Singer Case Study
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In this paper I am going to consider Peter Singers argument that humans have a moral obligation to give all animals equal consideration. I will consider Mark Sagoffs objection that animal liberationists cannot be environmentalists, and refute this with Singers response. I believe Singers argument is correct when considering livestock and laboratory animals, but cannot stand up to the objections of Sagoff when extended to animals in the natural environment.

Singer begins his argument of animal equality by referencing historic accounts of prejudice towards the Blacks, Spanish-Americans and women. Similar to how he believes we should transition to considering all animals equally, the past liberation movements commanded “an expansion of our moral horizons and an extension or reinterpretation of the basic moral principle of equality” (49). Singer considers this shift in mentality is our moral responsibility for our attitudes and practices toward animals (50).

A clear delineation Singer makes is that equal consideration of animals doesnt mean equal treatment and rights. He understands there are essential differences between humans and animals – it would be absurd to grant animals voting rights for example. Regardless of these differences, equality does not stem from a species capabilities and abilities (intelligence, strength, etc.); this assessment is merely humans assigning arbitrary values.

One of Singers main arguments associates the principles of speciesism: the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals, and sentience: the capacity to suffer or experience enjoyment or happiness. He believes that if a being is sentient, it is our moral obligation to consider its utilitarian (benefit maximization) interests. Conversely, because most humans are speciesists we do not consider the interests of other sentient species equally which he parallels to racism. Singer illustrates the horrors of speciesism by describing various ways in which inflict pain on sentient animals in the meat industry and for laboratory experiments; livestock pigs spend their existence lethargically living in sheds, and the National Institutes of Health and the United States Public Health Service supported an experiment that administered shocks to dogs (54). Singer argues that both of these undertakings are unnecessary – humans do not need flesh to satisfy our nutritional needs and the results of laboratory animal experiments have a miniscule (if any) benefit to mankind. Furthermore, an experimenter would be reluctant to perform experiments on an orphaned human infant, revealing a bias for our human interests over those of any other species.

Critical Evaluation
To combat Singers argument of animal equality, Sagoff proposes that animal liberationists cannot be environmentalists and vice versa. While liberationists (including Singer) are concerned with protecting the utilitarian interests of individuals, environmentalists are concerned with protecting the interests of whole systems. Sagoff depicts Singer as being shortsighted because maintaining the health of an ecosystem and its diversity trumps the protection of a single animal. Though Singer is opposed to hunting, Sagoff believes individual animals (except when essential for the functioning of the community) are expendable and hunting in order to preserve the integrity of entire populations has far greater value (64). Sagoff reinforces his argument by indicating that individual animals become of greater importance once their whole species becomes endangered, disclosing our intuitive valuation of ecosystems over individuals. Finally, Sagoff exhibits Singers anti-environmentalist approach of excluding the natural environment (rocks, mountains, trees, rivers, etc.) from consideration, as these elements are not sentient.

Sagoff also argues that

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Peter Singers Argument And Mark Sagoffs Objection. (April 17, 2021). Retrieved from