Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bob Torres essay for Opposing Views

I wanted to share Bob's essay with you guys... Bob is such an interesting writer and I always find his views really fascinating. Bob inspires me to think critically... I like that. Unfortunately, my writing is not half as interesting... at least not at the moment. I just got into a (very minor) accident and dented my front rim. Slid on some black ice. Ahhh Canada. I might have to get a new wheel tomorrow, we'll have to see if my tire is flat in the morning.

Anyway, don't want to focus on that. I want to focus on Bob's interesting piece of writing. You can find more Bob at or

Here we go:

I was approached by the folks over at to weigh in on the debate over whether or not animals should have the same rights as people. What follows below is the quick essay I submitted to them. You can find the full debate here if their site starts working correctly..there have been transient failures all weekend.
In one episode of the 1980s absurd British sitcom “The Young Ones,” Neil, the hippie of the group, famously quipped “vegetable rights and peace!” comically upping his hippie cred into the stratosphere. Hippies, of course, are presumed to be for rights for all kinds of things: trees, rocks, water, air, and, of course, animals. Not being a hippie myself, I can’t really speak to the arguments for granting non-sentient things like trees rights (though there is a rather compelling environmental case to be made for protecting them from what economists call the “externalities” of capitalist industrial production) but it is worth thinking about why animals should be accorded at least some of the rights that we bipedal primates called “humans” enjoy.
To begin with, despite the question as posed, I don’t think animals should have the same rights as humans in all cases. Granting the dogs I live with a right to free speech or the right to vote is pointless (insert your own joke here about the election and re-election of George W. Bush). Instead, I’m advocating for something that is much more simple. In the respects that animals are like us—most notably, in their ability to feel pain, have subjective experiences, and value their own continued existence—animals should have rights similar to the rights we have. In the broadest terms, this would mean that we’d have to stop eating and wearing them, experimenting on them, and bringing them into existence for our own ends.
Anyone who lives with a cat or a dog knows that animals not only have personalities, but that they also have memories, fears, wants, and desires. The dogs and cat that I live with seek out comfort, avoid pain, and desire companionship, and it is clear to me that they suffer as acutely as I do (if not more acutely) when they are hurt, or sick, or scared. Moreover, having spent time around animals ultimately destined for slaughter, I also know that pigs and cows and chickens are also capable of these same pleasures and pains, and what appears to be a subjective awareness of their surroundings, yet for reasons that no one can really justify, we snuggle up with one set of animals called “pets,” while we eat another set of animals called “livestock.”
When it comes down to it, the case for animal rights is really a case for adopting a thorough moral and ethical stance in favor of treating like cases alike. My own outlook has been shaped by the ethical theory of Gary L. Francione, who argues that though animals and humans are clearly different, they are alike in the sense that they both suffer, and are both sentient. For this reason, Francione argues, animals should receive equal moral consideration. Most importantly, this would mean extending to animals inherent value, or really bringing them into the moral community by recognizing that certain aspects of their personhood cannot be “sold away” or sacrificed for the benefit of another. Put most simply, because animals are like us in some relevant regards, they should be treated like we would be treated in those instances.
The tired objections that animals do not deserve rights because they lack rationality, or language, or human levels of intelligence, or whatever arbitrary characteristics anthropocentric philosophers decide are important are so self-serving as to be almost comical. The obvious problem with using qualities like these to exclude animals from moral consideration is that we can almost always find humans who also lack those qualities. A great many humans lack what we’d consider to be “normal” rational faculties, yet no one seriously suggests that the mentally disabled be enslaved, or that they should be used for food or medical experiments. Similarly, you may be smarter or more eloquent or stronger than I am, yet none of those attributes gives you the right to make me your property. Why? Because in the relevant regard that both you and I share in not being the chattel of another, no arbitrary criteria—not intelligence, rationality, language, eye color, skin color, gender, etc.—can be used to violate this basic right that guarantees our inherent value. Those of us who are for animal rights (and not simply for animal welfare) wish to make “species” another irrelevant criterion for deciding who does and does not get the basic rights accorded to members of our moral community.
Surely, the road ahead towards giving animals more thorough membership in our moral community is a long one. Veganism—not consuming animal products of any kind—is certainly the first step of many in this direction, and a step that everyone can take today. In spite of what Neil the hippie might think, vegetables don’t need rights, as they feel no pain, and have no sentience. Animals, however, are another story altogether.

By the way, you can get Bob & Jenna's book here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DrowGowly [url=]Order cheap Cipro online[/url] [url=]Buy Buspar without no prescription online[/url]