KEYWORDS: Jeremy Bentham, Peter Singer, utilitarianism, animal ethics, animal welfare. If, for instance, we are taking prisoners in wartime we can explain to them that while they must submit to capture, search, and confinement they will not otherwise be harmed and will be set free at the conclusion of hostilities. When we come to consider the value of life, we cannot say quite so confidently that a life is a life, and equally valuable, whether it is a human life or an animal life. Modern forms of intensive farming apply science and technology to the attitude that animals are objects for us to use. 'Why should I do anything for posterity? Peter Singer Utilitarianism bases its ethical laws on the result or consequences of a moral action. It is true that, with the exception of those apes who have been taught to communicate by sign language, they cannot actually say that they are feeling pain_ but then when my daughter was a little younger she could not talk either. Utilitarianism claims we should be concerned with the happiness of all who can be happy. We saw in the previous chapter that many philosophers have advocated equal consideration of interests, in some form or other, as a basic moral principle. What is worse overall is that the aggregate sum of suffering minus happiness different individuals have be is maximized. Smart, R. N. (1958) “Negative utilitarianism”, Mind, 67, 542-543. They have claimed that animals cannot think or reason, and that accordingly they have no conception of themselves, no self-consciousness. And if we do owe them moral consideration, how can we justify eating them? That is what I mean by 'the same amount of pain' and if we consider it wrong to inflict that much pain on a baby for no good reason then we must, unless we are speciesists, consider it equally wrong to inflict the same amount of pain on a horse for no good reason. This, at any rate, is the answer a utilitarian must give. Nor can all university experiments be defended on the grounds that they relieve more suffering than they inflict. Singer’s Jewish parents immigrated to Australia from Vienna in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution following the 3 Sidgwick, H. (1907 [1874]) The methods of ethics, 7th ed., London: Macmillan, p. 414. In a forward-looking passage, written at a time when black slaves in the British dominions were still being treated much as we now treat nonhuman animals, Bentham wrote: In this passage Bentham points to the capacity for suffering as the vital characteristic that entitles a being to equal consideration. Yet these differences do not all point to greater suffering on the part of the normal human being. The increased public awareness of what exactly transpires in our treatment of non-humans — in factory farming, medical research, product testing, and so on — is, to a significant extent, due to the wide circulation of his work. This does not mean, of course, that it would be right to perform the experiment on animals, but only that there is a reason, which is not speciesist, for preferring to use animals rather than normal adult humans, if the experiment is to be done at all. Discrimination against sentient nonhuman animals, who have positive and negative experiences or preferences, is incompatible with a theory such as utilitarianism. Singer is an interesting philosopher in so far as he is, like me, a utilitarian and a consequentialist, but I nonetheless find myself from time to time in conflict with him. Their flesh is a luxury, consumed because people like its taste. Peter Singer: wrote the book Animal Liberation in 1975, which is often credited as being responsible for directing the public’s concern to the oppression of nonhuman animals, thereby inspiring the animal liberation movement. Peter Singer can, with justification, be regarded as the founding father of the contemporary animal liberation movement. A morally considerable being is a being who can bewronged. Animals Should Be Granted Rights in Respect to Their Nature. Hence if obligations only exist where there can be reciprocity, we need have no worries about problems like the disposal of nuclear waste. But some philosophers have argued that these consequences would not really follow from the use of a characteristic like self-consciousness or autonomy to distinguish humans from other animals. The decision to cease giving them that support may be difficult, but it is less difficult than it would have been for a white Southerner to go against the traditions of his society and free his slaves; if we do not change our dietary habits, how can we censure those slaveholders who would not change their own way of living? A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. That there is a huge gulf between humans and animals was unquestioned for most of the course of Western civilization. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. How can anyone waste their time on equality for animals when so many humans are denied real equality? Peter Singer has been prominent in arguing for the moral standing of animals and animal suffering, through such books as Animal Liberation [1] and Practical Ethics. To mark this boundary by some characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary way. The danger in [an] attempt to eliminate partial affections is that it may remove the source of all affections.'. The third of Singer’s four premises is the one that many meat eaters would be willing to accept. (1986) Well-being, Oxford: Clarendon Press. This comfortable belief is mistaken. Precision is not essential. Skorupski, J. They live from instant to instant, and do not see themselves as distinct entities with a past and a future. When we turn to the question of justification we can see that contractual accounts of ethics have many problems. Nor, for that matter, can comparisons of suffering between different be made precisely. In order to have meat on the table at a price that people can afford, our society tolerates methods of meat production that confine sentient animals in cramped, unsuitable conditions for the entire duration of their lives. If in our moral decisions we fail to take into account the interests of someone who has positive or negative experiences, then we are failing to consider the total sum of happiness minus suffering. Abstract. Also, I would add that it has renewed my sympathy toward farm animals and the harsh conditions that many of … In considering the ethics of the use of animal flesh for human food in industrialized societies, we are considering a situation in which a relatively minor human interest must be balanced against the lives and welfare of the animals involved. In other words I shall suggest that, having accepted the principle of equality as a sound moral basis for relations with others of our own species, we are also committed to accepting it as a sound moral basis for relations with those outside our own species - the nonhuman animals. These arguments do not take us all the way to a vegetarian diet, since some animals, for instance sheep and beef cattle, still graze freely outdoors. In this final section of the chapter I shall attempt to answer the most important of these objections. They simply do, and as such there is nothing good or bad about it. If we accept this we must reject the suggestion that when dealing with mentally defective humans we grant them the status or rights normal for their species. The explanation of the origin of ethics in terms of a tacit contract between people for their mutual benefit is quite plausible (though not more plausible than a number of alternative accounts). World renowned philosopher Peter Singer joined Amy to discuss utilitarianism and his concept of effective altruism, as well as his philosophical arguments on how we should treat animals. True, some nuclear wastes will still be deadly for a quarter of a million years; but as long as we put it in containers that will keep it away from us for 100 years, we have done all that ethics demands of us. It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. (ed.) Meanwhile there are important conclusions to be derived from the extension beyond our own species of the principle of equal consideration of interests, irrespective of our conclusions about the value of life. It may be objected that comparisons of the sufferings of different species are impossible to make, and that for this reason when the interests of animals and humans clash the principle of equality gives no guidance. When I am surfing far out from shore and a shark attacks, my concern for animals will not help; I am as likely to be eaten as the next surfer, though he may spend every Sunday afternoon taking potshots at sharks from a boat. The contemporary animal rights movement owes a great intellectual debt to Peter Singer's pathbreaking book Animal Liberation (1975), also known as ‘the Bible of the Animal Liberation Movement’. The change I have suggested might make no difference to our treatment of humans, or it might even improve it. Citizens of industrialized societies can easily obtain an adequate diet without the use of animal flesh. It is better to find a line that can be defended openly and honestly. The reason for this omission is that I do not believe that, in the present context, much depends on this question. Would those who tie morality to affections accept that these people are justified in saving their cats from a fire before they save their neighbours? This might be because the self­conscious creature has greater awareness of what is happening, can fit the event into the overall framework of a longer time period, and so on. Frey, R. G. Membership of a species is no more relevant in these circumstances than membership of a race or sex. The article holds that in the last four decades, Peter Singer was the first utilitarian in the 1970s to take animals seriously. Animal Liberation. He is famous for his work on applied ethics. To say that a being deserves moral consideration is to say that thereis a moral claim that this being can make on those who can recognizesuch claims. Bentham is not saying that those who try to mark 'the insuperable line' that determines whether the interests of a being should be considered happen to have selected the wrong characteristic. Smart, J. J. C. (1956) “Extreme and restricted utilitarianism”, The Philosophical Quarterly, 6, pp. Only a basic moral principle of this kind can allow us to defend a form of equality which embraces all human beings, with all the differences that exist between them. There is also a sense in which it is the most basic form of animal use, the foundation stone on which rests the belief that animals exist for our pleasure and convenience. The lives of free-ranging animals are undoubtedly better than those of animals reared in factory farms. Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. I fully accept that in the case described the human cancer victim normally suffers more than the nonhuman cancer victim. Food additives, including artificial colourings and preservatives, are tested by what is known as the LD50 - a test designed to find the 'Lethal Dose', or level of consumption which will make 50% of a sample of animals die. One problem is, of course, that using them as food involves killing them - but this is an issue to which, as I have said, we shall return when we have discussed the value of life in the next chapter. On previous occasions I have encountered a variety of questions and objections, some straightforward and predictable, some more subtle and unexpected. In this case we should still apply the principle of equal consideration of interests but the result of so doing is, of course, to give priority to relieving the greater suffering. 1 In this work, and in subsequent development of its ideas, 2 Singer argues that the moral theory known as utilitarianism can be used to justify and defend the moral claims of non-human animals. Singer argues that a clear cut case of suffering created to allow us to eat meat is in relation to factory farming. (1979) “Utilitarianism and welfarism”, Journal of Philosophy, 76, pp. Those who read these lines, on the other hand, must consider the justifiability of their dietary habits. This might be true of a few primitive cultures which still hunt for food, but it has nothing to do with the mass production of domestic animals in factory farms. Normal adult human beings have mental capacities which will, in certain circumstances, lead them to suffer more than animals would in the same circumstances. (1988) Consequentialism and its critics, Oxford: Oxford University Press. We are now considering only the application of the principle of equal consideration of interests. Another perspective defends that we should focus not on the total sum of happiness minus suffering (which could lead to one entity enjoying great bliss while everyone else suffers) but on the average happiness enjoyed by all sentient individuals. That a being does not use language or make tools is hardly a reason for ignoring its suffering. Similarly those I would call 'speciesists' give greater weight to the interests of members of their own species when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of other species. The basis of my belief that animals can feel pain is similar to the basis of my belief that my daughter can feel pain. We cannot insist that beings be treated as individuals in the one case, and as members of a group in the other. There is another possible reply to the claim that self-consciousness, or autonomy, or some similar characteristic, can serve to distinguish human from nonhuman animals: recall that there are mentally defective humans who have less claim to be self-conscious or autonomous than many nonhuman animals. In America cattle are often fattened in crowded feedlots, and other countries are following suit. (2003) Consequentialism, Oxford: Blackwell. The slippery slope argument is important in some contexts, but it cannot bear too much weight. I shall begin with the more straightforward ones. UTILITARIANISM: Utiltarianism was influenced by for main people, 1. Hence the experiments indicate a failure to give equal consideration to the interests of all beings, irrespective of species. I do not wish to suggest that mentally defective humans should be force-fed with food colourings until half of them die_ although this would certainly give us a more accurate indication of whether the substance was safe for humans than testing it on rabbits or dogs does. Brandt, R. (1992) Morality, utilitarianism, and rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. But it is very hard to think of any way in which this could be the case. But we could accept this account, as a historical explanation, without thereby committing ourselves to any views about the rightness or wrongness of the ethical system that has resulted. We cannot observe behaviour suggesting pain--sensational claims to the contrary have not been substantiated-- and plants do not have a centrally organized nervous system like ours. Since the argument for utilitarianism developed in that section was admittedly tentative, I cannot use that argument to rule out all non­utilitarian values. It is interesting that this suggestion should be made in defence of treating members of our species better than members of another species, when it would be firmly rejected if it were used to justify treating members of our race or sex better than members of another race or sex. In the previous chapter, when discussing the impact of possible differences in IQ between blacks and whites, I made the obvious point that whatever the difference between the average scores for blacks and whites, some blacks score better than some whites, and so we ought to treat blacks and whites as individuals and not according to the average score for their race, whatever the explanation of that average might be. To the hypothetical question about saving thousands of people through a single experiment on an animal, opponents of speciesism can reply with a hypothetical question of their own: would experimenters be prepared to perform their experiments on orphaned humans with severe and irreversible brain damage if that were the only way to save thousands? When I see my daughter fall and scrape her knee, I know that she feels pain because of the way she behaves - she cries, she tells me her knee hurts, she rubs the sore spot, and so on. However,when we ask why we think humans are the only types of beings that canbe morally wronged, we begin to see that the class of beings able torecognize moral claims an… Hare, R. M. (1982) Moral thinking: Its levels, methods and point, Oxford: Clarendon Press. When the fish was cut open, it was found to have a smaller fish in its stomach. Once we allow that a grossly retarded human being has no higher moral status than an animal we have begun our descent down a slope, the next level of which is denying rights to social misfits, and the bottom of which is a totalitarian government disposing of anyone it does not like by classifying them as mentally defective. If experimenters are not prepared to use orphaned humans with severe and irreversible brain damage, their readiness to use nonhuman animals seems to discriminate on the basis of species alone, since apes, monkeys, dogs, cats and even mice and rats are more intelligent, more aware of what is happening to them, more sensitive to pain, and so on, than many brain-damaged humans barely surviving in hospital wards and other institutions. Ishall not now consider whether some nonhuman animals are self-conscious and autonomous. If we capture a wild animal, however, we cannot explain that we are not threatening its life. A resource on Peter Singer. This essay argues alongside Peter Singer and take a utilitarian approach to animal rights, arguing that “the taking into account of the interests of the being – whatever those interests may be – must, according to the principle of equality, be extended to all beings, black or white, masculine or feminine, human or nonhuman” (“All Animals are Equal” 363; emphasis added). In these cases, and many others like them, the benefits to humans are either non-existent or very uncertain; while the losses to members of other species are certain and real. Peter Singer (ed.) But this is a point I granted at the start of this chapter (pp. This introduces non-utilitarian claims of value - claims which do not derive simply from taking a universal standpoint in the manner described in the final section of Chapter 1. White racists do not accept that pain is as bad when it is felt by blacks as when it is felt by whites. Scarre, G. (1996) Utilitarianism, London: Routledge. Animals are treated like machines that convert fodder into flesh, and any innovation that results in a higher 'conversion ratio' is liable to be adopted. For what is the significance of the fact that this time the line is to be drawn around the species rather than around the race or sex? Feldman, F. (1997) Utilitarianism, hedonism, and desert, New York: Cambridge University Press. They have searched for ways of drawing a line between humans and animals. For instance it used to be said that only humans used tools. The same goes for infants and very young children; but the problems of the contractual view are not limited to these 'marginal cases'. In the past, argument about animal experimentation has often missed this point because it has been put in absolutist terms: would the opponent of experimentation be prepared to let thousands die from a terrible disease which could be cured by experimenting on one animal? Next it was suggested that even if other animals used tools, humans are the only tool­making animals. If animals count in their own right, our use of animals for food becomes questionable- especially when animal flesh is a luxury rather than a necessity. If I give a horse a hard slap across its rump with my open hand, the horse may start, but it presumably feels little pain. Utilitarianism and New Generations. (2) What is good for individuals is that the amount of happiness minus suffering, or satisfied preferences minus frustrated preferences, is increased. They are not, of course, the only areas in which the principle of equal consideration of interests, extended beyond the human species, has practical implications. 293-297. The basis of this assumption has been undermined by Darwin's discovery of our animal origins and the associated decline in the credibility of the story of our Divine Creation, made in the image of God with an immortal soul. It is a view which has never gained general acceptance, but has not died away either. When we are reasoning about ethics we are using concepts that, as we saw in the first chapter of this book, take us beyond our own personal interest, or even the interest of some sectional group. This is a purely hypothetical question, since experiments do not have such dramatic results, but so long as its hypothetical nature is clear, I think the question should be answered affirmatively _ in other words, if one, or even a dozen animals had to suffer experiments in order to save thousands, I would think it right and in accordance with equal consideration of interests that they should do so. Those parts of the human nervous system that are concerned with feeling pain are relatively old, in evolutionary terms. This anatomical parallel makes it likely that the capacity of animals to feel is similar to our own. But Jane Goodall found that chimpanzees in the jungles of Tanzania chewed up leaves to make a sponge for sopping up water, and trimmed the leaves off branches to make tools for catching insects. Nonhuman animals are abruptly and painfully deprived of their lives after having been deprived of most of the positive experiences they could have had, and after having been made to suffer terribly. If I slap a baby in the same way, however, the baby will cry and presumably does feel pain, for its skin is more sensitive. And even those who are prepared to answer this question affirmatively would, I trust, not want to go along with racists who could argue that because white people have more natural relationships with and greater affection towards other whites, it is all right for whites to give preference to the interests of other whites over the interests of blacks. Therefore, such exploitation cannot be considered morally legitimate according to utilitarianism. There seems to be no morally relevant characteristic that such humans have which nonhuman animals lack. Few recognized that the principle has applications beyond our own species. (4) We should act in ways that maximize what is best overall and minimize what is worse overall.