Animals are equal to humans: inconsistencies in arguments concerning the word, equality

Gaspard

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Animals are equal to humans: inconsistencies in the way most vegans use the word equality and the argument from marginal cases


Usually vegans say that we're not equal to animals (but we have to recognise that our taste buds are not worth harming animals).

With such an understanding of equality, humans are not all equal (humans have different capacities). In this case “equal” means “literally identical”.

But then “humans are not equal to animals” is either meaningless or speciest: on one hand, if you assert that individually humans are not all equal, then there is no point stating we are all individually different to animals (it’s trivial); on the other hand, if you think that collectively humans are superior to animals, then it is speciest.

But obviously being equal doesn’t mean being identical. In the first article from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” So in regard to this statement, animals might be equal to humans (in dignity and rights).

And maybe a vegan troll is going to write: “no! animals are not equal to humans because animals cannot drive a car”. And I’ll reply : “ then neither can a baby. Did you mean babies are inferior to adults who drive? Probablly not. Then the way you used the word “equal” in regard to animals is different to the way you used it when referring to humans. So your discourse is inconsistent”.

And maybe another vegan would say to me “but we cannot give driver license to animals! So animals shouldn’t have the same rights as humans!”, and I would answer “why not? If you find an animal who is capable of passing the examination then why would you not give them a driver’s license? Obviously at the moment, none is capable of this, but neither are babies. Does it mean that babies are not equal in dignity and rights to other humans?”

So as a result humans and animals are equal. Prove me wrong, if you can!

And by the way I’d like to remind you that equality is an “equivalence relation” (and in most cases two objects could be equal without being literally identical).
 
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Emma JC

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I would like to say, welcome to the forum but your posts so far are a bit confusing and so I am not sure of your motivation or purpose for being here.

You are making arguments about things that don't apply to vegans and applying them to vegans....

Emma JC
 

Lou

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Animals are equal to humans: inconsistencies in the way most vegans use the word equality and the argument from marginal cases


Usually vegans say that we're not equal to animals (but we have to recognise that our taste buds are not worth harming animals).

With such an understanding of equality, humans are not all equal (humans have different capacities). In this case “equal” means “literally identical”.

But then “humans are not equal to animals” is either meaningless or speciest: on one hand, if you assert that individually humans are not all equal, then there is no point stating we are all individually different to animals (it’s trivial); on the other hand, if you think that collectively humans are superior to animals, then it is speciest.

But obviously being equal doesn’t mean being identical. In the first article from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” So in regard to this statement, animals might be equal to humans (in dignity and rights).

And maybe a vegan troll is going to write: “no! animals are not equal to humans because animals cannot drive a car”. And I’ll reply : “ then neither can a baby. Did you mean babies are inferior to adults who drive? Probablly not. Then the way you used the word “equal” in regard to animals is different to the way you used it when referring to humans. So your discourse is inconsistent”.

And maybe another vegan would say to me “but we cannot give driver license to animals! So animals shouldn’t have the same rights as humans!”, and I would answer “why not? If you find an animal who is capable of passing the examination then why would you not give them a driver’s license? Obviously at the moment, none is capable of this, but neither are babies. Does it mean that babies are not equal in dignity and rights to other humans?”

So as a result humans and animals are equal. Prove me wrong, if you can!

And by the way I’d like to remind you that equality is an “equivalence relation” (and in most cases two objects could be equal without being literally identical).

First off, I don't think vegans with more than a HS education have ever made that statement or argument.

what kind of vegans do you know?

The only thing i have heard like what you are saying is that animals have the right to live, too.
 

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I can only assume the equality we're talking about is equal moral weight in our decision making. But morality comes from values, and as a human I think it's perfectly fine to value human lives above others. It's part of our instinct for self-preservation.

There's no way to answer moral questions objectively...you have to decide what you value first, and that comes with biases. Those can lead to some really bad outcomes if you forget that they're biases and treat them as natural heirarchy. But trying to be unbiased and acting as if all life was equal would also lead to really bad outcomes.
 

Gaspard

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I would like to say, welcome to the forum but your posts so far are a bit confusing and so I am not sure of your motivation or purpose for being here.

You are making arguments about things that don't apply to vegans and applying them to vegans....

Emma JC
thank you for your welcoming me!
Well to be honest I'm here because some anoying youtube guy tried to convince me that vegans could eat eggs from backyard chickens and meat from road kills, and that animals are not equals to humans... I said to him he was wrong and then he pretended that most vegans would agree with him. So I went here to ask vegans what they think about that.
I understand that this post is a bit confusing. But I can demonstarte why the argument from marginal cases imply that humans and animals are equals.
 

Gaspard

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as a human I think it's perfectly fine to value human lives above others. It's part of our instinct for self-preservation.
Yea sure, but appart in a survival situation, we could assume that animals and humans are equals. Would you agree with that?
 
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Gaspard

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First off, I don't think vegans with more than a HS education have ever made that statement or argument.
My vegan mates (militant vegans from the city I live) don't make that kind of statment but I hear it often on the Internet. Cosmic sceptic for example said somthing like "we don't ask you to assert that humans and animals are equals we just want you to acknowledge that our taste buds aren't worth the life of an animal". I hope I'm not strawmaning here. Earthling Ed might make this kind of statment too.
But this statment is inconsistent with the Argument From Marginal Cases.
 
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I took a strange path to veganism, but part of that was my politics. I'm libertarian, and following the vein that all human beings have innate rights, I take that understanding further and attach that to animals as well. All living beings have rights. Animal rights ARE individual rights.

The libertarian Non-aggression principle also can be heavily tied/associated with veganism. My current problem is getting other libertarians to make that same connection and equate human life with all life. Sadly, humans in general generally don't have the capacity for that. It's a long road, but we can make it happen eventually by changing the culture.
 
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Lou

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My vegan mates (militant vegans from the city I live) don't make that kind of statment but I hear it often on the Internet. Cosmic sceptic for example said somthing like "we don't ask you to assert that humans and animals are equals we just want you to acknowledge that our taste buds aren't worth the life of an animal". I hope I'm not strawmaning here. Earthling Ed might make this kind of statment too.
But this statment is inconsistent with the Argument From Marginal Cases.

Yes. I agree with the Cosmic Skeptic. And I would not be surprised to find similar statements from other "internet vegans" like Earthling Ed.
The other stuff you hear on the internet, well, some of that may not even be from real vegans. Or just people looking for trouble. Probably not worth repeating.

I am hesitant to ask, what is the "Argument From Marginal Cases"? Is that a debate team term?
 
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Thom

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I'm confused. What is the question or argument?

That humans are "equal" or "not equal" to other animals? What's the method of evaluation? Humans definitely beat other animals with our ability to create streaming entertainment services, but sharks beat humans at un-aided swimming speed. Each human is not equal to each other human. Some people are really good at cooking. Other people are terrible at cooking. Both people should have access to food -- equity.

Are we talking about equity?

As is, it's generally accepted by human society that humans are priority and all other animals are less priority, which is why animals are made into food and clothes. This might also lead to other conversations like: is it okay to eat roadkill or chicken eggs from my backyard? When I hear these questions, I immediately think of it like: is it okay for me to eat a dead human body if I make it to the crime scene first? Is it okay for me to eat human babies if they're born on my property?

From a vegan standpoint, it's not about equal, but that all life has a similar inherent "value." This inherent value is similar to the idea of the US bill of rights that grants all people a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For each individual person (or animal) those rights may manifest in different ways: my pursuit of happiness might be to own a classic car while my dog's pursuit of happiness might be to play catch. It's not necessarily about these pursuits being equal, but that they both have value and society SHOULD respect the individual's (human or animal) right to value and pursue those endeavors. A solid first step in establishing equity would be to recognize that all animals have a right to life and therefor have a right to space to do their thing.
 

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I'm confused. What is the question or argument?

That humans are "equal" or "not equal" to other animals? What's the method of evaluation? Humans definitely beat other animals with our ability to create streaming entertainment services, but sharks beat humans at un-aided swimming speed. Each human is not equal to each other human. Some people are really good at cooking. Other people are terrible at cooking. Both people should have access to food -- equity.

Are we talking about equity?

As is, it's generally accepted by human society that humans are priority and all other animals are less priority, which is why animals are made into food and clothes. This might also lead to other conversations like: is it okay to eat roadkill or chicken eggs from my backyard? When I hear these questions, I immediately think of it like: is it okay for me to eat a dead human body if I make it to the crime scene first? Is it okay for me to eat human babies if they're born on my property?

From a vegan standpoint, it's not about equal, but that all life has a similar inherent "value." This inherent value is similar to the idea of the US bill of rights that grants all people a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For each individual person (or animal) those rights may manifest in different ways: my pursuit of happiness might be to own a classic car while my dog's pursuit of happiness might be to play catch. It's not necessarily about these pursuits being equal, but that they both have value and society SHOULD respect the individual's (human or animal) right to value and pursue those endeavors. A solid first step in establishing equity would be to recognize that all animals have a right to life and therefor have a right to space to do their thing.
the equality you discuss in your first paragraph is a side road that is just an unnecessary detour. when people discuss equality they rarely venture down that road. Although I am now reminded of a Kurt Vonnegut short story about a society that drove down to the end of that road. If you were really smart they made you wear headphones that kept you from thinking straight. If you were really fast they put on ankle weights. But when we say all men are created equal - no one is thinking ability. They are thinking of Rights.

Although that does also remind me of the subject of animal intelligence. But again it would be a serious mistake to assign rights based on intelligence.

So really we can just stay off that path and limit our discussions to Equal Rights. Humans have equal rights. the foundeers of the US thought that was self-evident. But obviously it wasn't. No one thought to express that idea in writing for thousands of years.

But do animals have rights? That is a good Philosophy 201 question and is fun to discuss late at night in a dorm room (been there - done that). I think vegans already have an answer to that question. Although their reasoning and rationale will differ.

whether or not animals have rights or not, vegans have decided that they do not have The Right to exploit them.
 
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Thom

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So really we can just stay off that path and limit our discussions to Equal Rights. Humans have equal rights. the foundeers of the US thought that was self-evident. But obviously it wasn't. No one thought to express that idea in writing for thousands of years.

But do animals have rights? That is a good Philosophy 201 question and is fun to discuss late at night in a dorm room (been there - done that). I think vegans already have an answer to that question. Although their reasoning and rationale will differ.
But the original challenge was: So as a result humans and animals are equal. Prove me wrong, if you can!
Not: Do humans and animals have equal rights?

The answer to that is obviously no. Rights, in the sense we're talking about, are artificially constructed by humans to govern other humans (and exclude non-humans). The idea that humans do, or should, have equal rights is a noble pursuit. The idea that animals deserve any rights at all is -- to my understanding -- a driving principle for many vegans.

Are humans and animals equal? (What is the metric of comparison? -- Why does this matter?) I would say humans and animals are equal under certain metrics and not under others. We are not equal 100% of the time. If we're going with some kind of pass/fail evaluation then I would say: Humans and animals are not equal.

I'm still confused how this has any bearing on whether it's okay to eat roadkill, backyard chicken eggs, animals for survival, or lust for the taste of animals. Equal or not, a driving tenant of veganism is not to harm, eat, or otherwise consume animal products. A person claiming to be vegan, but looking for loopholes in the system that would, even theoretically, allow them a pass for eating animals may not be quite so vegan. That said, there are a lot of advocates out there promoting plant-based diets that have nothing to do with veganism. Someone who is primarily concerned with plant-based diets may not have any concern for the well-being of animals.
 
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Forest Nymph

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thank you for your welcoming me!
Well to be honest I'm here because some anoying youtube guy tried to convince me that vegans could eat eggs from backyard chickens and meat from road kills, and that animals are not equals to humans... I said to him he was wrong and then he pretended that most vegans would agree with him. So I went here to ask vegans what they think about that.
I understand that this post is a bit confusing. But I can demonstarte why the argument from marginal cases imply that humans and animals are equals.
Ok...so this is why people on plant-based diets aren't vegans. This is why I harp on this and will not stop. It's because of these YouTube monstrosity channels of "why I'm no longer vegan" and "vegans can eat roadkill" ...NO. You are no longer on a plant-based diet. If you are no longer vegan you have got some serious explaining to do, most of which should involve you filming the video with your cell phone from the backseat of your car, where you're now living because you literally can't avoid bits of cheese or egg in the food strangers donate to you for your survival. Yet the vast majority of these people are quite rich, certainly richer than I am, and care not one bit for the harm they do to animals or the environment by creating these videos of them whinging about how green smoothies just weren't enough for them anymore. Well, derp, of course if you starve yourself you weren't getting enough calories or fat, or you weren't taking a B12 supplement for 5 years, and that's why you think eating salmon has some magical properties.

These people ON PLANT-BASED DIETS perpetuate the lie that "veganism" is something you can randomly stop at any time (like being keto or gluten free) and that it definitively has something to do with good health (like being oil-free or living off of smoothies and raw carrots) and it hurts veganism. Because a real vegan is committed to their ethics and wouldn't stop for some random reason, and would at rock bottom be vegetarian, I can't imagine a real vegan ever wanting to eat an actual animal's body again if not literally starving to death on the frozen tundra. It also sends the message to young people (and their parents, and to less educated adults) that veganism is difficult, strict, tasteless, joyless, without treats or pleasures, a weight loss plan, something that people with more money than sense do, etc.

Some of these people on YT are completely toxic P.o.S. They're in it for their own narcissistic appearance, making money, and possibly health reasons. That they've tried to steal the word vegan absolutely enrages me.
 
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Whether or not animals and humans are equal is not only not the point, humans literally are animals. You don't have to be equal to something or someone to respect it's/his//her right to be or live in peace.
 

Gaspard

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I think the way I presented this contradiction was way to heavy. I was tired when I wrote it and stumbled upon the different notions of equality.
That's a better demonstration :

The idea that humans are not equal to animals is contradictory the argument from marginal cases:

What ever justification asserts that humans and animals are not equal could be applied to childrens, or disabeled or elderly people. So it implies that humans are not all equals which contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Right (1st article).
So either you use the Argument From Marginal cases or you assert that humans and animals are not equal but you cannot have both.
For example you if you say to me that there is a sentience hierarchy and that humans are more sentient than animals (whatever that means), then I’ll point out that there are human that have different degree of sentience. People suffering with cognitive decline for example are “less sentient”. So as a result humans are not all equal. Which contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Right.

I'll eddit my first post so the thread starts with this demonstration.
 
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Gaspard

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Well it seems that I cannot eddit it. I'll start a new thread then.
 

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I think the way I presented this contradiction was way to heavy. I was tired when I wrote it and stumbled upon the different notions of equality.
That's a better demonstration :

The idea that humans are not equals to animals is contradictory the argument from marginal cases:

What ever justification asserts that humans and animals are not equal could be applied to childrens, or disabeled or elderly people. So it implies that humans are not all equals which contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Right (1st article).
So either you use the Argument From Marginal cases or you assert that humans and animals are not equal but you cannot have both.
For example you if you say to me that there is a sentience hierarchy and that humans are more sentient than animals (whatever that means), then I’ll point out that there are human that have different degree of sentience. People suffering with cognitive decline for example are “less sentient”. So as a result humans are not all equal. Which contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Right.

I'll eddit my first post so the thread starts with this demonstration.

I looked up the "Argument from Marginal Cases". And I hadn't realized that so much effort went into it.

One of the first chapters of Eating Animals by Foer does a comprehensive job of exploring this. I suggest if this really interests you, you should pick up a copy. When I read it I did not know Foer was discussing this. Maybe he said so and it went over my head.

I've also read some of Peter Singer who is very highly respected in the world of Animal Ethics. Maybe I can find something of his to read to recommend to you.

Honestly, I hadn't realized so much effort had gone into arguing something that seems readily apparent to me. but then I guess that is why we have philosophers. I also agree that one must explore our reasoning.

Almost beside the point, but what is intelligence, how can we measure it. Frans De Waal, maybe the world's foremost expert on evaluating animal intelligence, and after studying it for something like 40 years and written over ten books on the subject has concluded that we are not smart enough to evaluate animal intelligence.

There is a thread on this subject

Maybe this is beside the point, too. but since all this stuff is too heavy so early in the morning, I think perhaps we just should reflect on what philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the famous 17th-century philosopher wrote.

The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor “Can they talk?” but, “Can they suffer?”​
 

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I looked up the "Argument from Marginal Cases". And I hadn't realized that so much effort went into it.
One of the first chapters of Eating Animals by Foer does a comprehensive job of exploring this.
[...]
Maybe I can find something of his to read to recommend to you.
Thanks!

Frans De Waal, maybe the world's foremost expert on evaluating animal intelligence, and after studying it for something like 40 years
Yea i read several of his books. But, IMHO, evaluating intelligence, has nothing to do with equality.

I think perhaps we just should reflect on what philosopher Jeremy Bentham, the famous 17th-century philosopher wrote.
The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor “Can they talk?” but, “Can they suffer?”​
Yea. You pointed out exactly the argument which might lead to "animals are inferior but as they can suffer then we shouldn't exploit them".
Please notice that Vegan activists who use this argument never say "animals are inferior", as I did on purpose, they prefer the euphemism "humans and animals are not equal".
This Jeremy Bentham had a good argument to convince people who might go vegan but will always believe that humans are superior to animals (which is a religious belief). All right then. But if we want to build an ethic that is consistent, then humans cannot be superior to animals.
 
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Gaspard

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Whether or not animals and humans are equal is not only not the point, humans literally are animals. You don't have to be equal to something or someone to respect it's/his//her right to be or live in peace.
To respect someone's right to be or live in peace means to be equal in dignity and rights. Do you use an other definition of equality?
Whan I wrote "animals" I meant non-human animals.
 
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Gaspard

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I'm confused. What is the question or argument?

[...]
Are we talking about equity?
We are talking about equality in dignity and rights. This might be similar to equity but for me it doesn't have the same connotation.

From a vegan standpoint, it's not about equal, but that all life has a similar inherent "value."
For me "the recognition of a similar inherent value"" means "equality". As in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are all equal. It doesn't matter if I'm stronger than you, if I'm richer or more hateful or whatever; we are still equal.
I know this might be confusing for people who live in the competitive market.