Authors note: The start of this may seem to appeal to emotions more than logically based arguments. The reason for this is I started writing this not as an essay on animal rights but based the writing in thoughts provoked by a family showing a lack of tact at the dinner table as they carved/ate and then spoke about cooking techniques regarding the consumption of animals. Later there was talk based around the NHS(national health service) and how uncaring and inhuman many aspects of it were.
If you're unhappy with this (probably 200 words at most) I suggest you skip to the part entitled "human characteristics crossing over". However bare in mind that aspects of the first part are partially related to the last part.
Female circumcision-on par with animal suffering?
I ask you what would you say if your mother? father? brother? sister? became in favour of female circumcision from a young age.
Lets set up the scenario. Your father adopts very specific religious beliefs that include females being circumcised. He goes abroad, and helps in anyway he can with this procedure. He doesn't care if it's through internalised or designated coercion.*
He takes girls between 5-13 and does a full circumcision. Nothing pleasure causing is left. No health benefits can be gained from this. There is risk of infection. There is a lot of pain and trauma involved. However it is 'God's will' according to your fathers new found beliefs.
Would you be okay with this happening? Would you allow for this to take place if you could stop it? Would you perhaps at the very least consider not talking to him again?
Perhaps you'd go far as to slap him when you saw it?
Imagine if it was your mother?
Think about them doing it.
Now apply the same to animals. How is it different to doing the same to them when it's not necessary. They show the same signs of feeling pain that we do. And if you disagree that other animals feel pain then surely you would disagree that other humans feel pain. See the problem of other minds and apply pain (very basically and briefly, we don't have direct experience of other peoples minds/pain so it's hard, perhaps impossible, to prove that there are any other minds than the ones we experience. And we only experience one mind).
An interesting thing to note is that we condemn in our culture female circumcision, but accept animal suffering. Neither appear to be necessary, but they happen anyway.
What perhaps should be noted is that by condemning one it appears impossible to allow the other.
*Internalised coercion is where a society pressurises a subject to conform to their rights being violated. For instance being told your family and friends will not speak to you unless you do X.
Designated coercion is where you try to stop the society from doing X to you but you are physically forced to comply.
Human characteristics crossing over.
Now there are characteristics that set each individual apart. That set each animal apart. Each life form apart. Each everything that isn't identical.
Very obviously if you have two iron molecules, the only difference is that they are different molecules, but made up of the same thing.
So there is something that a human has that no other animal has characteristic wise. Or something a human has that no other animal has characteristic wise. Perhaps it is characteristics. Perhaps it's a very exact set of characteristics.
Main physical differences aside (walking on 2 feet, opposable thumbs, so on so forth) there must be something mentally that sets us apart from every other animal. Otherwise we could not claim some form of intellectual superiority to animals.
If you disagree, if you think it is something else mental, perhaps a form of compassion you don't associate with intellect, then simply apply that idea to the following.
There must be a human out there who does not hold such a characteristic.
What happens to these humans?
Are they no more than animals to you?
Yet lets face it if you see them in pain, and you don't know them, just perhaps of their condition, you will want to treat them. You will want them to not suffer (unless you are at least one of the above).
Yet you are happy to cause other animals to suffer?
On what grounds do you do this? The grounds that they are different. Different how? physical differences at best seem utterly arbitrary. What if I had physical differences that put me at a strict dis-advantage, would you treat me differently? What if by some mad experiment gone wrong (or cynically right) I either/or/or both of the following, I didn't have a human body, I didn't have a the same mind as before, so on so forth. Lets say that I have intellect/I grew a tail, claws, basically features on other animals on myself.
What if I could communicate to you from an animals body in a logical, co-coherent way. Lets say that I've even become a member of mensa. Would you be so happy to have me exectuted for the sake of your taste buds?
Something causes me to doubt you would. Perhaps I'm wrong (again).
So to put it another way. If we have a human mind in an animals body, should that being be entitled to any rights?
And when we have a human body with an "animal like" should that being be entitled to any rights?
And when I say entitled to rights I am talking of course about legal rights, rights in a society, not that which is loosely labelled 'moral rights'.
If in both cases rights should be given what is it that is important? Why should a human mind hold more weight when such a basic thing as suffering is involved? If the animals and the humans feel the suffering, but one can feel 'higher' pleasures, why should they be entitled to harm the other?
Higher pleasures and intellect VS rights.
What constitutes as a higher pleasure?
By higher what is meant is 'more intellectual', not more intense, or more in quantity.
And just because something contains more intelligence should that mean it has more rights?
Should the people who are a part of mensa for instance have more rights than lay people? If so then I suppose you are not someone who agree's with equality.
Of course we have no viable way to properly and accurately measure intelligence so talk of higher pleasures ultimately for the time being becomes none-sequential.
To conclude if there is a moral reason why humans shouldn't be harmed that does not apply to animals I have yet to find it. If there is a moral reason why the average human, who can survive fine without the exploitation of animals, should be entitled to abuse/execute them, I have again, yet to find it.
Intelligence should not equate to more rights on any moral grounds.
Social contract theory and liberal thinking
In short I shouldn't harm you so that you won't harm me and vice versa.
2 soldiers are at their outposts.
If soldier a leaves whilst soldier b stays then a will have 85% survival chance rate.
The same is true of the inverse (b for a).
If both stay they each have a 65% survival chance.
If both leave they will have a 15% survival chance.
The two have no means to communicate. The wise thing would appear for them to both stay at their outposts.
2 suspects called into a police station.
Both have the same information that would incriminate the other and themselves, but would receive immunity for giving the information up so long as the other prisoner did not give up the information. If both give information up they both have reduced sentences.
The police have information that will put both of you away for a shor period of time.
first: p1 goes away for 10 years p2 gets off scott free.
Second: p1&p2 go away for 6 years.
Third:P1&2 go away for 3 years.
In the first p2 has snitched.
In the second both have snitched.
In the third neither has snitched.
Firstly to the soldiers who run whilst their comrades stay, and to the prisoner who snitches an accomplice who does not, most of society would most probably get them at one point or another.
Be it grieving families out for revenge or hired goons to get the snitch.
Strengthening the reason in this case to not screw over the other people
Secondly in social contract theory applied to a western society everyone in a society is equal.
However there is no reason why, if the majority called for it, a particular minority was not exploited. Divided, and forced into submission in a way where so long as the majority wanted the minority in such a compromised position there would be no way out.
For instance CCTV, policing, and a lack of communicating with other minorities. Such a position over time would strengthen perhaps. For instance there could be units for breeding. And the children taken away and put into a family unit of the majority. The child seeing less than 10 of the minority in their life time. The other 9 only seeing the other 9, no outside communication with others of that minority.
This is a concept that is surely in direct conflict with liberty.
For the benefit of any unsure readers:
Western democracy (on the whole) everyone has a vote and the majority vote wins (or at least that's how it is supposed to work).
Everyone is equal, and has the same rights. A majority can not vote against a minority in such a way that the minorities rights are breached.
For further reading read J.S. Mill on liberty chapter 1.
It is the state (the only organisation who at this moment in time has the power to) who controls our rights. If I kill I am to be restricted in what I do, causing me an inability to kill again. So on so forth. Obviously different crimes result in different punishments/restrictions in order to stop me from repeating my offence by learning from it.
The problem is if you value such rights, and agree with liberal thought, you surely agree by default with veganism (unless you have a point not previously made and dealt with in this or the past essay).
If you don't believe in liberty being a good thing then how can you make sure you in a minority (and we're all part of a minority in some form or another, be it based on intellect, music taste, eye colour, opinion, 'class' etc.) cannot under social contract theory be the bitch of society? It appears that if you agree with social contract theory you have no legitimate argument against you being exploited.
If I have made spelling or grammar mistakes, if I have mis-represented an argument, if I have left an argument out, if I have committed a fallacy, do not hesitate to comment on an issue and tell me where I have gone wrong.