Should Animals Have Human Rights?
Press Start for “Should Animals Have Human Rights?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.
Ep.29: Shoud Animals Have Human Rights? | (Pokémon + Speciesism)
Should Animals Have Human Rights? (Pokémon + Speciesism)
Fluffy McFlufferson, Pussy Meowsalot, Turtle Turtleson, and Muffin head. In 2014, Americans spent over $56 billion dollars on their beloved pets.
But how can we reconcile this affinity with the horrific ways in which animals are often treated?
Thinkers like Rene Descartes have argued that since animal lack consciousness, they are essentially machines, and thus do not have moral status. A less extreme view is that animals are conscious, but their cor sentience is so fleeting that things don’t matter to them like they do to us.
But to Australian philosopher Peter Singer, drawing moral boundaries based on species characteristics is utterly arbitrary. In his book Animal Liberation, Singer argues that we suffer from a form of “speciesism.” In other words, since there is a belief that animals don’t share the level of consciousness that humans exhibit, they don’t deserve to be given similar moral consideration.
Granted, it’s reasonable to suggest that animals and humans should not share the same rights — the right to vote, for instance, would be wasted on a Pikachu. But is it not also wasted on people who are incapable of making rational choices? Yet, we don’t consider those individuals as altogether different from the rest of us — they still qualify as members of the human species. Clearly, we are inconsistent with our application of speciesism.
To Singer, the principle of equality shouldn’t be based solely on consciousness or intelligence. What’s most important is the capacity for a being to experience pain and suffering.
Recognizing animals’ capacity to suffer is as much a moral consideration as recognizing our own.
Text for visuals: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” (Jeremy Bentham, quoted by Peter Singer, in “All Animals are Equal”, in Animal Liberation, 1975; originally published in 1974.)
According to at least one philosophical theory, moral actions are those that increase pleasures and decrease pains. Initially known as hedonism, and later popularized by Jeremy Bentham as utilitarianism, this philosophy holds that the only intrinsically good thing is pleasure, and the only intrinsically bad thing is pain.
Hence, inflicting pain — whether it be against humans OR animals — is wrong. For Singer, the capacity to suffer is the characteristic that qualifies any living thing to moral consideration, because pain is something that both animals and humans alike try to avoid.
Think about it like this: a stone has no interest in avoiding being kicked, but a dog does — and therefore, deserves moral treatment.
So dearest viewer, ask yourself: would you still eat bacon if it came from Pikachus?