I was going to try and write a long and detailed argument for animal rights here, but I just can’t do it justice. I really recommend Peter Singer’s ‘Animal Liberation’ even if you’re just marginally interested. Don’t let the strident title put you off. It’s a fascinating and compelling book. I tried to find a link to some of his arguments nline, but couldn’t find a good one.
Briefly, I think that animals like humans have rights or interests. I believe that the same arguments that lead us (or many of us) to believe that the interests of various groups within the human species (women, ethnic minorities etc) should be treated equally can, and should, be extended to animals.
This is not to say that animals are equal (in some sense of intellectual, emotional, or achievement based worth) to humans, but that their interests should be given equal consideration. Singer’s argument, which I tend to agree with, is that it is a being’s ability to suffer that affords it these rights. The suffering that animals endure for the sake of the meat industry and for scientific exeriments is quite amazing. More than most people would imagine.
I strongly believe that if you want to allieviate animal suffering the best and easiest thing you can do is to become vegetarian. There are other things you could do such as campaign for better conditions in factory farms, boycott companies that test on animals, look after stray dogs etc, but not eating meat directly lessens the most suffering, is the easiest of the things to do, and goes right to the main cause of the greatest amount of animal suffering.
Why did I talk about killing animals for our own pleasure? Well most of us don’t need to eat meat for survival or even for nutritional meanings. That means that eating meat is either for our own culinary pleasure or for convenience. I think what a lot of people don’t realise is just how easy it is to become and stay vegetarian. For me the crucial realisation that made me become vegetarian was not ‘why should I nto eat meat?’ but ‘why eat meat if I don’t have to?’
I side argument, that is unrelated: From whose point of view are humans more important than animals? Humans’ of course. Then if fish could think it (which they probably can’t) from their point of view fish are more important than humans (and other species). If soem aliens or gods or somethign decided to judge who was most important then I guess they’re quite likely to use the sort of criteria you use (things based on our cerebral dvelopment as a species) and if they could only save some beings from a earth before the meteor crashed they’d save humans. But what if they used other criteria? And would that mean they’d choose the rich and intelligent over the sipmle and uncultured etc? Probably the earth itself would be better off without humans.
Anyway, CRBK, I do respect the fact that you have made yourself aware of some of the apalling animal suffering. Other people wouldn’t give a shit.
Vera, another reason I’d save the baby over the dog, based on the argument of suffering. Although the suffering of animals and babies should be given equal consideration, I can presumably allieviate more suffering by saving the baby as I presume that the family of the baby would suffer more from it’s death than the family of the dog.
Oops, this is longer than Imeantit to be, and sorry if it turned out soundinga bit too much like a moral lecture.