Following on from our lesson on ethics last week I thought I would blog about animals and whether we have equal rights.
Peter Singer, a philosopher said that it is right for us to recognise that typical members of different species have lives with different values. I agree with this. A beetle’s life is worthless in comparison to that of a human. However it is very easy for us to adopt speciesism and say that saving humans lives is always better. But surely the insects could believe their lives were worth the most too? Whoever decides to establish rights for animals will always be subjective as it is natural for people to hold their worth higher than the worth of others. We could try and base an ethical hierarchy on what the animals are capable of doing and what effect their loss would have. However again this is difficult to judge because although we may be the most ‘developed’ what about elephants who have the largest brains or birds who can use landmarks to navigate their extensive journeys. So the question of capability doesn’t help either.
Trying to use some codes of ethics doesn’t help the argument for humans either. Utilitarianism says to provide the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number. But this includes animals as well as they also have emotions. Another problem. Kant suggested that hierarchy could be based on ‘the only one that deserves respect’. This argument is for humans as it suggests that animals are seemingly worthless as we can do anything to them. That is quite a strong and slightly biased argument.
So how do we decide? And who decides?