Author and Philosopher Peter Singer has made his standpoint clear on this particular subject. In his interviews with The Open University and Stephen Colbert he explains why he believes in what he does and gives his reasoning behind it. Singer’s idea of what defines a person is, “a person is someone who is aware of their own existence over time, and who is aware enough to realize that they are the same being who lived previously and who can expect to keep living into the future. (Singer 2008) he goes on to give details of what constitutes personhood by stating that infants are not persons because they have not yet become self-aware, but a chimpanzee is a person because it can recognize itself in a mirror. He also states that humans with severe brain damage or someone who is intellectually impaired may have once been a person but is no longer a person. Dr.
Singer believes that this is an important argument to the wrongness of killing as he clearly states, “I do think the idea of a being who can envisage his or her own future is morally significant, because if you compare the wrongness of killing a being who is capable of having some anticipation of the future, some desires for the future, perhaps even some projects to complete in the future, and you kill such a person who wants to go on living, you’re doing something wrong to that person which is something you’re not doing if you kill a being who is fully not a person and who can have no wishes or hopes for the future, and therefore you can’t cut off or thwart or frustrate those wishes for the future. So I think the concept of the person points to something that is relevant in the specific context of the wrongness of killing. ” (Singer 2008) I disagree wholeheartedly with nearly all of his statements.
He seems to state that in a life threatening situation he would put the interests of a chimpanzee before he would a new-born child, when as far as he knows the human child could grow up to be a great leader or scientist, but just because that child is not yet aware that it is not a person and therefore is not as important as the chimpanzee. Singer states that, “a person is someone who is capable of suffering and therefore it would be wrong to kill them. ” If an infant is not a person and therefore is not capable of suffering, then why do they scream and cry when they are injured? Dr. Singer also states his view on the consumption of meat, saying that “Someone that eats meat is a speciesist because they do not take into account the feelings of the animal which they are eating. (Singer 2008) Could we not say that every species on this planet is the same way? Wolves do not eat other wolves, though they kill prey animals like deer. Does the wolf think about the deer not living anymore? Of course it does not. The wolf is designed to kill other animals to survive. Human beings may not possess the natural tools for hunting but we evolved to a point where we could make our own tools for that job. One could also argue that human beings are natural omnivores, which means that we evolved to eat plants as well as meat. From the archeological records, humans have been omnivorous as far back as science can tell. As soon as the domestication of food sources began, meat was part of humanity’s diet.
Our teeth are designed to eat multiple types of food, and our digestive system has enzymes to break down meat that herbivores do not have. Dr. Singer give his view on why we treat animals differently than human beings. “The point about speciesism is that we give less weight to the interests of beings who are not members of our species, simply because they are not members of our species; not looking at their individual characteristics, not looking at their capacities, or what’s good for them, or bad for them. But we just say, ‘well they’re not members of the species Homo sapiens, therefore we can use them for our purposes, for our own ends, we don’t have to treat them as if their ends mattered. Whereas if we have a human being, no matter what the mental level of that human being, that human being’s life is sacred, we must respect the dignity of that human being and so on. That’s speciesism, to just take the species in itself as determinative of moral status. ” (Singer 2008) It is only natural to look out for the well-being of other members of our species before we think about the well-being of a member of another species. Would you not save a human that is drowning before you tried to save a cow? In his interview with Stephen Colbert, Dr. Singer discusses the rights that animals should have. He talks about how we “imprison chimpanzees without trial but we do not do the same to humans without proper cause, in most cases. (Singer 2006) When you look at the fact that a Chimpanzee, even a small one is ten times stronger than a human being why would we just allow them to run free around our cities. Could you imagine going to the mall and having a rowdy group of chimpanzees running around the food court? Also, what if animals, which have no understanding of humanity, much less, politics are given the right to vote. That idea in itself is absurd because there are no other creatures on this planet mentally capable of voting in a civilized way other than humans. In Conclusion I would like to say that while I may not agree with Dr. Singer on his ideas of what constitute personhood, I am an animal lover and I do not wish for any animals to be mistreated.
I grew up on a farm where we raised cattle, pigs, and chickens. I grew to care for some of these animals. I was also raised to believe that it was only natural for these animals to become food for my family. Humanity has raised, and cared for animals since ancient times. It is one of the things that defines us as a species. Hunting and gathering is encoded in the DNA of the species Homo sapiens. Why would we stop doing something that has been done for millennia? The ethics of the human use of animals is a question that only came to light in the past 100 or so years. What sparked that idea that animals should have the same rights as an intellectual human being?
Our minds and the ability to ask the question why is what makes us persons, not just the fact that we can feel pain. The same question why, is what could inevitably be what destroys us as a civilization before all is said and done.
Singer. (Writer) (2008, January 28). Human use of animals. Ethics Bites. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www. open. edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/human-use-animals Singer, P. S. (2006).
Peter singer [Television series episode]. In Colbert, S. (Executive Producer), the Colbert report. New York, NY: Comedy Central. Retrieved from http://www. colbertnation. com/the-colbert-report-videos/79412/december-11-2006/peter-singer