23 Aug 2022


Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics

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Academic level: University

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The aim of utilitarianism is to maximize pleasure and reduce suffering. The theory proposes that actions are acceptable as long as they promote the wellbeing of the majority. It further argues whatever leads to the satisfaction of the majority should be seen as the norm. Singer in his discussions equates human suffering to that of other living creatures, referring to it as equal consideration. On the contrary, the principle of equality as stated by Thomas Jefferson is that all people were created equal. Singer differs with this interpretation and explains that the characteristics that people have are different and in this sense, people are not equal (Singer, 2015). 

Singer further explains that people do not have similar physical attributes, intelligence or moral values and hence inference is inaccurate. He wants us to understand that people have different needs and no one’s need is greater than someone else's and thus, people should get equal consideration. Singer continues to argue that if we put the needs of one group ahead of that of another, it amounts to discrimination. He illustrates this by describing racism as the assumption that the interests of a particular race are crucial important than those of their counterparts (Eskes et al., 2016). 

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In addition, Singer extends the same principle of equality to animals. He argues that the inability of animals to deliberate or communicate coherently does to preclude them of his understanding of equality, where all should benefit from equal consideration. He demonstrates his point by arguing that although babies cannot think coherently, their welfare is paramount. Singer, therefore, reasons that the best test is to ask if the individual can suffer. He contends that as long as a being can suffer, then it too has interests or needs that need consideration. He, therefore, concludes that since animals can suffer, then their interests should not be considered less important than that of humans (Singer, 2015). 

Accepting Singer's principle of equality is to acknowledge that animals also have interests and that we have an ethical obligation to take their interests into consideration. Many of the inhumane practices in farms have been proven by scientists to cause suffering to animals. Studies show that animals subjected to stress and affliction are more susceptible to diseases and this leads to a reduction in productivity. Some of these harmful practices include; de-beaking chickens, concentrating a large number of animals and birds in very constrictive structures, feeding them unnatural diets and inhumane slaughters. This principle has helped educate those in the industry that animals just like humans suffer and ignoring their suffering are a form of discrimination. It has helped create awareness and consumers are now demanding better treatment of animals which has compelled the food industry to relook at their practices and improve animal welfare (Miller, 2010). 

Accepting this principle has also encouraged the development of alternative testing methods. It has reduced the need for animal testing gradually and ultimately to eliminate this requirement without compromising on the progress of research. Some of the alternative methods developed include; computer simulations, in-vitro, micro-fluid chip assessments, micro-dosing, imaging studies and use of computer models and simulations. Such principles have helped fuel public demand to make termination of animal testing practices a reality. However, even though his theory is beneficial towards animals, it is not about animal rights. Singer still holds the view that one is justified to violate the rights of an individual if it is for the greater good of the majority. 


Eskes, C., & In Whelan, M. (2016). Validation of alternative methods for toxicity testing

Miller, D. A. (2010). Factory farming . Detroit: Greenhaven Press. 

Singer, P. (2015). Animal Liberation . Open Road Media. 

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