Read Tom Regan's elaborate defence in The Case for Animal Rights
Regan argues that:
The Basic Moral Mistake To View Animals as Resources
The fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us — to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or exploited for sport or money. Once we accept this view of animals — as our resources — the rest is as predictable as it is regrettable. Why worry about their loneliness, their pain, their death? Since animals exist for us, to benefit us in one way or another, what harms them really doesn't matter — or matters only if it starts to bother us, makes us feel a trifle uneasy when we eat our veal escallop, for example.
Animals, like Children and Retarded Persons, Are Intrinsically Valuable
And yet it seems reasonably certain that, were we to torture a young child or a retarded elder, we would be doing something that wronged him or her,not something that would be wrong if (and only if) other humans with a sense of justice were upset. And since this is true in the case of these humans we cannot rationally deny the same in the case of animals.
Animals Are Subjects of A Life: Their Intrinsic Value Comes From Conscious Life Equal to Human
We want and prefer things, believe and feel things, recall and expect things. And all these dimensions of our life, including our pleasure and pain, our enjoyment and suffering, our satisfaction and frustration, our continued existence or our untimely death — all make a difference to the quality of our life as lived, as experienced, by us as individuals. As the same is true of those animals that concern us (the ones who are eaten and trapped, for example), they too must be viewed as the experiencing subjects of a life, with inherent value of their own.
Shall we say that only humans have the requisite intelligence, or autonomy, or reason? But there are many, many humans who fail to meet these standards and yet are reasonably viewed as having value above and beyond their usefulness to others. Shall we claim that only humans belong to the right species,the species Homo sapiens? But this is blatant speciesism.
What could be the basis of our having more inherent value than animals? Their lack of reason, or autonomy, or intellect? Only if we are willing to make the same judgement in the case of humans who are similarly deficient. But it is not true that such humans — the retarded child,for example, or the mentally deranged — have less inherent value than you or I.Neither, then, can we rationally sustain the view that animals like them in being the experiencing subjects of a life have less inherent value. All who have inherent value have it equally, whether they be human animals or not.
Animals have equal right to be treated with respect
We must recognize our equal inherent value as individuals, reason — not sentiment, not emotion — reason compels us to recognize the equal inherent value of these animals and, with this, their equal right to be treated with respect.
Rights Movement Requires Political Activism to Abolish Cruelty To Animals
Giving farm animals more space, more natural environments, more companions does not right the fundamental wrong in their case. Nothing less than the total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture will do this...
All great movements, it is written, go through three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption. It is the realization of this third stage, adoption, that requires both our passion and our discipline, our hearts and our heads. The fate of animals is in our hands. God grant we are equal to the task.
In forthcoming Part Two: Mistaken Beliefs of Animal Rights Advocates, I will discuss the inadequacies of animal rights arguments.