Peter singer animal rights essays

Giving a man the right to have an abortion is like giving a fish the right to breathe air out of the water. It is an unnecessary right that should not go to the man, for it is not in his capacity to truly fulfill such a right. Equally, it is untrue to say that humans have equal ability when it comes to achieving something in the world. Some men and women are born to be athletes, some writers, and others laborers.


It is not the case that most humans cannot perform these tasks, but rather that some humans will be better-suited to perform these tasks naturally. To begin, Singer examines the natural inclinations people have when considering the topic of equality. He notes that today, at least in places similar to the United States and Britain, most people accept that all humans should be considered equal. However, there are those who believe differently; that their race or gender is superior to others. Those who believe in their superiority based on skin color or racial background are called racists.

Similarly, those who believe their gender to be superior to the opposite gender are called sexists. When formulating his argument, Singer takes the equal consideration a step further, adding that all animals both human and nonhuman alike should be considered equal. Those who do not believe in this notion, that their species is superior to another species, are called speciesists.

We have found, through considerable contemplation and evaluation, that one race or gender is not superior to another. When considering the equality of human beings, one must go past the tests which consider intelligence, moral capacity, physical strength, or similar matters. For if we test on such levels, it will not be difficult to find that humans are not equal in these respects.

Furthermore, we cannot be sure that these differences are innate or if they have been taught to these humans. Consider a scholar in the United States and a warrior from Africa. One will be better at mathematics while the other will be better at hunting and fighting. This difference is mainly from the environment in which the human being was raised. If the humans switched environments, they theoretically would change what they excelled at.

If humans can theoretically excel equally when given the opportunity to do so, we should consider the equality of humans not as something that comes from skill or place of origin, but as an ability or capacity to fulfill or be something in their own respect.

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Therefore, Singer pursues the principle of equality of human beings not as a description of an alleged actual equality among humans, but rather how we should treat humans Singer 5. This principle does not suggest that a man has the right to an abortion, for a man cannot fulfill this right. This principle gives rights to humans in their own respect; a boy in the United States should be taught mathematics and a boy in Africa should be taught hunting, if this is what their society compels them to do or become.

The principle of equality among humans determines to make humans prosper and fulfill whatever they are best capable of in order to achieve the most of the life they live. As Singer has stated, his argument is not for the equality of human beings, but for the equality of all beings--both human and nonhuman. He states, " Those who agree to equality when considering race or sex are not uncommon. However, the true dilemma arises when considering the relationship of equality between humans and nonhumans. Those who do not agree that nonhumans should be equally considered to humans are called speciesists.

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The groundwork for this argument is that if possessing intelligence of a higher degree does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose? As we have seen, the principle of equality is a principle which determines to take into equal consideration the interests of all beings affected by such a principle.

The beings which are affected are those which have interests. In the article " Animal Rights: Equal Experiencers of Suffering ," I argue that animals have an interest not to experience suffering. To limit the principle of equality to humans would suggest that only humans have interests, but why would one suggest that? What is an interest and how does it come about? Singer, speaking from a utilitarian viewpoint, suggests that interests come about by beings having a capacity for pleasure and for pain; mainly an interest to receive or maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

Anything else is a means in order to achieve pleasure or avoid pain. If the principle of equality is to be extended to all beings with interests, then Singer's next goal is to prove that nonhumans have any interests at all. In order to prove his argument that nonhumans have interests, Singer states that any being with the capacity for suffering or enjoyment is one that has interests; for the capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all.

When considering suffering, any being who suffers should have their suffering considered equally to any other being who suffers. If there is such a being that does not have the capacity to suffer, then they should not be considered when receiving any sort of equality. To further prove his argument, Singer must now display that nonhuman beings are sentient; that they can experience, at the very least, suffering. Finding that nonhuman beings can suffer due to an experience of pain is not a difficult thing to determine.

Although there may be some Descartians around who still believe that animals are strictly highly functioning automata, it is generally considered that animals can experience and receive pain. The author of a book on pain which is quoted in Singer's Animal Liberation writes, "Apart from the complexity of the cerebral cortex which does not directly perceive pain [higher nonhuman mammalian vertebrates'] nervous systems are almost identical to [humans'] and their reactions to pain remarkably similar It seems that the only difference is the ability to express pain in terms that we humans understand.

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This ability of expression is called language and it should not be considered a detriment to the principle of equality for all sentient beings. For, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once stated, "Language may be necessary for abstract thought, at some level anyway; but states like pain are more primitive, and have nothing to do with language" To those who do not agree with this statement, I implore you to put out a cigar on an infant or to cut off the leg of a handless mute, for they obviously feel no pain according to your requirement of an expression of language.

When considering the infliction of pain upon a sentient being, it must be clarified that it is not the action which brings about pain that should be considered as equal, rather it should be the amount of pain felt by the receiver of pain. Like Singer noted, slapping a horse will not hurt the horse as much as slapping a small child would.

Peter Singer

However, breaking the horses leg with a baseball bat would be equal to breaking a child's leg with a bat, since both sentient beings are experiencing the pain of a broken leg. Also, and again, the level of intellect the sentient being has should not elicit any form of difference in the equal consideration a being experiencing pain could have.

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This is noted because there is an argument which is commonly used that states that adult humans have more capacity for suffering because they can anticipate some sort of pain they might receive in the future. An example of this anticipation would be if scientists were kidnapping adults out of parks and performing terribly painful experiments on them, then this would most likely result in adults staying away from parks.

The terror and fear they would form when thinking about what might happen to them if they were to enter into the park would be a form of suffering. The argument suggests that since animals cannot cognate such anticipated experiences, then human suffering must be more so than animal suffering. However, as Singer has noted, if one does take this position, then they should be fine with these scientists kidnapping and experimenting on infants and a person with an intellectual disability.

For infants and intellectually disabled humans can no more foresee the intense pain they might receive upon entering the park than can an animal. Their lack of foresight does not mean that they can experience any less suffering than can an adult human being. To conclude the first chapter of Animal Liberation , Singer, believing that he has successfully posed a valid and convincing argument for the principle of equality amongst all sentient beings based on the infliction of pain and suffering on said beings, turns to the topic of killing nonhuman sentient beings.

This topic, Singer admits, is a bit more difficult than equal consideration of the rights of animals, because there is still an ongoing debate whether it is right to kill certain humans or not. Fortunately, though, Singer determines to argue against the killing of nonhuman beings. In doing so, he adopts the 'sanctity of life' view and extends it to all sentient beings.

Commonly, the 'sanctity of life' view is a speciesist view which makes the claim that it is wrong to take an innocent human life. Singer wants to extend this view to all animals, both human and nonhuman alike, by allowing that, " What criteria are necessary for determining which being have a right to life? It may seem as though a human being with a capacity for self-awareness, the ability to plan for the future, and having meaningful relationships with others may have more of a right to life than a mouse.

However, if these be the criteria we chose--self-awareness, ability to plan for the future, and having meaningful relationships with others--we must then admit that a chimpanzee, dog, or pig, which are superior in all of the capacities over an infant or a intellectually disabled human being, has more of a right to life than the infant or intellectually disabled human being.

In any case, it should be noted that these criteria are not relevant to the question of inflicting pain, just in the worth of life. Therefore, Singer notes that some lives may have more worth than others. If we were given the dilemma of saving the life of a normal human to that of an intellectually disabled human, or of a normal human to that of a dog, typically the normal human's life would be saved every time.

The true difference comes when considering pain in these beings. For it is not as clear if we were given the dilemma of saving a normal human from pain over an intellectually disabled human from pain which we would chose. Likely, both humans would be taken into equal consideration. If it is true that both humans would be taken into equal consideration because of the pain, then it should be equally true that nonhuman animals should be taken into equal consideration when considering pain. Not doing so would be speciesist. If both humans and nonhumans are given equal consideration about the minimization of suffering from pain, then this means they are given equal consideration in their capacities to not suffer from pain.

If we give both humans and nonhumans equal consideration in the fulfilling of these capacities, then they should be given equal consideration in the pursuit of pleasure throughout the life they live. If they are given equal pursuit of pleasure throughout the life they live, then it is wrong to kill humans and nonhumans because it would be obstructing their ability to fulfill the natural capacities of receiving pleasure and avoiding pain, of which they have.

In chapter two of Animal Liberation , Singer relates the gruesome tales of what happens when humans regard themselves as higher beings over animals and disregard the truth that animals have the ability to suffer from the experience of pain. The second chapter displays case after case of scientific research which is performed on animals so that new products or information can be made and given to humans for their own personal consumption.

With this being said, many of the experiments performed on animals as "tools for research" acquire no new forms of relevant or useful information for the researchers.

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Often times the researchers do not have good explanations for the experiments they are performing on animals. And, in nearly every United States experiment, researchers are receiving their money from the taxes that the common American pays. Ultimately, this means that the common American taxpayer is directly funding these unnecessary tests and experiments on animals; experiments which cause permanent, prolonged, and severe suffering for the animals.

In order to expose such cruel and utility lacking research, Singer reviews experiments such as the ones conducted over many years at Brooks Air Force Base, in Texas. In this experiment, scientists took trained monkeys and involved them in a flight simulator known as the Primate Equilibrium Platform, or PEP. The monkeys sit in a chair that is part of the platform. In front of them is a control stick, by means of which the platform can be returned to a horizontal position" The point of this experiment is fiction. The experimenters wanted to see how long the monkeys can continue to 'fly' after being exposed to lethal or sublethal doses of radiation or to chemical warfare agents.

The monkeys are trained to fly the simulator through seven phases. This takes at least two years.