Summary of the arguments for animals’ moral consideration.
Animals lack a rational soul, or consciousness. Therefore they are organic machines and do not have interests, and do not feel pain or enjoy pleasure as we do, so cannot be harmed. They can be excluded from the moral community.
Science has debunked the assumption that they do not feel pain and pleasure.
Rebuttal: Even if they can feel pain, they lack self-consciousness and therefore cannot be understand themselves as individual entities and therefore have no interests.
Some animals have shown distinct self-consciousness, like elephants and dolphins. Other animals still have an interest in their own survival
Not all humans possess self-awareness, yet we claim they have interests and therefore deserve moral consideration. For example, people in a coma, people with severe disabilities or very small infants.
Animals can be excluded from the moral community because of language. Animals lack of language is proof they do not possess consciousness. Descartes argued animals’ lack of language was proof animals had no reason.
Chimps have been taught sign language. Researchers have observed animals learn to communicate using sign with people, and with their own species
Even if they could not do this, how does this prove they lack consciousness? We assume infants have it, and that adults who cannot communicate have it, so how can we be so sure animals lack it?
Animals are not rational, and this is a necessary pre-requisite for moral consideration. Rationality allows us to be moral agents and this in turn entitles us to moral consideration. Kant, however, did not argue that we should treat animals however we wish, but as property of humans, who we have a moral duty to – so this is extended to animals insofar as it relates to our duties to each other.
It can be argued that animals are...