Professor Peter Singer: we should pay more to help the poor..

This is Professor Peter Singer. He believes animals have the same rights as human beings and some human lives are not worth saving. Now, in his new book he says we should all be asking ourselves what we could be doing to eradicate world poverty.

The onus is on people of the developed world – people like you and me, to dig deep into our pockets every month for those people who don’t have enough money.

His solution is to commit to giving a set amount of your salary based on your earnings, therefore challenging people where it hurts the most – your pockets. You can read the first part of the book here.

Poverty is an issue we look at again and again, and whether it’s aid to Africa or lack of education in developed countries, people always have very different opinions about how to solve these problems. Is the solution to poverty simply for EVERYONE, particularly in the developed world, to throw a percentage of their salary to good causes? Would you pledge to give away a percentage of your hard earned money? As Peter Singer puts it, if you buy a bottle of water everyday, you can afford to give to charity. Do you have a moral obligation to better the lives of those in poor countries?

He has also witten extensively on the relationship between humans and animals. He argues against speciesism, and for equal rights for human beings and animals, based on the theory that all beings suffer pain and humans shouldn’t discriminate against animals simply because they don’t belong to the same species. This he argues, is the same as racism or sexism. You can read more about his thoughts on human beings and animals here

Professor Singer is not celebrated everywhere, he has his critics, but he’s also considered to be one of the world’s most influential thinkers.

On Tuesday 24 November, Professor Singer will be on World Have Your Say and you can ask him about his views directly.

106 Responses to “Professor Peter Singer: we should pay more to help the poor..”

  1. 1 patti in cape coral
    November 23, 2009 at 18:46

    I think some of this issue has been addressed before on this blog. For some of us the issue is not whether we are willing to give or not, just that the giving doesn’t seem to make a difference, or it goes to the wrong people. I think we need to make better use of what is being given, there appears to be a lot of waste on that level.

    • 2 margaret
      November 24, 2009 at 19:18

      I agree completely with Patti. I also agree that there is really no excuse for anyone on this planet to go hungry, be in poverty, be oppressed, etc. However, unless I can absolutely guarantee that my dollars are going directly to help the people that really need it and not into the pockets of corrupt politicians or terrorists or their ilk, I’m reluctant. Plus we have serious problems and desperate people right here in the USA. I’m concerned enough about how my tax dollars are wasted to support wars I’m against, and to bail out big corrupt businesses I don’t support, and politicians such as members of “The Family” (see Jeff Sharlet’s book), and the list goes on and on.

      Margaret Tacoma, WA

  2. 3 jens
    November 23, 2009 at 19:22

    well the swiss have given plants equal rights on the basis that they are living things. so stop walking on the grass, you are hurting the feelings of the blades, nevermind killing that carrot while steaming it……

    all i can say give rocks their rights as well.

  3. 4 Tom K in Mpls
    November 23, 2009 at 19:29

    It comes down to defining by religious or scientific guidelines. Sentience or soul. I have seen many higher mammals show all traits of sentience. The biggest mistake most people make is assuming that technology and writing is required before any group can be considered to be advanced. It is arrogance based on what we believe to be our greatest strength.

  4. 5 Tom K in Mpls
    November 23, 2009 at 20:04

    Regarding giving money to poor nations. We have done this and the results are disappointing. Look locally to what has happened when poor people in rich countries get unearned money. Lottery winners are the best case study. It frequently destroys in spectacular ways. Those with more money before the win fare better.

    • November 24, 2009 at 14:55

      I would love to know the source for that statement. A recent survey of 400 lottery winners showed just the opposite. They were loving their new lives.

      • 7 Tom K in Mpls
        November 24, 2009 at 18:18

        Four separate winning poor families and several relatives, in Polk ( two in the town of Luck! ) and St Croix counties of Wisconsin USA filed for bankruptcy in about a year after winning in the early days of the Powerball Lottery. I know of others with more experience with money doing well. My point is those thrust into a change adapt poorly. How about when Yeltsin thrust Russia into capitalism with no transition time. Organized crime were the only ones with experience and ready to take power. We know how that went.

    November 23, 2009 at 21:32

    Hello WHYS i think help the poor country is by given them money is to educate them more.

  6. 9 Bert
    November 23, 2009 at 22:04

    Two topics being discussed here: (1) aid to reduce poverty, (2) the righst of animals.

    1. Question: if one gives aid to hope to reduce poverty somewhere, is it fair to attach strings to that aid? In the form of, these are the reasons for which that culture that we are trying to assist is chronically poor, so here are the steps they need to take in order to receive our aid? Otherwise, as has been the case for more than a century, we’re just throwing money in a sinkhole.

    2. Professor Singer seems not to appreciate, IMO at least, that humans are also part of the animal kingdom. Just as the lion doesn’t worry too much about the “rights” of the gazelle it is chasing for its dinner, we also have the biological right to our own food sources. Now true enough, we also know or can devise ways of making this food acquisition as humane as possible, and should do so. But it’s not a matter of “we are better than they are.” More like, “we have the same rights that they do.” Humans are omnivores, true enough, but that means that humans also need meat as part of their diets. Some humans more than others, e.g. tjhose prone to anemia. And besides, no matter what we eat, with very few exceptions (such as salt), it’s going to be a living organism.

  7. 10 Vijay Pillai
    November 23, 2009 at 22:15

    This guy seem to be a self publicist .He is no great scientist like Prof Blackmore or for that matter Richard Feyman. What does he know about poverty.I remember reading about it 1976 from annual report by Macnamara then president of world bank.What was he doing at that time.It reminds me of another self publicist philosopher like the oxford don who want to donate some of his income to help the poor. These social scientists have nothing to show to world in terms of any uselful contributions like advancement of science but talk endlessly about otherpeople’s misery and make a living out of it like the artists standing on plinth in travalgar square for publicity. .

  8. 11 John in Salem
    November 23, 2009 at 23:42

    To borrow from an old allegory – we would do better teaching men to fish than crippling them with kindness.

    And while I sympathize with the Professor’s thoughts on the sentience of other species we need to keep our feet on the ground here. By the end of this century we will have wiped out 9 out of 10 species, much of the planet is going to be uninhabitable and anyone preaching the gospel of Dr. Dolittle is more likely to get eaten than listened to.
    It’s a nice idea, Professor, but honestly… you’re not helping.

  9. November 24, 2009 at 00:37

    Here’s a thought: How about investing in energy technology programs that educate and create employment opportunities in things like retrofitting buildings for efficiency and producing carbon-neutral energy? Oh, I forgot. Part of the reason that’s not a serious growth industry is because mainstream media are busy fanning the flames of controversy and perpetuating doubt on climate & energy issues, while policymakers sit on their hands when it comes to using the atmosphere as a fossil carbon sewer.

  10. 13 claudine
    November 24, 2009 at 01:29

    You know how it is:
    Give a hungry person one bread and he or she will eat for one day.
    Show them to produce bread then they will eat every day.

    It is a mistake to pour in food so that the hungry can eat.
    Better to rid them of war and give them a reasonable education so that they can help themselves.

    One example Zimbabwe/Rhodesia
    Last time the white farmers knew how to manage their farms and to produce an abundance of food.
    Now uneducated people have taken over from the original owners, people who know nothing about farming and especially management of farms, and Zimbabwe/Rhodesia went down the drain.

  11. November 24, 2009 at 03:14

    The reality is that giving money or goods to the poor does not work. Everyone takes a cut of your gift along the way. Money and food are power. Everyone who touches the gift partakes, and by the time it reaches the starving it is a meal or two. Scarcity is not the problem. The problem is greedy, violent, thugocracies.

  12. 15 Gary Paudler
    November 24, 2009 at 07:25

    What would be the downside to granting animals the right to live without human-induced suffering?
    By all means, let’s share more of our wealth with the poor. The fact that most donations filter through inefficient or corrupt institutions should be motivation to change the mechanisms by which the poor receive aid, not justification for not giving.

    • 16 mutevu
      November 24, 2009 at 17:43

      I would not encourage the idea of sharing wealth with the poor because poverty has not made hardworking people such as the current president of Brazil who rose from being a shoe shiner to where he is . Giving aid to the poor is the same as encouraging them to remain poor , this hinders creativity a situation well seen in AFRICA where people eat, sleep and give birth without adding any value to their lives because the donors are available and will provide!!!!!!

  13. November 24, 2009 at 07:37

    Roz, you made my day, for people who want to give to poor people in developing world- do you not realise that there are poor people in your own countries? Why not help them there & if you eradicate poverty in the west, move over to the ast & Africa. Why does every one have to be obligated to copy or do what you do? You have too much money & don’t know what to do with it? Start of with the homeless in your own country.
    As for the rights of animals, who will put down a constitution for them? Will they be doing that themselves? Who will monitor & ensure it’s suvival? how will that be enforced as you know they will have to have a right ,to their own kind representing them……

  14. November 24, 2009 at 08:02

    I have just read The Idea, following the above links & I think Professor that you seem to live in romantic & ideal world while the rest of us face harsh reality & try to make the most of it. How do you reconcile the fact that animals should have rights with advocating euthanasia for handicapped children? DO they not have a right to life?
    Have you ever taken an unexpected visit to some of there organisations in the poverty stricken areas to see ow many children have been “saved” by the fifth of your salary? The aid organisations drive the most expensive 4 x4 here & never fully do what they are supposed to with the donor money. If giving to such organisations, was they answer, don’t you think there shouldn’t be poor people now?

  15. November 24, 2009 at 09:26

    “I think”

    Two over used words, I, the one used most of all, and think not always used to full advantage.

    It is almost a free country here, and no one prevents The learned Professor from stating his own case or giving his own assets where ever he wishes.

    But the poor people of our own country are main targets in the ever increasing demand for cash contributions; by a government that encourages or allows old and vulnerable persons to be exploited in many ways and forced into poverty level status.

    Is he aware that many elderly persons who have worked hard and paid taxes for over half a century and endured many years of over taxation, wars and inconvenience are now paying as much as fifty pounds per week in Council Tax; out of an income far below the official poverty level.

    To educate those who may believe that the” State Pension” is a gift from the taxpayer and a piggy bank for the rich, I would mention that unlike the spongers and incomers that the label fits perfectly, the State Pension is actually a paid up pension fund for the members of society who have actually funded it from very hard earned wages.

  16. 20 Ikenna Okonkwo
    November 24, 2009 at 13:18

    Peter Singer? On have your say? Is it that the BBC can’t find anybody to talk about poverty in Africa? A fellow who proposes infanticide as morally acceptable?! O Please! The man should be -sorry to be blunt- in an insane asylum and not on the radio with the kind of ideas he has in his head.

    Poverty in Africa is not as a result of population (solved by donating money to send more condoms to Africa) or exploitation by the rich countries (solve by ‘guilty aid’), but of BAD LEADERSHIP. Africa has be beset by bad leaders who have allowed the continent to rot (see the Zimbabwe example aptly mentioned by claudine) and be exploited by others. It is not your salary that will be used to help Africa. It will end up for sure in some corrupt leaders pocket (how many lose their salaries for instance to Nigeria internet scammers). It will begin to be solved when African say no to corrupt leaders rather than sucking up to them for their own share, when other world leaders stop joking around with corrupt African tyrants for juicy contracts to enjoy Africa’s wealth. Don’t throw money at us! We don’t need it!

  17. 21 patti in cape coral
    November 24, 2009 at 13:51

    Regarding animal rights, I like the idea, but I also like the taste of meat. I’ve said this before, but I do feel we should be less wasteful and more reverent about the food we eat, and treat our animals better, as they are being sacrificed for our well-being. In the end, though, we all feed on death, even vegetarians(quoted from Spock on Star Trek).

  18. 22 smithcopper
    November 24, 2009 at 14:20

    let’s not forget about the widows and the orphans shall we …

    education is the key to helping people to help themselves

    look to sri lanka …they could be another singapore if not for the drawn out fighting
    …or how much aid has been given to ethiopa… where are they now?

    in the U.S. when you give out the free lunch you’ve started something and people expect it to be kept up …

    do you propose more taxes to redistribute earnings to the poor?

  19. 23 Sanjeev
    November 24, 2009 at 14:22

    I agree entiely with Professor Singer on speciesism, and on his idea about the constitution of persons (“not all humans are persons, some animals can be persons..”). On his views about deformed babies, I’m not sure I understand him. So I try to keep an open mind about it till such time as I have stuff enough to decide..

  20. November 24, 2009 at 15:03

    I think most of the comments above show that people are willing to give but quite rightfully in my opinion distrust the charities receiving the money. Too much is spent on fancy offices and carpets 2″ thick. The poorest countries need the means by which to earn but to make make any progress will also need to give up their traditional culture of dependency. Often a frightening prospect for them.
    The horrible truth is that many cultures are so riddled with corruption there is little that can be done to help apart from feed the poorest when disaster strikes once again.

  21. 25 James
    November 24, 2009 at 15:07

    Actually I’m not that familiar with his work! Based on the little bit I’ve read here, it appears we do have somethings in common. In fact I also believe it is our obligation to help everyone who might need help, even more so human beings who are less able to care for themselves. What ever it takes money or whatever!

  22. 26 Roberto
    November 24, 2009 at 15:24

    RE “” he’s also considered to be one of the world’s most influential thinkers. “”

    ——— Reminds me of the old homily of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

    I can feel the good perfessor’s pain over the way folks treat each other and their world, but apparently he’s never read a single history book to intuitively understand brutality and bloodshed is a part of the genetic make up of mankind.

    So too is the milk of human kindness, so the perfessor should readjust his sights and concentrate on making birth control a more pleasant option with vegetarian offerings healthier and more palatable to the masses.

    World doesn’t need yet another highbrowed preacher man beating us lowbrows for our transgressions.

  23. 27 brinda
    November 24, 2009 at 15:31

    I think its a simple and a brilliant idea .but my concern is, the money i donate should reach the needy,,,,,,,,,,they money i earn working 10 hours a day 6 days a week if donated to an organization should reach the ultimate benefactor not other sources.

    The other way to do it is to fund directly. but too complicated. Hugh emotional strain i think.

    Hence good ideas but will have implementation problems. not practical.

  24. 28 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 15:41

    I’ve noticed this about the far left. They love controlling people. They get some kick out of having people be dependent upon them, I would say they strive for a codependent system, which is not healthy for either party.

    Besides the example suggested here, I knew someone who years ago supported the idea of teaching Ebonics in public schools in california. For those who are not aware, ebonics is the technical term for colloquial, african american english. In other words, slang, improper english. She actually wanted it taught in school, rather than proper english, for “diversity” purposes. This was a major story in California several years ago, as they really were about to do this. I asked he, as she is an attorney, “Would you hire someone who graduated from such a system, who only could speak, and read and write in slang? Remember, judges have no tolerance for poorly written briefs, nor would partners.” and she of course responded that she would not hire such a person. But still insists it should be taught in school instead of proper english. Why? Because it’s a feel good measure for those on the left, and because it would create a permanent underclass, people who could only get hired at mcdonalds, they will be dependent upon the government.

  25. November 24, 2009 at 15:46

    This guy is loopy
    Poverty and money spent on it are “directly proportional”. The more money you throw at it, the more poverty grows. Until people realize that, it will continue to grow as a problem. The problem starts when you realize humans are animals. They seek to maximize their satisfaction and they seek to do it with the least path of resistance. The ultimate in satisfaction for males is spreading their seed, and in females rearing children. Humans will spend their last ounce of energy doing just that. Feeding poverty just grows it. If you can keep somebody alive with enough energy to breed and have offspring they will.

    I recently received a plea from some organization who wanted to build a house for a bunch of women who had been abused and caste out in Africa. While I feel their pain and empathize with them. Simply giving them a house, food, and no education and/ or power to protect themselves from not only others but their own poor choices, they are doomed to producing another generation who will get abused and impoverished. There are only two ways to solve poverty problems, through education or attrition.

  26. 30 half-not
    November 24, 2009 at 15:55

    To set the record straight, or to clear some things up, after reading these comments. Peter Singer is most likely the world’s foremost bio-ethicist. He is not new to the business. He is the Al Gore of ethics (and then some). When he published Animal Liberation in 1975, he essentially began our modern animal rights or liberation movement.

    • November 24, 2009 at 19:00

      There is an “animal rights” movement? Every movement has a leader who is one of the groups members who speak on behalf of the group. Dr. King, for example. Where can i hear say a moose speak on behalf of tghe mooses? I am worried about this uprising. I think i read some kind of perdiction that it might happen in a George Orwell novel.

      If the animals could talk, what they would say is that they are less worried about being eaten by us then they are at us destroying the world they have to inhabit with us.

      An animalk rights movement, Now I am a little worried about dog he has been stgaring at me with mutany in his eyes lately.

  27. 32 Jade
    November 24, 2009 at 15:57

    Not unlike pet animals that need love, attention and a reason to get up & going everyday, human beings need more than money to live a meaningful, quality life. If I have a choice to give money or a good education to a child, I would provide an education that not only helps him/her to survive, but to know why he/she is born into this complex world, and to help the less fortunate people. Eventually, it is not how many kids we produce or save, but how many happy & healthy kids are brought into this world. Parents have the duty to NOT have kids they can’t raise. Even animals know how to control their population so that they don’t over-exploit their environment. It is simply not good for survival in the long term.

  28. November 24, 2009 at 16:11

    I see others have mentioned “education” as the key to ending poverty as well. So some would ask “what kind of education?” The education has to be one the teach cause and affect of personal choices. If you are having a baby that you do not already at least have a flexible plan to get them through college if they desire, then you are behind in the game already. If you are having offspring when you yourself don’t know how you are going to eat the next day, you are being at the very least dangerously ignorant, at worst selfishly cruel. Education starts by teaching people to ask, “how am i going to first support myself before i try to support a family?” Basic economics. “So you have been given a belly full of food that can be considered a free tank of energy. Do you use that energy to go found more work to make more food, or do you use it to breed?” The answer to that question is the determinate to how well the aid is working.

  29. 34 T
    November 24, 2009 at 16:17

    In theory, these are nice ideas. But in reality, not everyone will buy these. Why? Because it’s human nature to do and say anything you need to to survive. How many rich and powerful people will give away much of that money and power? I can’t name one. Can you?

  30. 35 Roberto
    November 24, 2009 at 16:34

    RE “” I knew someone who years ago supported the idea of teaching Ebonics in public schools in california “”

    ——— Still stinging over creationism being rejected for public school programs are ya?

    Doubt Mr. Singer cares a fig for either, so you have one thing in common with him, how about that!

  31. 36 Roseann in Houston
    November 24, 2009 at 16:36

    Regarding the example about the drowning baby – yes, I would save the baby – and then I would hand the baby to it’s parents/guardian and that would be the end of it. If I give money to feed hungry people in other countries then it won’t be a one time thing. This year it will be because of a drought, next year because of a civil war, the next year due to something else. And giving to other countries means that I won’t have money to feed hungry people in Houston, Texas – and there are LOTS of them here.

  32. 37 Sade
    November 24, 2009 at 16:43

    I wonder why I haven’t heard of the professor?

    I see his mantra as more of the same… the poor giving to the poor. Perhaps now that he has given us this idea he can write another book on how much money we really need, to live a good life. Then he can ask the rich to give away their wealth starting with the wealthiest and then all the way down to the poverty line of which he speaks. The idea being the wealthy have to give first.

    I have nothing against his idea about animals as long as it is put in context of the way we have to interact on this planet to survive.

  33. 38 Moeka From Freetown
    November 24, 2009 at 16:52

    Let’s face it. Our five fingers are not the equal. Life style highly depends on family background, geographic location. Etc… Honestly to be born in Africa has a higher tendency of one ending poor than say in America. The issue that richer people share some of their income with poor people will not end poverty but it will increase the dependency on aid as we already have a huge problem with aid dependency. People will become lazy. My advice to the world is having everyone learn a trade that will become their source of income.

  34. 39 Jade
    November 24, 2009 at 16:53

    At some point, we look around and see a dangerous world, an ugly world that some have to live in a self-confined bubble, shared only with a small group of people with similar economic conditions. The constant anticipation to be attacked or cheated (of money) can create stress, and stress lessens capacity to fight deseases. Surveys already shown that wealth does not always make people happy. Rich and powere people don’t always win in living life

  35. November 24, 2009 at 16:54

    Much better to give the poor democracy – get their corrupt charlatan dictator president off their backs. And almost every player in the Aid and Development Business is a cynical fake exploiter living off the misery of the poor.

    Fraud-proof elections will change the world (for the better) – if only the governments of the rich countries will let them take place.

    Mr Alex Weir
    Baghdad and Harare

    • November 24, 2009 at 17:24

      Mr. Weir,

      You can not give a culture democracy (one assumes you mean “freedom”) any more then you can give them prosperity. These attributes must be taken by those who desire them, or they will be forever at risk of loosing them again. As soon as the givers of these luxuries leave, those who repressed and impoverished will return to reap the spoils.

  36. November 24, 2009 at 17:11

    One of the problems with giving to charities is not only corruption but excessive corporate pay. I recently read that the CEO of United Way in Atlanta is making over $3,000,000. US a year. Three Million. How this woman can live with herself, how she can look in the mirror and not be revolted at her absolute greed I will never know. I work for a charity, and while I am not privy to my executive director’s salary, I have learned that even small to medium sized charities tend to have excessive pay and it is directly taking from the very directive of these organization’s clients. Many people who have the ability to help look at things like this and say that they refuse to donate because of this and I can understand. The issue of helping Africa is to me a moot point. I have posted before my own family’s deep involvement in Africa, and they HAVE been given education, money, food, etc. for years and 100% of the time it is wasted. I work for an AIDS organization, and know first hand that most Africans are hearing FROM THEIR OWN GOVERNMENTS (and the Catholic Church) that condoms spread AIDS, that having sex with a virgin will cure you, etc. The horrible leaders are responsible for their own people. Charity starts at home, and I refuse to care about hunger thousands of miles away when I have desperate starving neighbors who are trying their best to survive.

  37. 43 Denise in Chicago
    November 24, 2009 at 17:18

    I don’t believe it is as simple as donating a portion of my salary each month. Putting aside the issue of which group or what people are most deserving of this money, it doesn’t address the causes of poverty, including lack of education and corrupt governments. If the poor remain dependent upon charity, it will create a cycle of dependence which doesn’t solve the root problems.

  38. 44 Gary Paudler
    November 24, 2009 at 17:19

    Questions for Dr. Singer:
    1 – Please explain how your views on euthanasia are consistent with your views on animal rights so that we don’t have to spend the hour hearing how you love animals more than people. Your consistency is quite clear to me and I think that you articulate it well but it’s easy for people to steer these issues into an emotional distraction.

    2 – It looks like you would encourage us to give to any and all worthy recipients, local or distant, but reading the posts, above, it looks like it’s easy for many of us to automatically associate charity with Africa and its famous capacity for diluting aid with corruption on all sides. Dambisa Moyo has written “Dead Aid” and many people seem to think that she argues for discontinuing all aid; would you please address that?

  39. 45 Ron S.
    November 24, 2009 at 17:33

    Humans should not live in squalor or poverty, no matter how they got into that situation. It’s sad how so many are for “helping” out, but the moment it happens in their coomunity/town/city/etc..they cry “NO WAY!”

    Less hypocritical gum-flapping, and more action.

  40. 46 Emmanuel Coleman, Accra
    November 24, 2009 at 17:51

    we cannot or should not rule out giving to the poor because of the issue of corruption but more emphasis should be placed on training the people to hold their leaders to account and their institutions to responsibility. this empowerment can be done through educational interventions.

  41. November 24, 2009 at 17:52

    In a million years we may have evolved a fairer society
    It will take at least that long!
    Or we may no longer exist in far less time
    Which is the most likely?

  42. 48 joshua m.sameway
    November 24, 2009 at 18:06

    i’m living below the poverty line in liberia.
    i do believe that the only alternative to lift poor people from this disgrace that the rich take for granted is by impowering the poor through skill training, education, investing in locol community groups and associations and not puting your money in national institutions cause it will end up in the pocket of the political elites.
    many people go to bed dayly without having a bread to eat.

    please cxplain how the rich money will reach the poorest people?

  43. 49 Justin in Iowa
    November 24, 2009 at 18:07

    Animals are food. They should by no means be tortured or tormented, but lets be real here – nature includes killing and eating other creatures for food. Animals are food. Plants are alive as well, and are food. Fungus is food. Get over it.

    On aid… the only sorts of aid that should be provided are education, training, medicine, and organizational assistance. Parts of this world have a maximum population that they can support. Constant aid and food aid cause more suffering by encouraging people to populate areas that can’t support them. And food, clothing, other aid undercuts industry and production in the areas that aid is provided too. Aid creates dependency. At least the sort of aid that is provided in today’s day and age.

  44. 50 Colin Sundaram
    November 24, 2009 at 18:08

    24. 11. 09

    Dear Ros,

    I do not want to write on this because no body will part with their millions however, the middle class, the hands to mouth ones may commit something and that will not make much difference. My suggestion is that tax the wealthy in wealthy countries for helping the poor on a one condition i.e. they must reduce population growth and give them targets otherwise when they get free food and other conveniences they will reproduce more and the wealthy in the developed world will become poor by feeding the ones who will indulge more and more in conjugal pleasure.

  45. 51 Half-Not
    November 24, 2009 at 18:15

    What is wrong with poverty exactly? Of course it sounds silly, but seriously, what is inherently wrong with it? Many of us think money is evil, so by giving money to the poor what exactly do you achieve by giving them something we consider evil? Many hate the rich because they have too much money, but they love the poor because they don’t have any, but then they want to fix the poor by giving them something they hate? It doesn’t make sense!

    There is a difference between poverty and hunger. I think we should indeed give people a chance at life with food and medicine. But fixing poverty is really a different thing. I don’t see how you can make a logical case that poverty (across-the-board) should be remedied.

  46. 52 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 18:33

    Life isn’t fair. Adults learn to deal with this fact.

  47. 53 Tracy in Portland,OR
    November 24, 2009 at 18:40

    I’m facinated by the animals should have the same rights as humans thing… Let me just say here and now I don’t want cows voting. And if animals get the same rights does that mean we should raise their rights or lower ours. Can I have a human pet? How about Soilent Green the ultimate equalizer..

    Portland OR

  48. 54 Usman Amjad
    November 24, 2009 at 18:45

    I am from Pakistan. My point of view is that doctor is right and I fully agree with him. Animals also possess soul like humans and so do plants. I am Muslim and our religion also focusses on providing equal rights to every being on this earth. Our Prophet even forbade not to brand the donkeys and cattle behind their backs. I also think that being kind to animals create a strong bond between humans and animals which is necessary for their survival.
    Secondly, I would like to say that being kind also means being kind to yourself. The present research shows that kindness is a way of living long. As far as helping others is concerned, Islam has devised a method of giving Zakat to the poor annually.

  49. 55 Shannon in Ohio
    November 24, 2009 at 18:46

    I would like Prof. Singer to address the following questions:

    1. Don’t those of us who give have an equally urgent obligation to make sure that the money we donate is used responsibly? How do we do that when NGOs are routinely “shaken down” for money/materials all over the world?

    2. I have given to global charities for most of my life, and have grown very disheartened. In some instances, my donations probably supported the lavish lifestyles of murderers and thieves. Should westerners like me, who are now wary about donating, automatically be regarded as horribly selfish individuals? To quote Leo Tolstoy, “What then must we do?”

  50. 56 patti in cape coral
    November 24, 2009 at 19:08

    If I give to help the poor, I generally don’t care if the people being helped are from my country, or any other country. I just don’t trust that it will get into the hands that need it the most.

  51. 57 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 19:14

    Would you be in objection to mandating birth control for these poor people? I mean, if the money is to be used to support children they couldn’t have afforded to have in the first place, would this just not enourage them to have even more kids that they cannot support? And the consequences of this? Such as consuming more world resources, creating scarcity and increasing the chance for wars over resources and living space?

    Perhaps in exchange for support, they should not have so many kids?

    • 58 patti in cape coral
      November 25, 2009 at 14:07

      Hi Steve, I think you were asking me that question? I agree that having children should be limited if you have limited resources. I’m not sure that it should be mandated. I possibly agree with your last sentence that in exchange for support they agree not to have more children. Is contraception not widely available? I wonder why these poor women have so many children. I read somewhere that the men often object to their wives using birth control.

  52. 59 Sair in Vancouver
    November 24, 2009 at 19:16

    Equal distribution of wealth is the logical solution to world poverty. Irrespective of East or West the impact would be immense and could help to empower individuals who other wise would have no way out. I often feel disgusted by the way I live in the Western world, unable to comprehend why I should be able to afford to buy a soy latte if I want to while a family elsewhere goes without food for that day. How, in this apparently highly evolved species, do these inequalities still exist?

  53. 60 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 19:17

    What about the rights of plants, especially ones where you have to kill the plant to eat the vegetable (unlike fruit).?

  54. 61 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 19:19

    I’ve watched plenty of nature shows that show animals eating other animals, which seems pretty miserable way to die, especially being torn into pieces by a shark, being digested while still alive by a snake, etc..

  55. 62 Half-Not
    November 24, 2009 at 19:20

    How does Mr. Signer feel about giving money to non-profits such as arts’ organizations? Suppose you only have ten percent to give, and a particular museum has meant a lot to your life—is it unethical to give to that museum? Realistically, if we follow your equations, wouldn’t we not fund the arts at all when people are in poverty around the world? But wouldn’t this effect the happiness or aspirations of so many other people? Money isn’t everything. Giving money to end poverty isn’t everything. Aren’t there many other valuable ways to use money that can also effect humanity and in some ways for a longer term then just giving to aid poverty?

  56. 63 Gary Paudler
    November 24, 2009 at 19:22

    Yay Katrina! Well-stated points on animal ethics.

  57. 64 Andrew in Salem, Oregon, US
    November 24, 2009 at 19:24

    I am a young American, at only 22 years old, and I think that people in my generation would have an easier time giving money to aid programs if there were at least some modicum of trust in the system of distribution. There are constantly stories of money being embezzled, mismanaged and of corruption. All of this makes it hard to trust that my dollar will actually be used to help an impoverished person and not line the pocket of an executive.

    Prof. Singer, what would be your response to this issue? How can one be sure their money will be used responsibly?

  58. 65 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 19:26

    Ironic he has a problem with killing animals for food against the will of the animals, but has no problem killing an infant against the infant’s will, merely because the child is inconvenient. Care to explain the double standard?

  59. November 24, 2009 at 19:28

    Let’s leave hypothesis out of the debate.

  60. 67 Jane Steele
    November 24, 2009 at 19:30

    I think until the issue of population control is intelligently addressed in countries where children are most at risk of being sentenced to a life of starvation and poverty – that nothing will change no matter how much money people contribute to charity.

    Better for a family to have one healthy, well nourished, clothed and educated child than multiple children that they cannot supply even the most basic of needs.

  61. 68 Marie in Indianapolis
    November 24, 2009 at 19:32

    As I listen to today’s show, I wonder about humans who live in places where plants grow poorly or for very short times and the people must eat animals to survive. I have read that one can only be a vegetarian if you are well off with many ways to get proteins for survival. In many parts of the world, the humans eat the animals who can easily convert tough vegetation to something edible. I do think people living in these regions treat their animals well, but need them to survive. In the US, Britain, and other rich countries, I know that confined animals are treated poorly.

    I do agree that giving away a higher % of our income to the local and international people who need food is very worthy. We are working towards a higher % as well as cutting back on what we consume in many ways.

  62. 69 Roberto
    November 24, 2009 at 19:33

    I’m from Peru, a “developing country” my take on this is that if people had more money than others, it’s unusual to share some with the poor, even if one has enough to lead a luxurious life, whilst others go through penury, It’s something unlikely to change

  63. 70 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    November 24, 2009 at 19:35

    Ros just asked if I as part of the developed world feel guilty and what would I do to fix that. Peter Singer- do you ever feel guilty? Do you go out for $100 meals? How do YOU make the world a better place?

  64. 71 Sampath
    November 24, 2009 at 19:38

    -No monetary help-

    I would rather help out in kind, or be in a position to assist in kind, if not putting that person in touch with someone who can!

    Animals can take care of themselves, we as a species are flawed.

    • November 24, 2009 at 19:39

      -No monetary help-

      I would rather help out in kind, or be in a position to assist in kind, if not putting that person in touch with someone who can!

      Animals can take care of themselves, we as a species are flawed.

  65. 73 AJM UK
    November 24, 2009 at 19:46

    The sikh and muslim religions promote a charitable tax for all followers, maybe if everyone converted we’d start to stem the tide. I believe charity should start at home, otherwise the most fashionable and publicised charities/ causes get all the support over nearer, more deserving causes. By never providing quite enough, charities may promote dependence and corruption over grass roots, local solutions.

  66. 74 Fran, from Spain
    November 24, 2009 at 19:49

    Hi, I disagree but I respect the people who support the idea of treating animals like humans and being vegetarian.. as long as they don’t eat a hamburguer in the first oportunity.. because I know a lot of people who support this kind of things and then behave completely in the other way because eating a tasty beef in a barbecue is impossible to reject..

  67. 75 Todd in Atlanta
    November 24, 2009 at 19:50

    Two quick points.

    1. Animals for food: At this stage in our technological development, can’t scientists, nutritionists and food experts develop ‘synthetic’ forms of meat on a mass scale that is just as good or even better than steak, chicken or lamb? By ‘synthetic’ I mean that it’s made by various (organic) ingredients like plants, flavors, grains, etc. Can’t this be done such that you get various textures, flavors, juiciness and replicate all the great things about meat? Benefits? More jobs for the researchers and people in the food industry; reduction of high cholesterol, heart disease and even cancer; Less animals killed and slaughtered and a whole list of other advantages.
    Yes there’d be problems with the hundreds of thousands of workers in the meat industry as a whole, but maybe they can be transitioned into new roles somehow. Just a thought, I think it CAN be done though.

    2. There are so many millions of people in poverty worldwide, and ‘throwing money at the problem’ we all know does not work. BUT, the majority of the poor do want a chance to work and make a living on some level. I’ve been baffled for years that most of the great business minds in the world (who love to make money), have not found a profitable way to harness the poor in such a way that they make money for themselves as individuals, and also for these business people. This too, CAN be done.

    • 76 AJM UK
      November 24, 2009 at 19:58

      Yes, it will soon be possible to grow any meat in a lab, not synthetically but genetically. The moral questions are quite interesting, e.g. if human meat was to taste nice, why shouldn’t one eat it if it didn’t actually come from a human body but was, rather , an individual cut, grown in a lab? Would we be eating endangered species flavoured meat?

  68. 77 steve
    November 24, 2009 at 19:51

    Why should ONLY the rich have an obligation to help the poor? Shouldn’t everybody, even the poor? Even if not money, than time and effort? Why does this rest only on the rich?

  69. 78 archibald
    November 24, 2009 at 19:52

    Ask children what should be done to help humanity and animals both. I am quite sure that the answer you get would be a whole lot less jaded and more proactive than any views expressed here today. It will be their world soon enough and we do not seem to be able to get out of our own way fast enough to stave off total population/poverty disaster by any of the current solutions on the table. If only we could trust a simple solution, rather than making everything turn into a technical nightmare, complete with blamers and arms folded dissenters too selfish to even try something new.

  70. 79 JanB
    November 24, 2009 at 19:54

    Mr. Singer is out of his mind, if he truly is one of the world’s most influential thinkers then that says more about the world than about him.

    1) This whole “give them money and they’ll use it responsibly” thing has been tried and done for decades now, it hasn’t helped one bit. In fact we’re seeing that the Asian countries that got only small amounts of aid our doing much better than Africa which has wasted many billions in aid.
    Africa’s slow economic development seems to come only from the job created by the dreaded evil multinationals.

    2) It is absurd to give animals human rights because nature wasn’t designed by humans, there are certain aspects of nature that don’t behave according to our rules.
    Ethical dilemma’s like whether abortion is right or wrong or whether we should let the lion starve or let the gazelle be eaten are fundamentally unsolvable.
    At best we can have laws that make hunting intelligent animals illegal, but even then we will have to draw an arbitrary line.

  71. 80 Roger
    November 24, 2009 at 19:56

    Given the suggestion that Professor Singer feels that we should all contribute to reduce the pain around the world (a position, with which I MAY not disagree), I would like to ask if he could put the concept into long term perspective.
    Here is my point:
    If we save starving children in central Africa in the 1950s to the tune of say 10000 starving children only to have them survive to create 70000 starving children in the 1990s, have we reduced the pain of starving or increased it in the bigger picture.
    This leads me to want to apply the good will not just to feeding but to a balance of saving only the children that have the real potential of becoming self sufficient.
    We need to be looking at the world capacity and the 100 and 200 year time frame.

  72. 81 Rafael Smith
    November 24, 2009 at 19:58

    Lets take a hypothetical situation, what happens once we reach a desired starndard of living in the developng world. What moral code do we follow then?

  73. 82 Tom D Ford
    November 24, 2009 at 19:58

    How about instead of giving more, just taking less?

    If people like Gates and Buffet took less, if they were not so greedy, then there would be less poverty created.

    Our economic system is set up to create poverty, why can’t we moderate it so that the people at the top take less and just leave more in the hands of the poor?

    • 83 Tom K in Mpls
      November 24, 2009 at 20:29

      I would like to see what percentage of their annual income that Gates and Buffet spend on their daily personal lives. My guess would be less than .1%. I spend about 75%. So who is bad, you and I who spend so much and add so little to the world or those that spend so little and create industries to support millions of people?

  74. 84 Michael Teh in Los Angeles
    November 24, 2009 at 20:02

    Isn’t the real issue here Overpopulation?
    It’s causing poverty, war, environmental degradation, extinction of species, industrial farming, animal cruelty, etc., etc.
    Maybe we should be giving our money to causes that limit human reproduction.

  75. 85 Matthew Houston
    November 24, 2009 at 20:06

    I mostly agree… the one difference is the focus on money.

    I think this is a mistake. It’s inefficient. Every time money changes hands, there’s a great portion of it lost in bureaucracy.

    I think people should align their lives and work toward the goal of helping others…
    overall…the effect is…instead of taking a fraction of the surplus of a massive system to create a tiny, fragile charity system….shift the massive system over to cover the fragile area.
    Wouldn’t efforts along this line ultimately be more beneficial?

    Sure it takes more up-front effort, but in the long-run, it is self-sustainable, and diversifies the source (which may skirt the ability of fickle personalities to sabotage greater purpose).

  76. 86 Jade
    November 24, 2009 at 20:23

    I watch Life on Earth, Nature and Nova, and I grew up with pet animals. I also like to taste all kinds of food. If I get lost in jungles or oceans, I become food to other carnivores. We are made with teeth and digestive system to consume meat. I am sorry. Disney movies humanize animals, made animals live like humans in human societies. Adults know kids will grow out of these beautiful fantacies eventually. It is humanistic to imagine animals suffer the way we suffer, because it’s the same compassion to empathize with suffering people. I still think it is better to limit how much we take from Nature, & how we can educate people in human’s role in the environment, than giving money to encourage humans to make more babies they can’t afford.

  77. 87 Fran, from Spain
    November 24, 2009 at 20:23

    I think before considering whether to treat animals as humans, we should learn how to treat humans as humans, because that’s not happening in a lot of places throughout the world.

  78. 89 Rox from Brussels
    November 24, 2009 at 20:37

    I’d like to be able to give food to the poor even in my country. I’m sure on daily basis there are people in need. Unfortunately all campaigns and funds seems to be rather seasonal/sporadical. I’d like to know an established organisation and location where I can donate or volunteer to work and help people in need.

  79. 90 GTR5
    November 24, 2009 at 21:24

    This guy must be off his meds and needs to be treated. The idea of having to give a portion of your salary to those without must make Stalin and Mao proud of him.

  80. 91 ryan
    November 24, 2009 at 21:25

    I enjoy Singer so much because for almost everything he says there is something that I agree with and another that I totally disagree: Although animals suffer pain and this should be considered when we treat them, they also lack the higher cognitive abilities that has resulted from our rapidly evolved relatively large cerebral cortex. This has given us the ability to organize our lives around ideas contained within memory and also the ability to visualize possible futures and pasts. This distinguishes us from other animals because we can anticipate pain and our own deaths. Also, humans have a shared knowledge of sufferings that the human race has endured. What this means is that when one person dies or suffers others also suffer. Even the prospect of death and suffering can cause great harm to a person, and its plausible that this anticipation and knowledge of other suffering can cause even greater harm than the initial suffering. Although animals do have some memory and empathy, these abilities are quite limited when compared to humans and I think this quantitative difference warrants a different treatment of animals than humans. – UBC, Vancouver.

  81. 92 John LaGrua/New York
    November 24, 2009 at 21:32

    Blind charity is pouring money down the drain.Education and skill training with short term income supplements if carefully supervised can produce results.Most government administered programs are a dismal failure.Vocational training to develop earning power is far more sensible than idea that everybody in the US should go to college.A third rate college degree can’t compare with a well developed craft skill.Welfare has been a disaster in the US as it was riddled with abuse.Any aid should have as its’ goal the self sufficiency of the recipient in a reasonable time frame.” Give a man a fish ,he eats for a day,teach a man to fish and he eats all his life.” Lao Tzu .Short term relief of hunger and misery are best carried out by well regarded organization such as Caritas and the Salvation Army both known for honesty and effectiveness.Foreign aid is almost always wasted except where agricultural techniques are improved and in delivering health care to enable aflicted to lead productive lives.

  82. 93 Carl in Portland
    November 24, 2009 at 23:19

    Giving money to support programs that help the poorest nations learn to sustain themslevs is great;however, the bigger question is how much is enough. Because some nations are so poor, should I lower my standard of living to help even more? Knowing that I will still be among the 2% of wealthy and eons away from being anywhere near the poverty that many nations face. So again, how much is enough?

  83. 94 Elias
    November 25, 2009 at 00:02

    Its OK and good to donate for a good cause provided it gets to the needy and not appropriated by corrupt governments.
    It is a fact when an animal such as a dog is run over by a car, a crowd gathers and you can hear someone say “poor dog”. but when a human being is run over, not many people gather around, they mostly go about their business.

  84. 95 Leonet Reid- Jamaica
    November 25, 2009 at 00:17

    Hello WHOs listeners,

    Dr. Singer is correct to say that we should help less fortunate people because we should be our brother’s keeper. But, charity comes from free will and not by coersion. In that case it will be forcefully done, and the intent wouldn’t be as sincere as intended. Therefore, people, preferably from Westernized countries, should committ themselves to a cause whose aim is to alleviate world suffering. It is our civil duty to be there for our neighbours when they are in need. I beleive it starts by helping in our own communities because it takes one step to movement or one wishper to start shouting. Together we can. Together we can by supporting grass root initiatives, that send children to schools, provide food and training skills to people.

  85. November 25, 2009 at 00:20

    Listening to Singer’s description of Christian faith–heaven as “angels strumming on harps,” etc. was not only personally insulting, it was a total straw man fallacy–intellectually unconscionable!

    Ah, but rhetoric is far more successful than reasoning. Why did our host not press him on his inconsistency regarding his mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease? Certainly, according to his own thinking,Singer’s mother is a now a non-person, taking up valuable resources. It seems like Singer has been hiding behind his sister Joan’s skirts, using her for his excuse why he hasn’t “offed” mom: http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/2008/03/peter-singer-slippery-mind.html

  86. 97 ddddd
    November 25, 2009 at 00:49

    The other thing is to convince the haves that they should be more careful of what their charity dollars or donations go to.

    I used to work for an events center in which those who could afford to donate oodles of money parked close…. I am talking thousands of dollars… and the ones who did not donate practically had to park a block away. Also some permit holders got to park closer than the handicapped. Money talks no matter what.

    Give till it hurts only works in a just system. There is no way of truly knowing if you are giving to a just system. There is no way of knowing what the best place is to give till it hurts is. How do we determine levels of suffering?

    I do agree with the premise that we should not discriminate against animals. I believe in content of the soul. I guess I would argue that the life of my cat is worth more than the life of one of my former roommates due to the fact that her animals suffered in her hands the whole time I lived with her. I also would argue that her life is worth less than a rock due to the fact that the rock undisturbed does not hurt anyone. Ok so i might be a little bitter about that former roommate but I used her as my best example that the pain of animals is no less than the pain of humans and that its the quality of the soul that matters.

  87. November 25, 2009 at 04:39

    Our planet is now supporting over 6 billion human beings and forcing many to survive in places never suited for habitation. Places like deserts or arid mountains where not much can grow to feed the populance. Such places will always need aid. Maybe with technology, these places can become self-supporting, but I doubt it – maybe sometime in the future….
    Not today darling, I’ve got a war to fight!

  88. November 25, 2009 at 07:19

    I agree with the comments or Patti and Margaret. I would also like to say that I’d be willing to give a little of my money, not that I’ve got much, but I’m better off than a lot of poorer souls. If the money went to the people in need, yes giving a little would be fine. I think the poor need Educating in contraception. I could only afford to have two children, and I had to work hard to feed and clothe them ect. Lots of people in the West are very poor and need help also. Joan Anne WA

  89. November 25, 2009 at 09:17

    ‘If we could easily save the life of a child, we would.

    For example, if we saw a child in danger of drowning in a shallow pond, and and that pond is owned by RG and all we have to do is give RG money so he can save the child, we would, the fact that he might be irresponsible and greedy
    and once money is recieved never save the child. That is the question you have to ask when giving money to save the child.

  90. November 25, 2009 at 11:44

    as long as giving is done wisely,it never becomes a sin.its only sinfull if you try to please others or GOD by giving without a good direction.

    TV(tambua village/jebrock),HAMISI,VIHIGA,KENYA.

  91. November 25, 2009 at 12:18

    if the japanese government wants to truly help needy kenyans….it should be reminded that it has an organisation known as JICA which can use funds better instead of giving the cash to government…..if not,then the name AID should be known to be just a password to enter the world of african mafias.

    TV(tambua village/jebrock),HAMISI,VIHIGA,KENYA.

  92. 103 T
    November 25, 2009 at 17:06

    We should help more. But human nature being what it is, lots of questions will come up:

    Who decides what’s the “proper” amount to give away?
    Why should I give some away when others aren’t?
    If it’s not tax deductable, then why shoud I bother?

    The old pull-yourself-up-by-your-whatever is a stock neocon response that just doesn’t work.

  93. 104 Fred
    November 26, 2009 at 14:36

    I don’t think that giving a lot of money to developing countries will help that much.
    Actually, a lot of countries are poor despite having huge incomes. I’m thinking of countries that have natural resources such as oil or diamond. In those cases, money has never been helpful in reducing poverty. Why? Because those incomes don’t come from the economy. Oil don’t create many jobs. So, what poor countries need? I would say opportunities for selling their products at a good price, an access to financial markets, rules to protect some vital sectors of their economies from international competition…

    And the most important : the will of the inhabitants to change their countries.
    This is something that one cannot buy…

  94. 105 James Ian
    December 3, 2009 at 09:19

    I would give money to pay for sterilization of people who by haveing children only perpetuate thier own poverty.

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