Peter Singer is a strong advocate of animal liberation or emancipation. He challenged the widely held notion that animals should be treated differently because human beings are more valuable or superior. He believed that all animals are equal and all the animal’s interests should be highly considered.
Animal Liberation: It is argued that human beings are rational, use language and are autonomous while animals are not. However, Singer argues that this is an invalid argument since not all human beings are rational, self-aware, have a language or are independent. Infants do not have a language while there are those adults who are not rational. There are adults who unfortunately have suffered from brain damage and are not autonomous or independent. In his book, Animal Liberation, he argues that all animals are equal. He does not advocate for animals to participate in voting or to be held responsible for any criminal actions but rather that there be an equal consideration of their interests. If an action will cause an animal hurt or pain, the repercussions should be considered appropriately by a human being and not be disregarded simply because it is an animal involved and not a human being. It would definitely be absurd to give animals the right to vote, it would also be ridiculous to give infants and retarded people the right to vote yet we do not treat infants the same way we treat animals (Singer, 2). These infants and retarded people are not cared for to provide food in overcrowded sheds neither are they used as guinea pigs for testing household cleaners or any other chemical product. Yet animals such as apes have high reasoning capabilities and they are treated cruelly.
Singer argued against the speciesist concept since he compared it to the prejudices held by the people who practiced racism or gender discrimination. The racist considers the people who are in his “group” to be more valuable or superior therefore those who are not in the same group should therefore be treated differently. The major difference between the speciesist and the racist is that the speciesist boundary is inclusive of all the human beings, it is about those who are Homo Sapiens. It did not matter which quality any human being possessed, he or she is superior to any other animal.
Singer would rather the inclusivity of the group not be race, gender or ethnicity but the ability of the being to feel pain, pleasure or hurt. Pigs feel pain however cabbages or lettuce do not feel pain. This is a high or moral basis for choosing the beings that qualify to be in this group.
Singer contested the notion or concept of animal welfare and accused it of being selfish. In the concept of animal welfare, organizations spoke out against acts of cruelty to animals however this protection only mattered when the interests of human beings were not at stake. If there arose a situation where both the interests of the animals and human beings were at stake, the organizations expected the animals to give way. The animal welfare concept encouraged this practice since the human beings were deemed to be superior beings in relation to the animals.
There have been serious counterarguments to the philosophical arguments that Singer raised concerning animal liberation. It has been refuted based on the deep intuitions that cause men to act the way they do. If one was in a situation where he had the choice to either kill
a man or 101 chimpanzees, the man would choose to spare the man’s life and not the 101 chimpanzees despite the fact that doing so would increase the sum of pain in the world.
Although there are human beings whose mental capabilities have been impaired, there are actions that are acceptable and those that are not. It is considered better for a veterinary doctor to take the life of a dog which is suffering a lot from incontinence due to age yet it is considered to be murder when a doctor takes the life of an elderly who is in the last stages of the Alzheimer disease. These intuitions are similar to the low feeling an American gets when a fellow American is being mistreated in a foreign country.
There are those who feel that the only time that animals may be spared from hurt is when such actions do not affect the standard of living of human beings and does not impede scientific or medical advancement. If there are alternative ways which can be used for the people to achieve their objectives then they would be used because most people are empathetic towards the pain that the animals may feel. It has been argued that logical facts and not philosophical arguments would increase the empathy towards animals.
Singer however argues on pain and hurt and not on the choices of taking a life. In his arguments he states that there is something special and different in human beings with mental faculties who are past the age of infancy. In choosing which life to spare, the issue of animal liberation is different. Singer speaks of human beings inflicting pain on the animals and not killing them. This is the issue he is concerned about. He does not want people to be cruel to animals simply because they believe that they are superior.
Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. New York: Random House. 1990. Print.