Originally Posted by Sevenseas
Whether it's okay to put some people in a gas chamber may strike someone as an extremely complicated area of ethics too, but for some other people, it's relatively simple, and the complexities involve other ethical issues, like abortion or euthanasia.
And I disagree with Peter Singer.
Well, you are correct, it's not so simple for humans either. Why is it wrong to kill another human being? Obviously, any religion is going to have it as a part of the code (and some, like Hinduism and Buddhism, will have edicts against killing animals, as well).
But what if we reject morality and ethics coming from the 'divine?' What if we don't believe in the divine? Well, then, it becomes a lot harder. We're back to liberal state of nature arguments. I don't kill you because it's actually in my self-interest, lest I be killed to. I don't cheat, steal, etc. for the same reasons.
We can ratchet this further up to a utilitarian ethic, in that the vast majority of humanity benefits from such a moral code (I do note that there are severe problems with this view, as espoused by Dostoevsky, for example). Indeed, Hitler precisely argued this point that:
a) the vast majority of humanity would be better with Jews being dead
b) that the opinion of the Jews did not matter since they weren't human species
Neither was even closely tenable, which is why Hitler's utilitarian ethic here wasn't at all, and thus could not be considered anything else but breaking that code.
So human rights are just convenience rights - there is nothing intrinsic about them. The problem is that either self-interest or the utilitarian ethic don't necessarily work for animal rights. Animals don't cheat or steal from me, and they're extremely unlikely to kill me. So from a purely self-interested point, I may not owe them anything. One could make an argument that humanity as a whole hurts from production of meat and makes some people starve, but while this may be viewed as the utilitarian ethic, it still does not speak of animal rights, or even of cutting out meat completely.
Now, I'm not swayed by this, myself. I do think that there are intrinsic rights for humans and that many of them extend to animals, too. But I don't see a way I can extend this argument without making certain assumptions and leaps that others may very well find questionable. Certainly, nothing close to these classic liberal tenets (which, as I acknowledge, sometimes have deeply troubling conclusions). I'm a bit of a neo-Platonist on this question and do hold that there are buried universal truths about these questions, but I concede I don't know where these universal truths could come from.
There is a definite emotional element here for me, as well, and my opinion is that a person's viscera reacts far more violently upon seeing the 'spectacle' of factory farming, than it does by trying to convince that person that eating meat is intrinsically wrong.
Just my $0.02.