Animal Liberation Essay, Research Paper
For Steve Kramer
By Matt Young
Why is it that we as a society condemn the actions of a man against a man but very rarely a man against an animal? I think this question must be understood if we are ever to change the rights animals have. As of yet I don’t believe animals have any actual rights. Rather humans have rights that involve animals. If we are to truly allow animals to have rights the same or similar to humans then we must first define what it is that makes us feel as if they are entitled to rights.
Peter Singer addresses the ordeal of animal rights better than I have ever seen anyone address it. His analysis laid out in A Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation is remarkably stated. He pushes the viewer to see animals as equals to us. But in order for him to do this he must first redefine equality. I think that the over use of the word equality has been an enormous set back in the movement for animal rights. Obviously a dog is not physically equal to a human and it would be outlandish to state that a dog has equal mental ability to that of the average human. However, there are humans that have fewer mental capabilities than that of the average dog. We would not subject this human to product testing and research but we feel it is all right to place animals in this position. A general defense to this is that the human life matters more than that of an animal, but what allows us to make that judgment. Singer addresses this defense by comparing the inequality placed on species to that of the inequality placed on races and sexes, hence his term "speciesism".
For the majority of my life, since I remember having a specific viewpoint one way or another, I have considered my-self a person in favor of animal rights. It wasn’t until I read A Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation that I realized my idea of animal rights was greatly understated. It also brought back a memory that I had long since forgotten. I was raised by my father to respect life, even if it was the life of an insect or rodent. My father insisted on having "humane" mouse traps and instead of squashing a bug he would take it out side and let it go. When I was about eight my father caught me shooting a robin with my pellet gun and grounded me. I threw a fit and screamed, "What’s the big deal? Its only a stupid bird!" and ran inside. That evening my dad called me into his room and sat me down for a talk. He tried to explain to me that everything had a right to live and we had no business taking that right away with out a reason. I didn’t quite under stand what he meant by that and still insisted that it was only a bird. Nevertheless, I finally agreed to stop shooting them. This was only to get out of the room and I took no stock in what I had agreed to do. Later that week I was at it again, shooting at birds while my father was at work. As I took aim at a large robin my father’s words lingered in the back of my head. I pushed them aside in my mind but the hesitation was just enough for my aim to be affected. The pellet hit the robin and sent it to the ground but this time it didn’t kill it immediately. It lay on the ground squawking and flapping its wings. I stood there and watched the robin die and at that moment my father’s words took effect and as I witnessed the life slowly leave this creature I felt tears welling up inside of me. It wasn’t until then that I fully realized the effect my actions had. After that I only raised my gun at another animal if I intended to bring it home and harvest the meat. Reading the article by Peter Singer, I realize that while I have considered myself to be strongly for animal rights and against animal testing and cruelty to animals, I have really only looked at the issues from my point of view. I’m strongly against those things that don’t directly affect me. I eat meat and hunt and have never really had a problem with it. I’m appalled at the thought of testing our products on animals but have no problem going out and shooting a deer.
This brings up an argument that can at first be seen to agree with animal rights but at closer inspection violates the idea behind it. Hunting has always been a part of human existence, especially here in Montana. I have always thought I was being a good animal rights supporter by hunting. This feeling came from the knowledge of what goes on in places that raise animals in order to mass-produce hamburger and store sold meats. I have always felt I was being fair to the animal by giving it a life outside of captivity and cruel conditions. Yet in order for there to be total animal rights we would have to abolish hunting. Each and every animal has the right to live and we have no right to decide when that life is to end. Doing so only implies that they are inferior to us. But aren’t there a great many people that are inferior to others. Does that mean we have the right to hunt them for pleasure, sport and food? Almost all of society would say definitely not! But what is it that makes the animal life so much less valuable than that of a human.
One of the largest and most frequently used arguments against animal rights is the rationality argument. It simply states that a human being is of greater value than an animal because it has the ability to perform rational thought. This argument fails to recognize the fact that there are many humans that lack the ability for rational thought while there are numerous animals that have shown signs of this very ability. If we allow ourselves to use these animals in tests and research then what is to stop us from using mental retards, infants, and people in vegetative states in these same procedures?
I am not against hunting even though it is taking the life of another species. I feel that if you eat the meat then it is justified. I believe the only reason I don’t eat and hunt humans is that it is illegal. Of course if it were legal there would be utter chaos and we would return to the survival of the fittest. Perhaps that is what we need, a return to the times when you took only when you needed and the life you took was in order to sustain your own. Or perhaps we need to turn to vegetarianism. After all it is much healthier and humane.
In the long run I think the argument for animal rights can be broken down into two sentences. Every creature has the right to life. We do not have the right to take that from them, no more than we have the right to kill a mentally retarded human being.