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Flashback 2002: Animal Rights Godfather Peter Singer conflicted on whether he could kill termites infesting his home

Protecting insects

Singer was asked several questions about whether his concept of animal rights included the protection of insects, rodents or shellfish. “I think insects are, you are right, the toughest conflicts we generally face. I wouldn’t kill a spider if I can avoid killing a spider and I don’t think I need to,” he said.

What if termites were threatening his home? “With termites that are actually eating out the foundation of my home, and this happens, this is a more serious problem and I think at that point, I would feel that I need to dwell somewhere and if I can’t drive them away in some way, I guess I would end up killing them,” he conceded.

When asked by why humans should not be able to eat animals when animals eat other animals, Singer acknowledged that humans have to be held to a different standard.

“Animals generally are not making moral choices. Animals are not the same as humans. They can’t reflect on what they are doing and think about the alternatives. Humans can. So there is no reason for taking what they do as a sort of moral lesson for us to take. We’re the ones who have to have the responsibility for making those choices,” he said.