There are many implications to consider when questioning the moral status of animals. It is a moderately modern idea that non-human animals have moral status, and philosopher Peter Singer dedicated a lot of his life towards this debate. It follows that humans have certain inviolable rights such as the freedom to speech and the freedom to life, but what grants us these rights over that of non-human animals? The intrinsic worth of sentient animals is an extremely important factor when assessing moral consequences. Our belief that human beings have a superiority over animals is essentially fuelled by the notion that non-human animals lack certain sentient capabilities and necessary experiences that humans hold. The idea of sentience and intrinsic worth begs a moral classification of animals, and whether we need to identify the qualities involved to separate those who have a moral status from those who don't. .
Jeremy Bentham famously quoted: "the question is not: can they talk, or can they reason, but can they suffer?". It is logical to conclude that if animals do suffer, then they are indeed an object of our moral concern. The question then becomes, 'can animals suffer', and if the answer is yes, we can conclude that non-human animals do have moral status. .
There seems to be a moral hierarchy when considering which animals have a moral status (or whether any of them do). At the top, we have sentient and self aware organisms. This grouping experience pain and pleasure and are aware of their own existence, preferring to live and cherish a pleasureful life. Does being a pleasure seeker and a pain avoider add to the moral implications that follow from deliberate pain? Surely organisms that value their experience and have subjective experiences deserve a moral status, unlike the group below them, who arguable only deserve some moral status, as pleasure is merely a preference to them, and they do not possess a subjective experience.