This paper explores ethical problems with non-human slavery and abuse about power and victimization. The first part of this paper discusses whether Spiegel’s argument about animal rights is convincing. The second part demonstrates that Spiegel’s comparison with human slavery intensifies the horrors inflicted on non-human animals. The third part shows how Spiegel prevents herself from being a racist, considering the use of animal comparisons as racist insults. The fourth part gives my view on legal and policy developments in line with the legal abuse of non-human animals as property. The fifth part shows how Spiegel changes my views about the way people treat non-human animals. The last part of this paper discusses the role of religion and spirituality in changing the situation of non-humans caught in human webs of self-interest.
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Marjorie Spiegel’s argument is convincing because she cites many illustrations in language and literature which show animal segregation. Spiegel critically compares the suffering of blacks during colonial times with the suffering of non-human animals in contemporary society. Spiegel argues that most members of society consider it ethically wrong to treat black people in the same way “like animals” (19). However, most people still think that it is not bad to treat animals, to some extent or in the same manner as they term it, “like animals” (18).
In essence, society regards the certain treatment as totally improper when occasioned to a human being, but as a proper treatment when occasioned to non-human animals. According to Spiegel (28), the move toward animal liberation provides a venue for lessening the oppression of black people and others who are subject to suffering under the power of other races. She warns against the mentality that it is necessary to curtail the rights of certain groups of living beings to live well. She manages to convince the reader that non-human animals are in many ways similar to humans (18), and they both deserve respect and protection against torture.
The comparison with human slavery intensifies the horrors inflicted on non-human animals. Spiegel (29) demonstrates that the degree of suffering subjected to animals in the contemporary society in laboratories is similar to that which blacks endured in the antebellum and postbellum period. There are many similarities between human and non-human suffering. Both are capable of experiencing the loss of their loved ones. They are also capable of suffering from restrained movement and the loss of social freedom. Both are capable of experiencing objectification. As a result of suffering, both animals and human beings can be driven to total physic or psychic defeat (Spiegel 30). Spiegel notes, “With animals, this (suffering) continues in its most extreme form” (30). The growing research, especially for non-medical purposes poses a great danger to many animals.
Considering the use of animal comparisons as racist insults, Spiegel attempts to prevent his argument from being racist by emphasizing that both human and non-human animals deserve equal treatment. She argues that all species have special traits, and it is not proper to label some groups of individuals or animals as “more important” than others (19). During colonial times, colonists “measured progress and civilization in terms of (among other things) how far people could distance themselves from nature.” The colonists viewed those still living in consistence with nature as “savages” (Spiegel 16). They disregarded the degree of sophistication of individuals living in their native territories.
The colonists were of the view that they were “whipping black people, animals, and nature into submission” (Spiegel 17). Spiegel demonstrates that whites aimed at making blacks feel that their race was inferior. Whites made blacks kill each other so that they could regard “themselves no better than animals” (18). Spiegel claims that such sentiments hurt the lives of both human and non-human animals. The author notes, “Society has concluded that it was and is wrong to treat blacks like animals” (19).
I think law and policy can change regarding legal abuse of non-human animals as commodities, similar to the way laws have changed regarding human slavery. There should be laws that prohibit the oppression of animals. There should be stricter regulation of hunting so that animals cannot live most of their life in fear and oppression. Animals need to be not necessarily distanced from their families since separation has physic and psychic effect on both human and non-human animals. According to Paul Waldau, there is heightening recognition that human cruelty to non-human animals can lead to an increase in the overall degree of cruelty (262). As a result, there are increasing developments in legislation to cater for animal rights. Societies are adopting new laws to protect the feelings of animals. Research shows that violence increases the chances of victimization (Waldau, 262). Regulation of animal violence generally reduces violence in society.
Spiegel’s argument changed my views about the way we treat non-human animals. I had never considered the fact that animal suffering is similar to human suffering. Spiegel convinces any reasonable reader that animals in contemporary society are subject to unnecessary suffering in many ways. Most people treat animals as slaves so that they do not have a right to decide what is best for them (Spiegel 40). Many animals go through harsh conditions during most of their life (Spiegel 53).
Some people hunt and kill animals for sport, without considering the effect of such torture to the family of the victimized animals (Spiegel 60). Many animals undergo vivisection in the hands of researchers who do not perceive them as equal to humans. The most disturbing fact is that most of the experiments done on animals are not medical. Human beings should not treat animals as mere objects. Non-human animals suffer in the same way as human beings. It is not ethically right to disregard the feelings of animals or subject them to unnecessary suffering and oppression.
Religion played a significant role in justifying human slavery, as well as fighting its abolition. There is still a role for religion and spirituality in changing the situation of non-human animals caught in human webs of self-interest. From a Christianity perspective, God expects human beings to take care of the environment and all its constituents. Animals are no exception. Taking care of animals does not mean mistreating them. Human beings should not abuse their power by torturing other living beings. Human beings ought to accord animals their natural rights such as freedom of movement and the right to socialize. Religion prohibits cruelty. Religion also promotes interdependence among all living beings. No living being is capable of coexisting on its own. Therefore, all living beings should coexist peacefully.
Spiegel, Marjorie. The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery. New York: Mirror Books, 1988. Print.
Waldau, Paul. Animal Studies: An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.