If you accept utilitarianism you should accept that animals have equal rights to humans
Utilitarianism: the doctrine that an action is right in so far as it promotes happiness and minimises pain, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.
Right: a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something.
Thanks for instigating this debate, as Con I will argue that if I accepts utilitarianism I should accept that animals have equal rights to humans.
Disclaimer: I am a utilitarian and a vegetarian myself yet I am not playing devils advocate.
I chose Con for two simple reasons: "Equal" and "Rights"
Utilitarianism has no regards for natural rights, in fact proponents of natural rights and rights theories are most of the time direct opponents of utilitarianism. It is true that some rights are prescriptively useful for the utilitarian normative idea but as soon as rights stand in the way of welfare the utilitarian puts the rights aside.
Since I dismissed the "rights" part of "equal rights" I will treat equal as in equal moral responsibility.
"Normal adult human beings have mental capacities which will, in certain circumstances, lead them to suffer more than animals would in the same circumstances. If, for instance, we decided to perform extremely painful or lethal scientific experiments on normal adult humans, kidnapped at random from public parks for this purpose, adults who entered parks would become fearful that they would be kidnapped. The resultant terror would be a form of suffering additional to the pain of the experiment. The same experiments performed on nonhuman animals would cause less suffering since the animals would not have the anticipatory dread of being kidnapped and experimented upon." (Peter Singer, Practical Ethics chap. 3)
With this in mind it should be clear why animals are not to be treated equal to humans.
Utilitarianism gives the right of equal consideration. Its an egalitarian theory and therefore everyone has the right to be considered equally when making moral decisions. Since this right is not legal I can only see that it is natural since utilitarianism appeals to naturalism. It bases what is right and wrong on an aspect of nature, namely, pleasure and pain. Animals possess these natural features and therefore deserve the right of equal consideration under utilitarian grounds.
"Normal adult human beings have mental capacities which will, in certain circumstances, lead them to suffer more than animals would in the same circumstances."
A human"s mental capacity cannot be used to change the right to equal consideration.
In some situations as in the example Con gave it does lead them to suffer more. However, this also works the other way.
An animal could be trapped and get extremely distressed it cannot get out. However, a human could be trapped (e.g. told to wait in a room at airport security) and not be so distressed. The human knows they have a valid passport and that security probably just has a few checks to make. They use their mental capacities to reason that they will probably get through soon and therefore are less stressed than the animal.
Therefore, human mental capacity should not change an animal"s right to equal consideration as this right is based on pain and pleasure. As pain and pleasure can be both enhanced and lessened by mental intellect depending on the circumstance, it cannot be seen as a significant factor in altering this right.
Furthermore, equal consideration of interests does not mean that both animals and humans have similar interests. For instance living on an organic farm where you are given food/ shelter when needed etc. is sufficient to satisfy an animal but not a human. This does not mean they are not equal but merely that they require different things to maximize their pleasure and minimise their pain.
Therefore I agree with you that animals should not be treated equally to humans but equal treatment is not synonymous with equal rights. Just as a child is not treated equally to adults yet still has equal rights. The pain and pleasure that humans and animals feel grants them a right to equal consideration.
"Right: a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something.
Principle: "A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning."(1)
Yes, utilitarianism is a naturalistic ethical theory but even virtue ethics and natural-rights libertarianism can fall under that category.
"natural rights are the sub-class of moral rights that humans have because of their nature.„(2)
Moreover equal consideration of interests is not synonymous with equal rights since rights are something that are held by all humans and by extension all animals. Rights theorists have always struggled with the question of what to do when rights stand in conflict with eachother and what rights to give that are universally applicable.
R32;"Utilitarianism does not provide any rights, it is however based on the principle of equal consideration."
I would argue that equal consideration is both a principle and a right. There is not opposition in the terms that prevents this from being the case. This right (moral entitlement to have something) is the principle on which utilitarianism is based.
Principle: "A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning."
There is a difference between rights that can be given if this gives the maximum pleasure and minimises the pain and the right of equal consideration which utilitarianism relies upon in order to give these created rights.
""this supports the claim that non-human animals and humans should not be considered equal in terms of moral consideration." "These differences don't cancel out each other, in reality the more differing factors and circumstances one can mention the less "equal" non-human animals and humans get." I agree they do not cancel each other but the point I was rejecting you on was that intellect does not mean one species is favoured over another. If you accept this then animals and humans should share the right to equal consideration.
R32;R32;"Just as a child is not treated equally to adults yet still has equal rights."R32; This is not the case because children do not for example posses the right to vote which would be equally ludicrous as giving that right to animals as Pro mentioned.R32;
Response: as outlined at the start of the debate we are debating natural and not legal rights so the right to vote is not an adequate example. I assume you would respect the view that children have equal natural rights as other humans? If you do then you should accept that animals do also.
"The last thing I could add is again that the equal consideration of interests is not a right but a principle but this principle is of course extended in to the animal realm."
There has to be a reason given to extend this principle into the animal realm and you do not give one. The right to equal consideration would be an adequate reason to extend this to animals. The reasons for this right are grounded in the equal capacity between animals and humans to feel pleasure and pain.
"Of course one can proclaim that utilitarianism is a natural right of all sensible organism but at this point we have distorted the terms beyond recognition, we might as well say that obeying the laws of physics is an inalienable natural right of everything."
I"d agree its an obvious statement that utilitarianism is a natural right but it it is exactly this which many don"t except. So as the debate title argues, if you accept utilitarianism you should accept animals as part of it.
"R32;I assumed that, since every form of utilitarianism and every utilitarian I know of is in favor of moral considerations for animals, this would be self explanatory but there we go:R32; Since a lot of animals are able to have interests those are covered by the principle of equal consideration of interests. It is as simple as that."
This is the topic of the debate. Many utilitarians reject equal consideration of animals and when they state the happiness of the greatest number they only include humans in this number. However I am arguing that to do so is unjustified. You claim it"s a principle of equal consideration but why is it not also a right? Do animals not have a right to equal consideration if this principle is correct?
"Natural rights are rights which are "natural" in the sense of "not artificial, not man-made", as in rights deriving from deontic logic from human nature, or from the edict of a god. They are universal; that is, they apply to all people, and do not derive from the laws of any specific society. They exist necessarily, inhere in every individual, and can't be taken away. For example, it has been argued that humans have a natural right to life. These are sometimes called moral rights or inalienable rights."(2)"
Which of these criteria does the right to equal consideration not meet. It appears it is a right.
R32;"It is quite funny to claim that utilitarianism provides inalienable, natural rights since the clich" objection to utilitarianism basically goes like "It is ok for utilitarians to murder an innocent person if the organs can save two others" .....which would violate the right to life."
The right to life and most other rights are different than the right to equal consideration. It is a predecessor to ethical theories and not a right created after the theory. Therefore it does not suffer the same conflict as all other rights do with utilitarianism.
Thanks for an insightful debate and best of luck!
Thanks for the debate and good luck for the voting period.