Response to Prompt 1: Assigning value to the lives of animals

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Yes, I believe that defining value in a non-human’s life plays a significant role in how we define animal rights. This is because how we humans perceive pain may be different than the way certain animals perceive pain. Species that are closely related to humans in their biological structure will most likely experience pain in the same way as humans perceive pain. For example, David DeGrazia believes that since language trained apes and dolphins are “the most cognitively, emotionally, and socially advanced nonhuman animals” (EC p.594) they should be considered “borderline persons.” According to DeGrazia, borderline persons are creatures that possess characteristics of people such as bodily self-awareness, social self-awareness, and a sense of morals. In this sense, the importance of an animal’s life should be defined on whether they are borderline persons or not. Whether an animal is a borderline person or not depends on establishing an animal’s level of “personhood.” It can be argued then that the more “personhood” or characteristics of a person that an animal obtains then we humans will be more likely to defend the animal, for we can identify with animals that act like we do. Overall, the implications of this value system should be based on the notion that an animal’s sense of pain equals an animal’s welfare, not a human’s sense of pain equals an animal’s welfare. For humans and nonhuman animals would not perceive pain in the same way simply because they are biologically not related. However, for borderline persons who are similar in characteristics with humans, the life of those creatures can be assessed on a human’s sense of pain equals an animal’s welfare rationale since borderline persons are closely connected with humans.

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