Animal Rights Ethics and Morality Term Paper

Pages: 12 (3748 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Animals

Animal Rights

Ethics and morality have consistently been topics of concern in our society. Concerns about Ethics and morality also extend to matters associated with the treatment of animals. The purpose of this discussion is to summarize and critique several different theories associated with the ethical treatment of animals. The discussion will focus on the treatment of animals as it relates to hunting and trapping animals, eating animals, using animals for research, and the manner in which domestic and wild animals are treated. The research will summarize and critique several theories including anthropocentrism, Animal liberation, Strong Animal Rights Theory, Weak (er) animal rights theory, Two-factor egalitarianism, biocentric egalitarianism, ecocentric views.

Anthropocentrism

Anthropocentrism views human being as the center of the universe and regards the world from the point-of-view of human values and experiences (Dictionary).

According to the western philosopher Immanuel Kant human beings alone are rational beings and as such have intrinsic moral worth. Kant asserts that human beings do not owe animals anything because they are not rational beings. However, he does assert that people should be kind to animals but only because kindness to animals assists in developing character in human beings. In other words kindness to animals should not take place for the sake of the animal but for the betterment of the human being.

In addition to Kant, others have also embraced the theory of anthropocentrism. For instance, Guthrie also posits that ethics is a phenomenon that is unique to the human species. He argues that humans do not have a moral obligation to extend their codes of behavior to other species. Guthrie further asserts that extending a human moral code to include animals is illogical.

It appears that the Anthropocentrism theory asserts that because animals are not human they do not possess logic and as such they should not be treated in a manner that is logical or human. This theory also argues that if animals are treated kindly it is not for the benefit of the animal but the human being. The problem with this theory is that it does not suppose that logical human beings would have an obligation to treat animals kindly. This would be the case because logical human beings understand that animals are helpless and therefore need protection. This theory is also problematic because it does not thoroughly or succinctly explain the consequences to human being when other living things are not treated with some sort of respect or reverence. It does not consider the impact that the ill treatment of animals would ultimately have on the environment.

Animal Liberation

The theory of Animal liberation posits that non-human animals should be given the same consideration as humans as it relates to their right to live and be free of torment. Peter Singer is one of the major supporters of this theory. Singer asserted that suffering was suffering regardless of whom or what the recipient of the suffering was. Singer also asserted that the principle of equality (or equal consideration of interests) is the crux of Singer's argument. It holds that all sentient creatures (he draws the "line" at the phylogenetic level of oysters) have the same stake in their own existence ("interests"). Singer argued that this principle leads to the conclusion that there is no basis for elevating the interests of one species, Homo sapiens, above any other. Differences in intelligence, race, and gender are not valid criteria to exploit other humans; to Singer, a creature's species is equally irrelevant. He claimed that "From an ethical point-of-view, we all stand on an equal footing -- whether we stand on two feet, or four, or none at all" (Singer, 1985, p.6; Herzog, 1990)

With these things being understood equal weight must be given to the suffering of any living thing (Callicot). According to Callicot those that practice this theory are usually vegetarians and are usually extremely adamant concerning their position.

Animal liberation is problematic because it makes no distinction between the needs of most non-human animals and human beings. However the primary theorist responsible for cultivating this philosophy does concede that the phylogenetic level of oysters are not to be considered. This view is logical at some external level, but when one truly evaluates this theory it becomes too broad and does not seem to recognize the importance of deferring to human logic as it relates to the ethical treatment of living beings. It also seems to ignore the fact that non-human animals do not have the logic to consider how human beings are being treated. As such -- if humans allow them to -- wild animals could perceive human beings as weak and began treating human beings as nothing more than prey.

Biocentric Egalitarianism

Biocentric Egalitarianism also known as reverence for life, asserts that all living things are sacred and of value and as such every living organism should be treated kindly. According to Albert Schweitzer a proponent of this theory all living organisms have a will to live and this will should be considered in the manner in which human beings treat animals that may not have the capacity to articulate this will. Schweitzer also contends that human beings must have the same respect for other organisms will to live as we have for our own will to live. As a foundation the theory of Biocentric Egalitarianism is the idea that it is good to preserve life and evil to destroy life. Schweitzer further contends that man is only ethical when he understands the responsibility of helping all life.

At the current time this seems to be a very popular way of viewing ethical behavior towards animals. This view basically concedes that every living thing is a part of a family of living things and it is unfair for those that are part of the human species of this family to decide that the other living things do not have the right to live or should be treated poorly. The foundation of this theory relies heavily upon the idea that all living things have a will and as such have a desire to preserve life. One of the weaknesses of this theory is that it tends to conjure debates concerning what constitutes a living organism because it is not made explicitly clear. Another problem with this theory is that is assumes that the will that non-humans have is the same as the will that humans possess, which may or may not be true. For instance, it may be true that a female bear wants to protect the life of her cubs but it is also true that some animals will kill their young if they are deformed, and this behavior is considered completely appropriate and normal for non-human animals. However, human beings usually find this behavior disturbing. With this being understood non-human animals do not possess this reverence for life, as such putting them on equal standing with human beings seems inappropriate.

Weak Animal Rights Theory

The weak animal rights theory argues that any living organism that has the capacity to pursue certain satisfactions also has a right not to be forced to live without being able to pursue such satisfactions (Warren). This theory also argues that any living organism that has the capacity to feel pain and hurt should have the right to live without having pain or hurt inflicted upon it unless there is a persuasive reason to argue the contrary. The weak animal rights theory also contends that conscious organisms should not be killed without a justifiable reason (Warren). Finally the weak animal rights theory asserts that moral rights are not all inclusive. As such there are instances when the rights of a non-human organism can be overridden (Warren). These arguments would be dependent upon whether or not the being is conscious and the level of mental acuity.

The weak animal rights theory asserts that as a general rule living things that can pursue satisfaction and feel pain have a right to exist without being denied the ability to pursue satisfaction or have pain forced upon them. This theory contends that conscious living organisms should be allowed to live unless there is a good reason for them to die. This particular theory also makes concessions concerning the rights of non-human organisms under certain circumstances. This theory is impressive in that it is inclusive of the superiority of human logic to make the proper decisions concerning the welfare and ethical treatment of animals. The theory is problematic in that it does present specific scenarios that would allow the rights of animals to be compromised for the purpose of human benefit.

Strong Animal Rights Theory

Strong Animal rights theory asserts that that every normal mammal over a year of age has the same rights as human beings. That is all mammals have the same right to live or die as humans do. According to Mary Anne Warren there are three stages associated with the strong human rights theory. The first stage asserts that mature mammals are both conscious… [END OF PREVIEW]

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