People suffer more than animals and therefore have more rights

Arno Askins’ argumentdevotion, 4 June 2022) to give animals sympathetic rights, but it is also very short-sighted. Eskens opposes the hierarchical thinking of St. Francis, among others, which would place man above the animal. But even if one bids farewell to this Christian tradition, one cannot escape a certain hierarchy in life.

This is easy to see when we look at the animal kingdom. Intuitively, most people tend to be more considerate of a monkey or dolphin than a fly or an ant. And there is certainly something to be said about granting certain rights to higher mammals, such as dolphins, pigs, and monkeys. But granting the rights to mosquitoes, flies, worms, ants and amoebas would be the subject of much debate. Who gives the mosquito the right to sting our blood with impunity? Or who would argue that we should no longer dig into the ground to respect the rights of worms?

In my view, the question of the moral treatment of animals can only be resolved if we recognize a certain hierarchy in the animal kingdom. What is the standard for this?

global validity

One of the few ethical principles that I think can claim universal validity is the principle that in the long run there should be no more suffering on this earth. I purposely write “long-term” because too often we do things that, while increasing suffering in the short-term, improve our quality of life in the long-term. Think of a parent punishing a child for getting rid of bad behaviors. If the idea behind this is that the child will benefit from this in the long run, then this is justified. Or think of someone who wants to improve their condition and puts themselves through the hardships necessary to do so.

How does this standard help us in our ethical dealings with animals? First of all, we can say that it is reasonable to recognize a hierarchy in the animal kingdom where the severity of suffering to which animals can be subjected is the guiding principle.

Man occupies the top of this hierarchy, because the intensity of human suffering can be greater than that of higher mammals, such as monkeys and dolphins, and many times greater than that of mosquitoes or worms. One of the explanations for this can be found in the fact that the human nervous system is the most complex of all animal species.

But how can we prove that higher mammals suffer more than mosquitoes? We can not. I can’t even prove that my fellow human beings can suffer. The only thing I know with 100% certainty is that I can experience suffering for myself.

However, the suffering of my fellow human beings is a fact of life for me. I feel it and experience it when it happens, but if I have to resort to a separate scientific approach, I just need to remember that my colleagues have a nervous system similar to mine, and therefore it is reasonable to assume that they can experience similar things as I do.

If we continue this way of experimenting and thinking, it is logical to assume that higher mammals can suffer more intensely than mosquitoes or worms, because higher mammals have a more complex nervous system.

The above universal ethical principle gives us guidance on how to treat animals ethically. We don’t have to grant any rights to animals. However, we must always try to avoid causing suffering and, if this is not possible, keep it to a minimum.

reasonable rate

The second thing to keep in mind is that the harm caused must be reasonably proportional to the benefit we are trying to achieve. If we want to kill a cow to eat its meat, can we do it without pain? Is it not possible, so does the suffering caused by slaughter outweigh the benefit we seek, such as enjoying a piece of meat, getting enough protein, etc.?

A reasonable relationship is completely lost if we cause so much suffering and realize only the minimal benefit with it. Unfortunately, the above moral principle does not enable us to determine with mathematical precision what is the best option in any given situation.

However, it does provide us with guidelines and a framework within which to have a discussion about ethical treatment of animals in a meaningful way.

Read also:

Animal rights are necessary, because the human king has been scattered for some time

When it comes to plants and animals, we act like royalty. But “our subjects” do not work well. Philosopher Erno Eskens believes this must change.

Is Said El Fil a person with rights attached? The lawsuit in New York must provide a definitive answer

Is an elephant a happy person? A New York judge should rule on that. Two Dutch animal rights experts are following the process, which could have far-reaching implications for zoos and ranchers.

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