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Essay: Animals Deserve Same Respect and Rights as Humans

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   Animals are utilized by humans as sources of food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, and companionship. They make up a large part of our lives whether it is through our diet or daily interactions with them, because they are used for so many different purposes. An important topic concerning morality is the limits to which we use animals. Animal rights activism is based on the idea that animals are sentient, and that speciesism is wrong. Human beings come in various shapes and sizes, moral capacities, intellectual abilities, and general capabilities. Despite our differences it is morally correct to treat all humans the same. This same ideology can be applied to animals to grant them equal inherent value and by treating them with respect. While animals deserve rights, they do not need the same rights as humans. They deserve rights categorized as basic human rights such as the right to live free of suffering, the right to freedom, and the right to happiness. However, there are rights that animals do not have and will not because they are not necessary. This includes rights such as the right to vote or the right to due process. Therefore, animals are sentient beings with inherent value that possess the same rights to life and liberty as humans.  

Animals deserve to be treated with the same levels of respect as humans even if they lack certain abilities or characteristics because they are still equal. The principle of equality regarding humans is not a “description of an alleged actual equality among humans: it is a prescription of how we should treat human beings.” As we observe with humans, someone does not receive less rights because they do not have the same abilities. Singer argues that there are no logically compelling reasons for assuming that difference in ability between two people justifies any difference in rights or the consideration of their needs and interests. For example, with the characteristic of intelligence, someone with a low IQ does not receive less rights to life than someone with a higher IQ. Also in terms of ability, those with disabilities receive equal considerations and have the same level of respect. Following this same argument, animals should be considered equal because although they are not as intelligent as humans or do not have the same physical capacities they are still deserving of these rights. Similar to how we would not withhold certain rights between humans with differing abilities, animals are not less worthy despite their lack of ability to communicate with people. Consequently, there should be equality in rights between humans and animals, given that we do not judge humans based on ability and the should receive the same moral considerations as people.

Speciesism is the idea that humans are the superior species and can exploit other animals to fit any needs, as that they are the only species worthy of moral consideration. The arguments concerning racism and sexism are often brought up when debating animal rights because of the similar assumption that one group or social category is better than another. The mere fact that a person is black or a woman does not allow us to infer anything significant about their personality, intelligence or moral capacities thus we know that sexism and racism are wrong.  Based on this, it can be argued that it is a analogous case with animals and that exploiting animals is not condoned. If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her purposes, then it cannot permit humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose. Just as racists would violate this principle of equality by placing a higher level of importance on members of their own race, speciesists place the interests of their own species over that of other species. Speciesism, an arbitrary distinction, is the only reason humans are treated differently because animals are sentient too. Looking at the United States Constitution we see that humans have a plethora of rights from freedom of speech to the right to vote, which is meant to prevent unjust suffering. Humans can voice and speak their concerns when they are being mistreated while animals do not have anything that prevents their suffering. While there are some laws that prevent forms of animal suffering, U.S. law only covers the most excruciatingly painful methods of animal cruelty. Animals[DL1]  in the meat industry such as cows, pigs, and chickens suffer in their small confinements before being tortured and slaughtered, and there is no reason to morally distinguish between humans and non-humans. Certain philosophers will argue that animals do not have the rights because they do not have autonomy. Nevertheless, if an animal is suffering there is no moral justification for ignoring their suffering and considering it to be unimportant.

The inherent value of animals is another argument to consider when debating animal rights, and whether animals possess this at all. The intrinsic value of an animal is what it possesses like the capacity for thoughts or ability to feel pain, as opposed to what value it has to other beings, like humans. Animals as living beings have rights which are violated when they are not treated with respect by those with perceived inherent value. Regan argues that animals have this value as well and that all beings with inherent value have it equally. As argued before there are specific characteristics, such as intelligence, which are used to justify denying rights to people with less inherent value. Not only is attributing less inherent value to animals based on their intelligence blatant speciesism, it lacks rational justification. Animals don’t possess the same abilities as humans like reading, construction, or cooking skills. It is important to note that not all humans possess these same skills either, and they don’t have any less of a right to be treated with respect. Claiming that animals have less inherent value based on their skills could only be a valid argument if the same was said for humans. We need to start viewing animals as independent beings with a life and inherent value of their own. Varying degrees of inherent value do not exist; humans don’t have more inherent value than animals because they possess certain qualities. Thus, all those who possess inherent value have it equally.

Regarding the arguments in support of animals used for testing and farming, there is a lot of contradictions and people will support part of these ventures but not others. Some will argue that factory farming is wrong and violates animals’ rights. but that traditional animal agriculture is morally acceptable. Others claim that toxicity tests of cosmetics on animals violate ethical rights yet important medical research such as cancer research does not. Rather than believing that animal treatment is wrong on a case by case basis, humans should consider that exploiting animals for our own gain is morally incorrect. The system of animal usage is what allows us to view animals as our resources: here for us to be eaten, surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport and money and that is fundamentally wrong. Once we accept this view of animals as our resources, how we use animals is as predictable as it is regrettable. Since animals exist for us, to benefit us in one way or another, what harms them does not matter or matters only if it starts to bother us and makes us feel uneasy when we eat an endangered animal. In this case as well, we still have an anthropogenic view of the world as we are only concerned about animal rights to ease our consciousness.

To conclude, no one is asking for animals to have the same rights as humans but in an animal rights activist’s ideal world, animals would have the right to live free of human use and exploitation. Animals are entitled to basic human rights such as a life free of suffering and happiness. This is because they possess inherent value equal to that of humans, which is not dependent on any abilities or specific characteristics like intelligence. The idea that because animals don’t display human like characteristics they are not deserving of rights is speciesism. Humans shouldn’t be viewed as superior even if they are intellectually superior they still deserve equal treatment and respect.

A Case for Virtual Child Pornography

One of the most popular amendments in the United States constitution is freedom of speech, which is essential to the foundation of American life and an everyday component of the culture. The line between what is protected under this amendment is sometimes blurred, leading to intense analysis from the judicial system to determine when limitations on this freedom should be present. Child pornography is wildly considered unacceptable and not covered under the Bill of Rights. As with most issues concerning technology, it is difficult to decide whether it should be censored or not. Using the four liberty-limiting principles of harm, offense, legal-paternalism, and legal moralism, the majority opinion in this case finds that the harms are insufficient to require censorship. The decision the Supreme Court has reached is due to the conclusion that virtual child pornography is a moral issue as opposed to a legal issue. As a result, the government should not interfere unless it is found that the rights of any citizen are violated.  This finding is based on an evaluation that virtual child pornography fails to meet the four principles while considering the various points of dissension.

Of the four liberty-limiting principles the most significant in this case is the harm principle, which condones restricting liberty in situations when something poses a legitimate harm to others. While there is clearly harm present in child pornography that uses real children, this is absent in the virtual porn realm. The morality of watching porn is another question but with this virtual porn, children are not sexually exploited. Meaning that in the process of producing virtual pornography, real human children are not used. Child pornography usually consists of children being “photographed while engaged in some form of sexual activity, either with adults or with other children.” Virtually, the watching of this only as direct impacts on adults and does not require the usage of children. In the Attorney General’s commission concerning the effects of pornography on the rest of society, they state that the attitudes obtained from watching pornography are “both invasive and profoundly harmful, and that any stimulus reinforcing or increasing the incidence of this attitude is for that reason alone properly designated as harmful.” Aside from children, it is possible that women could be harmed because of viewing pornography. Nevertheless, the commission adds that they have not discovered any links between aggressive behaviors toward woman. Additionally, since this requires some assumptions they see no reason in not making these assumptions. There is no proof that watching this pornography encourages pedophilic behavior, in a similar manner to how disturbed or abnormal acts of sex contain no proof either. It is possible there may be a correlation between being exposed to violence and committing violent acts, but a study would need to be established. Strossen argues that despite the presence of some evidence in pornography case studies, there is no evidence that currently proves that pornography harms women. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that there is no empirical link between watching pornography and causing harm to target groups such as children and women.

Aside from harming others, there is no possibility of hurting oneself in the physical scene. While it is agreed that starting at a computer screen for several hours can cause some strain on vision there are no threats. In addition, masturbation as a byproduct of watching pornography is not regarded as medically unhealthy. According to Vidal, the only thing pornography causes directly is masturbation, which is a solitary act. Additionally, the offense principle is relevant because of the sub-limitations within realms of production and distribution. The offense principle concerns itself with the moral standings of a society and that social harm is comparable to physical harm. It also encompasses the idea that an offense may cause discomfort but does not necessarily cause harm. This is commonly seen with parents and their desire for wanting to protect their children from this. As a result, there should be public restrictions so that children will not accidentally view this pornography and cause themselves discomfort.  

  Virtual child pornography is more of a moral issue than a legal one. A moral issue as defined as a difference in belief based on the human principle of right and wrong, and a legal issue is based in written law. Whether or not it is moral is less important if it is not harming anyone. Technology becoming so sophisticated that the images used can be produced from data bits is similar to killing in video games. The graphics in these games have gotten so advanced as well that they are able to produce life-like killings virtually. At this point, society has mostly accepted the high level of gun violence and explicit killing present in video games played by kids. Although they are different in nature, virtual child pornography and video game violence are similar in their purpose of pleasure. Consequently, there is little distinction between the degree of unethical behavior in video games and child pornography. It could be argued that the morality of pornography in general, comes in from the idea that it is defamatory and slanderous towards women. Or that by watching this one is more likely to commit crimes against women, and cause the oppression of women in social, economic, and cultural spheres. However, it is not the responsibility of the government to enforce the morally correct act. Whether pornography is moral is another debate, the important aspect as that it should not be left to the government to decide because it is not a legal issue. This is a topic that lies under the responsibility of other social or cultural networks such as one’s own parents. Thus, virtual pornography is a moral issue that is not in the jurisdiction of the government to decide the appropriate act.

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