Arguments Against Animal Ethics

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Animals exist on the borderline of our ethical concepts, despite forming a large part of the environment around us. Whether we tend to feel outraged about the treatment of an animal depends on how ‘cute’ the animal is.

Take the example of the Dog Meat festival in China, which raised a huge outcry on social media when people learnt about it. These are the same people who have no problems eating cows and pigs. This hypocrisy exists because we generally don’t tend to think much about animal ethics.

To shed more light on the subject, we cover different stances when it comes to animals and ethics.

Animals and humans are equal in moral status

The argument against extending moral status to animals is that unlike humans, animals are
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Some kind of ‘moral behaviour’ is shown by most animal species that live socially (including most mammals).

Another argument against animal rights is that other animals are not of our own species. Most animals tend to act in the interest of their own species. So, why should it be different for humans? This view can also be seen as being ‘speciesist’. History shows that the reason one didn’t belong to the same group was often the reason for denying them moral status (racism, sexism, etc.). So, considering these positions have changed over time, can being speciesist also be seen as a product of our prejudices?

Argument from Marginal Cases
Discarding the speciesist argument as a product of human prejudice, we need a compelling reason to deny moral status to animals – there needs to be a uniquely human quality shared by *all* humans that makes us worthy of moral status. Here, we cannot consider qualities such as ‘having human DNA’ because that’s just
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Instead, we need to consider them equally. This is the principle advocated by Peter Singer, a famous Australian philosopher, following earlier arguments by Bentham who stated that we must extend moral status to every being capable of pain and suffering. This utilitarian principle involves including animals in the calculus for utility.

By applying this principle, we would have to stop raising animals in factory farms for meat. However, Singer is not entirely against eating meat. He argues that raising animals for meat is all right if they are not self-conscious and live a good life. Killing such an animal is bad but can be made up by raising another animal in its place – as the animal is not self-conscious, nothing has changed due to the replacement. However, Singer is completely against confining animals in zoos, hunting or experimentation on
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