Peter Singer: Sentience vs Self-Conciousness Essay

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“Explain Singer's distinction between sentience and self-consciousness, and what the distinction implies for the moral status of animals. Do you believe non-human animals have the same or a different moral status to human animals? Explain the basis of your answer.” More than three decades ago Peter Singer heralded the need for a new kind of liberation movement, one calling for a radical expansion of the human moral canvas and more importantly, a rejection of the horrors human beings have inflicted for millennia upon other sentient beings, treatment historically considered as being both natural and unalterable. Often regarded as being the father of the modern animal liberation movement, Singer contends that the campaign for animal…show more content…
Birth and death therefore cancel each other out whereas the death of an animal with a desire for prolonged life means that their death inflicts a loss for which the birth of another does not wholly atone for. (1993, p. 126) This Singer refers to as the 'replacability argument' which effectively seeks to draw a distinction between classes of sentient life forms. According to Singer, those animals which are not self-conscious are replaceable whilst those which are self-concious are not. If an animal is not self-concious then painlessly killing it and replacing it with an equally happy animal of the same species is considered to be morally permissible. However, if a human is self-concious then to painlessly kill one with a desire for continued existence and again replacing it with an equally happy human being would still be regarded as wrong. While practices such as factory farming are still regarded by Singer as being ethically indefensible, he concedes that there is no absolute moral requirement for humans to not eat meat so long as the animal “[has] a pleasant existence in a social group suited to their [behavioural] needs, and are then killed quickly and without pain.” (1990, p. 229-230) Singer's strongest arguments for the equal consideration of animals

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