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The Place of Non Humans in Environmental Issues

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Submitted By matt2120
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Matthew Adams
Business Ethics
12, Oct 2014
Final Essay

The Place of Nonhumans in Environmental Issues

Peter Singers essay titled “The Place of Nonhumans in Environmental Issues”, focuses on a general question. How the effects of our actions should figure in our deliberations on what we ought to do in regards to nonhuman beings, or generally speaking, animals and our environment.
Speciesism is defined as “involving the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership”.
Simply put, we humans consider ourselves while discounting the effects of our actions on the nonhumans. When a new roadway is to be built that may directly interfere with
Elk habitat, or a dam that is to be built where salmon flood the river during spawning season, we do a cost benefit analysis. But, when we do the analysis, we rarely figure in the impact on the surrounding wildlife and only figure the benefits to human beings. A new roadway will help us travel to work faster, but interferes with the surrounding wildlife that lives in these areas. And a new dam will help power hundreds of new homes, while decimating the already low salmon numbers. We humans calculate our benefit, while discounting the effects of our actions on nonhumans and the environment.

We can use the example of the past racist white slave owners of the South.
These slave owners only were concerned with benefiting themselves and those of their white race, while never considering the interests of their black slaves whom lived in destitute, forced to work long hard hours to benefit only the racist white slave owner with free labor and cleanly harvested fields.
Why is it that we hold a species such as dogs below ourselves? Because we are more intelligent? Just because one species is more intelligent than another does not give one the right to enslave, exploit or disregard them based on the idea that they are a lesser species. It is up to us as individuals to take a moral stance, and look out for those whom cannot speak for their interests and realize that for every action we take on this planet there is and always will be a reaction.
Peter Singers principle of equal consideration of interests points at the very value of one’s life over that of a nonhuman. Such example would be someone having to make the choice between saving the life of a human over a dog, that, when given equal consideration of interest, one would choose to save the human as the human is more aware. The human would suffer more, knowing what was coming, and we have to consider the loved ones left behind and the emotional pain that it would cause. But, he also states that if the human involved in this scenario were mentally deficient, and without family to grieve over the loss, we may choose the dog in this case.
The more positive side of the case for equal consideration of interest, lies in the case when interests are equal, they must be given equal weight. The area in which humans and nonhumans share an equal interest lies in avoiding physical pain. Peter also states that it is not equal to hit a horse with a stick and compare it to hitting a

human with a stick, as the horse has a thick hide, and thus the horse would suffer less pain than his human counterpart. The principle holds between similar amounts of pain between human and nonhuman. It of course would vary on a case by case basis.
In the majority of households around the country we consume the flesh of other animals as a regular part of our daily diet. But, according to Mr. Singer we eat animals merely out of pleasure of our palate, as we do not need to eat meat as a part of our diet.
The proteins that are essential to a healthy diet can be found in that of soy beans and other high protein vegetable supplements.
The act of killing the animals alone is not the single indication of what we are ready to do to another species in order to please our taste buds. But the conditions and the suffering we inflict on them is a clear indication of speciesism. Our society tolerates poor living conditions in order to satisfy not only our insatiable desire for meat, but out pocket books as well. The majority of the public is not willing to throw down a few extra bucks for meat raised on a farm where the animal was free to walk about, away from its cage. Most hens in commercial egg production facilities will never see the light of day, share a small cage with four or five other hens, live in deplorably unsanitary environments, and may never get to stretch their wings. These are the conditions we have accepted in order to keep the price point low enough for us to buy these products.
Since these practices cater to our taste rather than need, Peter believes that it is morally wrong for us to continue eating meat. That the continued practice of raising animals to kill and eat is a clear sign of speciesism. Where we are putting our interests over that of other species in order to satisfy our own trivial needs.

As for myself I can agree with some of Mr. Singer’s thoughts on this subject matter. As I have decided recently to pursue my degree in Environmental Science rather than Information Technology. First I will start with what I agree with.
I can agree in part with Mr. Singer in regards to his views on speciesism.
Specifically the degradation of lands. All too often I see hundreds of acres of forest land clear cut for our insatiable need for wood products. We seem to give no thought to the hundreds of species that call that forest land home. Here in Western Washington, we are surrounded by hundreds of square miles of forests, rivers, mountains and lakes. Yet year after year we are losing more land to new housing developments and roadway construction projects that encroach on wildlife. Yet, the same people that complain about deforestation and our encroachment of wildlife, are also the same people buying houses in these neighborhoods. They are also the same people that call me a murderer because I hunt big game animals for sustenance, not trophy’s.
Yet they do not realize that when human activity such as the building of neighborhoods and deforestation pushes animals into new territory, the animals have a shortened food supply, due to the overabundance of one particular species. As a hunter, I feel that what we do is critical for the eco system so long as human interference continues to destroy their environment. Thinning the herds is a crucial part that we as hunters play in the balance. Without it, animals starve to death over the long winters due to a shortened food supply. In Washington State, Fish and Game estimates that between deer, elk and bear populations, over ten percent of the animals will die over the winter due to starvation.

Mr. Singer fails to recognize in his essay that the majority of hunters are conservationists, and hold a high regard and respect for the animals we take in order to be self-sufficient. Without organizations like Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain
Elk Foundation, huge populations of these animals would be decimated due to human development and interference. These organizations have purchased hundreds of thousands of acres for the conservation of these animals for future generations.
I also do not agree with the fact that Mr. Singer made the point that "in fact hunting and shooting are likely to contribute more to the benefit side of the calculations because larger sums of money are spent on them, and they therefore benefit manufacturers and retailers of firearms as well as the hunters and shooters themselves”. I think that aside from the purchase of firearms, we as hunters also pay for hunting licenses and harvest tags. These items purchased go directly to the conservation of the environment we hunt and fish in. For the majority of hunters, they won’t even harvest an animal in any given year. But still financially support conservation of wild animals in our home states and protection of our hunting and fishing rights through the purchase of licenses.
I find it acceptable to experiment on certain species of animals. Rats and mice are very abundant in numbers and are widely used in experimentation. These experiments have the potential to better the lives of human beings. I suppose one would have to weigh the life of a rat or mouse against that of a human. In equal consideration of interests, the human wins every time. But when we start to talk about experimentation on monkeys, a creature that is more self-aware than that of a rat, my opinion changes.

Maybe someday we will not have to experiment on animals, but for the time being it is all we have to continue to push the progress of our species forward.

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