February 24, 2024

The singer’s response is “speciesism,” which means “bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species.” Like racism and sexism, speciesism denies equal consideration in order to maintain a status quo convenient for the oppressors. The court, when considering the confinement of elephants and chimpanzees, concedes that such animals have many qualities that give humans legal standing, but has declined to follow through on the implications of this fact. This is obvious because if animals deserved the same consideration as humans, then billions of persons would be living awful, almost unimaginably horrible lives. Equal consideration does not mean equal treatment. As a utilitarian, Singer’s aim is to minimize the suffering in the world and maximize the pleasure in it, inviting and often demanding choices. Singer does not object to killing mosquitos (if done quickly), using animals for scientific research that would dramatically relieve suffering, or eating meat if doing so would save your life. What he would not agree with is making choices based on perceived intelligence or emotion. In a decision about whether to eat chicken or pork, it is not better to choose chicken simply because pigs seem smarter. Nussbaum’s new book “Justice for Animals” attempts to settle on the ideal philosophical template for animal rights. Nussbaum is interested in animals’ inner lives and desires, arguing for her “capabilities approach” as the ideal framework for animal rights. Martha Nussbaum states some conditions for nonhuman flourishing. These include a natural life span, social relationships, freedom of movement, bodily integrity, and play and stimulation. She argues we should wonder at animals such as chickens or pigs, show compassion for their existence, and get angry when they face corporate obstacles. Martha Nussbaum’s boldest position is that wild animals should also be represented by fiduciaries and be ensured the same flourishing as any other creature. Animal-rights writing tends to elide the issue of wild-animal suffering for obvious reasons, but Nussbaum advocates pressing the question and finding innovative solutions. The enduring challenge for any activist is to dream of almost-unimaginable justice and to make the case to nonbelievers that these dreams are practical. Animal-rights activism is particularly challenging. It’s easy to construct a straw-man vegan, and it’s difficult to balance one’s ideals with common sense. Singer emphasizes that animal-rights activism should pursue the diminishment of suffering, not the achievement of sainthood.