In his article “All Animals are Equal”, Singer (1989) argues in support of animal rights. He claims that the tendency to view animals as creatures that do not deserve the same rights as humans is just as wrong as denying people’s rights based on their skin color on gender. He calls this notion ‘speciesism’, the term for people’s willingness to allow “the interests of [they’re] own species to override the greater interests of members of other species” (Singer, 1989, p. 152). Singer proposes that to stop speciesism, people have to stop looking for similarities and to give equal rights and treatment to all species regardless of the actual differences between them and us (Singer, 1989, p. 149).
The author starts with a brief history of the struggle against racism and sexism, only to introduce the point that these are not the last remaining forms of discrimination (Singer, 1989, p. 148). He emphasizes the idea that in contemporary philosophy, equality is the basic moral principle, regardless of the past practices that undermined the rights of certain groups. Singer acknowledges the fact that the idea of giving equal rights to animals seems far-fetched, especially since it was first introduced to ridicule the women’s struggle for equal rights (Singer, 1989, p. 148). The author states that it would be impossible to use the example of female rights to promote animal rights: “Women have a right to vote, for instance, because they are just as capable of making rational decisions as men are; dogs, on the other hand, are incapable of understanding the significance of voting, so they cannot have the right to vote” (Singer, 1989, p. 148).
However, he argues, the fact that there are significant differences between humans and animals should not be an obstacle to expanding animal rights; these differences only impact the type of rights the animals would receive and not the people’s attitude towards them (Singer, 1989, p. 149). Singer aims to point out the faults in the equal rights movement; he believes that the problem lies in the argument that all people are equal when, in fact, they are not: “if the demand for equality were based on the actual equality of all human beings, we would have to stop demanding equality. It would be an unjustifiable demand” (Singer, 1989, p. 149). Instead, he argues, equality should be seen not as a factor that allows giving equal rights to different people and creatures, but rather as a moral ideal achieved by giving these rights (Singer, 1989, p. 150).
In his article, Singer (1989) makes simple points that nonetheless have the potential to promote equality among all species in today’s society. Indeed, the movements against racism and sexism are based on the principle that people are equal, which makes their arguments weak when the scientific proofs of the differences between races and sexes are considered. Singer’s ideas, on the other hand, can help us to get a new view of equality and a new way of achieving it. His argument cannot be disregarded as it is based on the principles of ethics and morality rather than on scientific facts. Overall, I believe that Singer’s (1989) ideas are particularly relevant to contemporary society since we have not achieved complete equality yet. His views allow for a more logical and valid argument for equality, thus promoting equal rights for all sexes and races, as well as for all species.
Singer, P. (1989) All animals are equal. In T. Regan & P. Singer (Eds.), Animal rights and human obligations (148-162). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.