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Animal Rights


Animal Rights Direct vs. Indirect duties towards animals Direct duties: duties owed to the animals themselves (treating animals welfare as an intrinsic good) Indirect ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Animal Rights

Animal Rights
Direct vs. Indirect duties towards animals
  • Direct duties duties owed to the animals
    themselves (treating animals welfare as an
    intrinsic good)
  • Indirect duties duties to act in certain ways
    towards animals for the sake of ourselves, others
    or society (treating animal welfare as an
    instrumental good)

  • Examples of indirect duties towards animals
  • Duty to respect private property (animals that
    belong to someone)
  • Duty to avoid cruelty because it encourages a
    cruel nature in us, which might then be expressed
    towards other people
  • Duty not to hurt the feelings of people who love
    animals by abusing animals
  • Duty to maintain the health of biosystems and
    nature in general, for our own good
  • Duty to preserve beautiful creatures, for the
    enjoyment of others and future generations
  • Duty to preserve species that may be sources of
    other instrumental goods, e.g. medicine

Ethical status for animals
  • Animal welfare as an intrinsic good
  • Kantian and utilitarian ethics traditionally
    extended to all
  • people, but only people
  • Kant all rational beings are ends in themselves
  • assumption only humans are rational (or maybe
    humans, angels and extraterrestrials)
  • Utilitarianism the pleasures and pains of all
    conscious beings are of equal importance
  • assumption (?) only humans are conscious/have
    pleasure and pain
  • But note Jeremy Bentham, early utilitarian
  • The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can
    they talk?
  • but, Can they suffer? (Bentham 1789)

Peter Singer
  • Contemporary Australian philosopher
  • Professor of bioethics at Princeton
  • Preference utilitarian
  • Famous advocate of animal rights
  • Animal Liberation (1975)
  • All Animals are Equal (1989) (and humans are

Animal Liberation
  • Singer sees ethics as evolving.
  • In the past, slaves, women and people of other
    races were often not treated as persons, and
    their interests were not given consideration.
  • Now we recognize all people as persons and extend
    equal consideration to all people.
  • Now we should extend equal ethical consideration
    to animals as well.

  • Discrimination against animals is speciesism,
    analogous to racism
  • To discriminate on the basis of species
    membership, or even on the basis of intelligence
    or rationality, is like discriminating on the
    basis of skin color
  • What matters is sentience. Any animal that is
    sentient (can feel pleasure or pain) counts as a
    moral subject.
  • All pleasure or pain, or preferences, should
    count equally, whether they are the pleasures of
    preferences of humans or animals

The argument from borderline cases
  • Borderline cases babies, the severely mentally
  • retarded, psychopaths
  • Argument from analogy borderline cases are
    similar to (some) animals (in terms of abilities,
    sentience, capacity for pleasure and pain), so
    animals should be treated similarly
  • We routinely grant importance to the interests to
    human borderline cases not full rights (e.g.
    the right to vote), but the right to have their
    preferences treated as morally important and the
    right not to be mistreated
  • Animals are not equal to normal adults, and
    therefore cannot have truly equal rights, but
    their preferences (e.g. the desire to avoid pain)
    should be given equal consideration

Equal consideration, not equal rights
  • We dont discriminate between people on the basis
    of intelligence or ability. So we should not
    discriminate against animals because they are
    less intelligent or lack certain abilities.
  • We treat babies and the severely brain damaged
    better than we treat animals, but we shouldnt.
    Animals have just as much right to consideration
    as babies (or more!) E.g. an adult ape is more
    aware, more self-directing and has at least as
    much capacity for suffering as a baby.

  • Pro vegetarian taking away a life for a
    insignificant benefit (satisfying a persons
    tastes) is unjustified. Although, Singer allows
    that it is possible to raise animals ethically
    for food, if they are raised to have a pleasant
    and enjoyable life. An animal without a life plan
    does not suffer from death, and a happy animal
    can be replaced by another happy animal without
    net loss to the world.
  • Anti-vivisection the utilitarian arguments we
    raise to justify using animals this way would not
    be accepted as justification for human
    vivisection, and therefore are not accepted for
    the case of animals either (except in extreme

Implications (cont.)
  • Individual animals have moral standing, not
    species or biosystems.
  • Thus, killing two common deer would be a greater
    sin than
  • killing one endangered tiger.
  • An animals rights are potentially as important
    as a humans.
  • Where to draw the line? At sentience. Where is
    the borderline of sentience? Singers guess
    between the clam and the shrimp.

Tom Regan
  • Contemporary American Philosopher
  • Deontologist, in the tradition of Kant
  • Specialist in animal rights
  • The Case for Animal Rights (1983)
  • Animal Rights, Human Wrongs (1980)

Animal Rights
  • Utilitarians are wrong to focus only on pleasure
    and pain.
  • What is important is respecting the dignity of
    others, and to treat those with moral standing as
    ends in themselves, not means (c.f. Kant).
  • What is wrong with eating veal, for example, is
    not that the animal suffers, rather

the fundamental wrong is the system that allows
us to view animals as our resources, here for us,
to be eaten, or surgically manipulated, or put in
our cross hairs for sport or money.
Moral Standing
  • Distinguishes moral agents from moral
  • Moral agents typified by competent human adults
  • Moral patients include everything that has
    interests, e.g. babies, the mentally incompetent
    and animals.
  • Both moral agents and moral patients have moral
    standing, i.e. are ends of themselves and are
    subject to rights
  • What has interests?
  • Subjects-of-a-life.

  • To be the subject-of-a-life involves more than
    merely being alive and more than merely being
    conscious. To be the subject-of-a-life is to
    have beliefs and desires perception, memory, and
    a sense of the future, including their own
    future an emotional life together with feelings
    of pleasure and pain preference and
    welfare-interests a psychophysical identity
    over time and an individual welfare in the sense
    that their experiential life fares well or ill
    for them, independent of their utility for
  • Not all animals, but only animals that meet these

Typically mentally normal mammals of a year or
more, although potentially other animals with
the relevant cognitive capacity.
  • The following violate animals rights
  • Raising animals for food or fur
  • Hunting for sport or money
  • Keeping pets
  • Keeping animals in circuses or zoos
  • Vivisection
  • Like Singer, holds that only individuals have
    moral standing, not species or biosystems.
  • More inclusive than Singer as to what causes harm
    to animals e.g. pets, raising well-cared-for
    animals for food, keeping happy animals in a zoo,
  • Not as inclusive as Singer as to which animals
    matter mostly only mammals of over a year old
    compared to everything that is at least as
    sentient as a shrimp

Against rights for animal
  • Carl Cohen
  • Contemporary American philosopher
  • Theoretical rights are reciprocal, among moral
    agents or members of a community of moral agents
  • Practical
  • Medical research
  • Animals in the wild

Medical research
  • Animal used for vaccines, treatments, of human
    diseases, e.g. polio, malaria
  • But this research would not be allowed if animals
    had rights
  • Rights entail duties
  • Rights trump interests absolutely

Rights trump duties
  • Regan agrees
  • The harms others might face as a result of the
    dissolution of some practice or institution is
    no defense of allowing it to continue. . . . No
    one has a right to be protected against being
    harmed if the protection in question involves
    violating the rights of others. . . . No one has
    a right to be protected by the continuation of an
    unjust practice, one that violates the rights of
    others. . . . Justice must be done, though the .
    . . heavens fall. (Regan, The Case for Animal
    Rights, 1983)
  • On the rights view, we cannot justify harming a
    single rat merely by aggregating the many human
    and humane benefits that flow from doing it. . .
    . Not even a single rat is to be treated as if
    that animal's value were reducible to
    his possible utility relative to the interests of
    others. (Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, 1983)

Animals in the wild
  • If animals have rights, we have the duty to
    protect those rights, even in the wild.
  • But this is impossible. And undesirable.
  • Should we protect prey from predators? Should we
    inoculate wild animals from disease? Should we
    shoot some members of overpopulated herds (e.g.
    deer) to prevent mass starvation? How can we
    judge between competing interests/rights? Would
    we want to?

Other objections to Singer and Regan
  • Cohens objection is that rights for animal is
    too inclusive only humans should count.
  • Other argue that Singer and Regan are not
    inclusive enough should include all animals,
    maybe even plants (Goodpaster anything alive
    should have moral standing)
  • Ironically animal rights is criticized as being
    essentially anthropocentric still maintains
    that only persons count, but some animals count
    as persons
  • What about species, biosystems, larger ecological

  • Thomas Nagel (1974), What is it like to be a
    bat?, The Philosophical Review, LXXXIII, 4
    (October 1974), 435-50 at http//organizations.ut
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