Philosophy is the science of studying fundamental problems that resonate with reality, knowledge, existence, and reasons concerning a particular thought or belief. It has been the primary basis through which human beings struggle to understand the relationship between human beings and their surroundings. Several philosophers have come up with a lot of explanations to help clarify this phenomenon with most coming close to the history of human and animal coexistence.
The history of philosophers questioning the human use of animals thus dates back to the times when people began domestication of animals. A person saw the need of having animals domesticated for the benefit gained from such animals. The moral status accorded to these animals became of concern to philosophers the moment it was discovered that certain animals were kept under unpleasant conditions despite providing services and food value to people. This prompted several reactions and questions that caused a lot of debate on how people use animals. This paper seeks to analyze the history of philosophers questioning the human use of animals. In doing this, the paper will critically look at various questions posed by philosophers such as Cohen, Regan, and Singer and then synthesize such questions to get the history of human use of animals. Finally, this paper will judge the human use of animals to give a conclusion on the way people use animals.
Philosophers' first point of questioning the human use of animals begins when a person keeps on giving animals different cognitions in the social arena. At some point, human beings accord animals a high moral status and give them the best moral treatment they deserve. In some instances, human beings do not grant animals any moral status in society. This usually results in public outrage making philosophers believe that animals deserve better treatment than what they are getting from human beings. The history of man and dog marks the beginning of philosophers questioning the use of animals. In as much as dogs are of great importance to people, philosophers believe that according to better treatment and cognition will lead to even better services rendered. However, human beings seem to provide puppy mills for dogs and use animals without any form of appreciation. This is the basis of the question raised by philosophers as to whether dogs and other types of animals deserve better treatment and consideration as compared to what they receive from their masters.
The history of human use of animals can be categorized into three categories that will help explain moral treatment and beliefs concerning animals. These historical theories by philosophers entail those histories that explain theories that are direct but not equal, those accounts that illustrate moral equality and those histories that explain indirect methods. Whatever the case is, the history of philosophers questioning the human use of animals revolves around these three aspects of the human-animal relationship. In case the relationship between human and animals does not meet moral standards, then it is referred to as poor use of animals and raises the questioning among philosophers.
To begin with, philosophers have questioned the reason for human beings denying animals the right to equal consideration of human beings and being accorded the moral status they deserve. Moreover, philosophers have on several occasions questioned why conscious, autonomy, or reason could lead to human beings using animals in the wrong way. It may not result in harming the animal physically but will create a lot of questions about the morality of human beings, especially when animals are subjected to vulnerable conditions and treatment. Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Thomas Aquinas, and Rene Descartes are among the first philosophers to raise questions on the human use of animals. To them, they felt that animals had equal rights just as human beings and thus were not justified to be subjected to the kind of treatment they were subjected to by human beings. Their primary concerns as philosophers were the idea being fronted by human beings that animals were of lesser value and thus could be mistreated and only used for gainful purposes of people.
The central question raised by a philosopher in this form of treatment and use of animals is other kinds of implications that such treatment will bring to the animals. Philosophers have for a long time questioned how relevant human actions are when animal interest is not taken into account when acting inhumanely. Besides, consideration of how human actions will adversely affect animals is a matter under question. Immorality does not warrant the process of whatever people want to the animals. Thus, philosophers question the credibility of restrictions followed when delivering proper treatment and use of animals.
There exist some relationship between the ownership of animals and the kind of treatment and use accorded to them by third parties. Philosophers have questioned treatment that one would accord to an animal that is owned by another human being who happens to be a neighbor. In such instances, philosophers question the kind of harm that the owner of an animal would be subjected to should the animal be harmed or mistreated by a third party. In order to avoid such a scenario, philosophers suggest that certain moral duties must be observed with regard to moral treatment and use of animals. This would create harmony and conducive relationship with the animal being found within the neighborhood of human beings. Thus, philosophers have for a long time questioned the rationale of duties in relation to animal's behavior and treatment by humans.
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The three philosophers, including Peter Carruthers and Immanuel Kant, have raised questions about the existence of indirect obligations to animals. This has raised a lot of criticism concerning the proper use and treatment of animals by human beings. According to them, the argument that human beings have a duty not to harm animals and their owners, as well as consider such animals as properties owned by other is a matter subject to question. Thus, Kant asserts that refraining from being cruel and harming animals in the process of using them is not a choice, but an obligation.
Philosophers have gone to the extent of questioning the relation between actions towards animals and humans. The nature of human and animals are analogs to the extent that any action towards animals is a manifestation of the humankind. Thus, the kind of treatment and moral status human beings give to animals can be used as a measure of their humanity and kindness. Similarly, Carruthers notes that subjecting animals to torture just for fun is unacceptable and should be considered as an immoral act. Carruthers goes ahead and questions the human use of animals when human beings betray and display indifference and suffering to animals. Their primary concern is what human beings actions will result in other agents that will be manifested in cruelty towards animals. Thus, the question that determines the morality of the human use of animals is independent of the effect caused by the lover of the animal irrespective of whether the action does or does not infringe human rights.
Furthermore, Carruthers asserts that human beings need to consider their actions towards animals and measure the effect caused by animals in the process of using them in a cruel way. In addition, effects caused by human beings who have some emotional attachment to animals must be put into question whenever animals are subjected to any form of treatment in the process of using them. In addition, cruelty shown to animals should be viewed as a reciprocal of cruelty to human beings and should be discouraged by all means. The only proper way of using animals is by displaying respect and being grateful to them.
Kant poses the question of considering vegetarianism as the root cause of the mistreatment of animals. According to him, consideration has no relationship with the welfare of animals, especially when it comes to animal diet. This is so because a human being relies greatly on animals for a high percentage of proteins. Thus, it is proper to treat animals on suitable vegetation so as to get enough protein from them in the long run. Thus, by alleviating the suffering of animals and their subjection to vulnerable conditions, human beings alleviate their welfare through a guaranteed protein supply. However, philosophers have questioned the possibility of considering feeding the suffering population in vulnerable countries with vegetables used to feed animals in places with good productivity. Of course, not all philosophers will agree with this argument. However, a relevant issue is the effect of the kind of mistreatment animals will be subjected to should they be denied access to proteins.
Other philosophers have a different belief concerning the human use of animals. This creates a different perspective of philosophers’ care about the relationship between human beings and animals. According to this group of philosophers, animals are supposed to get only a few moral considerations and should be denied access to some moral cognitions that are preserved only for human beings. In this regard, philosophers question unequal theories that are direct and thus delineate animals from certain social and moral recognition. Moreover, philosophers question the ability of animals to display respect to the rights of other creatures or even show reciprocity of moral behavior to the whole community. In addition, philosophers question animal's consciousness as the primary reason for their inability to cause harm. Similarly, philosophers have examined the level of human autonomy, self-consciousness, and rationality as being the main reasons for according animals a lower moral status in the community. To them, this should not be the reason for mistreating and mishandling animals in the wake of being used by human beings.
This category of philosophers poses questions on the direct interest of animals with respect to the actions of people. Moreover, philosophers ask the extent of animal interest in regard to human interest. Thus, the rationale behind animals being accorded a moral interest is of great concern to philosophers. The aspect of animals being considered as sentient and thus of a significant moral interest that is direct in nature is also under scrutiny. This argument implies that since all animals are conscious, then they have moral status. The only question that philosophers need human beings to determine if the extent of positivity or negativity of valence awareness displayed by animals. By assessing this aspect, human beings will be in a position to answer the question on animal aspects such as joy, pleasure, contentment, and elation. This will guide human beings in the proper way of using animals. Thus, according to them, appropriate and moral treatment is necessary. Similarly, valences that may display negative consciousness in animals include pain, depression, suffering, and anxiety. Such valence can be used by human beings to accord animals better treatment to help them overcome the conditions.
The big question asked by philosophers is how people relate the negative and positive valence to grant animals moral status in society. However, in the process of fulfilling the moral obligation in the use of animals, human beings are faced with the challenge of answering the question of whether pleasure and pain are morally relevant in the use of animals. The further difficulty is experienced when answering the question of what type of animals are more sentient than others and thus require more moral social status in society. As the analog of animal morality moves closer to human beings, the justification of animal sentience grows to a wider perspective. These philosophers use this as the point of argument in response to the human use of animals. The perception that the animal cannot be accorded direct moral status is not justified and leaves the question of why torturing an animal is considered as a cruel act by human beings.
Philosophers have also asked why animals are considered to be less equal to humans. Philosophers cannot understand the application of property as the only measure of moral status. Some of the claims used by these philosophers are the possession of rights by human beings, the ability of human beings to be rational, self-conscious, and autonomous, the indifference of human beings to display moral behavior, and the indistinct ability of human beings to co-exist in a moral community. The question as to why there have been persistent misuse and mistreatment of animals by human beings revolves around four aspects of morality. Indeed, it is true that animals cannot display self-consciousness or the rationale for their actions. Besides, animals lack autonomous nature and cannot act independently. Moreover, animals find it difficult to show moral behavior even to their fellow animals. The greatest aspect of mistreatment of an animal by human beings is that they cannot coexist in a community that is morally constituted. Thus, philosophers keep posing the question as to whether it is morally right to consider animals to be of less moral value as compared to human beings.
The third category of philosophers is the group that questions discrimination of animals and human beings. This group of philosophers believes that animals and human beings have equal rights and should, therefore, be subjected to equal measures and treatment. Moreover, philosophers question the application of moral relevance that tends to give priority to human beings as compared to animals. Besides, such philosophers question the rationale behind the relevance of human characteristics in the mistreatment of animals that subject them to vulnerable conditions. Philosophers try to draw the argument that animals have the similar mental capability and physiological rights just as infants of human beings. Thus, mistreating animals would amount to subjecting a child to such a vulnerable and immoral social treatment. Philosophers in this category include Tom Regan and Peter Singer who have continued to express their concern about the way animals are discriminately treated by human beings.
Philosophers have raised questions over the legitimacy of placing animals and human beings in different categories of moral status. Instead, philosophers postulate the possibility of animals and human beings possessing similar duties and actions of morality. The central question raised by philosophers is the existence of the principle that requires similar consideration of interest. This question has been raised by Singer who caused a lot of debate on the ethics of animals. In several books authored by Singer, a lot of questions are asked concerning the move by human beings to accord animals less social status in the society as compared to human beings.
According to Singer, practicing unequal consideration of animal's interest is a replica to giving different consideration to different human beings. Therefore, the only way of ensuring that human beings are indiscriminately treated in a moral and considerate manner is by using them in a proper and just manner. They should not be mistreated or subjected to immoral actions. The question of whether animals are equally intuitive and plausible as human beings are only answered in the process of extending the principle of consideration of interest in equal measure to animals. Thus, human beings must use animals in a just, fair, and proper manner. The question, according to Singer, is how a person should use animals, while at the same time employing the principle of consideration for the interest in equal measure to animals.
In order to answer questions raised by the principle of consideration of interest in the equal measure, Singer employs the use of two theories to justify the use of animals by human beings. The marginal case of this question raised concerning the same consideration demands that a property must be lacking in animals and present in human beings for animals to be denied equal moral consideration. Besides, the property should not be lacking in other human beings and must be lacking in most animals. However, since this marginal case is not attained, it is thus impossible to deny animals equal moral consideration. Instead, human beings have a moral obligation to use animals in a proper and humane manner. The singer goes further to argue that rationality, autonomy, and ability to display morality do not warrant the denial of moral status to the animal. The question of the use of animals by human beings is the kind of discrimination that is likely to occur should morality be accorded with respect to these properties. Thus, Singer concludes by posing a question to human beings as to consider treating animals in a moral way just like human beings would be treated. This raises the question as to whether the argument of the philosopher concerning sophisticated inegalitarianism is attainable.
It is important to ascertain human interests that are subject to interference should consideration of interest be implemented in equal measure. Weight must be accorded to the interest of similar magnitude. Thus, if animals have the ability to feel pain and undergo suffering, then avoiding such treatment that would expose them to such conditions is necessary. This calls for moral treatment and use of animals by human beings. Thus, people should embrace Singer’s argument of making sure that animals kept for consumption by human beings are held free from pain and suffering. Similarly, Tom Regan brings in the discussion of rights accorded to animals in equal measure as human beings. Thus, according to unequal moral status to animals based on utilitarianism is wrong and should not be encouraged at all. Right of animals and inherent values override the principle of utilitarianism in dictating the use of animals by human beings. Therefore, the question posed by Regan concerning the grounds of according animals lesser value is answered in the rejection of legitimacy and ability of furtherance of interest based on rights. Hence, a subject of life is the question of determination of the proper use of animals by human beings.