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When it comes down to family, many consider their pets to be a member of it—some take it as far as to create social media accounts of their pets with their family name included. However, when it comes down to other animals—such as rats and chickens—the same family members would most likely find it okay to do medical testing on them or to slaughter them in order to eat them for dinner, while they are not so different to those they consider family—they are all animals, just as author of “Animals Like Us” Hal Herzog stated in his article that “[he] opposes testing the toxicity of oven cleaner and eye shadow on animals, but [he] would sacrifice a lot of mice to find a cure for cancer” (247).“Animals Like Us” discusses the conflicting and often contradictory points of views individuals tend to have when it comes down to animal ethics. There are common moral complexities when deciding whether or not it is acceptable to kill another species’ for the benefit of humans. While there may be different extents to consider, when deciding how to approach and treat animals, people should recognize animals’ sentience, ability to reproduce, and level of the hierarchy ladder.
One of the many similarities that humans and animals have is their ability to feel emotion and pain; however, it is one quality that also varies between different kinds of animals. Dogs and cats have been known to demonstrate affection towards their owners—some even call the dog to be a man’s best friend—, and in many cases, help their owners emotionally through comforting them during stressful times. On the other hand, dogs and cats are also known to demonstrate personal emotions, such as depression and happiness when certain situations in their personal lives take place. Through the clear demonstration of positive and negative emotions, humans have considered it inhumane to slaughter and/or test on the common family pet. However, just because dogs and cats tend to be better at proving their sense of emotion does not mean that other animals that are considered food, such as fish and cows, do not carry the feelings as well. Animals such as fish have proven to have emotional abilities; however, different kinds of animals may have and demonstrate affection to different extents and with a lower sense of awareness and understanding of the situations. For example, while it is commonly undesirable to observe a lobster being boiled alive in order to provide food for humans, they do not go through the painful mental process that many individuals believe. Due to such low levels of awareness, the lobster is only able to feel the high temperature of the boiling water, but not understand that a human has trapped them in there and that they need to get out. Through the low levels of expression and awareness, it is emotionally easier for humans to cook a lobster than the common household pet that would understand the dangerous situation that they are being placed in. Herzog includes in his article “Animals Like Us” how Judith Black, a vegetarian with anthropology Ph. D, did not consider fish as animals, therefore, acceptable to eat. “They just didn’t feel like animals to her. So for the next fifteen years, this intuitive biological classification system enabled Judith to think of herself as a vegetarian, yet still experience the joys of smoked Copper River salmon and lemon-grilled swordfish” (242). Herzog demonstrates this kind of conflicting view in his article when stating that animals with “a huge brain and a big heart” (247), tend to be the ones that obtain genuine care from individuals, rather than a mindset of utilizing them for their nutritional and medical benefits. When considering ethics, it is fairer to use an animal that has little sentience when in comparison to most other animals due to it experiencing a lesser amount of emotional pain than those who are self-aware and express their emotions in a continuous and clear manner.
Aside from an animal’s ability to demonstrate emotion, their physical ability to reproduce may have an effect on which animals are chosen to feed humans and help them succeed in medical research. Humans are found to be one of the slowest at creating offspring. While it may take a rat twenty-one days to give birth to eight to twelve other rats, it takes a human thirteen times that time to deliver a single child, creating a different sense of value between the species. When deciding whether it is ethical to choose a certain animal for an experiment or nutrients for humans, their population, survival rate, and ability to reproduce should be considered as a determining factor. A species that is in any danger of becoming extinct should not be considered for any type of process that could endanger the animals even further. If an animal, such as rats or fish—which reproduce copious offspring at a time within a small timespan—is found to be of beneficial use for the human race, and can do so painlessly, with mild discomfort, minor and short-lived pain, and/or humanely, it should be morally acceptable—though not pleasurable—to be utilized. Through this manner of determining which animals could be in use for humans, the loss of one could be replaced with a copious amount of others of its kind rather than deteriorating it and creating a critical and major loss. For example, disregarding all emotional attachments and morals, if a human life is lost in an experiment, not only would it create a major loss of the benefits that society obtained from that single individual—such as a job—, but it would take a minimum of nine months for that person to be replaced—if it could. Furthermore, animals such as rats, all serve the same purpose for society and can easily be replaced by another rat due to the overabundance of offspring that come from the same parents and the small amount of time that is needed to create more. Therefore, the more an animal is able to reproduce and the farther they are from becoming an endangered species, the more is should be considered morally acceptable to be of beneficial use, as long as all the steps taken to obtain the benefits are performed in a humane manner.
In regards to species’ values, humans are considered to be at the top of the species hierarchy pyramid. Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that plants occupied the bottom of the hierarchy ladder, and humans as the highest, while animals were in the middle. Due to humans’ superior intelligence and functions to other species’ they are found at the top and consider it to be critical to maintain the human race durable and use all morally acceptable resources possible to benefit and strengthen the race. Not only is the need to maintain the human species intact solely beneficial for humans themselves, but also beneficial for other species as well as humans continue to create advancements that benefit both themselves and animals. For example, so far, humans have created sanctuaries for animals ranging from household pets to wildlife. Animal shelters and wildlife sanctuaries are places where humans take in said animals that could potentially die if released to be with no human care. When deciding which animals are morally acceptable to consume and to experiment on, animals that assist people to a certain extent while they are living should be disregarded when considering which animals are chosen. For instance, many dogs have the title of being “service dogs,” which are dogs that help individuals with disabilities, such as visual impairment, mobility impairment, hearing impairment, and mental illnesses. Due to dogs already having the reputation of being already crucially beneficial to humans, it is most likely the reason as to why they are considered less morally acceptable to sacrifice as a subject to eat or experiment on, while other animals such as scorpions and rats do not; they may benefit people in some manner, but not to the extremities as dogs and cats may do. Moreover, as previously stated, a human’s slow rate of creating offspring affects their desperate need to strengthen their race. Due to the less amount of availability to reproduce, people are of more value and cause each individual to do what they can to protect themselves.
It is impossible to discontinue all use of animals for human benefits, such as providing food or being subjects to medical advancement studies; therefore, while it will continue to happen regardless, it should do so with ethics and morals. An animal’s emotional attachment is one of the major reasons as to why it is so much easier to sacrifice an animal that lacks ability of demonstrating emotions, than one that is known to go to the extents of sacrificing themselves in order to take care of others—such as people that find themselves in need of staying ahead of all other species. Not only is it an animal’s ability to show whether they are upset or happy, but also their capability to be aware of their surroundings and comprehend the situation that they are currently in. One who is unaware and unable to understand why they are where they are and why they are going through a certain situation makes them less emotionally affected by the situation; therefore, making it more humane and understanding to use those animals when it is necessary, rather than one that suffers emotionally and physically through the experiences they might be put through while being experimented on or slaughtered. A species that is endangered of going extinct should never be under consideration of being placed in unnecessary danger, making animals that reproduce surprisingly easily and fast more of qualifying candidates for beneficial situations for humans. Finally, as humans find themselves at the superior species and at the top of Aristotle’s species hierarchy pyramid, they utilize other animals inferior to them in order to thrive and continue as a strong species’, not only because of selfish reasons, but because they are in need of by other animals to help them survive as well. Although it is a delicate and continuously contradictory subject, certain animals have to be given up in order to grow a stronger society. Animals’ deaths are not in vane, but serve great advancements for different species.
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