Human beings have a responsibility to treat animals with respect and not cause them needless suffering, because they have made it possible for mankind to survive on Earth. However, because normal adult humans seem to have superior cognitive abilities in the hierarchical scale of nature, animals are considered to be morally unequal. It can be argued that this is just an extension of human inequality and oppression, as we were once desensitized to other races and sexes, and we are now doing the same to animals. We typically do not give much thought to what occurs beyond our own bubble. We do not care how our food got on the table, we just consume it mindlessly. We do not care if our shampoo or our makeup was tested on animals, as long as it works properly. We do not care if the animals behind bars are poorly mistreated, as long as we find entertainment in observing them. In this essay, I will identify the barbaric wrongdoings of a society that has popularized the exploitation and abuse of nonhuman animals for mankind’s personal gain.
In Peter Singer’s essay “All Animals are Equal”, he presents a compelling argument on the treatment of nonhuman animals. Singer is a utilitarian that advocates for providing animals equal consideration in achieving their interests as humans do. He acknowledges that humans and animals have differing interests and achieving them is accomplished in distinct ways. He thinks that some animals have different capacities for suffering and pleasure. He also believes that regarding the pain animals feel as less significant than the pain felt by humans has no justification. He claims that animal discrimination is similar to that of the bias against African Americans and women. Singer defines speciesism as, ‘a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species’; and formulates three claims in opposition to it: equality is based on equal consideration, equality is a moral principle, not a factual one, and that rights are based in the capacity for suffering. This means that animals must be regarded as equals to humans since they have the ability to suffer, although different species will have varying levels of suffering that they can experience. It may be the case that many animals, although they are capable of feeling emotion, are not self-aware or autonomous. Nevertheless, there is no clear reason to believe that this means that their needs and interests (such as suffering) are less consequential. Such features are absent in some intellectually disabled humans, yet we do not feel that it is appropriate to expose them to experimentation or cruelty (Singer).
A recent investigation conducted by the non-profit animal welfare organization, World Animal Protection (WAP) has revealed the atrocious conditions that hundreds of thousands of big cats—mostly lions and tigers—undergo in industrial farms across South Africa and Asia that contribute to the traditional medicine market. Inbreeding is common in these facilities, resulting in the birth of lions and tigers with abnormalities such as missing limbs, severely deformed feet, legs and faces, in addition to sight, hearing and breathing problems. Investigators say that in the small enclosures of these farms in South Africa, they witnessed lion cubs running around crying in pain. To satisfy the ever-increasing demand for traditional medicine in countries like China, Vietnam, and South Africa, these helpless animals are bred and then killed for their body parts— including the bones and blood. The parts of the body are turned into all kinds of products, including wines, pills, gels and balms which are thought to be effective in the treatment of everything from arthritis to meningitis. Furthermore, these kinds of facilities often supplied only the necessary quantities of food and water to survive until the cats have reached the right age to be killed. China has up to 6,000 tigers ready for slaughter, up to 8,000 lions in South Africa, and 1,500 tigers in Thailand. Researchers have claimed that Laos and Vietnam both also farm lions and tigers. These big cats are either captured in the wild from their mothers or are born and raised at breeding facilities – this has become an increasing trend as demand for tiger and lion products has risen dramatically in recent years (Dalton). Experts have long argued that there are no proven medical benefits from these “traditional medicines”. Herbal and synthetic alternatives have been discovered and would be a far more humane substitute to products created from the slaughtering of tigers and lions. Therefore, it is both unacceptable and unnecessary to continue to use and abuse animals in the name of “medicine”. These tigers and lions are apex predators that deserve to carry out their lives in the wildlife free from experimentation.
On the other hand, many humans support animal cruelty and experimentation on the basis that animals are lesser beings than humans. As Peter Singer claimed, most modern humans are speciesists. Pure speciesism takes the idea of human supremacy to the extreme by suggesting that the most insignificant human desire is more important than other species’ essential needs. For instance, a pure speciesist would argue that it is tolerable for animals to be treated cruelly and killed in order to provide fur for human beings to wear. However, few people tend to take speciesism to this length. More commonly, they claim that when approaching an ethical issue, all other factors being more or less equal, it is morally correct to take the human side (Singer). Speciesism supporters say that there is a clear difference between humans and other species, and their ethical standing is influenced by this difference. They argue that human beings are more self-conscious than other animals, and are more capable of choosing their own course of action. This, they conclude, allows them to think and act morally, entitling them to a higher moral status. One argument in favor of speciesism is that treating one’s own species favorably is biologically natural. Nearly all non-human animals treat members of their own species with bias and prefer them to other species. Another claim made by speciesists is that animals kill each other so it would not be immoral if we kill them (“Animal Ethics”).
To sum up, everything that has been stated, it is our duty as human beings to care for animals with utmost respect. We must regard them as moral equals, even if we do not regard them as intellectual equals. Speciesism is a plague on our world, and it must be eliminated so that humans and animals can coexist. Human beings do not need to abuse, experiment, or exploit animals to survive. Alternative methods that do not the put the lives of animals at risk can be utilized instead. Animals do not exist for our pleasure, benefit, or entertainment.