There have been different views on the place that non humans have in any acceptable moral system. The non humans usually lie on the borderline of human moral theories and principles. This means that sometimes they are regarded to have high moral standards and other times they are regarded to have low moral standards (Pluhar 67).
There is diversity in moral views especially those directed towards animals. There are three broad categories of theories of philosophy on animals. These theories include the indirect theories, moral equality theories and the direct theories. The indirect theory is supported by Immanuel Kant and Descartes. The theory holds that animals cannot be accorded the same treatment and equal moral status as human beings because of lack of reason, consciousness and autonomy.
Direct theories have a contrasting opinion to the ones of the indirect theories. The direct theories hold that animals can be accorded some moral recognition even though they are not accorded full moral status because they lack a sense of rationality and self consciousness. The moral equality theories on the other hand hold that animals should have equal moral status as human beings because animals and human infants have similarities in their mental and physiological capacities (Pluhar 71).
The main difference between the direct and the moral equality theory is that the moral equality theory acknowledges that human beings and animals both experience a sense of morality and consciousness and they have almost the same mental and psychological autonomy qualities.
The direct theories on the other hand believe that animals have a sense of morality but they do not have any consciousness to execute the morality that they might be having. The theories of moral equality are supported by Tom Regan and Peter Singer. These philosophers champion for equal moral status for both human beings and animals without any reservations such as the ones held by the direct theories
Peter Singer: Equal consideration of interests principles
Peter has been advocating for the rights of non humans. In his article “the place of non humans in environmental issues”, he discusses various environmental issues that affect non humans (Singer 55). Singer advocates for equal consideration of interests in both human beings and animals. He therefore disagrees with the arguments that animals should be afforded less moral status than human beings. He further mentions that environmental effects such as pollution and global warming affect both human beings and animals in the same way.
He suggests that these issues should be addressed with the interests of non humans in place (Singer 57). Singer also adds that animals also have sentience and that they can feel pain and suffering and they also have similar nervous systems and therefore the interests of animals must be recognized and respected just as humans respect and recognize the interests of others because they have sentience and consciousness.
Singer believes that the utilitarian approach of maximum considerations should be applied to both humans and animals. He however has reservations about this theory. He believes that the equal considerations do not imply that humans and animals should be treated equally but rather their interests should be treated equally (Singer 57). Singer also believes that humans usually do away with he interest of animals so that they can satisfy theirs.
They therefore do not consider the pain and suffering of animals as equal to that of humans. He gives an example of mass poisoning of pests. He explains that even though pests should be controlled, the process should be humane and considerations should be taken towards the interests of the animals. From singer’s perspective, animals can also suffer and therefore humans should accord them similar treatment as that of human beings. Singer calls this tendency speciesism
Tom Regan and the animal rights
In his article “animal rights: what is in a name” he argues that animals have rights just as human beings. He also supports the moral equality theory by attacking the indirect moral theory’s anthropocentric view which states that only humans have rights. He disagrees with the view that equal moral status should be accorded on utilitarian grounds only.
He believes that the moral status should be based on rights rather than utilitarian concepts. Utilitarian concepts believes that an object only has rights when the society accepts the object and accepts that it should be accorded such rights. The utilitarian concepts hold that people with same qualities should be treated in the same way as long as both people are accepted equally in the society. Regan’s arguments relies on the principle of inherent value.
According to Regan, both humans and animals have the same values and hence they deserve equal rights (Regan 122). He believes that the inherent value of a human being means that it must be treated with respect. According to Regan, the only thing that confers marginal cases with moral rights similar to normal human beings is the subject of a life (Regan 125)
Distinction between the two arguments
Singer advocates that we should ensure equal considerations of the interests of humans and animals in our deliberations. Regan on the other hand focuses on the individual with the interests and not the interests themselves. Regan therefore believes that if the focus is on the interests only then immoral actions can be done on the utilitarian grounds.
Regan therefore believes that if the focus is solely on rights and interests then when rights and interests of two parties are in conflict then the one person may be denied. Singer on the other hand believes that the level of suffering or pain that one party goes through will determine when the rights and interests of those parties should be overridden.
In brief Regan’s argument on the rights of animals revolves around the inherent value concept while singer argues for equal consideration of interests of human beings and animals. Regan therefore holds that human beings should not raise animals for the sake of eating them because this way they will be a means to our end and their rights will not have been exercised
Regan versus Singer’s perspective
I think that Singer supported his argument effectively especially when he said that animals also experience pain subjected to them by human beings and that humans should consider them as equals and hence their interest should also be effectively considered. I believe that this argument is better than Regan’s argument that we should consider the animals as individuals and not totally focus on the interests.
This is because animals and human beings cannot be considered to be totally the same because of their difference in anatomy and the lack of consciousness in animals. Singer’s argument is therefore better placed because all living things despite being humans or animals have rights and these rights should be respected and honored.
Moral theories recognize that animals have the same rights and interests as human beings. Singer therefore cements his argument on the principle of equal consideration of interests which states that animals and humans should be given equal rights and interest regarding the environment. Regan on the other hand heavily relies on the concept of inherent value and he argues that utilizing animals as a means to our ends is morally wrong because it denies them from enjoying their rights
Pluhar, Edgar. Beyond prejudice: the moral significance of human and non human animals. Durham: Duke University Press. 1995. Print
Singer, Peterson. Not for humans only: the place of non humans in environmental issues. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. 2008. print