In Regan’s book ‘The Case for Animal Rights’ he argues that all ‘normal mammals over a year of age have the same basic moral rights’ than humans. This basically means that the same ethical standards that apply to humans should apply to animals as well. Even though I feel animals and in particular mammals do deserve to have a level of ethical standards, putting them on same level as humans in my opinion is wrong. Regan uses the term inherent value to express why he feels this way, inherent value in the case of animal ethics can be described as the value an animal possesses in its own right, as an end-in-itself, the opposite of this is instrumental value which means that an animal only has a value to other animals such as human beings.
As the article says, Regan’s theory requires us to divide all living things into two categories. Firstly, those that have inherent value have the same basic rights that humans have and secondly those do not have inherent value have no moral right. Personally, I disagree quite strongly with this notion, I feel that all animals, including humans have a combination of inherent value and instrumental value and that this combination is largely dependent on where the animals lies on the food chain. I say food chain because I strongly disagree with using animals for other reasons such as for fur and carpets as I feel it is immoral to gain utility from animals for decorative purposes. For example, a human would have close to 100% inherent value and 0% instrumental value, as humans are top of the food chain whereas an animal such as a cow would have a more balanced ratio between inherent and instrumental value as their meat is widely eaten by humans and it is morally accepted by humans to do so.
In Regan’s argument he places a lot of importance on the distinction of mammals and other species making the argument that animals are primarily the most important type of animal. In addition he also says that the mammals have to be ‘normal’ and over one year old, I find all three of his statements slightly unjust. Firstly, what makes a mammal more special than a reptile or bird? Secondly, why does the animal have to be of a certain age to be classified to have a certain level of inherent value? I don’t think there should be any correlation between age and inherent value especially if a theory states that there can be no middle ground in regards to inherent value. However one aspect of Regan’s argument is that non living entities can have inherent values, largely because many of these non sentient objects such as rocks and rivers have very important roles in an ecosystems, they can be habitats or can serve as protection for animals, making them crucial to the survival of the animals itself.
All in all, I agree with some aspects Regan’s explanation of animal’s rights however the main part of his theory that I do not agree with is the idea that a mammal either has or does not have inherited value. I feel that value differs from animal to animal and just because an animal has inherited value it shouldn’t mean that they are allowed to have the same rights as humans.
Warren, M. A. (1978). Difficulties with the strong animals rights positions. Nedlands, Austrailia: Warren.