Many individuals in the modern society argue that the killing of an animal is normally substantially less seriously wrong than the killing of a person and that the killing of a lower animal is normally less objectionable than the killing of a higher animal. Indeed, one way in which animal 'compassionate killing' such as euthanasia differs from concept of killing a person is that it implies that the difference in the degree of wrongness between killing a person and killing an animal is even greater. Advocates of animal euthanasia also state that the amount of good an animal loses by dying is typically much less than the good a person loses. At the same time, many animal rights activists state that killing animals by using euthanasia is wrong and that, typically, the means of putting animals to death are not humane. This paper, by referring to a number of scholarly articles and sources, argues that animals should be given definite rights in the contemporary world, because such practices as animal euthanasia and killing of animals largely undermine the humanistic basis of the modern society and violate the rights of animals to live.
The ideas presented in this work parallel the thoughts of Dr. Jane Chapman, "Support lethal injection" and Bob Wood, "Shelter should use lethal injection". The views of Jerry Dobbins, "Right decision on euthanasia" and Kathy Chaffin, "Rowan board of health opposes ban on gas euthanasia" are opposed as they do not take animal's rights and suffering caused by the usage of carbon monoxide into account. Jessie Burchette, "Animal euthanasia discussed" offers the description of the current debate on animal euthanasia in North Carolina's shelters, leaving the reader with a choice of making his or her own conclusion on the matter.
To assess the strength of an animal's interest in continuing to live, one must first consider how much good its life would have contained if it had not died. If, in comparing the death of an animal with what would have happened if the animal had not died, we hold the animal's nature constant, it is clear that the maximum good its life might have contained, given any of the ways in which it might not have died, is substantially less than the amount of good that a typical person's future holds in prospect. There are two obvious reasons for this (Wood 1).
First, the goods characteristic of an animal's life are of a lower quality than the goods characteristic of the lives of persons. Because of their limited cognitive and emotional capacities, most animals lack the capacity for many of the forms of experience and action that give the lives of persons their special richness and meaning, and without which our lives would be greatly impoverished. Animals are incapable of deep personal relations based on mutual understanding; they lack both imagination and an aesthetic sense and hence are unable to experience works of art, literature, or music or to appreciate the aesthetic dimensions of the natural world; they are incapable of engaging in complex and skilled activities or achieving difficult goals or ambitions-for example, through artistic creation or scientific discovery; and so on (Wood 2).
There are moments when one doubts the superiority of the goods of human life, at least in comparison to those of certain types of animal life. If, for example, one has ever had a dog, one must surely at some point have suspected that a dog's life contains more pure joy than one's own. But even if it is true that one seldom seems to attain quite the peaks of ecstasy that a dog experiences at the prospect of going for a walk, most of us can remember having, as a child, a capacity for almost boundless delight in various equally simple and trivial activities. Thus one may console oneself with the reflection that one's life as a whole contains much the same goods that a dog's contains, and much more besides. This reflection, however, has little bearing on the comparative evaluation of human and animal death, since the simple ecstasies of childhood are, for most of us, in the past.
Still, it seems that even adult human life tends to contain its share of exuberant joys that rival in intensity those experienced by dogs (Vassallo 3). They are simply not so conspicuous as they are within the lives of dogs, where they dramatically punctuate days otherwise given over to torpor and sleep. Human well-being, by contrast, is more continuous, dense, and varied, so that the ecstatic moments, which may be more diffusely spread over longer periods, are less salient. And what fills the intervals between these moments is normally altogether better than the dull vacancy of a dog at rest (Vassallo 4).
The goods that an animal loses in dying are not only of a lower quality; they are lesser in quantity as well. Most animal species are condemned by their biology to live lives with a maximum length that is considerably shorter than the maximum, or even the average, human life span. Because we must hold an animal's nature constant when we speculate about what its life would have been like if it had not died, we must assume that it would have died from some other cause before reaching the maximum life span for its species. In general, therefore, the quantity of life that an animal loses in dying is less than that which a person loses (Dobbins para 3).
There are other reasons why animals normally lose considerably less good by dying than persons do. It may be, for example, that a good contributes more to the value of a life to the extent that it has been and continues to be desired when it occurs. If so, we should discount the value of most of the goods in an animal's life, which tend to arrive unbidden and indeed unanticipated, for the absence of prior desire. And a similar claim may be true with respect to desert. It may be that a good contributes more to the value of a life to the extent that it is deserved when it occurs. But since, in general, desert presupposes responsibility and animals are not responsible agents, their deserts, if any, are sparse and attenuated. Therefore we should also discount the value of most of the goods in an animal's life for the absence of desert (Dobbins para 6-7).
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One way in which the value that a good contributes to a life may be enhanced is through its relations to earlier and later events within the life. People autonomously establish purposes for their lives, form patterns of structured relations with others, and thereby create expectations and dependencies that require fulfillment. The importance of later events in a typical human life may thus be greatly magnified by their relation to ambitions formed and activities engaged in earlier. The goods of a person's expected future life may assume a special significance within the life as a whole if they would bring longstanding projects to fruition, extend previous achievements, resolve conflicts, harmonize hitherto dissonant ambitions, redeem past mistakes, or in general round out or complete the narrative structures established earlier. In these and other ways, future goods may enhance the meaning and significance of patterns of experience and activity throughout the life (Chaffin para 5).
And the values of the goods themselves may be enhanced by their relations to what has gone before. In the lives of animals, however, this potential for complex narrative unity is entirely absent. Each day is merely more of the same. As an animal continues to live, goods may continue to accumulate in sequence, but the effect is merely additive. There is no scope for tragedy-for hopes passing unrealized, projects unwillingly aborted, mistakes or misunderstandings left uncorrected, or apologies left unmade. Because the amount of good that an animal can lose through death is limited in this way while that which a person may lose is not, the absence of narrative unity within the lives of animals is another reason why death is typically far worse for persons than it is for animals (Alper 12).
Many of the events or activities in our lives may have no value, or even negative value, considered only in themselves, but may acquire meaning and therefore positive value in the context of a larger pattern of experience or activity. This is related to the previous claims about desire and narrative unity. Because people have long-range desires, they invest time and other resources in preparing for the future. The eventual fulfillment of their desires may endow their earlier efforts, which may have been painful or tedious in themselves, with meaning and value that they would have lacked had the desires remained unfulfilled. Thus when death prevents the fulfillment of projects or ambitions around which a life has been autonomously structured, it not only denies the addition of further good to the life but may also prevent elements of the past from having a deeper meaning or value. Again, however, this dimension of the badness of death is absent in the case of animals. Because they lack self-consciousness, animals generally lack long-range desires; hence they do not consciously plan or make sacrifices for the sake of the future. Death cannot rob their previous activities of a meaning or value that was contingent upon future fulfillment (Alper 13-14).
There is, of course, a sense in which a squirrel's efforts in gathering nuts for the winter are rendered futile if it is run over by a car. But the squirrel's action was merely instinctive, not deliberate; there was no goal that the squirrel was consciously seeking to achieve. And even if the squirrel had been consciously pursuing a goal, that goal would merely have been survival itself. It would not have been a goal that gave the squirrel a reason for surviving or for wanting to survive. Finally, the squirrel's action involved no sacrifice for the sake of the future: for the squirrel did not gather nuts at the expense of some alternative course of action that it might more profitably have pursued instead. One cannot look back on the time that the squirrel spent gathering nuts as a tragic waste of opportunities. In short, there is no reason to suppose that the squirrel's death retroactively deprives its prior action in gathering nuts of a special meaning or value that it would have had if the squirrel had survived and the action had realized its instrumental function (Burchette para 6-7).
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There are, finally, comparative dimensions to the badness of death in the case of persons, reasons why a death may be worse that essentially involve comparisons between the life of the person who dies and the lives of others who are, for one reason or another, appropriate subjects for comparison. A death may be worse, for example, if many of the goods the victim loses are ones that are found in most other people's lives, or if the victim's previous gains from life are below the norm for persons generally, or even if they are below the norm for members of some more specific comparison class with whom the victim is closely identified. Again, however, these comparative dimensions to the evaluation of death seem inapplicable or irrelevant in the case of animals. The death of an animal does not, in general, seem worse simply because some of the goods it loses are ones that are common in the lives of most of the other members of its species (Bienen 67).
These are various ways in which the amount of good that an animal loses through death is typically much less than that which a person loses. Thus even if the prudential unity relations that would bind the animal to itself in the future would be strong, its right in continuing to live would still be comparatively weak. But in fact the prudential unity relations are also quite weak. This is most obvious if we focus on the psychological manifestations of physical, functional, and organizational continuity of the brain. There is, in the life of an animal, very little psychological architecture to be carried forward, and earlier and later mental states seldom refer to one another. There is, in short, very little psychological unity within the lives of most animals. Thus an animal's right in continuing to live is doubly weak: the goods in prospect for it are comparatively meager, and the prudential unity relations that would bind it to itself in the future would be weak. Because of this, the wrongness of killing implies that the killing of an animal is normally significantly less seriously wrong than the killing of a person (Bienen 69).
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At one end of the spectrum is the death of a person. In that case, there is great good in prospect that is lost, there is identity between the one who dies and the one who would have been the subject of the good, and the one who dies would have been strongly related in the ways that matter to the subject of the good. When an infant (or a late-term human fetus) dies, great good is lost and the one who dies would have been identical with the subject of the good, but the one who dies would have been only weakly related to the subject of the good in the ways that matter. Finally, when an animal dies, there is relatively little good in prospect and, although the animal that dies would have been identical with the subject of the good that is lost, that animal would have been only weakly related in the ways that matter to itself in the future. Thus, even if an animal would be slightly more closely related in the ways that matter to itself in the future than an infant would be, the amount of good that an infant or fetus loses by dying is vastly greater (Wood 3).
It is essential to consider a common view about the comparative badness of suffering and death for animals-a view that seems to influence people's thinking about killing and causing suffering to animals. Many people, perhaps particularly among those who are unusually concerned about animals and their well-being, accept that death is not a terribly tragic misfortune for an animal and yet also accept that the suffering of an animal matters in much the same way that the suffering of a person does. Let us call this combination of beliefs the view that suffering matters more. What is interesting about this view is that it is in sharp contrast with the corresponding view that people typically have about other persons. Consider, for example, common beliefs about human and animal euthanasia. Many people are reluctant to accept that euthanasia can be legitimate in the case of persons. One reason for this reluctance is that they believe that the life of a person has such great value that it should generally be preserved even if continued life will involve the endurance of great suffering. By contrast, most people readily approve of euthanasia in the case of animals. For example, even among those who are willing to devote their time and energy to caring for animals, most approve of the painless killing of stray animals for whom homes cannot be found. The apparent assumption is that death is preferable, for the animal's own sake, to even the quite limited amount of suffering it might experience as a stray (Vassallo 6).
To continue, it is worth pausing to consider a common view about the comparative badness of suffering and death for animals-a view that seems to influence people's thinking about killing and causing suffering to animals. Many people, perhaps particularly among those who are unusually concerned about animals and their well-being, accept that death is not a terribly tragic misfortune for an animal and yet also accept that the suffering of an animal matters in much the same way that the suffering of a person does. Let us call this combination of beliefs the view that suffering matters more. What is interesting about this view is that it is in sharp contrast with the corresponding view that people typically have about other persons.
Consider, for example, common beliefs about human and animal euthanasia. Many people are reluctant to accept that euthanasia can be legitimate in the case of persons (Bienen 69).
One reason for this reluctance is that they believe that the life of a person has such great value that it should generally be preserved even if continued life will involve the endurance of great suffering. By contrast, most people readily approve of euthanasia in the case of animals. For example, even among those who are willing to devote their time and energy to caring for animals, most approve of the painless killing of stray animals for whom homes cannot be found. The apparent assumption is that death is preferable, for the animal's own sake, to even the quite limited amount of suffering it might experience as a stray. And those who make that assumption presumably do so because they believe that the value of an animal's life is insufficiently great to justify allowing the animal to suffer (Vassallo 6).
This same view seems to underlie the position that many people take of common practices that involve the killing of animals. These people believe that the killing of animals can be morally justified, often for apparently quite trivial reasons, provided that the animals are not caused to suffer. It is, for example, easier to obtain approval from committees that oversee animal experimentation for experiments that involve the painless killing of animals than for ones that involve the infliction of suffering. The burden of justification is greater for experiments of the latter sort. And many people who worry about the morality of eating meat are more disturbed by the suffering that is typically inflicted during the rearing and slaughtering of food animals than by the killing itself (Vassallo 7).
If the suffering of these animals matters in much the way that human suffering does but there is no serious moral reason not to kill them, it seems that it would usually be best, other things being equal, to kill any such animal painlessly. For that would be a means of preventing the animal from suffering that would be both unobjectionable and certainly more reliable than any alternative means. Thus, according to the stronger versions of the view that suffering matters more, almost any painless killing of an animal would count as euthanasia (Vassallo 9).
There is a limited range of cases in which the view that suffering matters more appears to be supported by the focus on time-relative interests. I have argued that death is a lesser misfortune for an animal because the weakness of the prudential unity relations within its life diminishes the strength of its present time-relative interest in having the goods of its later future life. If, however, the prospect of suffering is immediate, the animal's time-relative interest in avoiding it will be stronger than its time-relative interest in having remoter goods, since the prudential unity relations diminish in strength with time and are therefore stronger over shorter periods. Thus in this sort of case-in which the significant suffering would be immediate but the goods of further life would be more remote- it may be in an animal's present time-relative interest to die rather than to continue to live, even if the amount of good in prospect exceeds, perhaps to a significant degree, the expected amount of suffering.
Although the unevenness in an animal's capacities for happiness and suffering supports the view that euthanasia is more often an option in the case of animals, it does not support the view, which many others hold, that the killing of animals is generally unobjectionable if it is done without causing suffering. In the absence of human intervention, animals do not face a prospect of significant suffering that clearly outweighs the possibilities for future good. Thus if one is to be justified in killing an animal, one must, at a minimum, have a purpose that is sufficiently serious to outweigh the animal's right in continuing to live
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