Utilitarianism values equality of all interest parties. It is on the principle that when making a decision, thorough consideration on the consequent cost and benefit must be made, and it is on the basis of impartial consideration of all related interest parties that the final decision should be made. Rights-based ethics, however, value the right of individuals. It is more like individualism. It is on the principle that when making a decision, whether the right of individuals or groups will be upheld or violated should be evaluated, and it is on the basis of the benefit maximization of certain individuals or groups that the final decision should be made. The major conflict between utilitarian and rights-based moral reasoning lies in the conflict between the right of one party and the whole party. Utilitarian accepts and sometimes requires the sacrifice of the right of one individual or a small group for the well being of a bigger group. This is absolutely an absurd decision in rights-based moral reasoning.
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For example, in the spelunking case, a utilitarian would detonate the dynamite to save 19 lives at the sacrifice of the one stuck in the hole, while the decision made on rights-based moral reasoning will be not to detonate the dynamite. This is because according to utilitarianism the benefit of detonating the dynamite is way too higher than the cost, while in rights-based moral reasoning by detonating the dynamite the right of the one who got stuck will be violated. In my opinion, the “crime” of killing fighting dogs is acceptable in right-based moral reasoning but is unacceptable in Utilitarianism. According to the utilitarian moral reasoning, the sacrifice of the interest of a smaller group is acceptable for the good of a bigger group. However, in this case, if dogs count as one group, the sacrifice of the poorly performing dogs is no necessary requirement of the survival of other fighting dogs, nor of the livelihood of any human group. If they do not count as one group, the people who love dogs must count, the behavior of killing dogs would hurt their feelings, so when impartial consideration of all related interest parties is made, the cost of letting these dogs live must be less than the benefit.
Therefore, the behavior of killing dogs is against the Utilitarianism values. Rights-based ethics, nevertheless, defends the right of any individual or group, and the duty is not taken into consideration. Just like the defender’s said, the dogs are Vick’s property, and he can do what he like to them, despite the fact that he also has the duty to take good care of them. Even though there is no doubt the right to live is one of the most fundamental rights of any creature, the right-based moral reasoning are for the right of human, dogs, sadly, are not included. So when this right-based moral system is at work, any kind of disposal of one’s property is acceptable. That is why I say the “crime” of Vick the “crime” of killing fighting dogs is acceptable in right-based moral reasoning but is unacceptable in Utilitarianism.