Denise Applewhite /Princeton University
Ishall defend three claims that represent, I believe, the most signifi cant and distinctive contributions of my work in ethics over the last thirty years.
1. We should not give less consideration to the interests of animals than we give to the similar interests of human beings. Our ethical thinking, especially in the West, draws a sharp line between human beings and nonhuman animals. We think that all members of our own species have rights, we say that they have a dignity that demands respect, and we consider their lives precious. Nonhuman animals have no rights, and no dignity that we should
Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University whose most recent book is Eating: What We Eat and Why It Matters (Arrow) Kenan Malik is a writer and broadcaster whose most recent book is Man, Beast and Zombie (Phoenix) Janet Radcliffe Richards is reader in bioethics at University College London and director of its Centre for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine
The Philosophers' Magazine /4th quarter 2006
Peter Singer defends the key tenets of his ethical position, and Kenan Malik and Janet Radcliffe Richards offer their responses
respect. We can own them, as we once owned slaves. If we want to eat their fl esh and we can get it cheaper by confi ning them for all their lives indoors on bare concrete without straw or any kind of bedding, that is what we do. Our treatment of animals resembles other familiar forms of exploitation, especially racism and sexism. The fact that a being is a member of another species is no justifi cation for discounting its interests. The principle of equal consideration of interests should govern our treatment of animals. Similar interests should be given similar weight, irrespective of race, sex or species. It follows from this position that we should boycott all animal products from factory farms, and also those from more traditional farms that fail to give equal consideration to the interests of animals. Although there may be a few farms that can meet this standard, in practice, this means that for most of us, the simplest, clearest, most ethical choice is to avoid animal products and be vegetarian or vegan. Note that this argument is not based on the claim that it is as wrong to kill animals as humans – an issue I will come to in a moment – but rather on the suffering that we infl ict on animals when we raise them for food by the methods that are standard today.