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Whether animals have rights: the perspectives of Tom Regan vs. Peter Singer

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  1. Tom Regan's approach
  2. Peter Singer's approach

The animal rights movement is often oversimplified and mocked by many in contemporary society, and this is often a result of an unwillingness to look at the facts and the various philosophies that make up the movement. An individual caught up in the ideas of the day is often unable to think outside of this realm, and many important ideas, such as the inherent rights of animals to be free of harm from humans, do not appear to make any sense. A careful analysis of two philosophers, Tom Regan and Peter Singer, allows us to better understand the philosophy that underlies the animal rights movement and justifies the passions and anger that many activists feel over the needless killing and torturing of animals.

[...] He explains that our desire to satisfy our own taste buds is no reason to kill an animal, when we can just as easily satisfy our need for protein and other essential nutrients far more efficiently with a diet that replaced animal flesh by soy beans, or products derived from soy beans, and other high- protein vegetable products? (Singer 191). To force an animal to die on account of our palate and taste is inherently immoral, inconsiderate, and it cannot be justified in any way. Singer argues that the same theory can be applied to animals and their use in experiments that suit human purposes. If an experimenter sees something wrong with using an infant in a dangerous experiment, then by default, he should be able to see the same problem arise when that experiment is performed on non-humans. [...]

[...] In his defense of animal rights, Peter Singer reaches a similar conclusion by way of a very different approach. Singer basis his philosophy less on the moral rights of animals, and he focuses much more on their suffering and the fact that essentially, animals and humans should be viewed with equality. With regard to suffering, Singer argues that because an animal suffers, killing or torturing that animal is wrong. If the suffering did not occur, the question may be answered differently. [...]

[...] Therefore, animals fall into the category and, by default, must be treated with the same respect and concern that humans are treated with. To drive his point home, Singer uses an example of an imbecile with no capacity to function on a human level. To do harm to such an imbecile would be considered wrong by almost anyone, since at the end of the day, a human is being harmed for no good reason. Yet, why does this justification not hold true for an animal that is at his full capacity? [...]

[...] He explains that there is something inherently wrong in this philosophy, and there it therefore should not be used in justifying the animal rights movement. He writes, The sort of equality we find in utilitarianism, however, is not the same sort an advocate of animal or human rights should have in mind. Utilitarianism has no room for the equal moral rights of different individuals because it has no room for their inherent value or worth. What has value for utilitarianism is the satisfaction of an individual's interests, not the individual whose interests they are (Regan 199). [...]

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