Peter Singer, in his article, All Animals are Equal, claims that we should give the same respect to the lives of non-human animals as we give to the lives of humans--that all animals, human and non-human, are equal. To make his case he must overcome claims towards speciesim. Singer defines speciesim as, "a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species"; and makes three claims against it--equality is based on equal consideration, equality is a moral idea not a factual one, and that the capacity for suffering is a prerequisite for rights. Singers argument?--without speciesim inequality cannot follow.
To make the case that equality is based on equal consideration, Singer shows that arguments for not extending rights to non-humans are inconsistent. He does this by noting that equality does not require equal rights. The point of this is to show that claiming dogs aren't equal because they don't know what voting means and therefore don't have a right to vote doesn't lead one to find they are therefore not deserving of equal consideration. For instance it doesn't follow that men and woman will always have similar rights--the claim that men have a right to an abortion is just as incoherent as dogs having a right to vote.
Next, Singer makes the argument as to why equality is a moral idea and not an assertion of fact by going through the problems of claims made in defense of racism, sexism, and arguments against the equality of all humans. This he does by going through the reasons why racism and sexism are wrong--"[w]hen we say that all human beings, whatever their race, creed, or sex, are equal, what is it that we are asserting?" The basis of this reasoning is that, in spite of the fact that there are individual differences, "[l]ike it or not we must face the fact that humans come in different shapes and sizes... if the demand for equality were based on the actual equality of all human beings, we would have to stop demanding equality." The purpose of this exercise is to make the point that, "equality does not depend on intelligence, moral capacity, physical strength, or similar matters of fact."
Finally Singer deals with the question of suffering. His goal is to show that rights are based in the capacity for suffering. Noting that, "[p]recisely what our concern or consideration requires us to do may vary according to the characteristics of those affected by what we do." This is the summation of the earlier points and attacks speciesism head on. He goes through reasons why the differences between healthy and disabled humans can be wider than healthy humans and certain non-human animals--these similarities between human and non-human animals with an acceptance of the earlier aspects of equality leave us no choice but to find that all animals are equal.
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