Why do sentient nonhuman animals have certain basic moral rights?
Sentient non-human animals are supposed to have certain moral rights because they have the capacity to distinguish pleasure and pain. Moreover, they have a tendency to avoid painful experiences. In this case, the capacity to suffer is the main reason why a living being should be protected from harm (Warren, 2015, p. 283). So, humanity is not the only criterion that can make a person eligible for moral rights.
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How does the right to liberty differ between human beings and animals’ the right to life?
Overall, animal rights to freedom and life are much weaker in comparison with the rights of human beings. In particular, it may be necessary to take the lives of animals, provided that this step can serve the interests of human beings, especially the protection of people’s lives. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about medical research. Nevertheless, it is the duty of people to reduce the suffering of these living beings.
In contrast, the right to life is a critical privilege of a human being. In many cases, this right is unalienable. Yet, they are some exceptions, such as the use of the death penalty in those cases when a person is guilty of committing serious felonies. A similar argument can be applied to the liberty of animals since it is permissible to restrict the movement of non-human beings if this action promotes people’s welfare. Again, it is vital to minimize the suffering of these creatures. For instance, one should create the least restrictive environment. In turn, a person’s right to freedom can be restricted only if he/she poses a threat to other people.
Why should we assign strong moral rights to “nonparadigm” human beings, such as infants and the incurably senile?
The author notes that it is important to assign strong moral rights to non-paradigm humans such as children or those people whose mental capacity is considerably impaired. At first, one should point out that infants may eventually acquire moral and cognitive autonomy. Furthermore, it is possible to assume that in many cases, they cannot express their discontent. Additionally, the author refers to people struggling with mental impairments. In particular, they are more likely to recover if they are dealt with in a humane way. Additionally, many people are at risk of mental incapacitation; in turn, they expect to receive strong moral rights. Therefore, society recognizes the necessity to protect people with mental impairments from harm. This is one of the points that should be made.
Why is it plausible that nonsentient natural entities such as mountains and valleys have some sort of intrinsic value? Why is it preferable to speak of their intrinsic value rather than of their moral right?
In this article, the writer agrees with the premise that rivers and mountains have certain intrinsic value since they are important elements of the existing bio-system (Warren, 2015, p. 293). They can be critical for the sustainability of various living beings, including humans. The author does not accept the idea that it is possible to speak about moral rights. In order to have a moral right, a certain entity should be able to distinguish pleasure and pain.
More importantly, this creature has to display a clear preference to avoid suffering. This criterion is not applicable to mountains or rivers. So, Marry Warren does not fully accept the arguments advanced by the supporters of land ethics.
How do the perspectives of “land-ethic” environmentalists and of animal liberationists complement each other?
Animal liberation and land-ethics perspectives can complement one another. These two approaches are based on two assumptions that are quite consistent with one another (Warren, 2015, p. 293). The first premise is that sentience makes a living entity eligible for moral rights. In turn, it is important to speak about the assumption that people have the moral duty to protect the natural environment because of its intrinsic value and its importance for the survival of humankind. These two assumptions can be easily reconciled.
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Warren, M. (2015). The Rights of the Nonhuman World. In O. Roca & M. Schuh (Eds.), An Examined Life: Critical Thinking and Ethics (pp. 278-296). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.