Discriminating against animals is akin to racism
Humans are treated equally because of their capability to reason however this is incredibly arbitrary.
(1 of 5) Next argument >
This view has its root in utilitarianism. Specifically act utilitarianism, the belief that an act is good if it provides the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest amount of people. It was originally pioneered by Jeremy Bentham, with Peter singer later making an argument on similar grounds that he referred to as 'speciesism,' emphasising the links between environmental abuse and racism.
When we attempt to justify using animals for their instrumental value, we usually look toward the differences that are between us and them. The usual arguments are that humans have the capability to reason whereas animals do not, along with the fact that animals are never able to truly communicate their thoughts to us and so we can't argue that they have strong objections to our practices. However, holding either of these views will eventually lead to contradictions - as Jeremy Bentham pointed out. An obvious objection to these arguments are that infants fail both tests, they can neither reason nor communicate with us however it would be wrong to suggest that it is moral to eat children. Singer points out that the way in which we currently draw the line between humans and animals is completely arbitrary and unfounded. In a similar sense, where racists draw the line of supremacy between them and others is on the basis of skin colour, another completely arbitrary delineation. It follows, therefore, that humans should discriminate on the basis of whether or not they are capable of experiencing pain. Since it is obvious, even without a common language, that animals are capable of experiencing pain, we should not use them purely for their instrumental value. As a result, Peter Singer sees both the use of animal testing when there is an obvious advantage to medicine and the reliance upon animals as sustenance when that it is necessary (i.e in tribes) as justified.
Since the onus for protecting the environment still rests on humans by virtue of the fact that they are able to identify another species as being in pain, gives room for environmental abuses to still be considered moral. In the case of taking many trans-atlantic flights, there is no immediate pain caused to any animal however this would still be considered an environmental abuse since it eventually causes animals to suffer and die. The issues with the utilitarian argument that is proposed by Bentham and Singer is that it is too short sighted and anthropocentric
P1 Pleasure and avoidance of pain is good P2 Other animals can feel pleasure and pain P3 Reason as a discriminating factor would exclude humans C1 To discriminate is therefore equivalent to the arbitrary discrimination of racism P4 Racism is wrong C2 Not considering animal pleasure/pain is wrong
Rejecting the premises
Bentham, J. (1781). An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation Ch. 17 Singer, P. (1990). Animal Liberation