Every year an estimated 25-35 million animals are subjected to painful and cruel testing in laboratory experiments. These experiments are performed to better the health of human beings by means of research. Many of these non-human animals are put through tests that you would not wish on your worst enemy. Many wonder if the means justify the ends in these particular experiments. Controversy occurs when there is a perception that the animals being used in the experiments are subjected to cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment.
Proponents of animal testing cite the death and suffering of infants, children and adults due to diseases that still have no effective treatment or cure. If animal testing is morally justified, what are the circumstances that justify it. Should animals have rights? Some philosophers believe sentience is the key to determine the ethical status of animals. If non-human animals should have rights, then how do we determine what rights to give them. We have the right not to suffer.
Why dont animals have the same right? Do all sentient beings deserve rights in relation to their well-being? Dogs cannot realize the importance of voting; therefore, they have no interest in voting. This is why dogs do not have the right to vote. If non-humans suffer just as we do, should they have the same rights we do? From a utilitarian point of view, you might ask the question: is the suffering of these non-human animals out-weighed by the relief that it can bring humans? Many experiments that were performed on animals have been very beneficial for human health.
On the more common side, numbers show that non-human animals are tortured and put through cruel testing with little or no results. Should a non-human animals suffering ever outweigh a humans suffering? In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft, an early feminist published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. At the time of this publication, the general population considered her thoughts on womens rights ridiculous. Thomas Taylor, a highly regarded philosopher, rebutted her position by publishing A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes.
In this article, Taylor attempted to convince his readers that it was as absurd to give women equal rights, as it was to give these same rights to dogs, cats and horses. Singer initially defends womens rights by citing the similarities between men and women. He argues the case for equality between men and women. He states women have the right to vote, for instance, because they are just as capable of making rational decisions as men are He then admits that there are obviously some important differences between human and non-human animals, just as there are important differences between men and women.
By setting out that there are also many important differences between men and women such as pregnancy, it is meaningless to support the right of a man to have an abortion. Singer believes that it then follows that every group should be extended basic principles of equality. He does not believe, however that equality means human and non-human animals should have the same rights or be treated the same way. He proposes only that equal consideration be given to both groups. The author advances his idea of equality by comparing and contrasting both human and non-human capacities for suffering and enjoyment.
He believes both groups have a moral and ethical right to consideration. He defends his position by reminding the reader that we extend this consideration to even the most non-functioning and severely retarded individuals in the human species. He asserts that if non-humans have a greater capacity to feel or experience suffering than the most damaged of humans should not we then extend to these non-humans the same consideration given to least sentient of the human species. According to the Oxford Dictionary, racism is defined as the belief in superiority of a particular race.
Peter Singer defines speciesism as the belief in superiority of a particular species. He points out that since we do not separate individuals because of skin color, level of intellect or physical capability it follows that non-human animals that may have these same similarities or differences should be treated with equal consideration afforded human animals. The reasoning behind this is that each classification of species, just as classification of race, has been defined by the human race to more easily research and define different animals.
Although any competent human being should be able to discriminate between these two animals, no one can actually define a single discriminating feature that separates a dog from a cat. Since there is no one distinction between being a cat and being a dog, it can also be said that there is no distinction between being a human and being a dog. Singer concludes that using non-human animals vs. human animals of an equal or greater capacity for suffering is rarely justified. He contends such experiments would be justified if, and only if, a human animal of an equal or lesser capacity would be justifiable.
Just as using gender or race to determine a beings inherent value is not considered justifiable, neither is a beings species acceptable justification in determining its value. Before mammals, there were dinosaurs. Some dinosaurs were carnivores and others were herbivores. The tyrannosaurus for example ate flesh out of necessity. The animals physiology and sheer size dictated its eating habits. Throughout the evolution of life on earth, it is a well-known fact that every species, with the exception of recent man, kills only what is what is necessary for the survival of the species.
This take what you need behavior is pervasive throughout the entire living kingdom. Early man not only instinctively obeyed, but understood and respected this take what you need principle. The morality of animal rights has been demonstrated in even the most primitive and uncivilized cultures. Only since Christianity introduced the divine creation theory has man assumed a superior moral worth over non-human animals. From our earliest records of pre-historic man up to modern day tribal cultures mans reverence and respect for animals has been documented.
From the simplest and most primitive depictions of life found on the walls of caves and as artifacts we are led to believe that these early people understood, valued and respected the role of non-human animals. These cultures recognized these non-human animals for their contribution to the survival of the entire animal kingdom. The modern tribal cultures that still exist today have helped us better understand this philosophy of life. Some modern Native Americans still preserve this value and respect for the animals, with good reason, these animals are what have given them life for thousands of years.
It has been a necessity for man to use animals for food and clothing until the industrialization of man. The ancient Greeks were probably the first culture to consider themselves as morally superior beings. Not only did they believe that they could use non-human animals as they pleased but they also believed their superiority extended over any form of life, human and non-human. This perspective and belief in the intrinsic superiority of Western European culture gradually spread through the civilized world.
It has been widely accepted that this devaluation of some human life and all non-human life had its genesis in early Christianity. Divine Creation theory stated that man was created separate from and morally superior to animals. It was because of the introduction of this philosophy that the take what you need mentality gradually drifted into a take what you want mentality. As man began to take what he wanted, as opposed to only taking what he needed, he started to depend on these previously unnecessary items.
Since man depended on things such as transportation, electricity, indoor pluming and other conveniences they needed to be more plentiful. This period epitomized mans disregard and contempt towards both human and non-human life. As mans insatiable appetite for more grew, his moral respect for even human life eroded further. Slavery, child labor, the denegration of women and the expendability of human life in the factories and coalmines all contributed to this erosion of the value of life. A natural outcome of this devaluation was to further lessen and separate non-human life from man.
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson, wrote that all men are created into the American Declaration of independence. Although all Americans were supposed to have believed in and obeyed the extremely strong statement, few really did. Jefferson himself kept slaves after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was not until after the Civil War that slavery was abolished, and even then, people of other races and the female gender still were not given equal rights. It was only in the middle of the twentieth century that segregation ended and the principle of all men are created equal was legally recognized.
Now in the beginning of the twenty-first century, I move that we begin to look at the lifestyle of animals not differently, but as we did before this whole industrial revolution, because they have been able to survive millions of years longer than modern man without harming our earth. In the last one-hundred years man has begun to destroy the earth with his automobile transportation, coal powered power plants and over indulgence in almost everything that he desires. Non-human animals have always only taken what they needed. Now with our technological revolution, many great things have been invented and discovered.
With all of our technology and understanding of the human body, some of the things that we use today can be eliminated, because we do not need them anymore. One, the slaughter and consumption of millions of pounds of meat such as cows, pigs, chickens, etc. are not necessary anymore. Man, before and during the beginning of the industrialization of the planet, needed to take non-human animal life to survive. Man no longer needs to do this to survive. Humans have begun this advancement in medicine, which may or may not be best for the human species itself.
Charles Darwin originated the theory of natural selection. His theory basically states only the strong shall survive, man has began to toy with natural selection by finding cures for diseases such as cancer, malaria, polio, etc. By doing this man keeps the weak alive, it is not stated that all humans are valued by how much money they have to buy life, but that they are created equal and are entitled to the same treatment regardless of the cost in money. All sentient life is entitled to be treated equally just as it was before this revolution; man and animal used to be at one with each other.
Man knows that killing in excess is unnecessary and can only bring harm to life as a whole. Man created this idea of speciesism and only man can eliminate this idea. Animal testing should only be considered justifiable if the same test would be morally permissible if performed on a human of equal ability. As human animals and non-human animals both travel into the twenty-first century man seems to question increasingly the actual separation between the difference in moral worth of non-human animal and he himself should reinstate this take what you need principle, because animals do suffer just as we do.