Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection

By Lisa H. Sideris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Darwinian Equality for All
Secular Views of Animal Rights and Liberation

If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that
suffering into consideration.… The limit of sentience is the only defensible
boundary of concern for the interests of others.

—Peter Singer, Animal Liberation

There are times, and these are not infrequent, when tears come to my eyes when
J see, or read, or hear of the wretched plight of animals in the hands of hu-
mans. Their pain, their suffering, their loneliness, their innocence, their death.
Anger. Rage. Pity. Sorrow. Disgust. The whole creation groans under the
weight of the evil we humans visit upon these mute, powerless creatures. The
fate of animals is in our hands. God grant us we are equal to the task.

—Tom Regan, "The Radical Egalitarian Case for Animal Rights"

In the present chapter we turn from a discussion of ecological theology and examine some important arguments in secular ethics regarding human obligations toward other forms of life. Animal rights and liberation arguments flourished in the 1970s in the wake of civil rights movements and a surge of interest in ecological issues. A link to civil rights concepts is apparent in Peter Singer and Tom Regan's arguments, both of which extend to animals certain ethical categories and assumptions traditionally restricted to human beings. The concept of rights, of course, has a long and rich history in Western social and political thought. Regan's argument is both modest and radical in its claim that this concept ought to include most—and perhaps all—nonhuman animals as well. Singer's ethics, and especially his concept of persons, also involves expanding traditional categories of human interests and capacities to include (most) animals. Thus Regan and Singer take an approach

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