I hope you don't mind, but I've rearranged the order of your previous post for clarity.
1) All humans have equal consideration rights
2) Nonhuman animals have equal consideration rights only if they might a certain standard of self awareness
3) Using non self aware (by a certain standard) animals as resources is not unethical.
What I have argued is that sentience (the capacity to consciously experience pleasure and pain) is a necessary and sufficient condition for (i) equal consideration rights, and (ii) the right not to be regarded as property or treated as a resource, irrespective of race, rank, or species.
Furthermore, I have argued that sentience, by definition, necessarily entails some form of self-awareness, even if we cannot know its precise nature. That said:
(1) is incorrect. More precisely, I do not
object to using irreversibly insentient humans or insentient nonhumans as resources, because having an interest in not being used as a resource (or having any
interest, for that matter) necessarily requires sentience. To understand this point, consider rocks. Rocks are insentient matter that lack experiential welfares. Rocks have no subjective awareness and cannot experience pleasure or pain. Thus, rocks cannot have interests. Irreversibly insentient humans and insentient nonhumans, therefore, have the same moral status as rocks, which, needless to say, is none.
(2) and (3) are correct if you replace self-awareness with sentience (or insentience, where applicable). As I have argued before, sentience (as perceptual consciousness) necessarily entails some form of self-awareness.
I would define rights and interests like this. If I loan you money, it is not always in your interest to pay me back. But I have the right to be paid back. Rights supersede interests. It's my impression at least that we are mostly discussing interests and whether humans have a moral responsibility to respect those interests (i.e. you are saying our interests do not supersede theirs, only our rights).
According to my position (I have not mentioned this yet), a right is the protection of an interest.
This makes sense from a moral and legal standpoint, since one cannot coherently talk about having some right unless it is actually protecting some interest.
To understand this point, consider the following example: because sentient beings have an interest in avoiding unnecessary suffering, it makes sense to talk about sentient beings as having rights-claims that impose on others the duty not to inflict unnecessary suffering on them. Conversely, irreversibly insentient beings (brain-dead humans), or insentient matter (rocks), absolutely lack experiential welfares, so it makes no sense to say that they have an interest in avoiding suffering. Furthermore, because neither has an interest in avoiding suffering, it follows that neither can have a corresponding right (since there are no interests for that right to protect).
Not all interests guarantee corresponding rights. For example, some argue that our interest in maintaining good health requires that the government recognize our right to free healthcare, while others argue that healthcare is commodity like any other that should be paid for, regardless of the interest we have in maintaining good health.
But whatever our disagreement might be on such matters, we generally agree that, at minimum, our interest in avoiding unnecessary suffering should be protected by a corresponding right that protects that interest.
if given the choice between saving a cow and mentally impaired human (impaired to the point of having less cognitive capability than the cow) I think you would save the human. We discussed a similar scenario before with the lion and the human, this is also a situation of genuine conflict, but my point is that you would put the human in a distinct class based on more than just mental capabilities. There are other examples one could use.
The response I gave to this was that the choice we make is largely dependent on which party we value more. But in assuming we shoot the lion to save the human, it does not follow that lions are resources we are free to exploit. Valuing the human over the lion in morally special cases is consistent with the view that both humans and nonhumans have the same right not to be treated as resources in ordinary cases.
To understand this point, consider the following example. Suppose the situation was different and we had to choose between saving either a man or a woman who are both stuck in a burning building. Both the man and the woman are sentient, so both have satisifed the cognitive requirement for having interests that entitle them to equal consideration rights. Thus, the choice we make will ultimately depend on morally irrelevant and arbitrary considerations. This is so because special cases are what moral philosophers call moral tragedies
. A moral tragedy occurs when, no matter what one does, something morally bad must result.
But here's the important point to grasp. Let's say we choose the man. What moral conclusions can we draw from such special cases? None whatsoever. In choosing the man, it does not follow logically or morally that women should be disvalued in ordinary cases, or that women can be used as mens' resources. Similarly, if both a human and a dog are stuck in a burning building, and we choose the human, it does not follow logically or morally that nonhumans can be used as our resources in ordinary cases.