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What duties, if any, do we have to non-human animals - Essay Example

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What duties, if any, do we have to non-human animals
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What duties, if any, do we have to non-human animals

’1 In examining theories by Singer, McMahan, Warnock, Spira and Benson regarding the eating of non-human animals, consideration will also be given to the impact this may have on moral arguments regarding ‘duty’ in vivisection, and industries such as cosmetics, detergents and pharmaceuticals. Peter Singer believes chimpanzees and apes, should be granted ‘the right to life, to liberty and to protection from torture,’2 because they have autonomy like humans. Singer’s term ‘speciesists’ is used for people who ‘regard human beings as intrinsically more valuable than members of other species.’3 Singer purports to believe in equality between species, but Benson argues this is false ‘because of the relationships with other individuals which are inseparable from belonging to the same species.’4 Singer contradictiously suggests that chimps and apes have a greater level of consiousness, compared to other non-human animals. In an article and the book Ethics into Action, Singer discusses Henry Spira who campaigned to reduce animal suffering related to the Draize and LD50 tests. Spira’s advertising campaign was criticized for using a Beagle to gain an emotive response; it was suggested if a rodent appeared in the advert people would not have been so outraged. Spira pointed to the importance of ‘not how popular is an animal, but can it tell the difference between pain and pleasure?’5 Singer discusses Kant’s work and states that we ‘find moral worth only when duty is done for duty’s sake.’6 What is meant by this relates to the advertising, in that if people do their duty out of sympathy or shame, they wouldn’t be doing their duty for the sake of believing and feeling it to be true. Gary L. Francione criticises Peter Singer’s work, suggesting that whilst it contains an element of reform for animal-welfare, it ‘makes people feel better about animal uses, but does not actually achieve its proper aim of protecting animals.’7 Francione argues for full abolition of animal use, claiming that because animals are sentient beings this should enable them to have full moral and legal rights. Professor of Philosophy, Jeff McMahan, discusses animals raised in good conditions, then killed humanely, for human consumption and terms this ‘benign carnivorism.’8 McMahan states the main premise of benign carnivorism’s moral philosophical argument, is that it’s preferable animals live in a contented manner, with no suffering (up until their humane death), than to not have existed at all. Mary Warnock claims animals ‘should be used for the sake of human society,’9 she lists activities such as horse riding; sledging; the food and clothing they provide. This argument is favourable to those wishing to consume meat, though McMahan points out the illogical flaw that: ‘there are no individuals who never exist.’10 A comparative sense of ‘well-being’ is made between non-human animals and humans. Whilst non-human animals can appear to show emotion; other aspects of human life such as success, artistic endeavours, wisdom, meaningful connections to others, the ability to think rationally and appreciation of beauty aren’t always as easy to perceive in non-human animals. McMahan suggests that non-human animals lack a self-awareness for the future, claiming that they ‘do not…have desires or intentions or ambitions…that would be frustrated by death,’11 thus making it easier to justify killing them. McMahan’s argument makes interesting comparison to humans but his key premise throughout is that animals do not have the same rights as humans they have lesser rights; humans constantly place a higher value on human life. If non-human animals were seen to have a ... Read More
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