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Journal and Homework
Some entries will just be to get myself writing, others will be copies of homework assignments that I feel are worth posting. Comments on typos and writing quality, as well as the content, are welcome. The ramblings aren't worth critique effort.
Duties to Animals
.......What moral responsibilities do humans have to other animals? Some say we have a duty because they are fellow living beings. Or because they resemble humans in some aspects and our actions to non-human animals reflect those we would be willing to do to humans. Kant's theory is between those two, explaining that our duty to animals is only a reflection and practice of habits we wish to form towards humans. Using this theory of Kant's, I intend to form an argument between him and Singer, Cohen and myself providing the counter arguments as to whether or not and to what extent do non-humans animals have rights. Non-human animals have the right for equal consideration of interests, to minimal suffering and to seek happiness. While currently these rights are often ignored, they do exist and are deserved. Humans have a moral responsibility to uphold the rights of all animals.
.......In Kantian ethics, duty is the main idea; the duty to respect humans, and the duty to only act in a way that would allow for a universal rule to guide that action. While this might seem like an ethical theory that would at least support duty to non-human animals, it does not. Kant states that our only duties to non-human animals are indirect; meaning that the only reason we should be kind to non-human animals is because if we aren't, we will become more cold-hearted and be less likely to treat humans kindly. He believes that humans are superior because humans are capable of rational thought and moral judgment. Non-human animals can't contribute to moral rules, can't think rationally, and because of this we don't owe them anything. Non-human animals are just a means to achieve a result; humans are an end that should never be treated as mere means. Cruel actions towards non-human animals, actions that cause suffering, are acceptable if they result in helping mankind. Needless cruelty is detrimental since it allows humans to become comfortable with harming other living creatures, a habit that would be likely to result in the harming of humans. Kant strongly believes that humans are superior to non-human animals, and that the suffering of non-human animals is less important than human suffering.
.......Singer has a very different view, one that is for equality for all species. He sees discrimination based on species, such as Kant's ideas of humans being superior, as the same type of discrimination as racism and sexism. He used someone else's term for this, speciesism. Equality for all species, equal consideration of interests, is about the rights of other species, such as the right to minimal suffering and the right to seek happiness. As Kant used rationality and moral contribution to prove that non-human animals are inferior, Singer used the capacity to suffer as a reason why species are equal. Singer's justification of this is based on how some humans, by young age, brain damage or other problem, lack the ability of rational thought and moral contribution. Something that separates humans from other animals should encompass all humans, and exclude all other animals. Suffering on the other hand, encompasses all humans and all other sentient beings. That is Singer's justification for using suffering as the standard for equality, rights, and why speciesism is immoral. Non-human animal experimentation has a flaw, humans that don't have the ability of rational thought nor that of moral contribution, are not grouped with non-human animals, they are not tested on. They are human, even while lacking those qualities, and thus it is unacceptable to test on them. Experimentation on non-human animals brings unneeded suffering, and the times where it is required by law is only for new pharmaceuticals, which is an outdated requirement. Singer uses the standard of suffering, and the utilitarian principle of minimizing total pain and maximizing pleasure, to explain the reasoning behind his belief that all species deserve rights and to be a part of that utilitarian calculation of pain and pleasure.
.......Cohen is more in line with Kant that us humans have few if any obligations to non-human animals. He even mentions Singer's ideas and explains that Racism is only applicable to humans. Discrimination based upon species is globally accepted. Our only duty to non-human animals is to not cause unnecessary suffering, but that they have no rights. Cohen agrees with Kant that to be granted rights one must be able to contribute to the moral community. If non-human animal suffering lessens human suffering then it is justified. A right is a claim for one person to use against another to keep the relationship fair. As non-human animals have no rights, there are no rights for experimentation or another act to violate. Cohen even takes a utilitarian approach when arguing that it would be unethical to not experiment on non-human animals. Not experimenting causes pain and suffering instead of relieve and cures. To deny non-human animal experimentation we would have to deny all past and future gains from it. To be able to protest non-human animal treatment we would have to give up products with or made by non-human animal products, from wool clothing to eating anything not plant based. Even development that would threaten to distress animals would have to be actively protested to give one a right to say that speciesism is wrong. Cohen's views serve to continue and guard Kant's arguments against Singer's claims.
.......Cohen is incorrect. Especially in regards to racism; dehumanization and differences of power and worth were rampant before slavery was abolished. Remnants of thought from the time of slavery, such as segregation, continued until the civil rights movement. It doesn't matter that other animals aren't human. When slavery was acceptable, and often race was used to make it easier to distinguish the slaves from the masters, slaves were less than human. Just a tool or piece of furniture. If anything, this piece of his argument seems to prove the problem; a similar mindset to a new case of discrimination. Humans too young to think about moral laws, and humans without the brain function to have rational thought, would they not be better subjects for product testing? The same kind of eyes and body structure, the results of the experiments would be so much more usable. So what if they can suffer? It is not as if they are capable of holding a conversation about ethics. Much needless non-human animal product testing is occurring, cosmetics have other means of testing and many ingredients with proven results but they still commission or preform experiments on non-human animals. Pharmaceuticals is the only area required in the USA to preform animal testing. Animal testing is needless suffering elsewhere, at least according to our own laws. As for rights, they would be about equal consideration, not laws. However, even by current laws in the USA, a dog could not vote. Why not? Because many dog breeds can barely make it to 12-years-old. That is, by age with disregard to a species, a minor, a dependent. A being to whom the law applies more as a protector and for measures of safety than for granting rights. By accepting a level of equality among species, we give our cats and dogs the right to be labeled as a dependent instead of property. If they are taken from us it is a crime to a living being instead of equal to a chair, their life will matter in regards to laws, it will matter what was done to them while they were taken, it will matter for them to be found alive. In regards to any use of animal products, all living things die. While quite often humans kill for fur or meat, there is still a such thing as a natural death. If we do kill an animal for our own benefit, not for sport or entertainment, and use all of the animal from the meat, to the hide, to all of the other pieces and waste little to none, we have given some meaning, however insignificant, to the animal's death. Why should we not become herbivores to spare the lives of cattle? Plants are alive too, they provide oxygen, hold the soil together, and do countless more things besides live, grow, and feed an animal. Excessive farming cuts down on land for wild animals, even endangered animals. It erodes the soil if not done carefully, and it requires trees, to be removed. Trees can be shelter, bring warmth, the leaves mulch the ground, their strong roots hold soil in place better than a smaller plant could, they create lots of oxygen; the list goes on and on. We need not look to one extreme or the other, but to somewhere in the middle, for moderation.
.......All animals have rights, and are deserving of equal consideration. The ability to suffer is the common link between humans and other animals. Neither rational thought nor moral contribution encapsulate all of the human species. All humans are protected by equality laws, and to all humans it is seen as wrong to inflict cruelty and suffering. However without a definitive way to separate humans from other species these rights are to be extended to them. When looking for how to maximize total pleasure and minimize total pain, the feelings of all animals needs to be considered. It is baseless and immoral to see humans as above other animals, especially to the extent that our pain might be more painful than theirs or in some other way matter more. While we are apt to care more about the pain of those we are connected to, within our circle of caring, that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist or doesn't matter. Ignored or not all animals have the right to equal consideration of interests, which covers minimalizing pain and gaining pleasure.


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