Let me state right from the outset that I am an animal lover who owns pets. I love and care for them, as any decent person should do. Loving and caring for animals is a great testament to human empathy and kindness, and people can be rightly proud of having such traits. However, there are people who sin by excess or deficiency in regard to the status of animals. They claim that animals and humans are moral equals. This absurd proposition is maintained in one of two ways. First, there are those who exalt animals to the status of human beings. They claim animals have souls even as we do. There are even two movies, All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989), and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 (1996), that give popular appeal to the idea for children. This idea is also featured in the adult movie, What Dreams May Come (1998) starring the late Robin Williams (d. 2014).
Second, there are those who lower human beings to the status of being "just another animal." Human beings are no more than another primate, more highly evolved perhaps, but not exceptional or entitled to more consideration than dogs, cats, pigs and fish. Humans, like all other animals, have no rational soul that survives death (so they claim) and have no right to dominate other animals. This view is that of the lunatic fringe PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and ALF (Animal Liberation Front) who have no problem with using violent terrorist tactics to "liberate" animals from medical experimentation, etc.
Both views of animals are contrary to the teaching of the One True Church, and the consequences for humanity are staggering. If humans are just another animal, not created in the image and likeness of God, or if animals also possess a rational soul in the image and likeness of God, it will impact the morality of:
- eating meat
- medical research
- abortion and euthanasia
- Infanticide within the first month of a child's life can be morally justified. Here Singer introduces his ethic of replaceability. A child may not be wanted for various reasons, such as timing, gender or congenital disease. The decision-making process can be profoundly influenced if the death of an unwanted child subsequently allows the parents the freedom to have a wanted child who would replace it.
- Without consciousness, life has no value. In cases of brain damage making it impossible for the patient to express a preference, involuntary euthanasia should be practiced
- An individual's desire to die should be respected. Hence, it is ethical for a doctor to assist a suicide in fulfilling the patient's considered preference.
- Sex between animals and people (beastiality) should be regarded as healthy and normal.
- Animals are not possessed of rights, and, therefore in killing them no injustice is done to them
- Animals are incapable, by their very nature, of claiming anything of their own. Reason is the faculty that allows one to claim something as their own. Animals do not possess the faculty of reason to claim anything, therefore they do not come within the scope of having rights
- Animals exist for humanity. They never would have been brought into existence had humans not been created. They may be used for the betterment of people
- Even though humans have no duties towards animals, they are part of God's creation, and as such cruelty to animals is sinful. To make animals suffer needlessly, or to take pleasure in animal suffering, is seriously sinful