12 December 2004

Humans and Animals

Someone wrote to me to ask whether I’m as concerned about human rights as I am about animal rights. He said that, in his experience, those who believe that animals have rights tend to “humanize animals and dehumanize humans.” I don’t speak for others, obviously, but I don’t know of any philosopher (including me) whose concern for animals in any way undercuts his or her concern for humans. Peter Singer, for example, is as devoted to human beings as he is to animals. This is why he believes it wrong to allow human beings to suffer and die when one can easily prevent it. See here. Many people who claim to care about human beings would not go that far. There is, in short, no incompatibility between caring for humans and caring for animals; nor do I know of any psychological mechanism that suggests that caring is a zero-sum game. (If it’s possible to be nonracist, why isn’t it possible to be nonspeciesist?) If anything, those who care about animals care more about humans than those who care only about humans.

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