September 17, 2010

Peter Singer: Animal personhood by 2020

One of the many things I like about Peter Singer is his patient and pragmatic approach to animal rights. He realizes that major change doesn't happen overnight. So, instead of just hoping for a miraculous shift in public perception, Singer has methodically worked to see his vision for animal welfare and rights come to fruition. And in the grander scheme of things, that doesn't mean he can't dream big.

Writing in the Forbes article, 2020: Animal Advocates Surpass NRA In Political Influence, he speculates about what things might be like in ten years:
Perhaps even more significant has been the change in the legal status of animals, and the way we think about them. That movement began in Europe. Already in 2009 the European Union recognized it was wrong to think of animals merely as "property" and instead gave them a legal status that recognized them for what they are: "sentient beings." That opened the floodgates for court challenges against the confinement and mistreatment of animals.

In the United States the argument focused on our nearest relatives: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. Supported by expert evidence that great apes are self-aware, rational beings with close personal relationships and rich emotional lives, courts began to recognize them as having rights, and appointed guardians to protect those rights, in much the same way as they appoint guardians to protect the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. In 2019 the U.S. Supreme court effectively ended research on great apes by requiring consent to each experiment from a guardian concerned with the welfare of each experimental subject. The court left open for further argument the extension of this principle to other animals.
Fingers are crossed.



Unknown said...

Well, animals certainly are sentient beings. However, if we were to grant them personhood, would it not make ordering a steak at a restaurant illegal? Humans are omnivorous and ideally, they need at least some meat in their diet to ensure the proper mix of vitamins and nutrients to stay healthy. I know there are substitutes in pill form, but I'm not sure I would be willing to give up meat, and neither would millions upon millions of others.

As for the limits on animal research, I doubt you'd find many opponents there, even in the scientific world where there's already a huge list of criteria to be met before a lab is even allowed access to experimental animals, and it must ensure the most humane possible treatment of their subjects throughout the research process, i.e. eliminate any and all needless suffering of the animals they're allowed to have.

Unknown said...

Early Christians in an effort to discredit Pagans demonized nature as something to conquer or beat back. Anything non human, man was granted absolute dominion over. Only humans were made in God's image. Everything else was part of the decor. We have lost touch with the natural world over religious dogma.

Unknown said...

I abhor the killing of any animals that "I" consider to be "intelligent".....where that line is I don't know. The great apes, dolphins, whales, elephants...etc....don't touch them. Deer, chickens, cows, turkeys...etc....go ahead and eat'em.