Animal Rights and Capital Punishment Issues

Peter Albert David Singer is an Australian philosopher who wrote a book published in 1975 entitled Animal Liberation. The idea focuses on the expansion of utilitarianism that the greater good of the greatest number is the only measure of good or ethical behavior. He emphasizes that this should be applied to animals. He borrows the term speciesism from Richard D. Ryder and introduces it to describe the practice of privileging humans over other animals.

Peter Singer believes that there is a great difference between humans and animals when it comes to rights and interests. He does not think that animals have inherent rights but he believes that they should be given consideration. It is not expected that humans and nonhumans should be treated in exactly the same way the nature of the being must be taken into account. Singers idea is essentially related with the concept of utilitarianism. Such concept combines the equal consideration of interests with the idea that the right action is the one which yields the greatest satisfaction of interests over frustration of interests for all those involved. Although this measurement might be difficult in some situations, utilitarianism generally has the positive effect of preventing a situation from becoming too lopsided as far as the interests of the involved parties are concerned. Presently, the human exploitation of animals is a very lopsided situation, where even the trivial interests of humans usually prevail over the most basic interests of animals such as the desire to live or the avoidance of pain and suffering.

Human beings are intellectually superior than animals that is why they do not see any problem with eating meat and abusing the abilities of some animals. Singer poses the question, If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans (Animal Rights and Human Obligations, 1989).

According to Singer, all races and sexes are equal in abilities and achievements. If one race or sex is more superior, it does not morally entitle the superior race or sex to prejudice the interests or right of the inferior. On other hand, speciesism involves favoring the interests of ones own species over another. It is being applied by humans who routinely discount the fundamental interests of nonhumans to satisfy their own interests. One good example is simply the consumption of animal products. Most domestic animals live only to be slaughtered to sustain the needs and interests of humans. Basically, exploitation of animals for human interests is the worst case of speciesism. Now, to justify this kind of speciesism, some humans think that animals do not have the mental capacity and physical ability to live compared to the characteristics of humans. Singers reply on this notion,  For if we would like to justify the exploitation of animals, say in scientific research, due to a supposed lack of mental capacity, then a non-speciesist argument for not exploiting severely brain-damaged or otherwise mentally handicapped humans in a similar fashion does not exist. Is it morally acceptable to subject the less fortunate humans to medical experimentation or product testing If not, then exploiting a nonhuman of similar mental capacity in a similar way is also immoral, and outright speciesist.  ( Singer, 1989)

Singers view on the principle of equality is elaborated in his book, All Animals Are Equal. He emphasizes that the case of equality of men and women cannot be applied to nonhumans. Humans have inherent rights like the right to vote because they are rational beings. On the other hand, animals are incapable of understanding the relevance of having such right and priviliges that is why there is no sense of providing these things. Animals have a different role to play in society. The difference between humans and animals gives rise to differences in the rights and privileges that each party has. But it will still go back to the principle contrary to speciesism wherein the superior one should not prejudice the rights of the inferior. The principle of equality must revolve on the idea of providing an equal consideration of human interests. The interests of two given human beings might be quite similar or very different, but in fairness, their interests should be given equal consideration. Singer concludes that the basic principle of equality is equality of consideration and equal consideration for different beings may lead to different treatment and different rights (Singer, 1989).

The principle of equality shows that our concern for the welfare of others should not depend on their ability, intelligence and appearance. The actions of human beings greatly affect the life of the nonhumans. The concept of sexism, racism and speciesism should not be considered. Singer argued,  If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans  (Singer, 1989). I agree with this notion because animals deserve to possess considerations. They are Gods creation which plays a significant part in this world. Depriving them the chance to experience some pleasures in life means you are hindering them to execute their purpose. Animals should be treated with respect just like what humans ask from each other.

Racists do not follow the principle of equality because they prioritize the interests of the members of their own race to the extent that they harm the interests of those of another race. They have similarities with the speciesists who allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. People are not aware of how exactly animals suffer but animals do not have to speak just to let people know that they experience pain. It just takes common sense to see what they feel. People should take their suffering into consideration. It is not a question whether an animal suffers but the question is whether humans have the right to abuse the nonhumans for their own interests. Even though it is humane for us to take advantage of their inferiority, the fact that animals suffer should be taken into account.

Tibor Machan has his own principles on animal rights. He points out that the rights of a being should depend on the capacities that it possesses. Animals are irrational beings they cannot feel remorse, guilt or regret. They are not moral agents like humans ( Machan, 2004) . His principles are similar with the beliefs of Descartes. He said that animals cannot reason out and do not feel pain. They are just organic creatures but they are automata like mechanical robots. The only beings who are conscious and rational are humans. So they are the only ones who deserve passion and understanding. On the other hand, the animal rights view states that all animals used by humans also have their own basic needs like food, shelther and health. They do not need to suffer just to provide the human needs. It is related with the principles of Kant. Despite of his belief that animals are just mere things, he does not support the idea of disposing them any way we wanted. They may be irrational but we have a duty  to maintain humanity. For him, one way of disrecpecting humanity is acting in inhuman ways towards non-humans regardless of the specie.

Capital Punishment
Deterrence position is one of the possible ways a society can cope with crime. Deterrence position emphasizes that if the offender is punished, not only the offender but also those who see his example are deterred from further offenses. With the aim of abolishing death penalty, people experience obstacles and hindrances that have been executed by proponents of capital punishment. One of the issues that makes it even more difficult is the evaluation of the overall effectiveness and social value of capital punishment which is the deterrence factor. According to the proponents, death penalty is a deterrent factor to reduce crimes. Based on Isaac Ehrlichs 1975 American Economic Review which analyzed a series of data in the U.S. on homicides and executions from 1933 to 1969, he states that his studies found that each execution yielded eight fewer homicides. Unfortunately, what was failed to state is that a National Academy panel savaged Ehrlichs analysis and that its modern day impact beyond the University of Chicago campus is extremely limited according to The Death Penalty No Evidence for Deterrence (Donohue and Wolfers,1985). What cannot be argued at all is the simple fact that with or without death penalty, the murder rate in America is substantially higher when compared to other developed countries with no death penalty implemented within their judicial system, and it has been so for decades.

Stephen Bright, a graduate from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1974, emphasizes in The New York Times that representing prisoners on death row was brutal, enormously difficult, and emotionally draining. He says,  There are no resources to do the job well, theres a tremendous amount of public hostility, and its financially devastating to most lawyers. You have to be out of your head to take one of these cases.  Bright serves as the leading voice of the damned. It is morally improper to kill an individual, whether it is the state killing or whether it is people killing each other. In the early times, when the United States had few alternatives with regard to punishment, several rules had been practiced. For instance, if somebody stole your cow, you could shoot them and hang them and even put them in the stocks. Basically, people did not have the prisons that we have today. According to Bright, it is interesting that of all those rather primitive forms of punishment, the only one we still have is the death penalty. But even if one did not have moral objections to death penalty, consider the fact that so many people are sentenced to death because of the poor quality of their court-appointed lawyer. Consider the fact that race plays such a role in who is sentenced to death or the fact that so many of those sentenced to death are mentally ill, some mentally retarded and innocent young ones. Those factors, and the fact that we are surely killing innocent people are reasons we should not have an irrevocable punishment ( Bright, 2010 ).


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