Imagine living in a society where the economy is based on the slavery of non-whites. If someone were to stand up and say that enslaving non-whites was wrong, you might wonder what grounds she had for this claim. How doyou think you react if she had gone on to explain that there were no morally relevant differences between whites and non-whites that could justify the sort of radically different treatment of them we find in a slave economy? Or imagine the same sort of political radical arguing, at a time when women were excluded from participation in the public sphere that they ought to be given the vote. The claim would be similar: there is no morally relevant difference between women and men that would license this sort of discrimination. If you think you might have found these two challenges compelling, try generalizing them even further so that they apply to the way in which we treat many non-human animals today. We routinely torture and kill them, but what justifies this behaviour? Is there some property we have and they lack that makes the difference? What could it be? Are you sure that whatever property you isolate is not just some value-neutral difference between us and the rest of the animal world? Can we consistently both side with our abolitionist/suffragette and continue treating animals the way we do?
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