LETTER:Philosophising about the rights of animals

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The Independent Online
From Mr Dave Godin

Sir: As a lifelong opponent of all animal abuse, I have always maintained that when the day comes and we are close to making a significant impact on the general consciousness and behaviour patterns, then the movement will be infiltrated by those who seek to destroy it from within. To read Peter Singer's latest philosophical position (Thinkers of the Nineties, 13 November) inclines me to think that this just might be his role, since his arguments of Preference Utilitarianism are, in effect, precisely those used to justify vivisection and other atrocities against non-human life forms.

I too regret that there is no secular equivalent to the word "sacred", but the moral basis for respecting all life forms is comparatively simple, and has no need of tortuous reasoning to sustain it. Once life is extinguished, it is beyond our power to restore it. Thus, though we have indeed got the ability to destroy it, it can never rationally be argued that we have any such right.

In his book Animal Liberation, Singer argued that, under certain circumstances, the use of torture could be justified. Given this, I cannot see see how he differs in his arguments from those who support vivisection; or, come to that, from those who would seek to justify the many heartbreaking case histories that Amnesty International publishes. Singer's macho, tough- love stance may well be his form of psychic self-defence, but it cuts no ice with this sentimental softy.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Godin


13 November