Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on Animal "Rights"

The philosopher Peter Singer, among others, has written that it is "speciesist" to ignore the suffering inflicted upon animals by humans for food, clothing, entertainment, and other activities and values. In his book, Animal Liberation, he writes:
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. Sexists violate the principle of equality by favoring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is identical in each case.
I may only be a cat, but this strikes me as patently absurd. If it is "speciesist" for humans to treat other animals differently from humans, then it is equally "speciesist" for me (or other animals) to do the same. For example, I prefer the company of other cats and find great enjoyment in pouncing on the occasional mouse or lizard that finds its way into my vicinity. But according to Mr. Singer, I must consider the feelings of these pathetic little rodents and reptiles:
If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.
To be honest, I haven't given any thought to the suffering I inflict on these creatures. I have no choice in the matter. Does this make me immoral? Mr. Singer might argue that my lack of volition excuses me of any moral culpability. If this is the case, then volition would seem to be a distinguishing characteristic and one of vast importance.

But regardless of Mr. Singer's argument, the fact is that my very nature is fundamentally different from humans. I lack reason and the ability to make conceptual choices. The entire realm of morality does not apply to me, for morality applies only to that which is volitional. One cannot be held responsible for that which is beyond one's capacity to choose.

To further illustrate the absurdity of Mr. Singer's position, last night I wanted some Tuna and Egg instead of my normal dry food dinner. My human companions refused to satisfy this desire, resulting in what I can only describe as a brief period of intense suffering. Should I consider my human companions immoral for failing to provide me with Tuna and Egg? While I was admittedly disappointed, I don't think that any reasonable cat could declare such an oversight immoral.

I have more thoughts on this issue, but I just saw a lizard.

No comments:

Post a Comment