Skip to main content

An Argument for Animal Rights and an Analysis of Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation"

Luke Holm earned bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy from NIU. He is a middle school teacher and a creative writer.


Animals Should Be Granted Rights in Respect to Their Nature

In chapter one of Animal Liberation, Peter Singer starts off by asserting that all animals are equal; this includes human animals such as man and woman, as well as nonhuman animals such as beasts. In doing so, he is not making the claim that these animals are equal in their capacities, such as reasoning, appearance, ability, or opportunities. Nor is he claiming that these animals should receive equal rights or treatments if he succeeds in proving the equality of such animals. Rather, Singer is arguing for equal consideration of the nature of such animals.

For, as he points out, it would be futile to say that man and woman are equal if we were considering their capacity to bear a child or have an abortion. Giving a man the right to have an abortion is like giving a fish the right to breathe air out of the water. It is an unnecessary right that should not go to the man, for it is not in his capacity to truly fulfill such a right. Equally, it is untrue to say that humans have equal ability when it comes to achieving something in the world. Some men and women are born to be athletes, some writers, and others laborers. It is not the case that most humans cannot perform these tasks, but rather that some humans will be better suited to perform these tasks naturally.

Humans Are Not Equal, but Should Be Treated Equally

To begin, Singer examines the natural inclinations people have when considering the topic of equality. He notes that today, at least in places similar to the United States and Britain, most people accept that all humans should be considered equal. However, there are those who believe differently; that their race or gender is superior to others.

Those who believe in their superiority based on skin color or racial background are called racists. Similarly, those who believe their gender to be superior to the opposite gender are called sexists. When formulating his argument, Singer takes the equal consideration a step further, adding that all animals both human and nonhuman alike should be considered equal. Those who do not believe in this notion, that their species is superior to another species, are called speciesists.

We have found, through considerable contemplation and evaluation, that one race or gender is not superior to another. When considering the equality of human beings, one must go past the tests which consider intelligence, moral capacity, physical strength, or similar matters. For if we test on such levels, it will not be difficult to find that humans are not equal in these respects. Furthermore, we cannot be sure that these differences are innate or if they have been taught to these humans.

Consider a farmer from the United States and a scholar from Africa. One will be better at farming while the other will be better at sifting through multitude lines of academia. This difference is mainly from the environment in which the human being was raised. If the humans switched environments, they theoretically would change what they excelled at.

If humans can theoretically excel equally when given the opportunity to do so, we should consider the equality of humans not as something that comes from skill or place of origin, but as an ability or capacity to fulfill or be something in their own respect. Therefore, Singer pursues the principle of equality of human beings not as a description of an alleged actual equality among humans, but rather how we should treat humans (Singer 5).

This principle does not suggest that a man has the right to an abortion, for a man cannot fulfill this right. This principle gives rights to humans in their own respect; a boy in the United States should be taught mathematics and a boy in Africa should be taught hunting, if this is what their society compels them to do or become. The principle of equality among humans determines to make humans prosper and fulfill whatever they are best capable of in order to achieve the most of the life they live.


The Principle of Equality Extends to All Beings

As Singer has stated, his argument is not for the equality of human beings, but for the equality of all beings—both human and nonhuman. He states, "...the taking into account of the interests of the being, whatever those interests may be must, according to the principle of equality, be extended to all beings, black or white, masculine or feminine, human or nonhuman" (5).

Those who agree to equality when considering race or sex are not uncommon. However, the true dilemma arises when considering the relationship of equality between humans and nonhumans. Those who do not agree that nonhumans should be equally considered to humans are called speciesists. "Speciesism is a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species" (6). The groundwork for this argument is that if possessing intelligence of a higher degree does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purpose?

Humans and Nonhumans Have Equal Interests Not to Suffer

As we have seen, the principle of equality is a principle which determines to take into equal consideration the interests of all beings affected by such a principle. The beings which are affected are those which have interests. In the article "Animal Rights: Equal Experiencers of Suffering," I argue that animals have an interest not to experience suffering.

To limit the principle of equality to humans would suggest that only humans have interests, but why would one suggest that? What is an interest and how does it come about? Singer, speaking from a utilitarian viewpoint, suggests that interests come about by beings having a capacity for pleasure and for pain; mainly an interest to receive or maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Anything else is a means in order to achieve pleasure or avoid pain. If the principle of equality is to be extended to all beings with interests, then Singer's next goal is to prove that nonhumans have any interests at all.

In order to prove his argument that nonhumans have interests, Singer states that any being with the capacity for suffering or enjoyment is one that has interests; for the capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all. "The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is, however, not only necessary, but also sufficient for us to say that a being has interests--at an absolute minimum, an interest in not suffering" (8).

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Soapboxie

When considering suffering, any being who suffers should have their suffering considered equally to any other being who suffers. If there is such a being that does not have the capacity to suffer, then they should not be considered when receiving any sort of equality. Therefore, Singer notes, "the limit of sentience (using the term as a convenient if not strictly accurate shorthand for the capacity to suffer and/or experience enjoyment) is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others" (8). To further prove his argument, Singer must now display that nonhuman beings are sentient; that they can experience, at the very least, suffering.


Language is Not a Prerequisite to Animal Rights

Finding that nonhuman beings can suffer due to an experience of pain is not a difficult thing to determine. Although there may be some Descartians around who still believe that animals are strictly highly functioning automata, it is generally considered that animals can experience and receive pain. The author of a book on pain which is quoted in Singer's Animal Liberation writes, "Apart from the complexity of the cerebral cortex (which does not directly perceive pain) [higher nonhuman mammalian vertebrates'] nervous systems are almost identical to [humans'] and their reactions to pain remarkably similar..." (12).

It seems that the only difference is the ability to express pain in terms that we humans understand. This ability of expression is called language and it should not be considered a detriment to the principle of equality for all sentient beings. For, as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once stated, "Language may be necessary for abstract thought, at some level anyway; but states like pain are more primitive, and have nothing to do with language" (14). To those who do not agree with this statement, I implore you to put out a cigar on an infant or to cut off the leg of a handless mute, for they obviously feel no pain according to your requirement of an expression of language.

Pain and Equal Consideration of the Rights of Animals

When considering the infliction of pain upon a sentient being, it must be clarified that it is not the action which brings about pain that should be considered as equal, rather it should be the amount of pain felt by the receiver of pain. Like Singer noted, slapping a horse will not hurt the horse as much as slapping a small child would. However, breaking the horses leg with a baseball bat would be equal to breaking a child's leg with a bat, since both sentient beings are experiencing the pain of a broken leg.

Also, and again, the level of intellect the sentient being has should not elicit any form of difference in the equal consideration a being experiencing pain could have. This is noted because there is an argument which is commonly used that states that adult humans have more capacity for suffering because they can anticipate some sort of pain they might receive in the future. An example of this anticipation would be if scientists were kidnapping adults out of parks and performing terribly painful experiments on them, then this would most likely result in adults staying away from parks. The terror and fear they would form when thinking about what might happen to them if they were to enter into the park would be a form of suffering. The argument suggests that since animals cannot cognate such anticipated experiences, then human suffering must be more so than animal suffering.

However, as Singer has noted, if one does take this position, then they should be fine with these scientists kidnapping and experimenting on infants and a person with an intellectual disability. For infants and intellectually disabled humans can no more foresee the intense pain they might receive upon entering the park than can an animal. Their lack of foresight does not mean that they can experience any less suffering than can an adult human being.

The Principle of Equality Amongst All Sentient Beings

To conclude the first chapter of Animal Liberation, Singer, believing that he has successfully posed a valid and convincing argument for the principle of equality amongst all sentient beings based on the infliction of pain and suffering on said beings, turns to the topic of killing nonhuman sentient beings. This topic, Singer admits, is a bit more difficult than equal consideration of the rights of animals, because there is still an ongoing debate whether it is right to kill certain humans or not. Fortunately, though, Singer determines to argue against the killing of nonhuman beings. In doing so, he adopts the 'sanctity of life' view and extends it to all sentient beings.

The Sanctity of Life View Extends to All Sentient Beings

Commonly, the 'sanctity of life' view is a speciesist view which makes the claim that it is wrong to take an innocent human life. Singer wants to extend this view to all animals, both human and nonhuman alike, by allowing that, "...beings who are similar in all relevant respects have a similar right to life--and mere membership in our own biological species cannot be a morally relevant criterion for this right" (19).

What criteria are necessary for determining which being have a right to life? It may seem as though a human being with a capacity for self-awareness, the ability to plan for the future, and having meaningful relationships with others may have more of a right to life than a mouse. However, if these be the criteria we chose--self-awareness, ability to plan for the future, and having meaningful relationships with others--we must then admit that a chimpanzee, dog, or pig, which are superior in all of the capacities over an infant or a intellectually disabled human being, has more of a right to life than the infant or intellectually disabled human being. In any case, it should be noted that these criteria are not relevant to the question of inflicting pain, just in the worth of life.


The Argument Against the Killing of Nonhuman Beings

Therefore, Singer notes that some lives may have more worth than others. If we were given the dilemma of saving the life of a normal human to that of an intellectually disabled human, or of a normal human to that of a dog, typically the normal human's life would be saved every time.

The true difference comes when considering pain in these beings. For it is not as clear if we were given the dilemma of saving a normal human from pain over an intellectually disabled human from pain which we would chose. Likely, both humans would be taken into equal consideration. If it is true that both humans would be taken into equal consideration because of the pain, then it should be equally true that nonhuman animals should be taken into equal consideration when considering pain. Not doing so would be speciesist.

If both humans and nonhumans are given equal consideration about the minimization of suffering from pain, then this means they are given equal consideration in their capacities to not suffer from pain. If we give both humans and nonhumans equal consideration in the fulfilling of these capacities, then they should be given equal consideration in the pursuit of pleasure throughout the life they live. If they are given equal pursuit of pleasure throughout the life they live, then it is wrong to kill humans and nonhumans because it would be obstructing their ability to fulfill the natural capacities of receiving pleasure and avoiding pain, of which they have.

Unjustifiable Experiments on Animals

In chapter two of Animal Liberation, Singer relates the gruesome tales of what happens when humans regard themselves as higher beings over animals and disregard the truth that animals have the ability to suffer from the experience of pain. The second chapter displays case after case of scientific research which is performed on animals so that new products or information can be made and given to humans for their own personal consumption.

With this being said, many of the experiments performed on animals as "tools for research" acquire no new forms of relevant or useful information for the researchers. Often times the researchers do not have good explanations for the experiments they are performing on animals. And, in nearly every United States experiment, researchers are receiving their money from the taxes that the common American pays. Ultimately, this means that the common American taxpayer is directly funding these unnecessary tests and experiments on animals; experiments which cause permanent, prolonged, and severe suffering for the animals.

The Primate Equilibrium Platform (PEP)

In order to expose such cruel and utility lacking research, Singer reviews experiments such as the ones conducted over many years at Brooks Air Force Base, in Texas. In this experiment, scientists took trained monkeys and involved them in a flight simulator known as the Primate Equilibrium Platform, or PEP. "It consists of a platform that can be made to pitch and roll like an airplane. The monkeys sit in a chair that is part of the platform. In front of them is a control stick, by means of which the platform can be returned to a horizontal position" (25). The point of this experiment is fiction. The experimenters wanted to see how long the monkeys can continue to 'fly' after being exposed to lethal or sublethal doses of radiation or to chemical warfare agents.

The monkeys are trained to fly the simulator through seven phases. This takes at least two years. Each phase consisting of long hours of the monkeys being restrained in the PEP chair. In addition to the restraints, the monkeys are trained by a series of strong electric shocks throughout each phase. The shocks are noted as painful to the monkeys, but are 'necessary' in order to properly train the monkey to maintain the horizontal level of the PEP as it pitches and rolls throughout the flight simulation. Once the monkeys have mastered the PEP device, instead of being rewarded for all of their time, effort, and suffering, they are given lethal or sublethal doses of radiation and made to perform the experiments over again.

The monkeys are given repeated low doses of Soman. "Soman is another name for nerve gas, a chemical warfare agent that caused terrible agony to troops in the First World War, but fortunately has been very little used in warfare since then" (27). Results indicated that, "The subject was completely incapacitated on the day following the last exposure, displaying neurological symptoms including gross incoordination, weakness, and intention tremor" (28).

During these days of chemical sickness, the monkeys were unable to perform the PEP tests. Dr. Donald Barnes, one of the scientists who was in charge of the experiments estimates that he used about one thousand monkeys for this experiment over the years. He later became a strong opponent of animal experimentation.

Furthermore, regardless of Dr. Barnes' study and results, Dr. Roy Dehart, Commander, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, stated that if there was a nuclear confrontation, it was highly unlikely that they would rely on the figures and charts based on the PEP tests. In conclusion, it seems as though the testing was for no direct purpose. The monkeys were subjected to years of suffering from shock conditioning, were rewarded with sublethal doses of Soman, and the results will hardly ever be consulted by someone who can use them for a practical purpose.

Maternal Deprivation Experiments

Singer displays many other experiments throughout this chapter that have similar avail, or lack thereof. Often times, experiments are repeated to see if scientists get the same results as previous scientists. An example of this is Martin Reite of the University of Colorado, who conducted deprivation experiments on bonnet monkeys and pigtailed macaques.

He was aware of Jane Goodall's observations of orphaned wild chimpanzees in which she described many behavioral disturbances, along with sadness and depression. However, "...because 'in comparison with monkey studies, relatively little has been published on experimental separations in great apes,' [Reite] and other experimenters decided to study seven infant chimpanzees who had been separated from their mothers at birth" and placed them in, "...isolation chambers for five days. The isolated infants screamed, rocked, and threw themselves at the walls of the chamber. Reite concluded that 'isolation in infant chimpanzees may be accompanied by marked behavioral changes" (35). Like many other experiments, the conclusion of that experiment was that of the conclusive evidence posed by an earlier scientist. Also, like in most experiments, more research was needed.

A similar experimenter, Harry Harlow, conducted maternal deprivation experiments which subjected over seven thousand animals to procedures that induced distress, depression, anxiety, general psychological devastation, and death. Like Reite, Harlow dismissed the question of why he was performing these experiments. "They did not even try to justify their experiments by claiming they were of benefit to human beings. That we already have extensive observations of orphaned chimpanzees in the wild seems not to have been of interest to them" (36). These experiments and similar research has all been paid by taxpayers " the tune of over $58 million for maternal deprivation research alone" (36). Often times, when the proper research is done and exposed, the general populace will find that they are directly funding the suffering of other animals. If Singer was correct in his first chapter, this means that we are directly impeding on the animal's right to life.


The Animal Experimenter's Dilemma

Research methods like these are used for military, psychological, and higher educational experimentation. All kinds of animals are used for these experiments: monkeys, rats, dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, and other such animals. Often times, the experimenters state that their work is for the benefit of humans even when the experiments conducted end up showing no correlation or relation to humans at all. So, there is a dilemma which exists for experimenters, "...either the animals is not like us, in which case there is no reason for performing the experiment; or else the animal is like us, in which case we ought not to perform on the animal an experiment that would be considered outrageous if performed on one of us" (52). In most cases, one will find that the experiments conducted would be considered far too cruel to be tested on humans, such as LD50 toxicity tests.

LD50 Toxicity Tests

LD50 stands for lethal dose 50 percent: "the amount of the substance that will kill up to half of the animals in the study. To find the dose level, sample groups of animals are poisoned. Normally, before the point at which half of them die is reached, the animals are all very ill and in obvious distress" (54).

Draize Eye Irritancy Tests

Testing for cosmetics and other substances are often times used in animals' eyes. An example of this are Draize eye irritancy tests, in which an irritating substance is placed in a rabbit's eyes. "The method used is to pull out the lower eyelid and place the substance into the small 'cup' thus formed. The eye is then held closed. Sometimes the application is repeated" (54).

The tests subjects are then observed for any form of eye swelling, ulceration, infection, and bleeding. Studies such as these can last up to weeks. the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that an upwards of 80,000 experiments such as these were performed on rabbits. However, it should be noted that the last quoted dates of these testings were in the mid to late 1980s and that significant changes may have occurred since then.

The Animal Rights Movement

Such changes can be attributed to animal activists and modern technology. One such activist, Henry Spira, put together coalitions against the Draize and LD50 tests. "The Coalition to Abolish the Draize Test began by inviting Revlon ... to put one tenth of one percent of its profits toward developing an alternative to the Draize test. When Revlon declined, full-page advertisements appeared in the New York Times asking, 'HOW MANY RABBITS DOES REVLON BLIND FOR BEAUTY'S SAKE?'" (58). Spira and similar activists have created a great push toward the ceasing of all animal testing for consumer product safety for many cosmetic companies. Along with these strong animal activists has come an increase in alternative methods for toxicity testing, such as cell and tissue culture and computer modeling. Both seen as more desirable both economically and scientifically.

Activism of this kind has spread across the globe and is opening the minds of researchers. "More and more scientists are now appreciating that animal experimentation often actually hinders the advance of our understanding of diseases in humans and their cure" (89). Many scientists have found the tests fail to show that certain chemicals that are fine for animals end up causing cancer in humans, such as arsenic. Thus, a new movement in medicine should and possibly has begun; one that will begin to eliminate the testing on animals.

This movement is called the health movement, and it emphasizes healthy living rather than a cure from medicine. While there is still much need for cures to our most deadly diseases, it should be noted that the movement and the opening of minds has begun, at least in the field of medical testing using animals as tools for research. In most activist movements, it is the initiation of the movement which starts the snowball effect, leading to improved systems and rights many years down the road. Chapter two shows that there are many horrors when it comes to animal testing, but that the elimination process has started. In chapter three, Singer turns to a different form of suffering. One that the general public again directly funds. This time, they may not be so willing to change.

Animals Raised for Consumption

Chapter three of Singer's Animal Liberation is all about how animals are massively produced on factory farms for human consumption. It relates how many people do not see the connection between the food they eat on their plate and the animal which was slaughtered in order to have such food. Not only do people not connect their food to the animals killed in order to obtain the food, people are also ignorant as to the lives the animals live up until the time they are killed. It is the large food producing corporations which have blinded us from the horrors that happen down on the factory farm. This chapter intends to lift the veil.

The main animals discussed in this chapter are chickens, cows, and pigs; chickens being used for egg production and meat, and cows being used for dairy and meat. To begin, and keeping in mind that what follows is information given during the 1980s, " the United States, 102 million broilers--as table chickens are called--are slaughtered each week" (98) for human consumption alone. Broiler chickens are typically killed 7-8 weeks after they are hatched, when their natural life span can be up to seven years. However, since it is not Singer's main argument to relate the killing of animals, let us narrow our focus to the suffering these animals experience up until the time of the killing.

The Argument Against Factory Farms

In order to gain the best possible revenue for their farms, large corporations or agribusinesses have finely tuned their chicken production to what seems like a science. In order to house the most chickens per square feet, it is not uncommon for agribusiness to stuff two or sometimes three five-pound chickens into one cage. The cages are made of wire meshing and are usually a bit smaller than a standard sheet of computer paper. But why should someone care about such a thing? How do we know chickens are among the sentient beings we discussed who have interests just as humans do? How do we know they are suffering?


First, we should care because we know that chickens are intelligent animals that can feel pain. Their intelligence is noted by what is called a "pecking order." In this pecking order, chickens create a hierarchal system which all of the chickens recognize and are submissive to. However, while a "flock of up to ninety chickens can maintain a stable social order, each bird knowing its place; 80,000 birds crowded together in a single shed is obviously a different matter" (100). When chickens are forced to be in the midst of so many other chickens, we are forcing them to act out of their nature. They cannot establish what is natural for them, and, as we have seen, if we are limiting a sentient being's nature, then we are making that being suffer.

Another notable account that displays the suffering of the chickens is the "vices" which develop when chickens are forced to be in dimly lit, tight quarters. Vices are something like bad habits and are developed in animals when the animal is severely stressed or taken out of its natural setting. The vices of chickens tend to be shows of cannibalism and cruelty to other chickens. "Feather-pecking and cannibalism easily become serious vices among birds kept under intensive conditions. Birds become bored and peck at some outstanding part of another bird's plumage" (100). In order to prevent the animal vices which the farmers have directly helped instigate, the farms develop even crueler methods of their own.

One way to stop a chicken from pecking another chicken is to have the chicken debeaked. "The farmer would burn away the upper beaks of the chickens so that they were unable to pick at each other's feathers. specially designed guillotinelike devices with hot blades are the preferred instrument. ... The procedure is carried out very quickly, about fifteen birds a minute" (101).

The debeaking process is not a painless one. A hot blade causes blisters in the mouth of the chicken and a cold blade could cause a fleshy, bulblike growth on the end of the mandible. Furthermore, the beak is not without nerve endings. "The hot knife used in debeaking cuts through this complex horn, bone and sensitive tissue, causing severe pain" (102). This pain is long term for the chicken, often making the chickens eat less and lose weight over several weeks.

All of this suffering occurs because agribusiness is trying to make the most money possible while producing the most chickens possible. The only painless way to stop chickens from creating vices is to minimize the amount of chickens in a given space. When chickens are more free to roam, they tend to practice the things they are instinctively created to do: dust bathes, scratch at the dirt, flap their wings, and create nests.

The only real way to ensure that chickens are given this freedom, this cessation from suffering, is to stop buying chickens. When the populace stops buying so many chickens for their own greedy consumption, then agribusiness will have no need to produce as many chickens. It is as simple as this. The general populace is directly funding and causing the suffering of chickens. As Singer relates, this is occurring to many other animals as well.


One of the smartest animals on the farm is the pig. The pig is actually known to be smarter than a dog; a dog being more intelligent than a young child. Like any animal with locomotive capabilities, pigs like to move around. Unfortunately, "Pigs in modern factory farms have nothing to do but eat, sleep, stand up, and lie down" (120). Like chickens, when pigs are confined in dimly lit, tight quarters, they too develop vices.

The pig's vices are biting each other's tails. In order to prevent this biting, farmers cut off the pig's tails. The USDA has some simple guidelines for such a process, "Tail docking has become a common practice to prevent tail biting of pigs in confinement. It should be done by all producers of feeder pigs" (121).

Like chickens there is a more humane solution to the vices of pigs. The obvious way is to give the pigs more room to move and roll around. However, another method farmers could establish are to provide the pigs with a variety of stimulating devices. "French research has shown that when deprived or frustrated pigs are provided with leather strips or chains to pull, they have reduced levels of corticosteroids (a hormone associated with stress) in their blood" (120). Stress indicates a form of suffering. Inhumane treatment causes suffering. Let the case be made that the mass production of pigs for our pork causes many animals to suffer.

Cows and Veal

Finally let us turn our attention to the production of beef; in this case further refined to veal. Veal is the flesh of a young calf. The flesh is paler than an older cow and more tender since the calf has not yet begun to eat grass. Since agribusiness receives the most money for veal products, it is in the farmer's interest to have the heaviest calf, while still ensuring that its flesh is considered veal. "In the 1950s veal producers in Holland found a way to keep the calf alive longer without the flesh become red or less tender. The trick depends on keeping the calf in highly unnatural conditions" (129). The unnatural conditions are necessary to ensure that the calf does not eat grass, procure any source of iron rich foods, or move around so as not to gain muscle.

Since veal is supposed to be a tender meat, muscles would ruin the texture. Also, a way to grade veal is by how pale the flesh tends to be. Iron darkens the flesh, so the calf is fed iron depleted foods. In order to ensure that the calves cannot move around, they are housed in a stall, "...each 1 foot 10 inches wide by 4 feet 6 inches long. ... The calves are tethered by a chain around the neck to prevent them from turning in their stalls..." (130).

The calves are not given hay to lay on in fear that they will eat it and darken their flesh. "They are fed a totally liquid diet, based on nonfat milk powder with vitamins, minerals, and growth-promoting drugs added" (130). Their cages are stripped of metal which may rust and provide the veal with the iron it craves. Because of this, the calves are seen licking the floor panels, which they defecate on, in order to try to nourish their bodies with the iron they need. This is how the calves live for up to sixteen weeks.

Factory Farms Cause Animal Suffering

These horrors and many others are shown to us in chapter three. We find that over and over again animals are made to suffer for the greedy taste sensations humans desire. Aside from the gruesome tales that occur on the factory farms, the animals eventually end up at slaughter houses in which they bear no better fate. The animals are made to suffer long trips without food to the slaughter houses.

Upon entering the slaughter houses, there is an attempt to knock or shock the animals unconscious for the preparation of the killing of the animal. This does not always occur, and oftentimes animals are fully conscious for their own bleeding out. Those animals that are not killed right away are hung up on conveyer belts by their hind legs. This is an awfully painful experience if you are a cow and your leg cannot support the weight of your body. Typically this results in dislocated limbs, severe panic, and in general a horrible end to life through suffering.

By the end of the chapter, we have been given all of the facts. All that the animals can hope for now is that people open their minds to the cruelty and suffering that happens down on the factory farm and to stop eating the flesh of other sentient beings. If no one eats meat anymore, agribusiness will have no need to massively produce the animals.

Arguments for Vegetarianism

Chapter four is about becoming a vegetarian and producing less suffering and more food at the reduced cost to the environment. The obvious reason for becoming a vegetarian is that it will help to eliminate the suffering of animals raised on factory farms. "Until we boycott meat, and all other products of animal factories, we are, each one of us, contributing to the continued existence, prosperity, and growth of factory farming and all the other cruel practices used in rearing animals for food" (162). However, Singer presents many other good reasons for become a vegetarian.

One reason why becoming a vegetarian is a step in a positive direction is because it is good for the overall environment and population of the world. "If a calf, say, grazes on rough pasture land that grows only grass and could not be planted with corn or any other crop that provides food edible by human beings, the result will be a net gain of protein for human beings" (164). Unfortunately, calves no longer graze in pastures and are made to stand in stalls and be fed whatever concoction the farmers brew up for them. These food stuffs that are fed to the cattle are foods that humans typically eat: corn, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, and sometimes fellow animals.

This is an inefficient means of obtaining protein. For example, take an acre of fertile land that can be used to grow high protein foods such as peas or beans. If we were to do this, we would get between three hundred and five hundred pounds of protein per acre. If, say, we were to use this land to feed animals such as cows or pigs, and then we killed the animals for protein, we would only be gaining about forty to fifty-five pounds of protein per acre. "So most estimates conclude that plant foods yield about ten times as much protein per acre as meat does" (165).

Clearly farming animals for protein is an inefficient means of production. "It takes twenty-one pounds of protein fed to a calf to produce a single pound of animal protein for humans" (165). By allowing agribusinesses to partake in these methods of farming, we are allowing them to waste the diminishing and valuable fertile land that can be used for high protein yielding foods.

To further the argument that the massive production of animals is hurting the environment and the population of the world, we should look and see why much of the great rain forests of Earth are being destroyed. "In Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil, in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, rainforests are being cleared to provide grazing land for cattle" (168). While almost 90 percent of the Earth's plant and animal species live in tropical forests, "...nearly half of Central America's tropical rainforests have been destroyed, largely to provide beef to North America" (169). The clearing of the forests pushes animals to extinction, hurts the oxygen and ozone layers of the Earth causing the greenhouse effect and an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causes erosion, creates flooding, and hurts the indigenous populations that live in or near the forests.

The end of the chapter pleads and implores people to become vegetarians. Aside from the destruction to Earth and the ridiculously moronic systems of obtaining protein, eating meat and dairy products is also a detriment to human health. The rest of the chapter gives guidelines as to how to become and sustain being a vegetarian. Vegetarianism is a healthier lifestyle for those who chose it. It also promotes the end of suffering to farm animals. As a physically, mentally, and morally better way of life, Singer asks that people reconsider their greedy and self indulgent life styles and consider procuring a better future for the own personal body as well as for the body of Earth and all its inhabitants.


Do You Still Believe the Fiction?

In chapter six, Singer defends his argument against the many speciesists who still want to assert that their self-indulgent life styles are adequate ways of living. Singer notes that most of our ideas about farm animals and where our food comes from are given to us through mainstream media. The media averts our attention away from the cruelties that occur on the farm and makes us believe that our chickens like their life styles and that cows and horses and pigs all live together on a wide open farm as one big happy family. To those who do become aware of what is happening, either they take a stand and change up their lifestyle, or they play the role of ignorance and prefer not to be concerned about the suffering of other sentient beings. "Ignorance has prevailed so long only because people do not want to find out the truth" (217).

As our minds our warped to believe that animals are nonsocial, nonintelligent, and nonfeeling beings, we begin to accept much of what is happening in the world around us. We rely on animal activists to picket for us. We go on believing that certain animals are cruel, such as the wolf, when in reality it is the human! People shrug off arguments about animal cruelty stating that animals attack and eat each other, so why is it wrong for us to do so? It is wrong because, "We have the capacity to reason about what is best to do" (225). Nonhuman animals are not capable of considering alternate methods of survival, both in their meals and in their environment.

Many of these arguments against vegetarianism relate similarly to that of the black-antebellum South, during the days of slavery. Arguments state that the natural environments of animals is far worse than the environments we place them in. One such author made the correlation of taking slaves out of Africa and showing them the modern world of America, "On the whole, since it is evident beyond all controversy that the removal of the Africans, from the state of brutality, wretchedness and misery, in which they are at home so deeply involved, to this land of light..." (227). Well, we all know how the slaves were treated on the way to American and how they were treated once they got into America. It was only after many people spoke out against the cruelty to a fellow sentient being that did slavery slowly diminished.

Recognizing Animal Rights Is Social Evolution

In conclusion, I think it is a process of human morality to slowly get rid of poor discriminations. In most civilized countries, we have eradicated racism. In most civilized countries we see or have seen a women's movement displacing sexism. Now, we are on the boat sailing to the horizon of the elimination of speciesism. There have been many arguments posed for speciesism, yet they all fail when facing the facts.

I think the most compelling of facts is that eating meat and animal dairy products is bad for the human body. If anything, this fact should be an indicator that what we are doing is wrong and unnatural. Also, I feel like the damage we are doing to the Earth in order to produce meat is also a compelling indicator that what we are doing is obviously wrong. One would think that it should not take long to figure out that our ways of producing protein are inefficient if we do so by means of cattle and hog. If anything, humans should find an equilibrium which minimizes the suffering of sentient beings and maximizes the food rations for the entire Earth.

Finally, and most gruesome of all, is the horrible ways we treat the animals we eat. It should be clear by now that these animals have interests--at the very least an interest not to suffer. We are directly objecting to the fulfillment of these animal's interests by continuing to allow agribusiness to produce meat. As we allow animals to continue to suffer in the fashion that we do, humans are a species that continue to grow more fat and more immoral. We shrug off or make ourselves ignorant to the facts of the horrible cruelty that is happening and the fact that we are directly funding it.

While I think the antispeciesist movement has definitely begun, I think we still have a long ways to go. Hopefully messages such as those in Animal Liberation can reach the ears of those who might care. Hopefully we will soon have a future of healthy vegetarians; people who care for other sentient beings as much as they do for themselves.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 JourneyHolm

Related Articles