Treatment of Animals Questions
This discussion should focus on the utilitarian approach to ethical decision process, not on the rights (or not) of animals). Please be sure that your answers address utilitarian ethical theory.
Singer argues that there is no moral justification for denying moral consideration to animals. Can you think of a reason why our moral consideration should include all humans regardless of their level of cognitive ability, yet denied to non-human animals simply because they have lower levels of cognitive abilities (though still higher in some cases than those of human infants and some mentally disabled humans)? What response might he have to your way of drawing the line between the types of beings that should get moral consideration and those that should not?
Singer reasons for what he calls the “basic principle of equality”. What is this principle and how is it supposed to be applied? What reasoning does he give that this principle should be applied to non-human animals? Do you agree? On what basis do you think we should determine which types of beings should be treated with equal moral consideration?
Singer argues that eating meat is speciesism because it involves sacrificing the most important interests of members of other species for relatively trivial interests of our own species. Does he have a point here? Is there any reason that you can give why our preference for meat dishes is more important than an animal’s interest in not being killed (and raised in captivity)?
Tom Regan (1985) and Peter Singer (1989) agree that we have moral responsibilities toward animals, but disagree about the best approach to animal ethics.
1. What basic conclusions do they agree about (be specific)?
2. How would you explain the basic difference in their approach? Specifically, explain how Singer’s argument represents a utilitarian view, referring to John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism for the basic framework of a utilitarian theory of morality. In what way is Regan’s view a non-utilitarian one? Name at least one argument he makes that is non-utilitarian, and compare it with an argument from Singer that is utilitarian.
(Remember that the aim in this discussion is to unpack the utilitarian approach to ethics, not simply to discuss our responsibilities toward animals.)
Finally, share your responses to either or both of the arguments and any of the other material on animal ethics from this week.
When responding to your peers, consider what Singer and/or Regan would say in response to their remarks, think about whether what a peer calls a non-utilitarian consideration might be, after all, a utilitarian one, or vice versa, or think of strengths and weaknesses in their argument that they might not have considered.
Regan, T. (1985). The case for animal rights. In P. Singer (Ed.), In defense of animals (pp. 13-26). New York: Basil Blackwell.
Singer, P. (1989). All animals are equal. In T. Regan & P. Singer (Eds.), Animal rights and human obligations (pp. 148-162). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Please use in-text citations and this discussion should be 300 words minimum.