AIDS and your son are no excuse to kill
Today on the radio a man was talking about giving certain highly evolved primates legal rights. He said that they have a level of "autonomy" greater than other animals and therefore are deserving of certain legal rights. This is a very specific type of animal rights consideration, and would not protect many other species.
Later in the show a Philosophy Professor called. Disagreeing, she stating that, in a case that involved a threat to the human race, such as AIDS, the aforementioned animals should be excluded from medical research. She seemed to think that a human life was always worth more than an animal, although she claimed to be a vegetarian and definitely not an advocate of animal cruelty. She posed an example scenario in which a boat was sinking and "you" have the choice to throw the family dog overboard or your daughter/son/wife. In general, most people would sacrifice the dog. She was also talking about morality. She stated that we as conscious beings that make choices, are aware of those choices and their impact and have a moral obligation to make the right choices. To her saving a human was the right choice.
To choose to protect only one animal is a short sight, but it is a start. Some animals gaining rights is always closer to the goal of all animals gaining then no animals gaining rights is. Of course many animals do have rights; the SPCA protects domestic animals. Many others suffer from cruel research related torture, poor living conditions in factory farms and the destruction of their natural environment.
AIDS research and "your son" are compelling arguments for most people. Not that such is uncommon or unacceptable; evolution instilled such instincts upon us humans (survival of the fittest, etc.) The Philosophy teacher's concept of molality is still limited. She is drawing an arbitrary line. Using certain animals to do research that may cure AIDS may save human lives, but it will also take them from innocent animals. Why are Human lives more important than animal lives. To the contrary humans are the one and only cause of instability on this planet and for that reason could be considered less important than other animals. Furthermore, once AIDS is cured there will still be a population problem; the curing of AIDS might just add to that problem.
Now consider that you are in a sinking boat with the family dog and your son (or daughter, wife, ect). The boat will sink under the weight of the three of you, so only by the expulsion of one will the other two live. You have a choice to make; all three can die, or one can die and two can live. Your son is not going to jump, and you wouldn't let him anyway. The dog isn't going to move, it's instinct for self preservation would prohibit that. Your only viable options are to jump your self or toss the dog. If you throw the dog, it would be murder. There are many variables to argue in this model, but an unbiased moral agent who is considering all possibilities in this situation should only be able to take his own life. Anything else would be morally unsound, which is not a crime, it is mere human nature. It seems that human nature is at the heart of the animal rights issue and every other pressing matter that threatens the stability of all life on the planet Earth.