Tom regan the case for animal rights essay


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Singer's notion of equal consideration does not mean that animals receive equal treatment, and it does not preclude the morality of a decision to exploit a human or nonhuman. As long as an animal's interests receive equitable consideration consideration untainted by the speciesism that discounts animal interests simply because they are the interests of a supposed "inferior" , Singer's equality principle is satisfied.

But this notion of equality is consistent with animal exploitation if the consequences justify that exploitation and if the decision to exploit is not based on species discrimination. Indeed, Singer acknowledges that he "would never deny that we are justified in using animals for human goals, because as a consequentialist, [he] must also hold that in appropriate circumstances we are justified in using humans to achieve human goals or the goal of assisting animals.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the difference between Singer's view and the rights position is expressed by Singer himself in the second edition of Animal Liberation. Singer argues that many nonhumans, and this class apparently includes food animals, are incapable of "having desires for the future" or a "continuous mental existence. Singer believes that these characteristics become relevant, however, when the issue involves killing an animal in a painless or relatively painless manner. Singer expresses "doubts" on the issue, but he concludes that "it is not easy to explain why the loss to the animal killed is not, from an impartial point of view, made good by the creation of a new animal who will lead an equally pleasant life.

I do not plan to discuss the various criticisms made of Singer's theory; however, there is one aspect of his utilitarianism that requires comment. There is no doubt that: 1 Singer regards most animal experimentation as without merit; 2 he would eliminate factory farming; and 3 we ought, for the most part, to be vegetarians because although it may be morally permissible to eat animals, as a practical matter, the circumstances surrounding their rearing and killing will morally preclude eating them.

These views, however, are based on Singer's empirical assessments of the consequences of particular acts in light of his theory that individual acts ought to further the interests or preferences of those affected. Like all such empirical assessments, the consequences of the acts may be evaluated differently by different people. For example, Singer thinks that the negative consequences for the animals involved in factory farming outweigh the benefits, but as Regan points out, "[t]he animal industry is big business," and although "[i]t is uncertain exactly how many people are involved in it, directly or indirectly,.

Similarly, philosopher R. Frey's list includes negative consequences that would befall those directly involved in the raising and killing of animals, such as farmers and slaughtering operations; those involved indirectly in various enterprises such as: food retailers, fast food restaurants, and the dairy industry; the pet food industry; the pharmaceutical industry; the leather goods and wool industries; agricultural and veterinary research incidental to agriculture, the publication of books about animal agriculture, the advertisement of products of animal agriculture, and so forth.

This is not to say that these negative consequences would not necessarily outweigh the animal interests involved in not experiencing pain and suffering incidental to intensive agriculture; it only says that if the issue hinges on the aggregation of consequences, it is unclear whether it would be morally right under Singer's view to abolish factory farming. What is clear is that given Singer's view that the rightness or wrongness of action is determined by the consequences it has for the interests of all affected, he simply "cannot say that the interests of those humans involved in.

In The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan argues that the rights position regards as morally unacceptable any institutionalized exploitation of nonhumans. Regan unambiguously and without equivocation condemns the use of animals for food, hunting, trapping, testing, education, and research. Regan believes that humans and nonhumans are subjects-of-a-life that have equal inherent value. That is, agents and patients are conscious, possess a complex awareness, and have a psychophysical identity over time. Agents and patients may be harmed or benefited and have a welfare in that their experiential life fares well or ill for them, independently of utility that they have for others or the interest that others have in them.

Inherent value theory holds that the individual has a distinct moral value that is separate from any intrinsic values and that the attribution of equal inherent value to both moral agents and relevantly similar moral patients is required because both agents and patients are subjects-of-a-life. Regan argues further that the respect principle requires that we treat those individuals who have inherent value in ways that respect their inherent value.

The respect principle states simply that no individual with equal inherent value may be treated solely as a means to an end in order to maximize the aggregate of desirable consequences. Regan's respect principle shares important theoretical similarities and differences with the notion articulated by Immanuel Kant that we treat other persons as ends in themselves and never merely as means to ends.

Rational agents, Kant argued, have value in themselves independent of their value to others. Regan's contribution to this notion is his use of the subject-of-a-life criterion to identify in a nonarbitrary and intelligible way a similarity that holds between moral agents and patients and that gives rise to a direct duty to the latter. Regan stresses that there is no nonarbitrary way to separate moral agents from moral patients, and that there is no way to differentiate human moral patients from nonhuman moral patients without relying on some form of species bias or speciesism.

Regan argues that institutionalized animal exploitation such as the use of animals for food, experiments, clothing, and entertainment violates the respect principle by treating all animal interests as tradable as long as the aggregation of consequences are justified. Although Regan's theory represents an important contribution that differs qualitatively from Singer's theory of animal liberation, there is a sense in which any coherent and non-speciesist theory of animal rights must rule out all forms of institutional exploitation.

As Henry Shue has argued in the context of human rights, there is a logical distinction between what Shue calls "basic" rights and "non-basic" rights. According to Shue, a basic right is not a right that is "more valuable or intrinsically more satisfying to enjoy than some other rights.

Argument for Animal Rights Essay

But the protection of a basic right may not be sacrificed in order to secure the enjoyment of a non-basic right. If the right sacrificed is indeed basic, then no right for which it might be sacrificed can actually be enjoyed in the absence of the basic right. The sacrifice would prove self- defeating. Although Shue identifies several basic rights, the most important of these is the "basic right to physical security--a right that is basic not to be subjected to murder, torture, mayhem, rape, or assault.

Most of the time, discussions about rights occur in the context of discussion of human rights, and these discussions do not concern whether we should be able to kill and eat people, or whether we should be able to use people in experiments to which they have not given their informed consent, or whether we should be able to use people in rodeos, or exhibit people in zoos. It is assumed--at least under the law of most countries and at least in the moral views of most people--that people have certain rights, or, at least, that they have certain interests that cannot be compromised irrespective of consequence.

Shue is most certainly correct to note that we always assume that humans have basic rights to physical security, whether or not there are social differences in terms of the actual distribution of these rights. In other words, recognition of the basic right to physical security is a right as a matter of law irrespective of whether the state enforces this right in an even-handed manner.

In the case of animals, however, the situation is precisely the opposite. We talk informally about the rights of animals, but animals do not have the basic legal right of physical security and they cannot possess it as a matter of law. Because animals are regarded as the property of their human owners, they can be killed for food, used in experiments, and exploited in numerous other ways simply because the owner of the animal regards it as a "benefit" to do so.

If animals are to have any rights at all other than merely legalistic or abstract ones to which Shue refers , they must have certain basic rights that would then necessarily protect them from being used for food, clothing, or experiments. Our treatment of nonhuman animals reflects a distinction that we make between humans, whom we regard as persons, and nonhumans, whom we regard as things.

This trade is generally permissible even when the animal interest involved is significant and the human interest is admittedly trivial, as is the case of the use of animals for "entertainment" purposes such as pigeon shoots, rodeos, or circuses. Animals are not persons in either moral theory or under the law; they are property in that they exist solely as means to human ends.

That is precisely what it means to be property. Some of these persons, such as corporations, are de jure persons in that their personhood exists solely because they are creations of a legal system.

The Problem of Animal Rights

But what is common to every person is that persons have at least some interests, although not necessarily all the same interests, that are protected by moral theory or law or both even if trading away those interests will produce consequences that are deemed to be desirable. All "persons" must have at least one interest that is protected from being sacrificed merely for consequential purposes; the interest in continued existence, without which all other interests would be meaningless.

This is Shue's concept of the basic right of physical security. There are at least two reasons in support of this move.

Nor is it enough to argue that species difference alone is morally relevant; after all, to rely on species alone as morally relevant is to assume a distinction that needs to be proved by those who hold such a view. And, it is morally indistinguishable from using race, sex, sexual orientation, or ability to determine membership in the moral community of persons. In other words, there is no reason to exclude animals from a progressive concept of personhood. Second, is another related, more "positive" reason to view animals as persons.

Although there will undoubtedly be borderline cases, it is clear that at least some animals possess the characteristics that we normally associate with personhood.

The Argument Of Animal Rights

The attribution of at least several of these mental states reveals that it is perfectly sensible to regard certain nonhumans as psychophysical individuals who "fare well or ill during the course of their life, and the life of some animals is, on balance, experientially better than the life of others. A common misconception is that animal advocates argue that animals should have the same rights as humans. As far as I am aware, no rights advocate maintains this view. Moreover, the criticism itself indicates a fundamental confusion about rights theory. This matter of inclusion is to be distinguished from the matter of the scope of any rights that animals may have once we move them from one side to the other.

I have elsewhere used the example of human slavery to illustrate this point. Slaves had no rights of association, slave families were routinely broken up, and slaves could be killed or tortured for what was essentially the pleasure or amusement of slave owners. Indeed, the move entailed the exclusion of only one sort of exploitation: the institutionalized commoditization of human beings in which their basic right of physical security, the prerequisite for their having rights at all, was violated by others for consequential reasons.

Other considerations governed the scope of rights that these "new" persons may have had. For example, the abolition of human slavery only began, and did not end, a discussion about what additional rights--other than the right not to be slaves--should be accorded to former slaves. Similarly, when we move at least some nonhumans from the "thing" side over to the "person" side, we have said nothing about the scope of rights that they will have.

All we have done--through the inclusion of animals on the "person" side--is to recognize that species alone is an insufficient justification for treating nonhumans as "things. For example, it would be absurd to discuss the rights of animals to drive or to vote or the right of an animal to get a scholarship to attend college. But the inability of nonhumans to adhere to rules of the road, choose intelligently among political rivals, or do calculus are all irrelevant to the basic notion of personhood.

We may very legitimately award a math scholarship to Jane rather than Simon based on Jane's superior mathematical ability. As long as Simon has had a fair opportunity to develop his mathematical abilities, using Jane's "intelligence" as a criterion for determining the distribution of the particular resource in question educational benefits is fair. But Jane's greater intelligence does not justify Jane treating Simon as her slave or otherwise placing Simon on the "thing" side of the equation.

There is, however, one sense in which including animals as members of the class of "persons" is very different from including additional humans within that class. If we acknowledge that Simon is not a "thing," the protection we have given Simon is at the same time quite significant after all, the basic right to physical security is a prerequisite to all other rights , but also the bare minimum needed to distinguish Simon from being a thing.

Saying that Simon is included in the class of persons says nothing about the scope of rights that he may have other than to say that we will protect Simon's right to be a person in that we will at least recognize de jure that Simon's basic right to physical security will be protected from being traded away for consequential reasons.

If, however, we recognize that animals are not "things," that their basic right to physical security cannot be sacrificed merely because we think the consequences justify the sacrifice , then we can no longer justify the institutionalized exploitation of animals for food, experiments, clothing, or entertainment. These forms of institutionalized exploitation necessarily assume that animals are things whose interests are contingent on human desires.

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Once we recognize that animals are not "things," we can no longer justify the use of animals in experiments any more than we could justify the use of humans. We have at least de jure ruled out the institutional use of coerced humans in biomedical experiments. And, although many people will tolerate the payment of low wages to workers, few would similarly tolerate human slavery. A primary result of according personhood status to at least some nonhumans would be to require the abolition of institutionalized animal exploitation.

Once we recognize that animals are no longer "things," then we can no longer treat them as beings whose fundamental interests in their own lives may be sacrificed because we enjoy the taste of meat, or because we enjoy shooting pigeons, or because we enjoy the feel or look of fur or leather.

That is, according personhood status to animals does not mean that we simply get more serious about whether a particular form of slaughter to produce meat is more "humane," or that we take animal interests more seriously in determining whether a particular experiment involving animals is "necessary. To evaluate Singer's claims about the normative indeterminacy of rights theory, I will identify three separate normative components, or levels, of moral theory, and I will explore the relative normative guidance of the utilitarian and deontological approaches with respect to each component.

The first component is what the theory ideally seeks. That is, what state of affairs would the theory want to achieve were all other things equal. The second component provides normative guidance to the individual, on a personal level, in terms of what theory ideally requires.