ANIMAL RIGHTS: THE EVOLUTION OF MORALITY
As human beings, we are masters of our domain. We are the undisputed occupiers of the top rung of the food chain. In this, we have the burden of choice. We must decide where we will be merciful and where we will be ruthless, where we will defend and where we will persecute, where we will commit our attention and where we will be ignorant. We contend that reason and necessity govern our behavior. We believe, at least individually, that we are compassionate beings. And yet today, we are collectively ruthless, we collectively persecute, and we are collectively ignorant regarding those beings which are weaker than we: we are the cruel overlords of the animal kingdom.
At present, on an average day in the United States, 130,000 cattle, 7,000 calves, 360,000 pigs, and 24 million chickens are killed(Williams 65). An average day! And these figures exclude the hoards of rats, mice, dogs, cats, and primates that are brutally tortured until death in research labs across the country. Surely, no form of genocide undertaken in human history can match these numbers.
If we are to consider ourselves worthy of our elevated position in nature, we must acknowledge and protect the rights of the animal kingdom. Animals, like humans, deserve to live a life free of suffering and the threat of wanton slaughter. Once this fundamental right is accepted, some mandatory provisions may be understood as self-evident. Namely, that animals should no longer be used for medical research and testing. Animals should no longer be hunted for sport. Animals should no longer be farmed for their meat and by-products. Animals should no longer be slain for their fur or pelt. These activities constitute a violation of basic animal rights.
The argument for animal rights functions on two levels, the moral level and the practical level. On the one hand, acknowledging animal rights is a moral imperative. On t...