Written at California State University of Fullerton, Environmental Ethics, 2012
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL - AND ANIMALS EAT ANIMALS
In the text ‘All Animals Are Equal’ Peter Singer state that human prejudices against non-human animals and the view that they are not equal, creates unnecessary suffering; a claim I do not disagree to but I will oppose his further claim that a human killing a non-human animal is an act of speciesism, not morally justified and therefor wrong. In order to make my point clear I will dispute two notions; humans are indulging in speciesism when eating meat, and that all suffering is bad. Concluding that if all animals are equal, humans have the right to eat meat and that suffering is therefore unavoidable.
It is not possible to disagree to Peter Singer’s statement that giving preference to humans over other animals is an act of speciesism, or that all animals are equal and must therefore have the same moral rights. However, Peter Singer’s solution that humans must stop eating meat because that makes them take part in speciesism is a notion I disagree to. Peter Singer says that, ”For the great majority of human beings, […] the most direct form of contact with members of other species is at mealtimes; we eat them. In doing so we treat them purely as means to an end.” He then goes on saying that this is an unnecessary pleasure since humans can survive on other forms of nutrition. I agree that humans can survive on alternative sources of food, but counterclaim that if humans perceive themselves as equal to other animals, they have the same right to kill other animals and eat meat. If humans truly opposed speciesism they should reinforce the human species as a natural part of the animal kingdom. To take distance from others species, and to consider oneself a higher being that acts from reason and not instinct, is an act of speciesism in itself. Therefore, all killings cannot be bad, and since to kill may be considered to cause suffering, one may also conclude that not all suffering is bad, which will lead me to my second paragraph.
I will not oppose Peter Singer’s statement; “The suffering we inflict on the animals while they are alive is perhaps an even clearer indication of our speciesism than the fact that we are prepared to kill them.” For even if my claim that killing animals for food is not an act of speciesism, unnecessary suffering while keeping them alive until the killing occurs, is. However, to keep cattle in restraint for future process into food is not in itself an immoral act if one were to see animals as equal; this behaviour appears within other species as ants and spiders, and are at times a necessity for survival. There is no escape from causing suffering but it is our duty to minimise it. This is the law in nature, and is executed by all animals except humans, because even though a being has the right to live, it does not mean that another being does not have the right to kill it. If there is a moral purpose, creating suffering is inescapable and therefore just.
Therefore, the conclusion is that if all animals are to be perceived as equal, a human must be able to kill another animal for food or in defense, as other animals do, and therefore has the right to eat meat and cause necessary suffering, or all beings would eventually starve.
Singer, Peter (1974). ‘All Animals are Equal’, Philosophic Exchange vol. 1, no. 5 (Summer 1974) pp. 215-228