The issue of animal rights is becoming a more and more discussed dilemma in a variety of circles: social, ethical, industrial, medical, and others. When considering the freedoms animals are deprived of, animal rights activists compare them with humans and argue that animals should not be used for entertainment, sports, experiments, clothes, and food (Pollan). At the same time, there are acute issues concerning disabled people whom some consider not to deserve the right to live. As such, the question of what is a “good life” and a “good death” both for humans and animals raises many arguments and opinions, some of which are so remarkably contradictory that it seems strange that they are expressed by the same persons.
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One of the most famous animal rights defenders is Peter Singer whose book Animal Liberation has become a hymn of activists and turned thousands of people from animal-eaters to vegans (Pollan). In Singer’s book, as well as in many other pathetic writings and speeches, it is mentioned that animals should be treated decently, their dignity should be protected and respected, and they should be considered as “beings” rather than “things” (Pollan). This all sounds very well, but there are too many considerations to take into account when talking about complete refusal from consuming animals as food or exploiting them in any other way. It is quite complicated to define a “good life” for animals since everyone suggests a definition from his or her own point of view. Those who do not consider eating and wearing animals a crime think that a “good life” for animals is being fed and taken care of and living in comfort and warmth.
Those who find eating animals a murder argue that a “good life” for them is merely leaving them alone and letting them do whatever they want. However, these people seem to underestimate the number of animals that, in such cases, will populate the planet, without being restricted in reproductive functions and being given an opportunity to go wherever they wish. Also, as Pollan notes, the “cultural confusion” prevents people from creating a unanimous definition of what is a “good life” for animals. It is so because while they defend the notion of equal treatment for people and animals, they make a classification of these species, which inevitably leads to more confusion and unfairness. While dogs receive presents on holidays, rarely do animal rights activists care to think about how miserable a pig’s life is. According to Pollan’s observation, with the loss of eye contact, people lost the ability to accurately formulate their attitude to some animals.
While the definition of a “good life” and a “good death” for animals is quite disputable, outlining the same concepts for humans is not an easy matter as well. In fact, it is astonishing that the very same people who argue that animals are equal to humans should say that some humans do not deserve to live if they have some afflictions. Peter Singer defends animals’ rights with the idea that everyone should experience equal treatment no matter “what abilities they may possess” (Pollan). At the same time, this very same Singer argues that babies born with a disability should be euthanized and replaced with non-disabled ones with a “greater chance at happiness” (Johnson).
It is impossible to disagree with Johnson, who states that the fact of having or not having a disability cannot possibly predict a person’s quality of life. In fact, she herself is a shining example of how a person with a physical impairment can be gifted in many other ways and contribute more to society than some physically perfect individuals may. Thus, a “good life” for a person may be explained in a way similar to the explanation of an animal’s “good life” – it is the possibility to live and strive for best with the possible support and without obstruction. However, despite the resemblance of these definitions, it seems that people should be given at least a slightly bigger chance than animals. This chance should be greater at least because they can contribute so much more to the world. Including, though not limited to, the issue of rights and equality of different species.
It is not possible to define what makes a “good life” and a “good death” for humans and other animals with high precision since there are too many contradictory opinions on these issues. Some consider eating animals a normal thing while others equate it to murder. At the same time, there are people who argue that individuals born with afflictions should not be given the right to live. The “sentiment and brutality” existing side by side in people’s treatment of animals is also rather acutely present in people’s approaches to treating each other (Pollan). There is no single definition of a “good life” and a “good death.” Probably the only thing that unites all attempts to define these concepts is that both people and animals should be treated with dignity. The definition of this dignity, though, is not an entirely new and not less complicated question.
Johnson, Harriet. “Unspeakable Conversations.” The New York Times Magazine. 2003, Web.
Pollan, Michael. “An Animal’s Place.” The New York Times Magazine. 2002, Web.