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Ernesto Rodriguez

Philosophy 12: Ethics

Summer 2004


Final Question 5


Now answer whether animals have moral rights? Justify “philosophically” your position. You need to back up your answer with philosophical reasoning. Use other ethical theorists, ones that we covered in the course as a backbone. Use at least three philosophers to justify your position.


As far as the moral issue surrounding vegetarianism and animal rights, I would argue that animals are in fact entitled to moral rights. I feel as a matter of fact that animals have moral rights, but I would not go so far as Singer to argue that the rights of an animal are equal to those of a human. I agree with David Lane that it is immoral to inflict pain on any such organism that would feel it. I also agree with Lane that simply because we are more intelligent does not justify the exploitation of less intelligent animals, and that if we have ability to survive without having to inflict pain on animals, then we should do so.


I will agree that animals have moral rights, but I cannot agree that those rights are equal to those of a human. If this would make me a “speciesist” by Singer’s standard, then I must maintain my position and accept that label. Singer argues that the interests of animals are equal to the interests of humans, and by this logic he equates “racism” to “speciesism”. The key point is that Singer “argues” this idea. To mentally develop an abstract argument and then articulate it in a book is one thing, but to live by that principle in reality is an entirely different affair. This is what leads me to disagree with Singer on the idea that the interests of an animal should receive equal consideration as the interests of a human. Singer’s command of logic by far surpasses my own, and so I am challenged to find some contradiction or fallacy. What I can offer as a counterargument is a hypothetical real-world manifestation of Singer’s logic.


What if we came across a house on fire, and we have the choice between saving the family’s dog or their 9 year old daughter, which would we choose? Both of their interests are equal (because of course, we are above speciesism), and we have a greater chance of saving the dog than we do of saving the little girl; so we save the dog and the girl dies in the fire. (Mr. Johnson, we were able to save “pookie” but in the process we had to let your daughter burn.)  I am compelled to ask Mr. Singer if he had faced more immediate, real-world dilemmas other than diet and medical research before coming to his conclusions.


Having said that, I must reiterate that I do believe animals have moral rights, mostly in agreement with David Lane’s neuro-ethical argument. That animals have central nervous systems is a matter of simple biology and common sense. That it is immoral to inflict pain on anything that can feet it is a fact of basic ethics. Therefore, it should be clear that it is immoral to inflict pain on an animal. It should also be clear that it is completely unnecessary to eat animals, as humans can easily survive on a vegetarian diet. So by this logic, I come to the conclusion that animals do have moral rights, albeit not necessarily the same rights as a human.