The Study Of Animal Rights Essay, Research Paper
Animals and man have shared this planet since humans first appeared on earth. Animals have provided transportation, food, clothing, shelter, companionship and entertainment through the ages. Therefore, it is our duty to treat animals with respect, care and kindness and not cause them undue suffering, because they have, in many ways, made it possible for man to survive on earth. However, because normal adult humans have superior mental abilities in the hierarchical scale in nature, animals have fewer rights than humans. Consequently, it is our responsibility to support and maintain the animal kingdom (to the best of our ability); therefore helping to preserve them as fellow members or our community of life on earth.
There are many differing opinions in the Animal Rights Community. For example, how are animal rights different from the rights of humans? Do we have a right to use animals for our benefit? Do we have a right to use animals for experimentation? Do all animals have equal rights? Do they suffer more at our hands than they would in their natural habitat? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this paper, and they will be presented fairly.
Tom Regan thinks our treatment of animals is wrong and we are guilty of violating their rights. He is committed to several goals: ?total dissolution of use of animals in science, the dissolution of commercial animal agriculture, and total elimination of commercial sport hunting and trapping.?
He maintains that our whole system is skewed because we view animals as our resource. We think traditional farming agriculture is acceptable but factory farming is not?a toxicity test on animals for cosmetics is wrong, but medical research for cancer is acceptable. Regan does not understand this reasoning because he feels not even a rat or mouse should be used for research. Animals should be viewed as experiencing subjects of life with inherent value of their own. We are guilty of speciesism and have been inhumane and evil to creatures that are powerless. He contends that any change requires a change in our heads and hearts.
It would seem that Regan wrote this essay because he feels there has been a blatant cruelty and disregard for animals. He does not mention however, that all species use each other as resources?that is the way of nature. He seems to be denying or ignoring that natural phenomenon. Everything and everyone is a resource in one way or
another. Humans and animals are hosts for many insects, parasites and microscopic organisms, which are part of nature?s food chain.
As founder of the Animal Rights Liberation, utilitarian Peter Singer agrees with Regan?s opinion that we are guilty of speciesism. He defines ?speciesism? as ?a prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of members of one?s own species.? He informs the reader that he owes this term to Richard Ryder.
In his essay ?All Animals are Equal?, Singer laments the fact that the majority of humans take an active part in, or allow their taxes to pay for the sacrificing species in order to promote their self-interests. To believe that only human life is sacrosanct is wrong, in his view, and another example of speciesism. He believes we must allow beings, human or animal, which are similar in all relevant aspects, to have a similar right to live. A membership in our own species cannot be a morally relevant position.
Singer does modify his position by stating that all lives are not of equal worth. The life of a self-aware human being, capable of complex acts of communication, is more valuable than a being without these qualities. However, he concludes that if a decision has to be made to save a human life over that of an animal, the choice should be made on the characteristics of that being, not on the basis of species.
James Rachels sees a major problem in the way we eat and what we do with food, as well as the suffering of animals raised and slaughtered for food.
The huge amount of grain that is used to feed cattle is a major concern to Rachels. He quotes a conversion ratio of grain used for cattle of 21-1. In other words, we use 21 pounds of protein to get back one pound of meat. He does not argue against consuming fish, because we do not feed them food that we would consume. He argues that if we just reduced the amount of meat we produce, it would release sufficient grain to feed much of the world?s hungry. Vegetarianism would be a viable solution to the problem.
The killing of animals for ?sport? is deplorable to Rachels, and he also believes the animals butchered for our consumption are killed by inhumane methods. Rachels, with his utilitarian philosophy, states his case effectively, with strong arguments for vegetarianism. However, he, like Singer, seems to feel that animals should not suffer at the hands of humans. They do not consider that the animal kingdom does not worry about pain when one animal is devouring another. Pain is a part of life in our world and neither animals nor humans are immune from pain and suffering.
?Man in his arrogance thinks himself a great work worthy of interposition of a deity. More humble and I think truer is to consider him created from animals.? This statement, which some consider controversial and undermining traditional thinking, opens James Rachels book, Created From Animals?The Moral Implications of Darwinism.
Rachels argues that Darwinism does not undermine the traditional idea of human dignity, but the value of human life and our treatment of animals. Darwin did not deny that human rational abilities exceeded that of animals but insisted that they were only of degree. ?There is no fundamental difference between man and higher mammals in their mental faculties. He states that they reason and experience many of the same emotions as humans. He even felt that earthworms, in experiments, showed some reasoning powers. Rachels felt Darwin was stretching credulity to the breaking point with this statement.
Darwin said, ?Forget the use of language and judge only by what you see.? He felt that when animals?human or non-human, are able to adjust their behavior to the demands of their environment in a complex, intelligent way, they are showing rationality. However, he acknowledged that man is the only animal that has a moral life. As man became more rational his sympathies would become more tender and extend towards all races and all lower animals, as well. This ideal progress of man may or may not have been realized.
Humans are in a special category, according to Rachels, because they are able to participate in discussions on morality. Humans and animals have complex differences and similarities, but the main concern is the welfare of all beings and a new way of looking at our morality so we can coexist with our understanding of the world and our place in it. Utilitarian Rachels belongs firmly in a period of soul searching on the relationship of man and animals.
In the Name of Science, a book by F. Barbara Orlans, the author explores the various human attitudes about animals. They vary from love and reverence to indifference and hatred. People who participate in cock fighting say they love and admire the animals they are brutally killing. Many who exploit animals in other ways say they care about the animals they are harming. People who seem indifferent do not necessarily condone suffering and cruelty. Basic attitudes are strongly held and are often antagonistic toward people who hold different beliefs on the subject.
There has been a considerable shift in public opinion toward animal welfare rights, although support for animal experimentation continues to be strong. In a 1989 poll, 77% of 1,500 adults surveyed agreed with the statement ?it is necessary to use animals for progress in biomedical research.? In a 1990 poll, 85% felt it was acceptable to kill animals for food, and 58% approved using animals for medical research. When a cure for a life-threatening illness was at stake, 78% approved the use of animals for research.
The mainstream Western view is that animal experimentation is morally justified, but many scientists in the United States are uncomfortable in debating the ethical issues involved in such experimentation.
Members of the animal rights community deny human benefits derived from animal research, but Orlans states that the evidence of benefits is irrefutable. She sites six articles which show that such experimentation is critical in new ways of understanding, treating, and arresting and relieving suffering of many human diseases. Even modest prohibition of testing will affect medical research as a whole. Pressure from many sources has forced the consideration of anesthetics and analgesics to control pain, and alternative methods of testing to be explored.
In addition to animal research and factory farming, we have allowed the overpopulation of pets to become a social problem which necessitates the killing of 55% of the three million cats and dogs which were brought to the Humane Society in 1990. There are no reliable figures available for the number of pound and shelter animals that end up in research.
Orlans? article is timely and her book gives a balanced view on a subject that is unfortunately polarized. I appreciate her descriptive philosophy on this controversial subject.
I find it difficult to find a position on this research. Medical research should be allowed on animals when there are no other viable alternatives. However, all research should be conducted in such a way that there are strict standards with both pain and methods of death.
Still another author, Mary Ann Warren, feels that animals have rights, but they are weaker than human rights because humans are rational beings and animals are not. She disagrees with Regan and Singers? strong animal rights position and thinks there is a reasonable way of dealing with rights of animals of different kinds to vary in strength. She reasons that some creatures have very little self-awareness and probably no capacity to anticipate the future while some have more awareness. Which creatures have enough mental sophistication to count as subjects of life? How much is enough? She feels it is difficult to determine which creatures feel pain or have memories, desires or self-awareness. In dealing with such problems, Regan suggests using the ?the benefit of the doubt? principle. Warren disagrees, and feels this would create such a huge area of concern where we would be incapable of drawing a line anywhere. She concludes a weak animal rights theory is more reasonable. Simply stated, Warren says animals may, in fact, not have rights but we are obliged to treat them in such a way that they do not suffer needlessly. She assumes a more practical and rational view of the problem of rights of animals.
?Animals have no rights and need no liberation,? so states Tibor Machan. He believes it is a mistake to treat animals as if they were human beings. Rights are concepts applicable to human beings because they have a moral life. However, Machan is, like Kant, careful to point out that callousness or cruelty to animals shows disregard to life and is a character flaw.
Machan believes there is a scale in nature and that humans are the most important. He reasons that if the scale in nature makes sense, that gives credence to the idea we may make use of animals for our purposes. Even animal activists admit that moral goodness and responsibility originate with human beings. Only humans consider the rights of animals?animals do not, because they are not self-conscious.
He concludes that we ought to treat animals with care, as sentient beings, when we use them for legitimate purposes. Machan probably wrote this in answer to the strong animal rights views of Singer and Regan, which were published earlier than his work.
Nature is like a living museum of natural history, and we value the intrinsic value therein, which teaches us about evolutionary ecosystems. Holmes Rolston also states that no culture develops independent of the environment in which it exists, and our value of nature depends on our experience in it.
There are no rights in nature and suffering is a part of life. Nature is harsh, carnivores kill, and animals do not have a claim to be spared the pains of being devoured by a stronger animal. Predation prevents overpopulation and we should not meddle with natural selection and the suffering therein.
Rolston feels we must recognize the difference between tender sentiment about how we feel the world should be and the more realistic and tough reality of how it really is.
Nature is not a moral agent and we should not expect it to imitate our inter-human conduct. However, nature is a satisfactory fit for its inhabitants and, as Rolston states ?we endorse a painful good?. He suggests an ethical view which urges humans not to cause suffering beyond what nature would cause where those animals reside in the environment. Suffering is a normal feature of sentient life in the ecosystem.
Rolston states that human superiority is not groundless prejudice. However, with that superiority comes the responsibility that we need to value animals in their original ecology and not inflict unnecessary pain.