Response to Week 9, Prompt 1: Animal Rights

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Defining value in life and how one comes to a determination on what precisely to value is crucial to the issue of animal rights. Whether the criterion is general consciousness, the ability to feel pain, or another factor altogether, the reason one values an animal’s life is key to communicating an understanding of why their lives are important to others. While it may be simple to say the reason does not matter, only that such value exists, the ability to convincingly persuade others who do not at the time agree that such beings should have rights is a very important aspect of animal rights, assuming that a goal of animal rights is to extend the acceptance of animal rights to as many people as possible.

The article cited identifies an important point: our attempt at valuing the lives and needs of animals, including their responses to pain and other stimuli, reinforces the same anthropocentrism is typically condemns. By assessing an animal’s response to “pain” as humans conceive it, we are attempting to ascribe human values to non-human beings. At the very least, this would qualify as anthropomorphism. I believe it also qualifies as anthropocentrism because, though on the surface it appears that such an argument values the animal for itself, it still ascribes that value from a human-centered viewpoint, using human feelings to assign value.

The value criterion used to determine the importance of another being’s life should be consciousness. The use of consciousness does not require the same speculation into the state of mind of another being that the use of pain requires. Instead, consciousness is a more simply factor to use. While there are likely cases that make the determination of consciousness difficult, it is a more easily observable and objective factor than pain.

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One response »

  1. I entirely agree that establishing a basis of value to validate an animal rights ethic is essential, especially when attempting to explain and share the idea of animal’s rights with an audience who may know very little about the subject. I do believe, however, that pain can be a very valid and convincing argument. While there exists a grey area of not knowing what pain is experienced from the animal’s perspective, you can still draw parallels between the neurological and physiological responses to unpleasant stimuli. With closely related species (from an evolutionary perspective) such as pigs, cows and other livestock mammals, there are similar areas of the brain involved with pain processing as well as similar pain behaviors that I feel provide convincing evidence to an argument founded on pain – basically that what we feel is anatomically similar to what they feel. On this basis, while we only have our own experiences to go by as humans, I think there’s more than just an anthropomorphic/anthropocentric ethic and value to this case. In a sense, the argument of pain can provide a more concrete argument than that of interpreting and distinguishing consciousness.

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