Animal Ethics Essay

1749 words - 7 pages

Animal Ethics
The use of animal research studies has posed an ethical dilemma for the medical community. As the movement of for animal rights entered mainstream awareness, increased scrutiny was placed on medical research studies involving live animals. The debate has sparked strong arguments from both supporters and abolitionists. Peter Singer, often credited as the pioneer of animal rights, delivers a profound document in favor of equality of animals. Carl Cohen provided a retort during the necessity of animal research for scientific advancement. However, with all of the technological advances of the 21st century, one must question if an antiquated method has overstayed ...view middle of the document...

Each individual possesses varying degrees of intelligence and moral understanding, thus the criteria for justifying the basic principle of equality must lie elsewhere. Singer embraces the utilitarian notion that “the interests of every being affected by an action are to be taken into account and given the same weight as the like interests of any other being”. (CITE) Thus, if animals are affected by human decisions, their interests deserve consideration.
Singer reinforces this view by emphasizing the reasons why equality cannot be based on personal attributes such as what a person is like, their skin color, or sex. For if equality is to be based on arbitrary characteristics, then sexism and racism would be a valid means of determining equality or rather inequality. Thus, if a difference in the intellectual abilities of humans does not allow one to exploit the other, then this justification cannot be used when it comes to nonhuman beings. To base this distinction solely on the fact that some beings are human and other nonhuman is to embrace speciesism, a clear preferences for one’s own species to the detriment of others (CITE).
However, Singer is not without his critics. Carl Cohen argues against Singer touting the morality behind the preservation of human life. Cohen tackles the two main reasons touted by those seeking to abolish animal research. He first addresses the notion that animal research is an infringement on the rights of animals. Cohen replies to those concerned with animal rights by explaining what attributes are necessary for one to possess rights. According to Cohen, “rights arise, and can be intelligibly defended, only among beings who actually do, or can, make moral claims against one another”(CITE). Consequently, there are certain human attributes, such as free will, human reasoning, and the intuitive knowledge of what is right, that makes human beings the only possessors of rights. Cohen argues that as animals lack any sense of moral judgment and are unable to make moral claims, they do not have the intrinsic rights bestowed upon human beings. Cohen goes on to say that simply because animals are alive does not mean that they have a right to life.
Fault has been found with Cohen’s argument with respect to the rights of babies, young children, and the mentally disabled. If it is a lack of moral understanding that disallows animal’s rights, do these groups of humans have rights? Cohen defends his position by stating that, as a part of the human community, the notion of rights is extended to these individuals; simply because they are not fully developed, does not mean that they are no longer a part of the human community (CITE). As such, the rights of the community are extended to all of its members. Cohen embraces the concept of speciesism. He believes the suffering of humans outweighs the suffering of other nonhuman species. He asserts that human beings have a moral obligation to limit the suffering of...

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