Topic #: 4a
It is written in the United States Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” Everyone is born with certain inalienable rights regardless of race, sex, intelligence, wealth, and so on. In Peter Singer’s essay “All Animals Are Equal”, he expands the boundary of equality to include all animals. He defines “equality” not as equality in treatment, but as equality in consideration: all animals should be given the same amount of consideration. He thinks that any prejudice or attitude of bias toward the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species should be condemned. Besides, he deems the capacity for suffering, rather than a being’s intelligence or physical ability, as the key characteristic in determining whether it should be given the right to equal consideration. Pain, to Singer, is intrinsically evil and should be “prevented or minimized, irrespective of species of the being that suffers.” (164) In this paper, I will first explain how Singer deduces from the immorality of racism and sexism to his view of equality of men and animal. Then I will present some arguments to demonstrate the flaws of his opinion.
1. Equality of Consideration
Perhaps one of the most profound misunderstandings is to mistake equality between men and animal for equality in treatment. The equality in treatment requires that men and animals enjoy the same rights. It is extremely absurd when one imagines a pig in a classroom learning calculus or a cow waiting in a line to vote for the new president in the United States because they lack the minimum intellect to comprehend calculus or election. We must face the fact that animals and humans are different in fundamental ways, including different moral capacities, different intellectual abilities, different sensitivity to pain and pleasure, etc. Singer, too, acknowledges in his essay “if the demand for equality were based on the actual equality, we would have to stop demanding equality.” Therefore, the equality between men and animals does not require identical treatment. What it requires is equal consideration: we should not consider our needs to be more urgent, our pains to be more acute, or our pleasure to be more desirable. We need not provide beds for birds, but we should not captivate birds because our pleasure of appreciating the birds is not more pressing than their desire for freedom; we need not take our pets to restaurants, but we should not abuse pets because our craving for relieves is not more emergent than their want of health. In his essay, Singer points out “the principle of equality of human beings is not a description of an alleged actual equality among humans: it is a prescription of how we should treat humans.” (159) Likewise, the equality of species is not a description of an actual equality between humans and animals, but a prescription of how we should treat animals. To explicate his statement about equal consideration, Singer presents a concrete example: “concern for the well-being of a child growing up in America would require that we teach him to read: concern for the well-being of a pig may require no more than that we leave him alone with other pigs in a place where there is adequate food and room to run freely.” (160)
It seems plausible that our concern or consideration varies according to different situations, because apparently, we would not easily grant a serial killer the right to freedom or a psychopath the right to vote though we do admit that all men are created equal. However, can we make the same assumption that concern for the well-being of blacks only requires that we feed them well or that concern for the well-being of women requires no more than we buy them gorgeous clothes and offer them a warm place to live? It seems the reason why Singer thinks we should offer black people or women instead of a rat the opportunities to work and study is that those