Social Question

Soubresaut's avatar

Why do we consider euthanization of other animals humane, but of humans morally wrong?

Asked by Soubresaut (11437points) December 16th, 2010

It’s not a new topic, but one that’s bothered me for a while.

How shooting a lame horse in the head, or giving a shot to a sick dog, etc, is all considered the kind, “merciful” thing to do. That they are better off dead than living in misery.—Not that we can really communicate with them, in the sense of asking them if they’re really miserable enough to die, if they really want to be put down. We’re assuming that we know better than them, that they can’t understand the situation; we percieve them living in a life of what we see as unbearable pain, and a life that we have the right and responsibility to end for them.

But when people feel miserable and want to be able to go, whether on their own or with help, we consider it wrong and an irrational act of desperation. Even though the person is able to tell us that they want to, something that the other animals we decide we should kill can’t.

Why such a double standard? Why do we get to decide to take other animal’s lives from them, but not our own from ourself?

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22 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

The double standard persists—as George Carlin said, if it happens to us, it’s an abortion but if it happens to a chicken, it’s an omelet.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve always thought it’s because most humans believe in gods that “gifted” human life so it’s not a human’s right to stop the life. Maybe they don’t believe the same god/gods “gifted” animal life?

Me, I’ve always felt badly humans end up suffereing so badly at times.

coffeenut's avatar

You can’t let a human die for any reason….everything that can be done has to be done no matter the cost financial,social, personal

Animals…usually a new one is cheaper than the vet bill

the100thmonkey's avatar

@coffeenut: “You can’t let a human die for any reason….”

Why not?

Afos22's avatar

Neither are humane. Who are we to decide when a life should be ended? A life should be left alone for as long is it has the ability to live.

coffeenut's avatar

@the100thmonkey….your guess is as good as mine… I was a paramedic for 5 years, and worked in a hospital for 3 and no matter what condition someone was in they had to be kept alive…(unless they had a DNR or something like that) if not quality of life takes second seat to keeping them alive…

marinelife's avatar

I think it is changing. In Oregon and Washington there have been measures passed that deal with doctor-assisted end of living.

zophu's avatar

Things like this usually have a more shallow reason and a deeper reason. The shallow reason is bias; we sympathize with people more than animals and very much like the idea of individual human lives being held valuable without exception so that our lives and the lives of people we cherish will have a better chance of being held valuable. The deeper reason has to do with the threshold of uncertainty being greater for a human life’s potential value as apposed to an animal’s.

crisw's avatar

I (and many other people) consider both to be morally acceptable.

The main difference is that, with animals, we must play a paternalistic role, and that is very easy to abuse.

I actually think that, in this respect, we treat other animals better than our own species. What is truly inhumane is keeping someone with no chance of recovery alive, suffering and hooked up to tubes and monitors and needles because a family cannot bear to let go.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s not a double standard. The principle behind this is that human needs come first. We get to do whatever we can do. The Earth is our dominion. We come first.

Of course, if a species did not put itself first, it wouldn’t survive, would it?

I’m not endorsing this attitude; just explaining the apparent inconsistency this question asks about.

crisw's avatar


“In Oregon and Washington there have been measures passed that deal with doctor-assisted end of living.”

As well as quite a few countries.

crisw's avatar


“The principle behind this is that human needs come first.”

But what if someone’s need is to permanently end intractable suffering?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The Earth is our home, but not our dominion. We share it with more species that we can even enumerate. We value human life above the lives of other species, but with no valid justification that is not ultimately self-serving. We have legal systems based on religious beliefs imposed on us all. As a result, we allow competent humans to suffer grievous pain to the bitter end, while we show true mercy to beloved pets whose lives have become clearly unbearable to them.

We tolerate neglect and abuse of animals raised by humans who do so to meet human needs or wants. We grow up accustomed to see the lives of livestock as cheap and disposable.

Any questions?

Trillian's avatar

@Afos22 Who are you to dictate life or death for anyone except yourself?

Ponderer983's avatar

Don’t include me in this “we.” I don’t consider there to be a difference. I believe in euthenizing humans as we do animals. It’s not legal but I feel it should be. Even how we see suicide I feel is a little askew. If someone decides they don’t want to live anymore, who are we to judge. The clause in life insurance policies always bothered me that they are not payable in conditions of suicide. Why is a policy that someone payed into all of the sudden not valid because they didn’t want to live anymore?

syz's avatar

I would sign up in an instant if I were given the chance to control my own fate. Nothing frightens me more than the thought of being trapped by pain and illness, an emotional and financial drain on my loved ones with no hope of any modicum of quality of life.

@Afos22 having worked in veterinary medicine for over 20 years, I find your comment unutterably cruel. Euthanasia is sometimes treated cavalierly, but sometimes it is absolutely the greatest gift. To extend suffering is to be uncaring and unkind. (For the faint of heart, I apologize.) I have assisted in the euthansia of a beautiful young buck dragged in the undercarriage of an 18 wheeler until all four of his legs had been torn off. I’ve helped end the suffering of a valiant Siamese cat that spent 3 days dragging himself home to his family after having been hit by a car, grinding dirt and leaves into the marrow of his broken bones as he pushed himself along. A “natural” death is no great gift.

cak's avatar

@Afos22 – I disagree with you. I’ve seen people that have suffered until the very last breath of life. Unable to move. Eating, sure if you call that a feeding tube. That’s not living. That is wasting away. I do believe people should have a choice.

@syz I don’t think I would ever be strong enough of a person to do what you do; however, I am eternally grateful for those of you that do what you do. I’ve learned it is best to allowed my beloved pets to not suffer for my own selfishness and to be able to go peacefully. It doesn’t make it easier, but I’m glad that it is an option.

Afos22's avatar

Are you kidding me? Life is all you have. How can anyone else decide when and where to end my shot at being. murder is murder. Kill yourself if you desire and end to being alive.

ETpro's avatar

@DancingMind Great Question. When I saw this article, Euthanasia Drug, Used in Oklahoma Execution: Was It Inhumane?, your question immediately jumped into mind. The headline read “Pentobarbital, Euthanasia Drug, Used in Oklahoma Execution: Was It Inhumane?” And it went on to note that the convicted killer had appealed to courts because he claimed the execution method was inhumane. The reason> It’s what the Humane Society uses to put down pets, and thus he was being treated like a dog. The appeal failed, but it just goes to show how conflicted and confused our thinking gets when differentiating between how we treat a pet we dearly love and a human being who’s a convicted murderer.

Ron_C's avatar

This is what happens when you inject religion and guilt into civil society. Close to a majority of Americans think that suffering is justified, even for the in-firmed. It is a legal obligation for a doctor to limit pain medication on the fear that the patient will become addicted. Even an 80 year old terminal patient. After all, a good Christian wouldn’t want to die in sin, addicted to pain killers. Of course the laws are made by health, christian politicians that do not have painful terminal illnesses.

Frankly, the idea of failing to end pain and suffering for the terminally ill, when they decide they’ve had enough is the real mortal sin and those that would deny relief should be condemned to eternal suffering.

Luiveton's avatar

The question reminds me of ‘Whose life is it anyway.’ I think everyone should be entitled to their own decisions. If I want to die, I die.

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