Why human beings and non-human animals should be given equal

consideration of interests and needs
The moral consideration of the environment and non-human creature
existing in it is a controversial issue. Much of the argument arises
from the basic principles of equality between human and non-human
animals in terms of their needs, rights, and interests. Some of these
arguments are based on the application of the concepts used to advocate
for equality of men and women and equality of human beings of different
races to non-human animals. This has resulted in varying interpretation
of the moral aspects of equality while the Peter Singer and Bonnie
Steinbock attempt to extend these moral horizons of human beings to
cover non-human beings in articles “All animals are equal” and
“Speciesism and the idea of equality” respectively. Equality of
human beings and non-human animals can only be achieved by considering
their respective needs and interests because equal treatment is
impractical.
Summary of the article All animals are equal
Peter Singer wrote the article “All animals are equal” to address
the issue of inequality in consideration of animal needs and interests.
Singer began by exposing racism and feminism and the fundamental
principle (such as all human beings were created equal) used to
challenge its existence in the society. He suggests that these
principles have been applied to overturn racial discrimination and
prejudice against individuals of varying gender while the consideration
for the interests of animals has not been successful. Singer advocates
for extension of similar morals and principles of equality to animals
since they are also beings with a few differences (such as intelligence
and capacities) from human beings. However, he asserts that application
of the principles of equal treatment may not imply that both human and
non-human beings should be treated equal, but their needs and interests
should be taken into consideration (Peter 2).
Summary of the article Speciesism and the idea of equality
Bonnie Steinbock explores the idea of equality between human beings and
non-human beings with a focus on the idea of equality of treatment. The
author begins by analyzing the ideas presented by Peter Singer in
previous works on environmental ethics. This has been accomplished by
attempting to differentiate between the facts of being speciesist from
being a racist or a sexist. Steinbock aims at presenting the arguments
for and against the positions of the other authors on the basis of
differential treatment of human beings and non-human beings. The
fundamental factors considered in making the debate include the
differences in capabilities, intellectual capacity, and virtue. In
addition, the author bases the arguments on the difference between
possession of rights and interests of the subjects in deciding on
equality of treatment. Steinbock concludes by advocating for the need to
consider the moral obligation to the interests of all sentient
creatures, although not at equal level with human interests (Steinbock
256).
Similarities of the ideas presented by Singer and Steinbock
Both Singer and Steinbock advocate for consideration of the rights of
all creatures, but acknowledge the fact that some human rights (such as
the right to vote) may not be appropriate for non-human animals. The two
authors base this argument on the fact that human beings and animals
have some differences (such as intellectual capacity) that eliminates
the need to give them equal rights, but consider their needs and
interest. Peter (2) explains this by giving the example of the
similarities between men and women who should be given equal rights,
while the differences between human beings and no-human beings denies
them equality of rights. However, the differences existing between human
and non-human beings do not negate the need for the extension of basic
principles to both. This implies that extension of equal consideration
of needs may attract different rights and varying levels of treatment.
Secondly, Singer and Steinbock agree to the fact that the concept of
equality does not apply to the equality of intelligence, virtue, or
capacities. This is because all beings (both human and non-human
animals) differ in these values even within their respective species. In
addition, Peter (3) points out that these differences exist even among
individuals of the same race and sex, implying that they are not
suitable basis of inequality of consideration of individual interests.
In addition, Peter Singer trivializes the genetic evidence of the
differences between individuals on the basis that the differences could
be environmental. Moreover, Singer and Steinbock argue that the concept
of equality should be separated from scientific assertions that are
based on moral capacity, physical strength, and intelligence.
Third, aspects of suffering and other feelings are considered to be
fundamental factors that are used to determine the basic principles of
equality. Suffering applies to both human and non-human animals,
implying that the needs and interests of all entities that suffer
equally should considered equally. While addressing the issue of
experimenting with animals, Singer and Steinbock are in agreement that
such a practice should only be conducted if the intention is to free
human being from the sufferings. Steinbock (254) suggests that
experimenting with animals should only be justified if it is the only
alternative available to a given human problem such as a disease.
Differences in the views presented by Singer and Steinbock
Although Singer and Steinbock agree to the fact that sufferings of all
beings should be considered, Steinbock (151) demonstrates instances in
which unequal consideration of such feelings may be morally permissible.
The author separates acts of differential treatment from discrimination
by suggesting that unequal treatment may result from desire to consider
the needs of one’s interest before considering the interests of a
stranger. The author gives the example of a Catholic agency feeding the
hungry catholic before non-Catholic, and asserts that this is a
permissible act. In addition, Steinbock (251) suggests that such unequal
treatment between one’s own and strangers may not require
justification, but should be understood merely by use of common sense.
However, while supporting unequal consideration of suffering, Steinbock
rejects unwarranted infliction of pain on non-human.
Secondly, Steinbock (253) argues that equality of treatment between
human and non-human may be impractical because animals, unlike human
beings, are not altruistically motivated. The author explains this by
illustrating the difference in recognition of the effect of pain on
other beings. Human beings understand that pain on other beings is bad
while animals have no capacity to comprehend the pain of other beings.
In addition, Steinbock suggests that the difference in treatment of
animals and human beings result from the need to consider the entity’s
desire for dignity, autonomy, and respect (Steinbock 253). This implies
that lack of desire for autonomy, respect, and dignity among animals
reduces the need for equal consideration of both animals and human
beings unlike singer who advocates for equal contemplation of all
beings.
Response
I am in agreement with most of the views presented in both articles. The
distinction made between equal treatment and consideration of needs and
interests of all beings is reasonable. This is because the basic
principles of equality cannot be interpreted to mean treatment of
animals and human beings in the same way or according them equal rights.
It is a fact that both animals and human beings have varying rights,
needs, and interests that are necessary to make their lives comfortable.
This implies that factors that are required to make the life of an
animal better may be different from those of a human being. Using a
similar example used by both Singer and Steinbock, it is a democratic
right of a human being to vote, but an animal may not have the
intellectual capacity to attach any significance to democratic processes
such as an election.
Singer and Steinbock supported the use of animals in medical research to
resolve human diseases while opposing the use of the use of human beings
even if they have lower levels of intelligence than adult animals. This
is an obvious discrimination against animals because both Singer and
Steinbock agree on the consideration of ability to feel pain while
discussing other fundamental principles of equality and this should also
apply to medical research. By this, I mean that if a mentally retarded
man cannot be used as a specimen in medical research, then there are no
valid reasons to use an animal. This is because the use of animals in
research is a clear indication of preference of members of our species
at the expense of the members of different species, which trivializes
all the arguments presented by the authors on equal consideration of
needs and interests.
Singer (3) and Steinbock (248) trivialize scientific findings that
indicate genetic variations between individuals of different species by
suggesting that these differences could be environmental. In my view, I
feel that undermining scientific research may not be the most
appropriate way to justify the need for equality of consideration of
needs and interests. This is because scientific research is based on
proven facts. To this end, I feel that advocates of environmental ethics
and equality should base their arguments on the fact that even the basic
facts such as height and color of individuals of the same species and
family are caused by genetic differences. This is an appropriate
suggestion that genetic differences cannot justify inequality in any
way.
In conclusion, Both Singer and Bonnie are in agreement that human beings
and non-human animals need equal consideration of interests and needs.
This is because both of them have similar feelings in spite of their
varying manifestations. In addition, the authors agree to the fact that
both human beings and animals have rights, but not equal rights. While
the two authors agree to the fact that all beings have the capacity to
feel pain, Bonnie argues that some actions of inflicting pain on animals
are morally permissible, but this is an indication of preference of
members of his species to members of different species. Based on these
arguments, the articles redefined the concept of equality to refer to
equal consideration of needs and interests of both human beings and
non-human animals.
Works cited
Singer, Peter “All animals are equal”. Ed. Tom Regan & Peter Singer.
New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1989. P. 148-162. Print.
Steinbock, B. Speciesism and the idea of equality. Philosophy 53.204
(1978): 247-256.
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