All Animals Are Equal

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In our world, protests occur each day on the issues of animal cruelty and human rights, but when the issues are put together which will reign over the other? The author Peter Singer of “All Animals are Equal” and “Tools for Research” presents his argument for determining when animal experiments are justified. The author starts his paper with a counter argument, questioning if one would be willing to let thousands of people die if those people could be saved by experimentation on a single animal. The answer is a unanimous no; in our culture we value human life over everything else. The author follows by asking the reader if they would be prepared to carry out their experiments on humans who are mentally retarded or orphaned babies, if that were the only way to save thousands of lives? To Singer, if one is unprepared to experiment on humans then they have revealed a form of discrimination on the basis of species, known as speciesism. In this paper the condition for justified experimentation using animals is discussed. Singer states that if an experiment is truly important it would be acceptable to use a human patient, which shares the same cognitive level with an animal. In such a case, Singer considers it acceptable to substitute an animal. However, he realizes that, even though the only difference between the two is that one is a member of our species and the other is not, the animal would be the preferred choice for research purposes. This bias is what Singer refers to as being a speciesist. Speciesism is defined by him as a, “prejudice or attitude of bias favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species” (Page 6, All Animals are Equal). To better understand speciesism as defined by Singer one needs to better understand the commonalities between humans and animals. To the author, animals should be viewed as living beings that have feelings, can feel pain and feel fear. The author explains that animals (mammals and bird) have similar nervous systems to that of a human, and respond to pain or pleasure in a similar manner to humans. Additionally, the fear and terror an animal suffers from simply being confined is much greater than that of a human in captivity as humans have a greater ability to communicate, and comprehend when told that they will be not be harmed. Singer attempts to persuade the reader to put aside our human superiority and consider mammals and birds as equals. In doing so, Singer hopes that we can comprehend that the way animals are treated during lab tests and experiments is both terrifying and emotional painful to the subject. Singer’s paper is poignant forcing the reader to evaluate the way animals are treated by humans. However, some of the underlying assumptions behind his argument do need to be addressed. First, Singer fails to recognize the future potential of the humans he identifies as cognitively equal to animals. While attempting to compare animals to lower cognition humans Singer fails to recognize that almost all babies and many severely mentally retarded humans have the potential to become our scientists, poets, and philosophers. Second, Singer attempts to capitalize on a perceived readers bias by inferring that all mentally retarded human beings, who he describes as being locked away in special wards throughout the country, are long since abandoned by their parents and other relatives and, sometimes, unloved by anyone else. This Victorian assumption is used to support his argument that these people, as though rejected by society, are less valued than mainstream members of society. There is no research evidence supplied to support this claim. Even in cases where a person may not have the support of immediate family, they will still form bonds between themselves and those that care for them. One merely has to ask any teacher in a classroom of “exceptional” children how they feel about mentally retarded humans to find out that bonds exist...
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