Animal Rights and Human Rights: Is it Time To Connect the Two?

Animal Rights and Human Rights: Is it Time To Connect the Two? September 10, 2009

Andrew Linzey is one of the most prolific writers on animals from a Christian perspective. In his newest book, Why Animal Suffering Matters, he offers (among other reflections) a much-needed critique of Peter Singer. While recognizing the fact that Singer has raised the issue of animal rights in the moderna era, Linzey points out that Singer’s own treatment of humanity contradicts his stand on animal rights. That is, he points out that Singer’s support for abortion, and even the killing of infants outside of the womb, ends up justifying the abuse of animals. Because Singer thinks it is acceptable to destroy one helpless form of life, he has already accepted the notion that other helpless forms of life (the rest of the animal world in relation to humanity) are free game. To protect animal rights, the rights of human children need to be enforced. Linzey points out that Singer’s justification is utilitarian – but once utilitarian justifications are accepted, human abuse of other animals becomes acceptable along similar lines.

It is a sad fact that many Christians have not examined the question of animal rights, because, if they did so, and embraced (within a proper perspective, of course) it would help, not hinder, human rights. It would help us realize the travesty of abortion that much more. As long as the world is seen as a playing field to be controlled for our benefit, utilitarian arguments for abortion will continue to have a place of value in our society. Our treatment of animals is just one example of this. Our treatment of our children is another. The treatment of both show the poor spiritual condition of our society today.

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