Animal Liberation Movement and Animal Rights

Tom Regan’s, The Case for Animal Rights, and Peter Singer’s, The Animal Liberation Movement, both advocate for the rights and equal treatment of animals through various means. Both seek to change the cruel and brutal treatment of animals present in the world today but the method in which they wish to reach this goal differs. Singer derives his argument from a utilitarianism perspective whereas Regan obtains his argument from a more Kantian point of view.

First off, Singer deliberately uses the term “liberation” rather than “rights” because it is the equality of consideration of interests, not equality of rights, that the case for animal equality seeks to establish. His main argument is taken from a utilitarianism perspective in that whatever course of action creates the most happiness for the most amount of people is the best measure of good/ethical behavior. Because animals are capable of suffering, they should be considered in a utilitarian view to create the most happiness and minimize suffering. Singer further argues against speciesism, discrimination based on a certain species, in that all beings capable of suffering should be worthy of equal consideration. Giving a species less consideration would be similar to discrimination based on skin color in that animals should have rights based on their ability to suffer rather than their intelligence. He specifically mentions how there are many mentally challenged humans who show lower intelligence than the average human being and how many intelligent animals have proved to be just as intelligent as human children. Therefore, intelligence should not even be a factor when showing less or more consideration to one species over another.

Regan, on the other hand, takes a Kantian position in that all living beings possess inherent value and should be treated as ends-in-themselves, rather than a means to an end. Animals should not be treated as creatures who simply live to further humans’ happiness but rather creatures who should be able to achieve happiness themselves. These inherent values imply that all individuals should be treated the same, including both animals and humans. Unlike Singer, Regan argues against a utilitarianism perspective when considering animal equality. Utilitarianism has no room for the equal rights of different individuals because it has no room for their equal inherent value. What is most important to a utilitarian is the satisfaction of an individual’s interests, not the individuals themselves. Our feelings of satisfaction have positive value while our feelings of frustration have negative value. Thus, one’s inherent value has no place in this mindset, rendering utilitarianism useless as a way to perceive animal rights.

Both Singer and Regan are strong advocates for animal rights and seek to create positive change for the cruel behavior that many humans display towards animals. However, each author accomplishes their goal of supporting animal rights through a different mindset. Singer focuses more on utilitarianism whereas Regan contradicts utilitarianism and focuses more on Kantian ethics instead. As an advocate for animal rights myself, I commend these authors in writing these thorough arguments to protect animals.

Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: U of California, 1983. Print.
Singer, Peter. The Animal Liberation Movement: Its Philosophy, Its Achievements, and Its Future. Nottingham, England: Old Hammond, 1986. Print.

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