Let me be clear: I’m all in favor of treating animals decently, with special sensitivity to their pain and suffering. By all means, let’s pass stricter regulation of factory farming and laboratory experimentation.
But the basis of these reforms should not be any quality we presume the animals themselves possess. It should grow out of an expansion of the sphere of human concern and sympathy, along the lines of the old aristocratic ideal of noblesse oblige — the notion that one’s superiority obliges one to act nobly toward commoners. In other words, we should treat animals decently not because they’re just like human beings, but rather because they’re not.