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Critical Evaluation Singer's Utilitarian Defence of Humane Treatment of Animals.

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I find that Singer's views to justify the obligation to be a vegetarian and to treat animals in a more humane manner a convincing argument; however, his views do not advocate animal rights in particular. This essay will discuss his Utilitarian approach to the treatment of animals, take a look at its objections and will ultimately prove Regan correct in his dismissal of Singer's views.

Firstly I will give a brief definition of Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a philosophy of ethics. The overall goal to utilitarianism is to reach the greatest possible happiness and decrease any type of suffering. In order to determine the morality of an action one needs to look at what happiness and suffering will be brought to all parties concerned. Each person's pleasure and pain count the same, no more no less. Does the total amount consist of happiness or pain? If there is more happiness brought to the group than pain then the action is deemed morally right. If there is more pain caused than happiness then the action is deemed immoral.

Singer applies the same balancing act of utilitarianism to his theory. The first important point he makes is that we must give equal considerations to all that are concerned including animals. Singer argues that suffering is suffering and if there is more suffering being caused than happiness then it is immoral. Therefore we should consider animals in the same light when weighing in our [humans] own interests. Animal's interests arise from their capacity to feel pleasure and their capacity to feel pain. Singer gives an example of a boy kicking a rock down the road. There is nothing immoral about this action as the rock has no self awareness, it is not sentient and it cannot feel pain. It becomes different if the boy decides to kick a mouse down the road. The mouse has the


capacity to feel pain and is sentient. The mouse's interests come into account in the utilitarian balance of interests. There is no doubt that the mouse will be feeling more pain than the boy is feeling happy. There is no reason why the boy's interests, despite his intelligence or how much more aware he is, would be more important than the mouse's interests in this instance. "The question is not, Can they reason? Nor can they talk? But, can they suffer?" (pg764 Reason and Responsibility). If one fails to give human's and animals equal rights constitutes what Singer coined as "Speciecism". Like racism and sexism, speciecism is also considered a mode of discrimination. Both racism and sexism are superficial forms of discrimination. With a focus on skin pigment or genitalia, this is often mixed up with intellect or strength differences. There is no sound argument for these theories. Like racism and sexism, speciecism is also superficial; most animals share the same moral status us human beings, the likes of consciousness, social behaviour, and evidence of language. Or the ability to feel pain and pleasure (sentience), rationality, play behaviour, to name but a few. However, Singer is not saying that in all cases the interest of an animal suffering is the same as a human suffering. An example is; if an animal is dying of a terminal illness, and a human is dying of terminal illness, a human will suffer more because he/she has greater awareness Ð'- a foreknowledge of death, etc (Singer pg63). On the other hand, equal suffering needs to be given equal weight. For example if one was to slap a baby on the leg it will hurt more than if one had to slap a horse on the rump. However, if the horse were to be hit with a stick then its suffering may be equal to the baby's. The outcome of Singer's reasoning is that whatever we do to animals we must first weigh out the balance between their


suffering and our [humans] pleasure. It is with this in mind that he argues for vegetarianism. According to Singer the benefits we gain from eating meat is inconsequential. Humans do not need meat to survive; we eat meat as a luxury. The difference is that the cost felt by animals is massive. So the balance is off by an overwhelming lean towards animal suffering.

There are a number of objections Singer takes into account. The first of which is that we can't be certain animals feel pain. There is an obvious counter to this argument as the behaviour of animals in pain is similar to humans in pain. Most animals resemble humans when it comes to the central nervous system, especially in the case of mammals. The second objection is that animals kill and eat each other, so why can't we do the same? He responds



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