Environmental Studies


Non-human animals should play an important role in the acceptable moral system. However, there are many theories that deny animal’s moral status and equal consideration with humans. As a result, they lead to the public outrage addressed to the animals. However, there are diverse philosophical studies on moral status of animals. Kant believes that animals are non-rational beings that do not have a will. Thus, the philosopher does not treat non-human animals as ‘ends-in-themselves.’ On the contrary, Peter Singer regards all animals equal and does not support the idea of speciesism. It means that his philosophical theory provides all animals with the equal consideration and moral status. Thus, human and non-human beings are animals, they have moral status and should be treated equally and respectfully as the violation of this leads to the cruelty and violence in the natural world. 


Kant’s Approach to the Animals’ Treatment

According to Kant’s approach, only rational individuals can, will and do morally permissible actions. It means that moral status of animals is based on the notion of willing. Kant thinks that animals do not have this ability. Thus, they should not be treated as ‘ends-in-themselves.’ The philosopher states that animal’s moral status and equal consideration with humans do not exist due to the lack of autonomy, reason, and consciousness. 

However, indeed, moral status does not depend on rationalism and speciesism that result in suffering, pain, and cruelty of human beings according to the non-human animals. Consequently, people should treat non-human animals as ‘ends-in-themselves’ as moral status of human animals is also controversial. It can be seen in the unequal treatment of each other that leads to racism and sexism. “The social categories inscribed on bodies led to my being treated as an equal, a friend even a superior”. It means that there is no equality among the human beings. Thus, the absence of desire to treat non-human animals equally cannot be considered strage. 

Kant believes that humans deserve such special consideration as they are rational and have the will to do morally permissible actions. It means that their moral status depends on their ability to will. Moreover, human beings can control their desires. As to non-human animals, they have desires, but they cannot restrain them. Another advantage of humans is that they can choose which course of actions to take. However, one should say that regarding the place of animals it is necessary to address to the times of the tribes when animals were treated as the sacred beings and were respected. “There are many stories among the tribes regarding the role of guardianship played by birds and animals in protecting sacred places”. It means that humans’ attitude to the animals is changing for worse.

Peter Singer’s Approach to the Animals’ Treatment

Peter Singer would respond to Kant’s view that humans have only indirect duties to other animals. Peter Singer believes that these duties are direct as they can influence animals negatively leading to speciesism and unequal treatment. Humans determine to kill or not to kill animals stating about their moral intentions. However, killing is the violation of animal’s interests and human infants. It means that abortion is the intended killing. People fail to understand that they can use their direct duties to other animals in a positive way bringing the benefits to themselves and non-human beings. Not without a reason, there is the opinion that capitalism can be green and ecological. Magdoff and Foster wrote: ‘We can get rich, continue growing the economy, increase consumption without end, and save the planet – all at the same time”.

All sentient creatures deserve equal consideration. The analysis of the presence and absence of moral status cannot be the reason for doing harm and killing non-human animals. Moreover, humans should not feel superior and rational comparing with all sentient creatures as their rationalism and morality are not always justified. An indiividual should not divide animals in species and evaluate them accordingly as each of them deserves care, respect, and equal consideration. Peter Singer is right condemning the problems of the attitude of human beings to animals that leads to the extreme cruelty and violence that are justified by human beings. Consequently, respect and tolerance are necessary in the interaction between humans and non-human animals. Human superiority, killing, and hunting for the animals are the consequences of the inequality between all sentient creatures. Suffering and pain cannot be justified as people want to think supposing that they have all rights to do this due to their autonomy, reason, and consciousness. 

Peter Singer connects speciesism to sexism and racism. It means that one cannot speak about morality and ethical principles of every human being. There is no ethical basis for racism and sexism. Peter Singer believes that intellectual and moral capacities cannot be the factors for determining equality between the sexes and different races. Peter Singer states that speciesism is prejudice or the attitude of bias of human species toward other species. First, speciesism violates all ethical and moral principles of equality. Second, equality is the equal approach in all its meanings. Third, speciesism leads to pain and sufferings. Fourth, equality presupposes morality. Animals need the extended rights that should not be restricted by human beings. According to Peter Singer, equality is not only the extension of rights but tolerance, respect, and kind-hearted attitude. Speciesism is a mistake that violates the interests of sentient animals. It is evident that human beings do not follow the principles of equality. Peter Singer states that it is necessary to extend the rights of equality for animals that will allow avoiding pain and suffering, decreasing morality, and the peer membership of all species. 

The infant test is checking every newborn for potentially harmful disorders. It means that speciesism is a frequent phenomenon among humans who suppose themselves superior comparing with weak and disabled people. Most people are speciesists since they always look for an opportunity to oppress others who have disadvantages and weaknesses comparing to them. People do not take into consideration, and thus, fail to respect the individual differences. They believe that equality depends on physical strength, moral capacity, and intelligence. Consequently, their speciesism leads to suffering of both human and non-human animals. 

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In conclusion, it is worth noting that human and non-human beings are animals. They have moral status and should be treated equally and respectfully. The violation of this leads to the cruelty and violence in the natural world. However, Kant refuses to approve non-human animals’ moral status and equality as they do not have autonomy, reason, and consciousness. On the other hand, Peter Singer believes that morality and equality are not preconditioned by these factors. The philosopher states that all beings deserve equal consideration. It is evident that there are no reasons for supposing that human animals have greater moral rights than non-human animals. The cases of prejudice, cruelty, and abuse of animals can be explained by the ideas that humans are superior to the non-human animals. Providing moral consideration to all creatures is the way to achieving peace and harmony between humans and nature. 

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