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Animal Ethics

Animal Ethics. In this lecture… Kant Singer Regan Factory farming Animal experimentation.

Dec 30, 2015



Berenice Black
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  • Animal Ethics

  • In this lectureKantSingerReganFactory farmingAnimal experimentation

  • KantMany traditional western ethical perspectives are human-centered.

    Kantian ethics, for example, is anthropocentric in that it assigns intrinsic value to human beings alone and views nature as consisting of objects for human use.

  • KantAccording to Immanuel Kant, because humans have intrinsic value, they must be treated as ends in themselves.

    On the other hand, we can treat nonhuman animals and other natural objects as mere means or natural resources because they do not have any intrinsic value.

  • KantFrom Kants human-centered point of view, humans have a moral duty only towards one another.

    In Kants view, animal are mere objects for human use because they are neither rational nor autonomous, nor can they understand duty or behave like moral agents.

  • KantIn Kants view, appropriate human conduct (morality) does not extend beyond the human species.

    Kant argues that moral agents must be self-conscious, rational, and capable of making moral judgments. Since nonhuman animals cannot reason, they cannot be moral agents.

  • KantAccording to Kant, while animals are worthy of our moral concern, they cannot be afforded any moral status in their own right.

    The difference between humans and animals implies that we have no direct duties to animals. We have direct duties only to humans.

  • KantKant: So far as animals are concerned we have no direct duties. Animals are not self-conscious and there merely as a means to an end. The end is man Our duties towards animals are merely indirect duties towards humanity.

  • KantOur duties to animals are actually indirect duties to other humans. The moral treatment of animals is only a means of cultivating moral treatment of humans.

    In other words, we should not mistreat animals because this may lead to mistreatment of humans.

  • KantKant: If a man shoots his dog because the animal is no longer capable of service, he does not fail in his duty to the dog, for the dog cannot judge, but his act is inhuman and damages in himself that humanity which it is his duty to show towards mankind.

  • KantKant thought that it was wrong to mistreat animals. Why? Because harming animals would harden our hearts, and so make it likely that we would mistreat our fellow human beings.

  • KantFor Kant, if it is morally right to treat animals well, it is only because this promotes kindness between persons.

    Animals should be treated well not because they have intrinsic value, but only because of the positive effects on other humans.

  • KantWhy should killing animals tend to brutalize a person and make him more likely to harm or kill other people? Do butchers commit more cruel acts towards other humans?

  • KantCounterargument [1]: Kants logic is questionable because the reasoning he employed was consequentialist. The question we should ask is whether cruelty to animals is intrinsically wrong or whether it is wrong because of the bad consequences it brings about.

  • KantOne can argue, from a Kantian point of view, that if the very act of cruelty is intrinsically wrong, we have a duty not to do it. Such an action is not morally justified whether the victim has moral status or not.

  • KantCounterargument [2]: The problem with Kants view on animals is that it makes rational self-consciousness the sole criterion for being morally considerable. But why should we think that rational self-consciousness is the only thing of moral importance?

  • KantTo be consistent, Kant would have to agree that nonhuman animals that are self-conscious (e.g. chimpanzees) have moral status, and human beings who are not self-conscious (e.g. fetuses) do not have moral status.

  • SingerUtilitarianism is a form of consequentialism because it evaluates an action in terms of that actions actual or expected consequences, i.e. the degree to which an action increases well-being or satisfies interests.

  • SingerA utilitarian accepts two moral principles: [1] everyones interest counts, and similar interests must be counted as having similar weight or importance, and [2] an action is right if it brings about the best balance of satisfaction over dissatisfaction for everyone affected by the outcome.

  • SingerUtilitarianism argues that the essence of morality is to promote happiness and eliminate suffering.

    From the standpoint of utilitarianism, animals are capable of pleasure and suffering, so they are morally considerable in the same way that human beings are.

  • SingerUtilitarian philosopher Peter Singer challenges the view that there are fundamental differences in the moral status of human beings and non-human animals.

    Singer asserts that many animals are capable of suffering and therefore warrant moral consideration.

  • SingerSinger maintains that sentience, the capacity of feeling pleasure and pain, is a sufficient condition for having interests.

    A sentient animal can feel pain, and as such it has an interest in not being caused to suffer (from pain).

  • SingerA stone does not suffer when kicked, and therefore has no interest in not being kicked. In contrast, a mouse has an interest in not being kick because it would suffer.

    Singer: If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.

  • SingerSinger argues that there is no morally justifiable way to exclude from moral consideration non-humans or non-persons who have sensations of pain.

    Any being that has an interest in not suffering deserves to have that interest taken into account.

  • SingerSinger argues that what makes racism and sexism morally objectionable is that a racist or sexist does not give equal weight to the similar interests of members of a different race or sex.

    He defines a speciesist as someone who gives different weights to the similar interests of humans and animals.

  • SingerSinger: The racist gives greater weight to the interests of members of his own race, when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of another race. Similarly, the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species.

  • SingerAccording to Singer, moral consideration (or moral status) has nothing to do with individual differences.

    Everyone whose interest can be affected by our actions is equally worthy of our moral concern, no matter how similar or different they are from each other.

  • SingerSinger: The essence of the Principle of Equal Consideration of Interests is that we give equal weight in our moral deliberations to the like interests of all those affected by our actions.

  • SingerThe principle of equal consideration of interests is not a description of a fact, but a prescription of how we should treat others.

    Demands for equality cannot rest on factual equality among people (or animals), because no such equality exists.

  • SingerHowever, to insist on giving equal consideration to animal and human interests is not to claim that animals have the same interests as human beings or that animals ought to be treated in exactly the same way as humans are treated.

  • SingerEqual consideration of interests often imply different treatment for different entities, depending on the specific interests of the entities under consideration.

    For example, it would be as absurd to talk of a dogs right to vote as to talk of a mans right to have an abortion.

  • SingerSimilarly, because a pig has no interests that would be served by an education, whereas a child does, equal consideration of interests will lead to very different treatment of the pig and the child.

  • SingerWhat a child and a pig have in common, nevertheless, is an interest in avoiding suffering.

    Thus, to the extent that animals are capable of suffering, their interests must be given equal consideration as human interests when we make ethical decisions, according to Singer.

  • SingerI might feel much more love for my dog than for a strange child, but I might feel morally obliged to feed the child before I feed my dog.

    Are we morally justified in thinking that human interests should weigh more heavily than animal interests?

  • SingerSingers principle of equal consideration of interests calls for the immediate end to many of our current practices that cause enormous pain and suffering to animals such as factory farming, animal experimentation and hunting.

  • SingerNevertheless, Singer does not oppose all uses of animals. For example, if the benefits of an experiment outweigh the harms, using animals as test subjects in such an experiment can be justified on utilitarian grounds.

  • ReganTom Regan disagrees with Singers utilitarian program for animal liberation, because he rejects utilitarianism as lacking a notion of intrinsic worth.

    Regans position is that animals and humans should have equal rights because of their equal intrinsic value.

  • ReganRegan is a deontologist, not a utilitarian. He believes that actions are intrinsically right or wrong regardless of consequences.

    To defend animal rights is to claim that certain ways of treating animals can never be morally justified on utilitarian grounds.

  • ReganTo attribute rights to an individual is to assert that the individual has some kind of special moral dignity which entails that there are certain things that cannot justifiably be done to him/her/it for the sake of benefit to others.

  • ReganIf animals have rights, humans are not justified in harming them for the sake of benefits to humans, no matter how great those benefits may be.

    We are, for example, prohibited from injuring their bodies, taking their life, or putting them at risk of serious harm.

  • ReganRegan argues that what is important for moral consideration are not the differences between humans and animals but the similarities.

    Both humans and animals are what he calls subjects-of-a-life; both equally deserve moral consideration; and both are entitled to a full set of rights.

  • ReganMany animals, according to Regan, are subjects-of-a-life (or experiencing subjects of a life, to be more precise) i.e. conscious creatures having an individual welfare that has importance to them regardless of their usefulness to others.

  • ReganLike humans, these animals possess capacities for emotion, belief, desire and memory, which allow them to exist for purposes of their own.

    These animals do not exist for anyone else. They are the subjects of their own experience, subjects of their own lives.

  • ReganRegan, therefore, proposes that we should treat these animals with the same respect as we have for human beings.

    They should be viewed as ends in themselves rather than mere objects or resources for use by humans.

  • ReganAccording to Regan, what is wrong with mistreatment of animals is not the pain or suffering caused, but 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.

  • ReganIf a being is a subject-of-a-life, it can be said to have inherent value.

    All beings with inherent value are equally valuable and entitled to the same rights. Their inherent value does not depend on how useful they are to others.

  • ReganInherent value is the value that all conscious individuals (of any species) possess regardless of their usefulness to others.

    Any being that is a subject-of-a-life has inherent worth. Thus, in Regans view, all subjects-of-a-life are equally entitled to the same rights and moral status.

  • ReganKants error, in Regans view, was in thinking that only human subjects were ends in themselves.

    For Regan, to be a subject-of-a-life is to be an end in itself. All subjects-of-a-life, therefore, have the same basic rights and dignity, and should be treated with equal respect.

  • ReganTo sum up, all subjects-of-a-life humans and nonhuman animals alike have inherent value, dignity and the right to be treated with respect. As such, it is morally unacceptable to treat them merely as a means, or object for use by others.

  • ReganFor Regan, any practice that fails to respect the rights of animals (e.g. eating them, hunting them, experimenting on them, or using them for entertainment) is wrong, irrespective of human need, context, or culture.

  • ReganRegans view entails that animals have the same basic rights and the same moral status as human beings.

    Thus, he argues for the abolition of [1] animal agriculture, [2] commercial and sport hunting, and [3] the use of animals in science.

  • ReganMost of us agree that cruelty to animals is wrong. But why is it wrong? Is it because people who are cruel to animals are more likely to be cruel to human beings? Or is it because the animals have a right against cruel treatment and therefore we have a duty not to harm them?

  • Factory farmingThe second half of the 20th century saw the intensification of cattle breeding which provoked a fierce debate.

    During the 1960s and 1970s, pressure groups started to argue on behalf of the interests of animals kept in factory farms.

  • Factory farmingIn the United States alone, billions of animals are killed each year for human consumption.

    The majority of these are raised in conditions in which their well-being is systematically sacrificed in every way that might reduce expenditures and thereby maximize profits.

  • Factory farmingThe use of animals for food is the largest direct cause of animal abuse and suffering today. Factory-farmed animals often experience an entire life of pain.

    From the standpoint of utilitarianism, the enormous suffering caused by factory farms cannot be justified by human desire for meat.

  • Factory farmingThe principle of equal consideration of interests, according to Peter Singer, requires that we abstain from eating and using factory-farmed products.

    Do you agree with Singer that we should refrain from meat consumption?

  • Factory farmingConsider this popular argument for meat eating: It is morally acceptable for nonhuman animals to kill and eat other animals. Therefore, it is morally acceptable for human beings to kill and eat nonhuman animals.

  • Factory farmingCounterargument [1]: What is morally acceptable for animals may not be morally acceptable for us. It is implausible to look to animals for moral guidance. Animals are not moral agents they cannot control their behaviour through moral reasoning.

  • Factory farmingCounterargument [2]: A carnivores survival depends on eating other animals. Our survival does not. With rare exceptions, human beings can survive perfectly well without eating animal flesh. There are hundreds of millions of vegetarians leading healthy lives.

  • Factory farmingCounterargument [3]: None of the animals we routinely eat (chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, ducks, etc.) are carnivores. They do not eat other animals.

  • Factory farmingWe have no nutritional need for animal products. In fact, vegetarians are, on average, healthier than those who eat meat.

    There is no shortage of foods that we can eat that do not require animals to suffer unnecessarily in factory farms or slaughterhouses.

  • Factory farmingAlmost all of us agree that we should treat dogs and cats humanely. There are few opponents, for instance, of current anti-cruelty laws aimed at protecting pets from abuse.

    How about applying anti-cruelty laws to treatment of animals in factory farms?

  • Factory farmingDo we believe that dogs and cats are so different from pigs, cows and chickens? Why do we think that pets deserve legal protection from human abuse, while animals in factory farms do not?

  • Factory farmingWhat separates pets from the animals we abuse in factory farms is physical proximity.

    Our disregard for factory-farmed animals persists simply because we do not see them. Few people are aware of the ways in which they are mistreated.

  • Factory farmingThe vast populations of cows, pigs and chickens exist only because we raise them for food.

    A world of vegetarians would be a world without such animals because there would be no economic reason to raise them.

  • Factory farmingWhat, if anything, is wrong with the idea of breeding human babies as a source of food?

    These babies would not exist at all if we did not plan to use them like that, and anyway they are not intelligent enough to understand and object to what we are doing.

  • Factory farmingThose who think that doing so is wrong would have to agree that breeding farm animals for food is morally objectionable, too, not only because of the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals but also because they are treated as mere objects for our own purposes.

  • Animal experimentationMedical research on animals has helped to bring about treatment of diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart ailments.

    For example, dogs were used in the discovery of insulin and monkeys were used in the development of a polio vaccine.

  • Animal experimentationWhile some instances of animal experimentation promise very great benefits to human beings (and occasionally, to animals as well) many instances of experimentation on animals do not produce benefits that outweigh the harms they inflict.

  • Animal experimentationMany of these experiments are unnecessary because alternative methods of investigation are available, or because they yield results that cannot be reliably extrapolated to cases involving human beings.

  • Animal experimentationThe use of animals in biomedical research is often unnecessary, as in testing of cosmetics.

    There are alternatives that can supplant animal testing, such as computer modeling, animal tissue testing, genetic research, and stem cell experimentation.

  • Animal experimentationAnimal research is unreliable and sometime counterproductive.

    For instance, the link between smoking and lung cancer was discovered by the British scientist Sir Richard Doll in the 1950s by means of a study of human lung cancer patients in twenty London hospitals.

  • Animal experimentationAfter Dolls theory was published, animal researchers tested it by trying to reproduce the carcinogenic effects of smoking in animals.

    Dolls findings were dismissed because those animal experiments failed to demonstrate the link between tobacco use and cancer.

  • Animal experimentationAs it turned out, some of this animal research was funded by tobacco manufacturers.

    Dolls important discovery was hindered and delayed by animal research, thus delaying the health warning to humans and resulting in millions more unnecessary deaths.

  • Animal experimentationThe main approach to developing medical drugs today consists of using mouse models to test molecules. Every year, billions of dollars are spent in drug development by pharmaceutical companies using this approach.

  • Animal experimentationOne of the problems with this model of drug development is the assumption that the disease induced in mice is the same as in humans.

    A recent large-scale study showed that there was very poor correlation of gene responses in the two species. This study undermines the assumption that mice are good models for human diseases.

  • Animal experimentationFor experiments that are intended to yield knowledge about human beings, such as what medicines may benefit us, or what substances may harm us, the data obtained would be far more reliable if the experimental subjects were human beings rather than animals.

  • Animal experimentationAccording to the animal rights position, the use of animals in experiments is a clear violation of their rights they are being used as a mere means to some end.

    Thus, animal rights proponents are in favor of the abolition of animal experimentation.

  • Animal experimentationThe dominant ethical position worldwide today is that animal experimentation should cause as little suffering to animals as possible, and that such tests should not be performed unless they are necessary.

  • Animal experimentationMany animals are used in experiments because they are so like us this makes them good models of human conditions in medicine.

    But if these animals are so like us, why do we treat them so differently?

  • Animal experimentationIf we believe it is morally unacceptable to use marginal human beings (e.g. infants or the mentally retarded) in experiments, why is it permissible to use animals of a similar mental or psychological capability?