PHI103: Informal Logic
Dr. Daniel Haynes
March 29th, 2015
All Animals Are Equal What do we mean when we say that we support equality? Do we mean that we support equality for all races? Do we mean equality for both genders? What about equality for all species? It is fair to say that when most people say that they support equality what they actually mean is equality for all humans. This, however, opens up the question of why certain rights are extended to human animals, but not to non-human animals as well. There seems to be no obvious reason why non-humans should not receive the same standards of treatment that we give our own species. In Peter Singer’s essay All Animals Are Equal he argues that we should value the rights of non-humans as much as we do our own species. Singer argues that the mindset of valuing our species more than others is the equivalent to humans that value their own race more than another race (Singer, 1989). The idea that one race is superior to another assumes that every person of one race shares the same characteristics that people of an inferior race do not. This is obviously not the case as there are always variations in both cognitive and physical ability in any race. In the end the only surviving argument for why a white person is superior to an African American is the fact that they are white. In much the same way, the only defining characteristic that all humans share to make them superior to other species is that they are Homo sapiens. This is hardly a convincing reason for human rights to be held above others. We must then consider what we as humans share in common with other species. The obvious answer to this is that we all share sentience; that is, the ability to experience enjoyment and suffering. As it stands, we have just as much reason to believe that non-humans are as capable of suffering as human infants are (Dawkins, 2008). If this is the case, then why are human infants entitled to care and protection that non-humans are not? More specifically why are they killed for food and harmed as test subjects when we would not do that to our own species? Singer (1989) argues that “If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering—in so far as rough comparisons can be made—of any other being” (p. 153). This makes the cases that if we believe that another species can suffer just like our own can, then we should give it the same consideration that we give our own species. The argument so far can be summed up logically as follows:
Humans are sentient animals that should be protected from unnecessary suffering
Non-human animals are also sentient and capable of suffering
Therefore, non-human animals should also be protected from unnecessary suffering.
This is a structurally valid deductive argument. The conclusion of this argument directly follow from the premises. Because the premises appear to be true, this would also be considered a sound argument with no logical fallacies. Now that we have examined one of the main arguments for giving animals equal consideration, let us begin to examine the counterargument. The main argument against non-humans receiving the same treatment as humans appeals to the natural order. Proponents of this argument point out that animals consistently consume other animals for food in nature (Telfer, 2004). They argue that because humans are animals at the top of their food chain, it would follow that they have the right to consume all other animals (Loughnan, Bastian, & Haslam, 2014). If it is right for a lion to eat any animal lower on the food chain, then why not us? They argue that as the apex predator we are meant to dominate other species. This desire for domination is tied to views of masculinity and is