Animals have been giving companionship, providing transportation and serving as material for food and clothing aimed at human beings since the beginning of times. Their crucial role in people’s lives is undeniable, but their suffering and horrible life conditions due to human exploitation are often ignored by the society. This paper will research the issue of animal rights, in particular, whether they have rights and therefore have to be protected. It will analyze moral reasons for and against eating other living beings and testing products on them. The paper will further make a conclusion about animals’ place in human driven society, their powers and freedoms.
Animal Rights Debate
Many countries are addressing the issues of animal rights in a progressive and proactive manner. Germany, for instance, was the first to grant these living beings a constitutional right and in this way encouraged the nation to respect and protect their dignity equally. England has recently imposed a prohibition on animal farming, while several other European countries outlawed “battery cages”.
Switzerland is currently in the process of transforming the animal status from “things” to “beings”. The US are also trying to implement some changes into animal rights situation. 37 states have already outlawed some forms of cruelty towards animals, while McDonalds and Burger King were a driving force behind meat industry slaughter conditions improvements. Animal rights initiative is supported by a significant amount of Americans, 51 percent of them expressed a belief that primates have the same rights as human infants.
The problem with animal rights lies in the fact that animals are legal things while people are legal persons. Therefore, human beings consider that animals cannot have rights. This is important claim since the recognition as legal person would entitle animals to life and freedom from slavery. Pollan, in his article “An Animal’s Place”, argues that humans are responsible for the creation of such a term as “speciesism”, which means a special form of animal discrimination that leads to their extermination. Is it really so? And why do people still debate about the possibility of granting other living beings apart from Homo sapiens basic rights? Human beings, even if their food preferences are not taken into consideration, are divided into the group that envisages the possibility of animal rights and the one that deems it virtually impossible and ridiculous even as an idea. Pollan emphasizes that this is the time to ultimately decide the issue of animal rights. He states that civil rights movements for female and LGBT rights have more or less obtained some results and now is the time for other living creatures to enjoy change.
Moral Reasons Against Animal Rights
Many years ago Descartes said that animals were only machines that could not think or feel like human beings. He further stated that these living beings do not possess soul and therefore cannot sense physical suffering. Other modern philosophers draw further conclusions on this topic. They stated that the magnitude of pain is higher in humans since they comprehend everything happening to them more deeply. Nevertheless, due to the same reason people’s suffering is more bearable. A visit to doctor who has to perform painful procedure is much easier for human beings than animals, since it is more tolerable for them.
Opponents of animal rights state that animals are also killing each other, so it is normal for people to do the same. This statement is a way to base moral principles on natural order of things. Many types of behavior can be viewed as common and usual, for example, rape and murder. But it does not mean that they are to be allowed or justified. Adversaries of animal rights also state that animals’ lives would be of lower quality in the wild as compared to the farm. The same concerns zoos and circus as they are also places with certain level of limitation and lack of freedom. But this is like saying that slavery was good for African Americans because their lives would be worse without supervision of their White masters. Every person would understand how ridiculous it sounds. The same concerns the idea that domesticated animals cannot live in the wild. It is outrageous to say this since it is impossible to ask the very animals about it or to read their minds. Opponents of animal rights also argue that giving right to creatures that are very simple seems to be ridiculous. They give cows and sheep as an example since they have primitive level of consciousness. But who are humans to give themselves the power of deciding who is primitive and who is not? Everything in life is relevant. People who are against animal rights also say that animal rights would mean significant limitations for humanity. Adversaries of human rights also claim that animals have no sense of morality or understanding of duty. It is true that they do not express any moral views, but they also do not commit horrendous crimes as humans do.
Moral Reasons for Animal Rights
Proponents of animal rights argue that animals sense pain, but for some reason human suffering is much more valuable than that of a mouse because it is enhanced by emotions. Death of people is also worse because they realize what is happening as the life ends, while animals do not. The correct question people have to ask themselves is not “should animals have rights?” but rather “can they reason, talk and suffer?” It is of extreme importance to answer the latter because the ability to suffer is a crucial quality that grants the right for equal consideration. Suffering in this context is compared to the ability to talk.
Equality is another moral idea to be considered within the topic of animal rights. Pollen states in his article that possessing higher intelligence does not mean that a person can exploit other living beings. So how can people further justify killing or harming animals just because they are at the top of the food chain and on the higher level of development? Moreover, in ancient times killing animals was a requirement for survival. But the need for animal skin or meat is not so pressing nowadays since everything can be made artificially. Even though eating meat shaped Homo sapiens as we can see them today, carnivorous instincts are not so heightened now. Pollen takes this issue to a different level saying that there is also inequality in the category of animals that is more likely to be killed because of the human preference. He states that a lot of people give their dogs Christmas presents but at the same time put a steak made from pig on their dinner table as their festive dish.
Pollan believes that people are morally obliged to stop experiments on animals, as well as production of animals for food because of horrendous cruelties inflicted on innocent creatures.There is no morally relevant difference between adult human and other mammal species therefore people may well experiment on themselves. Animal testing for the sake of medicine development is morally wrong since animals are conscious and aware of their existence. These living beings’ quality and longitude of life matters to them and their life is also precious. Nevertheless, human society understands that any position adopted regarding the alleged rights of animals will have a direct bearing on community policy. This is because if these living creatures do have rights, these rights deserve sufficient protection. And as it is known, this is rather difficult to protect even human rights in this world full of dangers. My position on the issue of animal rights is solid and consistent – all living creatures have to enjoy the same freedoms and exercise the same power over their lives and bodies as Homo sapiens do. Killing and experimenting on them is morally wrong and should be punished by law as any other crime.
To conclude with, animal rights are a pressing issue to resolve because of moral reasons as well as ethical considerations. These living beings do not exist to serve or simplify life of superior species; their lives are precious on their own. Currently, animal rights’ fight is at its inception but as any other struggle for rights and freedom, it has great prospects.