Regan begins his argument by stating that the system which allows us to view animals as a resource is fundamentally wrong, (p.1). Viewing animals as a resource does not necessarily have to be perceived as something wrong. One may identify animals as a resource from a positive point of view. Regan seems to convey this position by appealing to the sentimentality a pet owner may feel toward a pet. Someone may argue that a pet is not necessarily considered a resource. Another argument contrary to that may reason a pet is a resource as it provides the owner with temporal enjoyment; relatively similar to a product bought at a local store, and after all, an animal may be purchased in an identical way as a product.
A respectable reason one may raise is the issue of life. Regan’s position is animals should not be killed or mistreated in any way because they have equal inherent moral rights as humans. It is agreeable that animals should not be mistreated, but only to an extent. Yes, animals are living beings as humans are living beings or rather, living to be. But is the argument of life enough to persuade people of an extreme position as Regans? The NRCS states that “animals both large and small are a critical component to our environment. Domesticated animals, such as livestock, provide us food, fiber, and leather. wild animals, including birds, fish, insects, and pollinators, are important to support the web of activity in a functioning ecosystem.” This statement by the NRCS may lead some to believe the US Department of Agriculture views these elements of life as resources. Perhaps that is their position, and it is not necessarily negative to state they are all-natural resources essential to balance out the world’s natural ecosystem. But on the issue of life, insects and plants are also elements that contain life. Why not share equal reasonable defense for them as well? Why the strong bias on non-human animals alone? There is an obvious lack of consistency.
A worthy issue Regan raises is the issue of pain. His logic is as follows; humans feel pain and so do animals. It is wrong to inflict forceful unwanted pain on humans; therefore, it is wrong to inflict forceful unwanted pain on animals as well. The argument is logical but may not be as valid as it seems, since it appears to be within the field of a false dichotomy. There are reasons other than negative motives someone may deliver unwanted pain or death to either humans or non-human animals. For example, would Regan contest against putting an animal to sleep or giving painful treatment to relieve pain and suffering? The same question can be reasonably applied to humans as well.
Regan’s view of contractarianism as it relates to animals is that only non-human animal pain is relevant, and if one holds to this view then they are immoral. Regan does not exactly claim someone as immoral for supporting contractarianism, but it is the implication some may interpret as they read through his writing. Regan implicates that contractarianism is unfair to the animals since they cannot mutually agree to the contract. Only the humans who are the signatories make the stipulations and the non-human animals are affected whether it harms them or not. Regan’s rationality is acceptable on that particular matter. It may be agreeable among philosophers that contractarianism can be refined; nevertheless, contractarianism seems to convey rational justification for using animals as resources to sustain human life.
The human species is obviously the dominant species of the two. Not to advocate for speciesism, but since humans have been the dominant species for thousands of years, there seem to be few practical options. Either humans do with animals anything they will, or humans adhere to Regan’s extreme animal rights movement, or humans can regulate the amount of suffering on animals by way of contractarianism, or a form of social contract. Such suggestions are not unreasonable. It is humans who have fought through the conflicts of life to establish moral reasoning and concepts for each other. Such philosophies have become dogmatic laws. If there is to be a regulated treatment for animals, which there is, then it becomes human’s responsibility to extend human moral rights to animals. If one is to argue animals have an inherent moral right not given by humans, then by who? Humans can account where they receive their inherent moral rights, either from God as creator, or by social autonomous self. Non-human animals cannot claim intellectual autonomy; therefore, for non-human animals, they receive their moral rights by way of extensions from humans who have developed the insight and accepted the moral responsibility to extend it to animals.
Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights.
United States Department of Agriculture. Natural Resource Conservation Service. Plants and
06 Jun 2019.