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Argument: Humans are obligated to cause animals no pain or suffering

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Supporting quotations

Jeremy Bentham - "The question is not, 'Can they reason?' nor, 'Can they talk?' but rather, 'Can they suffer?'"[1]

"Singer's argument is disarmingly simple and, if you accept its premises, difficult to refute. Take the premise of equality, which most people readily accept. Yet what do we really mean by it? People are not, as a matter of fact, equal at all--some are smarter than others, better looking, more gifted. "Equality is a moral idea," Singer points out, "not an assertion of fact." The moral idea is that everyone's interests ought to receive equal consideration, regardless of "what abilities they may possess." Fair enough; many philosophers have gone this far. But fewer have taken the next logical step. "If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose?"

This is the nub of Singer's argument, and right around here I began scribbling objections in the margin. But humans differ from animals in morally significant ways. Yes they do, Singer acknowledges, which is why we shouldn't treat pigs and children alike. Equal consideration of interests is not the same as equal treatment, he points out: children have an interest in being educated; pigs, in rooting around in the dirt. But where their interests are the same, the principle of equality demands they receive the same consideration. And the one all-important interest that we share with pigs, as with all sentient creatures, is an interest in avoiding pain."

Katerina Apostolides & Lea Oksman. "Man's Dominion over the Animals". The Yale Free Press. Winter 2004 - "Animals are entitled to a certain amount of dignity and respect—the dignity not to be put in a microwave, exposed to toxic chemicals, or have food stuffed through a pipe down their throats. Perhaps the most serious argument against their legal protection—the potential threat to human medical research—has become increasingly irrelevant due to technological advances. On the other hand, genetic technology has vastly increased our power to exploit and mistreat animals, by creating mutant and hybrid animals with no dignity to their existence.

These factors compel us to take the animal rights movement seriously. Above all, we should not turn the fact of being human into a license for inhumane behavior."

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