The debate tournament was yesterday, and I received an honorable mention for winning 3/4 of my rounds, which means I was either 7, 8, or 9 out of 24. The entire day was so much fun, and my team did really well (one girl was 1st in my event, one set of partners was 6th in theirs, and another girl took 3rd in humorous interpretation even though there were two other people performing her same piece).
I'll post my pro case today, and then the con tomorrow. Next month's resolution is "Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist people in need," and any thoughts for either side are welcome.
Humans and chimpanzees share 98% of the same DNA. Chimps can use sign language to communicate with humans, and are even capable of using objects as symbols for more abstract concepts and then placing these symbols in order to convey messages. In short, chimpanzees can write. Dolphins are farther away from us in terms of genetics, but are listed by the Discovery Channel as the second most intelligent species on the planet. Elephants, the fourth, can empathize with each other--an ability which is considered one of the highest forms of intelligence.
Humans may be the most sophisticated creatures on the planet, but we are not the only intelligent ones, and we are not the only ones with the capacity for pain, love, lies, and even culture. For this reason and others, I affirm the resolution.
For clarity, I would like to define “animal rights” as “rights, as to fair and humane treatment, regarded as belonging fundamentally to all animals,” and “humane” as “inflicting as little pain as possible,” as supported by Merriam Webster and the World English Dictionary.
The context of the resolution asks for us to evaluate the requirements of justice with regard to a specific issue, therefore I value justice.
Justice, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “the maintenance or administration of what is just,” or actions and laws in accordance with what is merited. Suffering is only merited when the victim has done something wrong rather than when there is a simple lack of meritorious actions, and therefore my value criterion is that justice can be measured by the amount of undeserved and/or unnecessary suffering undergone by a given entity or group.
My thesis is that justice does indeed require the recognition of animal rights, because to ignore them is to allow unnecessary unmerited suffering, and that is certainly unjust.
Contention One: Insofar as a given species has similar capacities as humans, its members should be treated in a similar fashion.
Sub-point A: To discriminate on the basis of species when all relevant characteristics of the two species are the same is akin to discriminating against groups of humans on the basis of an arbitrary trait such as race.
Different breeds of animals are not treated differently, because while they may have different appearances and aptitudes, they are all, at heart, the same-- much as how no race of humans is inherently better than another.
In the same way, species above a certain level of genetic complexity are all treated with the same amount of respect. If a corporation is willing to factory farm one species, they are unlikely to have qualms about doing the same to another, just as an entity acting with consideration to one species on principle will act similarly in regard to others.
Here in the United States, our justice system operates under the assumption that humans have been “endowed with certain, unalienable rights,” and if we are to follow this type of thinking to its logical conclusion, in all of the ways that a given species of animal is on par with humans, those animals should be treated with the same respect and thoughtfulness as would be given to humans whenever possible.
Some governments are already taking action to rectify this ethical dilemma. In 2008, the Spanish parliament passed legislation declaring that since apes are humanity’s closest relatives, experience such emotions as love, fear, jealousy, and anxiety, and even lie to one another, they also deserve the rights to life, freedom, and protection from experimentation. Both Great Britain and New Zealand also forbid experimentation on primates.
If we are to discriminate against lifeforms with similar levels of sophistication based on a few traits arbitrary to the situation, there is no reason to stop us from doing so to other humans. This lack of justification demonstrates flawed moral logic. Not only does this treatment of animals cause them unnecessary and unmerited harm, but it also does them a disservice in terms of sensible fairness.
Sub-point B: Non-human animals can and do suffer from some of the same mental dysfunctions as humans, and therefore these mental conditions should be taken into consideration when decisions regarding wayward animals are made, just as they are with humans.
According to Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by neuroscientist David Eagleman, in 1903, an elephant named Topsy killed her three handlers at Coney Island, thirteen years later in a similar case, another elephant named Mary killed her keeper, and on August 20, 1994, a circus elephant named Tyke gored her groomer, trampled her trainer, and attacked her publicist. Topsy was electrocuted by Thomas Edison, Mary was executed in the world’s first and only elephant hanging, and Tyke was shot 86 times by policemen before she collapsed.
All three of these elephants were previously extremely well-behaved and never showed any sign of violence toward the humans with which they interacted, yet all were murdered without concern for their pain tolerance.
Such behavior was clearly not in the natures of any of the three elephants. According to Eagleman, something happened within their brains to set them off similar to the inexplicable motives behind the crimes of the mentally ill. Elephants are intelligent animals to the point that they are capable of being successfully trained to understand what behaviors are acceptable, and which are not. Therefore, they should be granted the same amnesty as humans in cases involving mental dysfunction if doing so would not put any involved humans in immediate danger. To do otherwise would be to inflict unnecessary, unmerited suffering, and would therefore be unjust.
Contention Two: Since inhumane treatment of animals is necessary for neither human survival nor human safety, it is unmerited suffering, and hence unjust.
A prime example is the way in which corporate hog factory farms function. Sows are considered a useless waste of resources if they are not either pregnant or nursing, and are not given breaks in which to recover in-between pregnancies. After being impregnated, they are confined to crates which are so small that they cannot even turn around. With no bedding in sight, many develop painful sores on their shoulders and knees. These pigs, who are normally very clean creatures, are forced to live surrounded by their own waste.
The air inside the containment facilities is filled with dust, dander, and gases from the animals’ waste. This puts the human employees at high risk for five different serious respiratory diseases, not to mention the pigs themselves who live in that environment 24/7.
Life is even worse for the piglets, who are subjected to mutilations such as tail-clipping and ear-notching without anesthesia before being taken away for fattening. A full tenth of these piglets die before they are three weeks old, and those who don’t are slaughtered at 6 months when they reach 250 pounds.
In addition, over 80,000 hogs die each year simply from overcrowding during transport. Why don’t the owners load fewer hogs onto each truck? Because it saves them 25 cents per pig.
These hogs have not done anything to warrant such treatment, and it is neither necessary for our well being nor for our consumption of the animals. If they are treated well while alive and are killed humanely with concern for their well-being, then they would no longer be the victims of unmerited suffering, and our corporations would be able to say that not only are they a successful company, but they are also a just one.
For these reasons, I affirm the resolution, and I now stand ready for cross-examination.