Animals consider their own existence

Animal ethics. Should living beings be treated differently from humans?


The demarcation of humanity from other living beings

Common essence of people and living beings

Moral obligation

Practice of morality


The demarcation of humanity from other living beings

Humans and animals or other living beings are viewed as fundamentally different in our society today. This has been conveyed for generations, but why is this distinction so persistent? Is it human egocentrism, anthropocentrism, arrogance, fact or a lack of questioning and repression? A significant factor is the upbringing that sets values ​​and norms without the offspring being able to question this at a young age and now ignorance and repression protect these issues from critical observation for future generations.

Even our everyday slang expressions make it clear that living beings in our western society are assigned a completely different status than humans. So usually comes first the divine, next is the human being as his likeness and only then does the animate world. A distinction is made through the use of different words: people are pregnant, while animals, on the other hand, are referred to as pregnant. Humans eat, give birth and die, while animals eat, throw and perish. This linguistic quality is mutually constituted, so that a process of reflection is made more difficult.

In addition, the question arises why there are other hierarchies within the living world from the point of view of people. Wild animals, for example, have a different relationship, a different way of handling and different rights than farm animals, which in turn are classified as less worthy of attention than domestic animals. Some species, such as the domesticated dogs and canaries, are selected as animal companions according to criteria such as the ability to bond, tame or aesthetics, in order to enable people to be entertained or to create an emotional bond. It has become rare that pets also have to serve a primarily useful purpose. Therefore, a clear distinction is made between farm animals, such as cows and sheep: The consumption and exploitation of their forces and their bodies is a fixed, recognized part of our society, but the question is rarely asked to what extent this hierarchy is ethically justified. Why, then, can man take out the right to decide about the freedom of other living beings? Are we still subject to the primeval “right” of the stronger or is it pure ignorance for an end in itself?

In the western tradition, the human being is seen as the center of our existence, which in turn brings with it a discrimination against other living beings, a so-called “speciesism”.1 In eastern countries and in many indigenous tribes, however, a connection between the animal and the divine, such as totem animals, which are often limited to one species, but also refer to the entire animate world for followers of nature spirits, is common. In your understanding, animals are the likenesses or messengers of the divine, to which these people submit and grant the animals their own rights, so that they are neither locked up nor consumed or used for their own benefit. The only exceptions are sacrificial rituals in honor of the gods2.

In the western world, on the other hand, the processes and grievances, especially those of livestock husbandry, are only so accessible in daily life to a very small number of people that they have passed into active consciousness. The transformation from the living animal, to which an emphatic bond can only be ignored with difficulty in direct encounter, to the end product as food cuts off any ethical reference if no personal initiative is taken to become conscious. A significant factor here is again the upbringing and subconscious processes that make this appear morally justifiable when confronted with business-oriented advertising3. Justification strategies that have been learned once are called up again and again out of convenience, as behavioral retraining. Buying and eating habits, as well as the renunciation of group effects, require a sustained effort4. This in turn leads to serious implementation errors and ignorance, as well as devastating disparities between knowledge and action in spite of existing explanations.

Common essence of people and living beings

If one contrasts humanity with other predators, it becomes clear that animals can only satisfy their needs at the expense of other living beings, and herbivores at the expense of flora, until these are met. People, on the other hand, know no limit in this regard, on the one hand they place luxury needs that are not necessary for survival above such as hunger, tiredness and thirst, so that living resources are consumed for reasons such as power, security and the desire for luxury and on the other hand, exploitation is not prevented after these have been satisfied. There is an imbalance of usufructuary, in which people feel that they are the legitimate rulers of their environment: “We animals only look for enjoyment in connection with benefit; but you are more after enjoyment than the natural amount of food you are punished for by a lot of serious illnesses ... "5

So to whom should moral intrinsic value be assigned? Is it at all justifiable to decide about other (s) without consent, without communication being possible? Is the ability to communicate or the ability to feel an exclusion criterion for ethical rights?

Humans should in any case not behave differently than other living beings: What is needed may be taken, whereby naturally "damage" to the environment does not fail, but this contributes to a steady state of the ecosystems. On the other hand, an excessive exploitation of any raw material and living being beyond the fulfillment of the basic needs necessary for survival, i.e. for the purposes of luxury, should be avoided as far as possible. If there is a choice as to which form of existence is used for one's own necessary purposes, for example when choosing the form of food, only the source that is least harmed should be used. On the one hand, the source should be sustainable insofar as it is renewable, i.e. it can grow back and also does not have to suffer unnecessarily: the plant world can be preferred to the animal world, as plants are probably less sensitive. In addition, the plants should, if possible, not be harvested or cut off completely so that the remaining part of the plant can continue to flourish unhindered.

The question arises who is in need of protection for what in our world. Since no single living being can evade the violence and power of humans due to modern technology and the multitude and assaults of humans, both plant and animal living beings are defenseless. In this sense, every living being that cannot defend itself should be protected from harmful influences.

Why should only human rights be protected from direct and indirect torture? Why should there be different morals for each form of life? A defining feature of morality is that it is so abstract and general that it is applicable to any specific situation. Thus, every form of life should also be abstracted to what is common to all of them: Every living being is a subject that has an intrinsic value, and thus a "subject-of-a-life"6. In this point all are equal, since all subjects in the world and are aware of this and want to avoid suffering and vitality is essential for all, regardless of how others feel about it. In addition, in order to be able to feel pain at all, a spiritual experience in the form of conscious perception of the feeling of it must take place, so that all living beings capable of pain must be conscious7.

Individuals should not be inferred from the average ability of some kind to feel, as this would not be fair for all. A capacity for suffering and a level of (self) awareness can thus be assessed, but not discussed8. Morals must therefore be uniform and adapted to individuals. However, it is absolutely necessary to be aware of your physicality, a pure consciousness on a spiritual level is not enough, as the body always has a connection to the soul9 ? Since the existence of consciousness, as well as the sensation of pain in animals as well as in plants, for example through chemical reactions to injuries, cannot be ruled out, it must be assumed that every subject is permeated with consciousness. To what extent This commonality with people therefore suggests that there is a need for unified rights.

Moral obligation

The implementation of fundamental rights like these becomes difficult as soon as different interests and needs are in conflict. How should the importance of different claims be compared and weighted here? So when a decision has to be made that in any case restricts the freedom of another individual, the question arises whose freedom is more important - that of another person, or that of another living being. If survival has to be ensured, in this case the entire system, with all its living components, should be viewed as a complex and stability and sustainability should be the goal of finding a compromise. The moral weighting for several factors should otherwise be utilitarian and in any case take into account the sum of the joy / pain of the living beings, whereby each individual affected must be assessed10while nonetheless all living, conscious beings must have rights.

So to what extent the moral responsibility extends, whether everyone only has to look after themselves and then everyone is thought of, or this responsibility should also extend to all other living beings, must be clarified and part of social education: The direct and indirect duties Our environment and how it is carried out determine our dignity, our basic moral security11. Our intuitive morality must therefore flow into our actions as a regulative effect, while the educational influences are reflected and the active personality is shaped by this awareness. Thus it would be more justified, even overdue, to assign the living beings of our society their own rights as necessary. Based on the existing basic human rights12 a set of rules for exemplary rights for living beings should be presented:

- §A "All living beings are equal (entitled) and free from birth."

Living beings should also be free from birth and have rights from that day on. However, due to the diversity of species in the living world, it is difficult to speak of equality; this should be in relation to the equality of all their rights.

- §B "No way of life may be discriminated."

No distinction should be made between living things: insects should be treated just as carefully as mammals and plants. A blanket agreement of sensory abilities or perceptual abilities is not legal, as these components, as well as consciousness, cannot be sufficiently proven with our previous research technology.

- §C "Every living being has the right to life."

No living being may be arbitrarily killed unless there is another solution: Instead of resorting to sentient living beings to eat, other foods should be preferred. In the event of an absolute necessity, such as a stock reduction to maintain the ecological balance, a painless procedure must be chosen and an ethics officer must be present during the decision. Plants, too, must not be killed unless absolutely necessary, which means that they should be harvested sustainably and, if they need to be disposed of, the affected plant should be relocated. However, if this proves not to be feasible, a new, similar plant should be planted in any case, which is then subject to absolute protection against killing.


1 P Singer, ethics and animals, an extension of ethics beyond our own species In: Tierethik, Grundlagentexte, 2017, p.77

2 SFreud, Totem und Tabu, p. 30 ff

3 Kerrygold shows free-range husbandry, while mass stable husbandry is suppressed.

4 G Funke, J Schmandt, Habit Archive for Conceptual History, 1961

5 Plutarch, 2015, Can you eat animals? Thoughts from Antiquity, Reclam No. 19313, p.120

6 T Regan, From Human Rights to Animal Rights, In: Tierethik, Grunlagentexte, 2017, p.101

7 G L. Francione, sentience, taken seriously. In: Tierethik, Grundlagentexte, 2017. P. 168

8 E Anderson, Animal Rights and the Different Values ​​of Non-Human Life, In: Tierethik, Grunlagentexte, 2017, p.287ff

9 Reference to: C Korsgaard, Interacting with animals: A Kantian approach, In: Tierethik, Grunlagentexte, 2017 pp.269ff

10 P Singer, ethics and animals, an expansion of ethics beyond our own species In: Tierethik, Grundlagentexte, 2017, p.78ff

11 C Korsgaard, Interacting with Animals: A Kantian Approach, In: Tierethik, Grunlagentexte, 2017 pp.272ff

12 Basic Law Articles 1-19

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