For the sake of discussion, lets assume that the concept of rights, human or animal, cannot be substantiated. Rights of any sort are a construct, created only by consensus.
The moral question becomes not whether animals have rights, but do we as humans, with the same basic desires as animals (to live and not suffer), have any obligation toward them?
In Global Environmental Ethics, Louis Pojman outlines five theories of obligation to animals:
- Animals have no moral status at all
- We have only indirect obligations to animals when our interests are at stake
- Humans and animals are morally equal, thus we have an obligation to them
- Animals deserve our consideration because of their capacity to suffer
- Our obligations to animals vary based on their level of awareness
In nature, a predatory animal will pursue and eat its prey without consideration, but it is generally clear that the prey wants to live. For example, it will hide when it feels threatened, or fight for its life if it must. And it doesn’t want to suffer either: If an animal is in pain, it shows it; If it is trapped, it will try to escape; if it is uncomfortable, it will try to comfort itself, and so on.
It is that capacity to suffer that compels me to me to extend my consideration to the animal kingdom.1
meat: animal sufferage. But there are many other aspects of the issue which are outlined in Five Arguments for Vegetarianism.
- This post only addresses a single moral argument for not eating [return]