These differences do not exclude a person's right to being treated with respect and dignity. Human equal and natural rights are granted merely because we are humans (Regan, 1). However, extending this thinking to animals requires that we examine why they are excluded from the rights that are afforded to human beings. It is not because we perceive them as different. Equality and the moral claim to rights rests not in our willingness to overlook differences, but in our acknowledgement that we have a commonality that unites us into a unique moral class.
The sameness that unites the human race is not born out of physical appearance or mental abilities. We treasure our uniqueness and individuality, but they do not make us the same. The attribute that unites our species as unique is our awareness of our status, well being, and self. On the most basic level of awareness, we can measure our differences in our abilities at math or academic pursuits. Our sameness resides outside our mind's ability to calculate and exists in our unconscious. Equality is a moral ideal that eludes the ability to be stated as a simple fact (Singer, 197). We attribute our sameness to our concept of history, our realization of self-awareness, and the ability to feel the emotions of pleasure and pain. These are the qualities that are ascribed to being unique to the human race by those that would argue that animals do not have rights.
The human concept of histor...
The social structure and survival skills are passed down through generations of an animal society. This is the definition of history that is invoked and kept active by the use of memory. Displays of emotion, as it relates to history, are evident when we observe animal grieving at a family member's death. This is a sense of history as the animal recalls what their relationship meant, and what the coming times will be with the absence of the animal.
The human race is not the only animal on the planet that has self-awareness. All animals are aware of their image, their ego, and the limits of their abilities. A dog will groom itself and have an understanding of what it is and what is not the dog. We do not simply treat our pets well out of a sense of obligation, but because of a common spiritual connection (Cohen, 95). All species of animals demonstrate their self-awareness as they display themselves and understand their role in reproduction. The audible and visual manifestations that an animal creates is an expression of that self-awareness.
The wide range of emotions felt by animals can be illustrated by the grieving process felt at the time of death. Birds and elephants have complicated rituals they perform at the death of a member of their society. Disappointment and frustration is expressed when an animal is faced with obstacles that require problem solving. The close study of animals has revealed societies where kindness, sharing, guilt, grief, and anger are felt ands expressed on a routine basis. Pain and pleasure are often used as uniquely human qualities that are not shared by animals. However, there is obvious pain when an animal is tortured. Animals show obvious signs of appreciation and happiness