Imagine an animal’s feeling of panic and fear as it is about to be killed by a hunter or the isolation experienced as an animal sits in a laboratory, separated from its family and natural habitat, waiting to be harmed by harsh testing methods. Imagine the frightened state of a mother or father watching their innocent baby being captured. After considering the brutality towards animals in these scenarios, take into consideration the health benefits humans receive from different parts of these animals. Imagine health risks avoided through testing on animals first instead of on humans. Does human benefit justify the harm and killing of animals? Linda Hasselstrom’s essay “The Cow Versus The Animal Rights Activist” and Tom Regan’s “Animal Rights, Human Wrongs” argue this question through analysis of the reason for killing animals, the method in which they are killed, and the morality of the killing of animals.
Although both authors have different opinions on the issue, they each present fitting arguments to represent each of their views. Hasselstrom, a cattle rancher, believes that animals can be killed to benefit human life and still be cared for with love and passion. Regan, on the other hand, a professor and pioneer of the academic movement for animal rights, believes that the harm of animals for any purpose is considered unjust.
Hasselstrom and Regan both make valid points in their arguments by discussing the reason behind the killing of animals. In “The Cow Versus The Animal Rights Activist,” Hasselstrom tells us that the death of cattle benefits human life, and that human life is more important to protect than the life of animals. He argues, against misinformed antibeef activists, that the red meat from cows is healthy for humans. Other parts of the cow can also be used such as the fat and the hide. Although Hasselstrom provides evidence that there is a reason for killing these cattle, many animals are killed for unnecessary purposes.
Regan presents a few cases such as those of rabbits, whales, and gibbons physically violated or murdered so that human beings can acquire unessential products. For instance, rabbits are used in cosmetic testing labs where they are held captive, lose their vision, and occasionally die. Rabbits do not have tear ducts so they are used to test harmful products that they cannot flush out of their eyes. Many of these products will result in the destruction of the iris or cornea as well as swelling, redness, or blindness in the eyes.
Along with rabbits, whales are also being harmed and killed for unnecessary reasons; they are hunted so that wax, perfume, and soap can be made. Another scenario given by Regan is the hunting of baby gibbons for veal. The difference between the killing of gibbons and the killing of cattle for meat or hide has to do with the method in which they are being killed. Regan makes it very clear that the methods that these animals are killed by are cruel and wrong, whereas Hasselstrom ensures us that, in her case, the cattle she raises are well taken care of and not treated with cruelty. In “Animal Rights, Human Wrongs,” Regan states that when baby gibbons are captured, their mothers are often killed in the process. After being separated from their mothers at a very young age, the young gibbons are held captive under harsh living conditions. Many die from suffering in their small, dark cells on wooden floors while waiting to be slaughtered.
He then informs us that the whales that are being hunted suffer greatly, convulsing for up to thirty minutes after being harpooned until they die. Regan concludes by describing the agonizing hunt as “a fight to the death”. Hasselstrom understands these methods are used, but proceeds to defend her own views on the killing of animals. Her perspective is very different than that of the hunters and laboratory workers previously mentioned. She states the process of how her own cattle are raised and killed. Hasselstrom tells us that she ensures that the cows that she raises are protected and cared for before they are slaughtered. She has provided abundant food and safe land for the cows to live on. Even when it is time to slaughter them, the cows are first shot to ensure that there is no suffering. They die instantaneously without any feeling of pain after living long, respectable lives. Although Hasselstrom makes a valid point, Regan continues to believe that any suffering of animals that we fail to prevent cannot be justified. Hasselstrom and Regan both argue the morality of killing animals.
Hasselstrom explains to us that she feels that she has earned the right to kill the cattle since she raised and protected them for so long. She explains, “The relationship between me and my cattle was a little like a good marriage, with good days and bad days, but considerable satisfaction on both sides” (Hasselstrom 327). She also brings forth the idea that since the cattle are being killed in order to benefit human health, it can in fact be justified. Regan’s view on the harm of animals opposes that of Hasselstrom’s. He states, “Millions of animals brought so much pain and death at the hands of humans are not harmed, for harm is not restricted to human beings . . . they are made to endure what is detrimental to their welfare, even death” (Regan 338). He believes that we must consider what we would tolerate as humans since the animals cannot speak for themselves. Regan continues, We can see, if we will but look, the last convulsive gasps of the great blue whale, the dazed terror of the gibbons’ eyes, the frenzied activity of the rabbit’s feet, the stark immobility of the bobbie calf. But not at this moment only.
Tomorrow, other whales, other rabbits will be made to suffer; tomorrow, other gibbons, other calves will be killed, and others the day after. (340) He uses pathos in order to convince us that the harm of these animals must end. Unlike Hasselstrom, the hunters and laboratory employees who Regan describes are ruthlessly killing animals and cannot justify their actions. Both Hasselstrom and Regan present good arguments. Hasselstrom believes that the reason and method of killing animals plays a major role in determining whether or not the act can be rightly justified. However, Regan believes any harm to animals is unjust no matter why or how it is done. Hasselstrom makes a valid point that humans can indeed benefit from the death of cattle.
Although this is true, our health can be benefited in ways that do not include the harm of animals. Regan successfully provides the evidence that animals are severely harmed for unnecessary reasons and under harsh conditions. In conclusion, he strongly supports the idea that animals should not be harmed if humans should not be harmed. After considering both authors’ points, I agree that animals should not be harmed for unnecessary reasons, but in some cases I agree that the killing of animals can be justified if humans are benefited.
Hasselstrom, Linda. “The Cow Versus The Animal Rights Activist.” Forming a Critical Perspective. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. 327-34. Print. Regan, Tom. “Animal Rights, Human Wrongs.” Forming a Critical Perspective. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. 336-40. Print.
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