Law in Contemporary Society

Liberating Animals

-- By MarkusVonDerMarwitz - 31 Mar 2016


Just as equality between human beings of different races and sexes is accepted, equality ought to extend to other non-human animals in a very specific way; equality in terms of their ability to suffer and experience joy.

I began to rethink my position about animals after reading Peter Singer’s work “Animal Liberation,” and came to accept his utilitarian viewpoint. Not only do factory farms inflict horrific amounts of direct suffering upon animals, they are also responsible for copious amounts of greenhouse gasses that threaten our planet, inevitably leading to the extinction of vast numbers of species. The direct suffering of animals caused by factory farms deserves serious recognition, because it is largely unnecessary.

The existence of all species is a result of the exploitations of other species. However, evolution has also given human beings the capacity to reason, which cannot be ignored. Today, for many people exploiting animals is unnecessary for survival or ability to thrive (unless it is a culture that relies on hunting). Moreover, because of our consciousness and capacity to reason, it becomes impossible to escape responsibility for our actions simply by stating that animals exploit other animals. Animals are unaware or unable to make that choice, while human beings at least have a semblance of choice, however illusory, that allows us to construct a society to avoid needless suffering. Just like exploitation of weaker human beings can in a sense be explained by evolutionary instincts of power and status; it does not mean we cannot do better. As Singer argues, it is “natural for women to produce an infant every year or two from puberty to menopause, but this does not mean that it is wrong to interfere with this process.” It is necessary for us to seek to overcome those natural instincts.


There is still a prevailing idea that exploitation of a different species is generally viewed as morally acceptable, or at least more morally justified than exploitation of different groups of human beings. If one views non-human animals as warranting protection because they feel pain, experience fear, and are able to form relationships, it is important to recognize these emotions as equal to those same emotions in human beings.

Justifications for eating animals will of course vary according to the conditions people find themselves in. For instance, humans in general almost certainly worry more about the future and have a greater awareness of their current condition. The main point I am making is that the concern for the suffering and interests of animals is a legitimate one, and one that has been too easily ignored. We must reject notions that animals are simply objects that can be exploited by the mere fact that they are non-human.

Animals Raised for Food & Medical Experimentation

It is easy to distance oneself from the immense cruelty that we allow in our treatment of animals, particularly regarding animals raised for food production and those used in scientific experimentation. A piece of meat from an animal raised in cruel factory farm conditions looks virtually identical to a piece of meat from an animal raised in more humane conditions. The only clear indicator is the price, and it becomes a mental exercise to equate this price differential with more suffering by the animal. There would likely be a radical change in our food consumption habits if every time we wished to purchase meat we would have to go to the farm or factory where the animal was raised and killed. This alienation from the production process allows us to continue this practice of extreme cruelty.

Although animals such as cats engage in torture and immense cruelty, there needs to be a distinction because of our superior intelligence and capacity to reason. Trying to deter cruelty in animals would be ineffective because of their lack of language; it would be difficult to deter behavior, especially beyond conditioning one specific animal. The greater ability to reason necessarily holds humans to a different standard.

Medical experimentation is normally justified by a need to develop medication that saves or improves the lives of human beings. Inherent in this justification is the notion that a human being’s life is more valuable than an animal’s simply because it is a human being. Yet it is important challenge this assumption. I am not claiming that experimentation on animals is never justified. When scientific experimentation is necessary to prevent greater human suffering, there is a strong argument to be made that this experimentation is justified. But to me it is not self-evident why a sentient animal should be viewed as readily exploitable by the mere fact that it is not part our species, and the laws should change to place a greater emphasis on the legitimate interests of animals.


Human beings are different from animals in a number of ways, particularly adult humans that have far greater mental capacities than animals. Yet, as philosopher Peter Singer argues, it is not a justification to regard animals as having virtually no interests simply because they are less intelligent. Fully grown Chimpanzees possess greater mental capacities newborn babies generally do, which at the very least should warrant a greater consideration of their interests. I do not feel there is any Darwinian pressure to exploit animals at the level humans do in industrialized societies, because it is unnecessary for our species to thrive. Of course, I certainly agree that this does require us to reason carefully and reject what we have come to accept as normal and an everyday part of our societies.

Future generations will almost certainly view the current treatment of animals with moral incredulity. Just as we find it incomprehensible how the exploitation of one race by another in the form of slavery was ever accepted as “normal”, future generations will look back at disbelief at the level of cruelty that we allow in our treatment of animals; particularly at the level of indifference that we have displayed.

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r3 - 15 Jun 2016 - 19:18:01 - MarkusVonDerMarwitz
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