For evidence on related issues, see also the sections on Nature, Property, and Science




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ANIMAL RIGHTS / ANIMAL WELFARE

For evidence on related issues, see also the sections on Nature, Property, and Science




Humans have the same basic nature as nonhuman animals


Humans are not substantially different from other animals

James Rachels (prof. of philosophy, Univ. of Alabama), Created from Animals: Moral Implications of Darwinism, 1990, p. 171

“The doctrine of human dignity says that humans merit a level of moral concern wholly different from that accorded mere animals; for this to be true, there would have to be some big, morally significant difference between them. Therefore, any adequate defense of human dignity would require some conception of human beings as radically different from other animals. But that is precisely what evolutionary theory calls into question: it makes us suspicious of any doctrine that sees large gaps of any sort between humans and all other creatures.”


There are no definitive grounds for dividing humans from animals

David N. Cassuto (Associate Professor of Law, Pace University School of Law), “Bred meat: the cultural foundation of the factory farm,” Law and Contemporary Problems, Winter 2007, p. 60

“Consequently, making a biological argument that rights should be confined to humans is challenging on several levels. First, one must locate the biological criterion that definitively separates humans from animals — a problematic endeavor. Even assuming such a thing could be accomplished, one would then face the equally difficult task of explaining why a biological characteristic should determine access to moral consideration. On a behavioral plane, distinguishing ‘humanness’ is equally difficult. Not every ‘human ‘trait is found in every human. As one commentator notes, ‘we do not treat possession of distinctively human capacities as a prerequisite for having rights ... we acknowledge that infants, severely retarded and demented people, and other humans who do not have or cannot develop or recover such ... capacities have rights and are entitled to equal consideration.’” [ellipses in original text]


Humans do not have souls

Daniel C. Dennett (Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University), “How to Protect Human Dignity from Science,” in Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics, 2008, p. 44

“People have immortal souls, according to tradition, and that is what makes them so special. Let me put the problem unequivocally: the traditional concept of the soul as an immaterial thinking thing, Descartes’s res cogitans, the internal locus in each human body of all suffering, and meaning, and decisions, both moral and immoral, has been utterly discredited. Science has banished the soul as firmly as it has banished mermaids, unicorns, and perpetual motion machines. There are no such things. There is no more scientific justification for believing in an immaterial immortal soul than there is for believing that each of your kidneys has a tap-dancing poltergeist living in it.”


Mental capacity is a poor reason not to give animals full human rights

Jeff McMahan (prof. of philosophy, Rutgers University), “Challenges to Human Equality,” The Journal of Ethics, Volume 12, No. 1 (2008), p. 83-84

“When pressed to explain why animals lie outside the scope of liberal egalitarian principles, such as the equal wrongness thesis, that are thought to govern our treatment of other human beings, most liberals respond initially by appealing to certain psychological capacities that human beings possess but that animals lack. Human beings, they point out, have capacities for self-consciousness, rationality, autonomy, the use of language, action on the basis of reasons, and so on. Some one or combination of these capacities is what relevantly distinguishes human beings from animals and provides the foundation for human equality. Yet according to the common understanding of what it is to have a capacity, some human beings lack all such capacities. Some, such as the severely demented and the irreversibly comatose, lack them now but had them in the past. Others, such as most fetuses and newborn infants, lack them now but have the potential to have them in the future. But some human beings — namely, those that are congenitally and radically cognitively impaired — have never had the capacities and also seem to lack the potential to have them. And even among those human beings who possess some of the capacities, there are some who do not possess them all, while among those who possess them all, there are some in whom the relevant capacities are more highly developed than they are in others. How, then, can such capacities provide a basis for human equality?”


Human intelligence is not vastly greater than animal intelligence

Michael Tomasello (co-director, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), “How Are Humans Unique?” The New York Times Magazine, May 25, 2008, p. 15

“You might think that human beings at least enjoy the advantage of being more generally intelligent. To test this idea, my colleagues and I recently administered an array of cognitive tests — the equivalent of nonverbal I.Q. tests — to adult chimpanzees and orangutans (two of our closest primate relatives) and to 2-year-old human children. As it turned out, the children were not more skillful overall. They performed about the same as the apes on the tests that measured how well they understood the physical world of space, quantities and causality. The children performed better only on tests that measured social skills: social learning, communicating and reading the intentions of others.”


Animals and humans have a fundamental dignity that arises from the same source

Martha Nussbaum (Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago), “Human Dignity and Political Entitlements,” in Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics, 2008, p. 367

“Animals other than human beings possess dignity for the very same reason that human beings possess dignity: they are complex living and sentient beings endowed with capacities for activity and striving. It seems to me morally unacceptable to harp on the importance of human dignity while denying this dignity to other animals.”


Similarities between humans and animals raise the issue of justice in animal treatment

Taimie L. Bryant (prof. of law, UCLA School of Law), “Similarity or difference as a basis for justice: must animals be like humans to be legally protected from humans?” Law and Contemporary Problems, Winter 2007, p. 207-208

“If humans are defined in some significant measure by a particular characteristic (such as toolmaking ability, self-awareness, or the capacity to suffer), questions of justice arise when animals are sufficiently similar to humans as to that characteristic and justice is defined as requiring that like entities be treated alike. In the context of that definition of justice, finding that animals are similar to humans as to one or more essential characteristics has greater significance than mere satisfaction of intellectual curiosity about animals. It calls into question the morality of such human practices as sport hunting and fishing, flesh-food production methods, and the consumption of flesh foods. The argument is, if justice requires that like entities be treated alike, it cannot be just to hunt or consume animals (who are like humans), because humans (who are like animals) are not subject to being hunted or turned into food products. Justice may not require that animals be exactly the same as humans (for instance, the number of toes and the presence of fur may not be relevant) or that they have rights exactly coterminous with the rights of humans, but justice would require that animals receive protection in ways that match up with those similarities they share with humans that are characteristics considered essential to our understanding of what it means to be human. Stated generally, the argument is that if animals are similar to humans as to capacities and characteristics of humans that define humans, then animals should receive protections equivalent to the protections of humans because a just society treats like entities alike. I refer to this as ‘the similarity argument.’”


Animal rights shares a moral basis with other civil rights movements

Taimie L. Bryant (prof. of law, UCLA School of Law), “Similarity or difference as a basis for justice: must animals be like humans to be legally protected from humans?” Law and Contemporary Problems, Winter 2007, p. 208-209

“The similarity argument — that justice requires the like treatment of like entities — drove the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the disability rights movement. Not surprisingly, then, the similarity argument also dominates advocacy for animals. This is so regardless of whether the goal is animal rights or the more humane use of animals. Although advocates may rest their claim on animals’ cognitive capacity, on animals’ capacity to suffer, or on some combination of the two, the argument is the same: justice requires that animals be protected from human (ab)use because animals are similar enough to humans to be given protections similar to those that humans have from each other.”


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