stoppage of killing animals for meat. As a result and given the religion based authorization to eat meat as food, some of the legislation that has been made on animal rights forbids cruel treatment of animals and requires use of less painful methods.
The Ape Project (Cavalieri & Singer, 1993) provided evidence that animals have feeling and therefore, there is a social fact that animals experience pain and deserve a better quality of life and should be killed with less painful methods that are effective and short as not to make the animal go through long periods of agony before death. From a human perspective, there are differences that exist between humans and animals that cause complications on the issue of pain and good life. According to Singer (1999), the issue of pain on animals can be examined across the board to both animals and humans.
The issue of whether animals have a good life is not only limited to how animals are reared, but also on the whole issue of domestication. Animal domestication and agribusiness farming are highly limited on the quality of life. Singer views the issue has having to life with a death by date hanging on an individual (Singer, 1999). This therefore fully antagonizes the ethical and moral objective on animal rights and equality. Agribusiness for instance deprives animals their ethics and regards them as mere resource that is fully at the discretion of man. Based on the mythical narratives, the issue of domestication was an agreement between animals and humans where animals would provide man with their bodily products e.g. milk and in return, humans would protect them. Based on these narratives, killing animals for meat is a bleach of the agreement.
The determination of pain in the case of killing method is done based on human understandings. It is however worth noting that, there are many areas in which the superior mental power of humans makes a difference compared to animals. These include anticipation, a more advanced and detailed memory, and a better knowledge of what is happening among others (Fano, 1997). According to Cavalieri & Singer (1993), feeling pain is experienced in the brain and it is mental anguish that makes humans understand pain and create level for the same. However, animals have a lower understanding a therefore, it might be that they suffer more when exposed to pain-causing situations. It is therefore practically unethical for humans to consider a certain level of pain suitable for animals when they can’t themselves understand the animal’s position on pain.
It can be objected that it is impossible to compare suffering in different species and therefore, in cases where the interests of humans and animals clash, the principle of equality provides no guidance (Singer, 1999). When considering suffering for animals, Regan & Singer (1989), ordinarily the application of suffering prevention measures for animals starts when the interests of humans are not affected and in any case, the interests for humans can not be affected to extent to which those for animals are affected. Singer’s views therefore are impossible to touch base with the religious and conservative person who has been made to know that he is superior to animals and the life of an animal can’t be equated to that of a human being.
Regardless of whether the method used to kill an animal is painless or not, the intention of the whole process is to ultimately kill the animal. Whether an animal is killed with less pain or not can’t be separated from the fact that, the animal is being killed. Singer’s views have been largely towards the prevention of animal killing for their meat and fur (Singer, 1999). Using his arguments to substantiate or support the killing of animals with less pain would entirely flaunt his objective by creating a leeway for killing of animals for their meat.
Pain is regarded in terms of intensity and longevity. Nevertheless and regardless of whether pain is low or high and whether inflicted for a long or short period of time, it causes suffering. The moral foundation of equality and rights requires that when an individual is suffering, they should be considered with the intention of alleviating the suffering (Llorente, 2009). With the backdrop of animal rights and equality for all animals, it therefore necessitates that, in case an animal experiences suffering through pain regardless of the intensity and the length of the exposure, then the appropriate considerations should be taken to prevent the suffering. Singer’s views should therefore be used to condemn even the basis painless killing rather than support it.
Singer’s views are that, the moral principle on which the concept of equality for all human beings across race, gender, professions, and social status can’t be limited to humans only. Whether animals have rights is nothing more than an issue that requires one to understand the nature of the principle of equality and the rights of an individual. In qualifying the rights and equality of a person or group, it doesn’t depend on what they are like, or the abilities they possess. The Ape project provided evidence to the fact that, animals and in particular chimpanzees in Tanzania demonstrated ability to use tools, express a variety of emotions, convey abstract concepts within themselves and with humans, and made decisions based on reason. As it has been established above, the right to life as well as equality for animals is principally on the fact that, animals have a life and it is not upon humans to decide when an animal is to die. The moral foundation for animal rights and equality is the understanding that, animals are alive, have a life, and it is not the obligation of humans to decide when an animal is to die or kill any animal. Whether an animal is killed with less pain or not can’t be separated from the fact that, the animal is being killed. Singer’s views have been largely towards the prevention of animal killing for their meat and fur. Using his arguments to substantiate or support the killing of animals with less pain would entirely flaunt his objective by creating a leeway for killing of animals for their meat. Singer’s views therefore form a foundation for supporting the condemnation of killing animals for meat but can’t be used to support painless killing of animals.
- Cavalieri, P. & Singer, P. (eds.) (1993). The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Clark, S.R.L. (1997). Animals and Their Moral Standing. New York: Routledge.
- Durkheim, E. (2010), Sociology and Philosophy, translated by D.F. Pocock with an Introduction by J.G. Peristiany, New York: Routledge
- Fano, A. (1997). Lethal Laws: Animal Testing, Human Health, and Environmental Policy. New York: Zed Books.
- Llorente, R. (2009). The Moral Framework of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation: An alternative to utilitarianism. ETHICAL PERSPECTIVES 16, no. 1: 61-80
- Regan, T. & Singer, P. (eds.), (1989). Animal Rights and Human Obligations. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, pp. 148-162
- SINGER, P. (1999). Practical Ethics (Second Edition). CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS