Peter Singer argues in “Speciesismand the Equality of Animals” that interests of animals and humans are both equallymorally important and must be treated with equal concern. Singer definesspeciesism as assigning moral preference to the interests of members of one’sown species, over identical interests of members of a different species, onlybecause it is a member of your species (Singer 277). Singer claims that speciesismis a preconception that is just as unacceptable as racism or sexism (277). He stressesthat moral equality does not require identical factual characteristics (277). Ahuman’s degree of intelligence does not determine their level of moral fairnesswith other humans. Similarly, simply because animals are not as intelligent ashumans does not mean they are not worthy of equal consideration. In basicterms, identical interests must be given equal moral weight no matter in whattype of being they occur (277). In addition, Singer asserts equal treatmentdoes not require identical treatment, but usually requires different treatment(277).
To claim humans and animals as morally equal does not obligate us totreat typical animals equivalent to exactly how we treat typical humans. Factualdistinctions between individual members of different species can justifydifferential treatment. For instance, equal treatment of a person who is unableto hear and one who can hear entails different, not identical treatment. Further,Singer claims if a being suffers there can be no moral justification forrefusing to take that suffering into consideration (278). We should notdisregard animals’ interests in not suffering because they cannot talk or areincapable of reasoning. What interest matters? The capacity to feel and suffer.
This element of life is the prerequisite of all interests. Therefore, if abeing is not capable of feeling or suffering there is nothing to be taken inaccount (278). Singer is trying to establish that if a being is not sentient, suchas a stone, then the idea of extending moral consideration to it makes no sense(278). Singer argues that most human beings are speciesists, as we give greaterweight to interests of members of our own species compared to interests of membersof other species (279).
For instance, we eat animals without taking the animalsinterests into consideration. Do animals want to be killed? No. Singer claimssacrificing the most important interests of other beings in order to satisfytrivial interests of our own shows that humans are indeed speciesists (280).For example, we kill and torture animals to simply have a more tasteful palateor for experimentation purposes (280). Both our pleasure and marginal benefitsare not rational justifications for their suffering.
We are taking significantlives of other species, to satisfy our insignificant interests (281). Singer explainshumans have a moral obligation to stop supporting the practice of speciesism (280).If this practice is not ceased, as consequence animals will continue to suffer andbe killed (280). Overall, Singer emphasises that the ideal of moral equalitycommits us to equal consideration of the interests of all sentient animals (278).