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Feb 25, 2016
Rational Engagement, Emotional Response, & the Prospects for Moral Progress in Animal Use Debates Ethicists have increasingly turned their attention to moral questions about the treatment of non-human animals. Arguments from a range of perspectives have been given for the conclusion that routine uses of animals in agriculture, the fashion industry, and experimentation are morally wrong. Defenses of these practices, however, have been far fewer, and generally less developed, than the cases in favor of animals. My aim in this presentation is to encourage development of stronger arguments in favor of animal use and provide methodological guidance on how to do so.Nathan Nobis For Animal Research in Theory & Practice, ed. Jeremy Garrett, Rice, Philosophy
Harms & Moral JustificationMany fields and occupations involve harming animals, making them worse off. Animals = for our purposes, mammals & birds; least controversial cases for discussion.Typically, people in these fields will agree that animals are being harmed. They claim, however, that these harms are morally justified: not all harms are wrong, and these harms arent wrong (indeed, perhaps some are morally obligatory).
Common experimental procedures include:drowning, suffocating,starving,burning,blinding,destroying their ability to hear,damaging their brains,severing their limbs,crushing their organs
inducing heart attacks,cancersulcersparalysis, Seizuresforcing them to inhale tobacco smoke, drink alcohol, and ingest various drugs, such as heroine and cocaine.
A few commonly overlooked observations about harm:(1) Painless killing can be (and often is) harmful for the one who is killed; it is bad for him/her. Why? They are deprived of whatever goods they would have experienced. No interests can be satisfied. Thus, the common if painlessly killed, then humane, so nothing morally objectionable views need defense. (2) Recent ethological research shows that just being in a laboratory, and undergoing routine procedures, is stressful (and thus harmful) for animals.
Balcombe JP, Barnard ND, Sandusky C, Laboratory routines cause animal stress, Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science, 2004, Nov, 43 (6):42-51 Abstract: Eighty published studies were appraised to document the potential stress associated with three routine laboratory procedures commonly performed on animals: handling, blood collection, and orogastric gavage . . . Significant changes in physiologic parameters correlated with stress . . were associated with all three procedures in multiple species in the studies we examined. The results of these studies demonstrated that animals responded with rapid, pronounced, and statistically significant elevations in stress-related responses for each of the procedures . . .We interpret these findings to indicate that laboratory routines are associated with stress, and that animals do not readily habituate to them. The data suggest that significant fear, stress, and possibly distress are predictable consequences of routine laboratory procedures, and that these phenomena have substantial scientific and humane implications for the use of animals in laboratory research.
Balcombe JP, Laboratory environments and rodents behavioural needs: A review, Laboratory Animals (in press)
Abstract: Laboratory housing conditions have significant physiological and psychological effects on rodents, raising both scientific and humane concerns. Published studies of rats, mice and other rodents were reviewed to document behavioural and psychological problems attributable to predominant laboratory housing conditions. Studies indicate that rats and mice value opportunities to take cover, build nests, explore, gain social contact, and exercise some control over their social milieu, and that the inability to satisfy these needs is physically and psychologically detrimental, leading to impaired brain development and behavioural anomalies (e.g., stereotypies). To the extent that space is a means to gain access to such resources, spatial confinement likely exacerbates these deficits. Adding environmental enrichments to small cages reduces but does not eliminate these problems, and I argue that substantial changes in housing and husbandry conditions would be needed to further reduce them.
Many ethicists have argued that its wrong to use animals these ways; theyve given reasons for their views and defended them:utilitarianism and other consequentialisms,rights-based deontologies,ideal contractarianisms (veil of ignorance, Golden rule ethics),virtue ethics, common-sense (least harm, needless harm) moralities,religious moralities, feminist ethics, and more: indeed almost every major, influential perspective in moral theory.
Even Kants, Rawls, and other moral theories have been modified to be friendly to non-rational moral patients (not moral agents):Improve the theory so there are direct duties to baby (& other non-rational & powerless humans : shes of moral value not because others care about her, despite hernot being a moral agent, rational, etc.
If the theory is now not Bad for Baby (and other vulnerable humans), it is now not Bad for Animals?
Thus, an abundance of ethical resources in defense of animals. However, this hasnt made much of a difference in thought or deed regarding uses of animals. Possible explanations: big changes are always slow; trickle-down is slowphilosophers (and other thinkers and authors) typically just arent very influential,personal, financial, legal, political, institutional barriers to doing the right thing,???
A competing explanation:There are strong arguments that morally justify (much of) the current treatment of animals. Since these arguments are strong / sound / very reasonable to accept, the defenses of animals are weak / unsound / unreasonable. Im going to suggest that this explanation is unlikely, because these arguments are weak. I encourage development of more and stronger arguments in favor of, defending, animal use and provide methodological guidance on doing so.
Emotional responses to moral issues:It sometimes appears that the quality of our thought on a topic is inversely proportional to the intensity of our emotions concerning that topic.
-- Fred Feldman, Confrontations With the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death (Oxford, 1994).
Rational engagement of moral issues:Identify some past instances of moral progress in thought, attitude, & deed:Hopefully, rational evaluation of arguments contributed to this, somewhat!We can identify some basic logical skills that can help us improve the quality of our thought.Apply these skills to some recent arguments made by scientists and philosophers regarding animals. This is important because it seems that not enough people consistently use these skills; this is not good.
Formerly controversial issues and simple arguments:Women shouldnt be allowed to go to university because women are so emotional that abstract thought is so difficult for them."Slavery is morally right because we slave-owners benefit greatly from slavery." "Since animals are not rational, it's morally ok to raise them to be killed and eaten." These are arguments; what are their faults?
Women (1) Conclusion: Women shouldnt be allowed to go to university.Why think that?Women are such emotional beings that abstract thought is difficult for them.Imprecise! SOME? or ALL? Some women are so emotional that abstract thought is difficult. [True, and true for some men!]All women are so emotional [False, empirically indefensible claim, so unsound argument]
Women (2)Some women are so emotional that abstract thought is difficult. [True, and true for some men!]Therefore, [no] women should be allowed to go to university.But how do you get from (1) to (2)? Whats the missing linking premise? A question: How would some womens emotionality justify restricting educational opportunities from all women? Not clear.
Women (3)However, even if some or even all women are so emotional and have difficulty with abstract thought why would that justify denying any women the opportunity to improve themselves through education?If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?Sojourner Truth, Ain't I A Woman? 1851
Slavery"Slavery is morally right because we slave-owners benefit greatly from slavery.(1) Slave-owners benefit from slavery. [True](C) Therefore, slavery is morally right. [?]--------------------------------------------------------------How do you get from (1) to (2)? Whats the missing, assumed linking premise? Slave-owners benefit from slavery. [True]If some group benefits from some arrangement, then that arrangement is right. ?Therefore, slavery is morally right.
Animals"Since animals are not rational, it's morally ok to raise them to be killed and eaten.Animals are not rational.Therefore, its OK to kill themObservations and questions:(1) is imprecise: some, or all, animals are not rational? Which animals?Ambiguity, lack of clarity: what is meant by rational? Missing-link premise needed to make argument logically valid: If a being is not rational, then its ok to kill it. [False?]
Logical skills: The (moral) value of basic predicate logicAttending to the intended meanings of unclear or ambiguous words: what do you mean?animal, human, being human, human being, person, human person, humanityPrecision regarding #, quantity: some, all?Assumed, unstated premises that link stated reason(s) to conclusion. (Logical validity).
It seems these logical skills are generally useful.A bioethicist disagrees abou