The Greatest Paradoxes Of The Modern Animal Rights Movement

analytical Essay
1776 words
1776 words

With few exceptions, the history of the modern animal rights movement has been dominated by non-Christian philosophers, writers, and activists. Despite sympathy for prominent Christian figures like St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis, animal rights philosophy remains a thoroughly secular enterprise. Asserting that the difference between humans and animals is “a matter of degree and not of kind”, the animal rights movement often rests on a fundamentally anti-Christian anthropology in which the human person is regarded as the product of physical and biological processes, merely an advanced primate. (Francione 2010, 31). This, of course, highlights one of the greatest paradoxes of the animal rights movement. Arguing that we, human beings, …show more content…

In this essay, the author

  • Argues that the animal rights movement's history is dominated by non-christian philosophers like st. francis of assisi and pope francis.
  • Explains that jeremy bentham's utilitarian "school" of normative ethics is a product of the "age of enlightenment".
  • Compares deontological proponents of animal rights with utilitarianism. they argue that killing animals for food or using them in experiments is wrong, not because of some empirical calculation of total or average well-being.
  • Argues that both utilitarianism and deontology ascribe moral rights to indisputably moral agents.
  • Argues that christian theism isn't a human-centric worldview, but firmly grounded in the moral duties of human beings.
  • Explains that although there is diversity among christians, both ancient and modern, over the specifics of human-animal relations, there unity is overwhelming. while st. francis of assisi is renowned for his love of animals, he was never a strict vegetarian.

The brain-child of Jeremy Bentham, utilitarianism is widely recognized, even by non-utilitarians like Martha Nussbaum, as having “contributed more than any other ethical theory” to the propagation of the animal rights movement and the “recognition that animal suffering is evil” (Wolfe 2008, 12). Predicated upon consequentialist ethics, utilitarianism holds that actions are morally right to the extent that they maximize happiness for the greatest number of persons, and wrong to the to the extent that they result in unhappiness for the greatest number of individuals (Mill 1879, 11). While deriding the so-called “ancient jurists”, who degrade animals into a “class of things”, Bentham’s school of utilitarianism provides a weak foundation for both human rights and “animal rights” (Steiner 2005, 163). Unlike both Christian theism and deontology, which recognize the fact that individuals are ends and not merely means, utilitarianism conceives of individuals, whether human or animal, as means that can be sacrificed upon the altar of utility. Hence, as many animal rights proponents recognize, utilitarianism “seems to have no way to rule out, on grounds of basic justice, the great pain and cruel treatment of some animals” (Wolfe 2008, 10). Even if modern utilitarians like Peter Singer state that “any rights possessed by all human beings, those rights are also possessed by non-human animals”, such “rights” essentially amount to nothing (Singer 1987, 3). Since utilitarians believe that “what is right or wrong depends on consequences”, and rights, by definition, require that the individual interest be protected “even if the consequences would weigh against that protection”, utilitarians generally reject the existence of rights (Francione 2010, 35). Additionally rejecting any sort of innate human

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