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Animal Rights and Green Politics. Overview Animal Rights (Singer) – The Principle of Utility – The Case for Animal Rights Ecology: The Scope of the Crisis.

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Presentation on theme: "Animal Rights and Green Politics. Overview Animal Rights (Singer) – The Principle of Utility – The Case for Animal Rights Ecology: The Scope of the Crisis."— Presentation transcript:

1 Animal Rights and Green Politics

2 Overview Animal Rights (Singer) – The Principle of Utility – The Case for Animal Rights Ecology: The Scope of the Crisis The Greening of Political Theory – “Liberal” Environmentalism – “Conservative” Environmentalism – “Deep Ecology”: Earth First!

3 Animal Rights Peter Singer (1946- ) Australian philosopher, currently at Princeton University

4 Animal Rights Arguments made to extend rights to other human groups historically excluded from liberal rights dialogue have all initially appeared outrageous For example: women’s rights, black rights

5 Animal Rights Yet in retrospect, it is the counterarguments against those rights claims that now appear outrageous and wrong-headed

6 Animal Rights What is the basis of human rights? Why should we respect rights?

7 The Problem of Rights Agent Preference Patient Preference Wants to do something Preferences of those affected by the act

8 The Problem of Rights The difficulty with rights talk is that we have no real way of distinguishing the merit of separate and conflicting rights claim For example, let’s look at religious freedom – freedom of conscience Suppose my religious practice disgusts everyone else in the surrounding community. Should I continue to practice?

9 The Problem of Rights Religious Practice Those effected by the practice How do we balance those competing claims?Why should my right to engage in a specific religion outweigh the collective right of the community?

10 The Problem of Rights Isn’t that making me – in effect – a dictator in that the social decision is what I say it should be, no matter how many votes to the contrary We need to develop a higher order principle/theory to decide the tough questions Utilitarianism is that theory

11 Utilitarianism Utilitarianism has 2 basic premises: – “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend produce the reverse of happiness” – Greatest Happiness Principle As Mill notes, it is an idea deeply rooted in the Western tradition, going back at least to Epicurus (341 – 270 B.C.E.)

12 Utilitarianism As an ethical theory, it attempts to provide a rational rather than a religious basis for morality Which means we will be able to sanction and judge acts as good or bad on something other than religious grounds. This is crucial since “common sense” morality requires a religious premise

13 Utilitarianism Once we reject that religious premise, the morality no longer has any hold over us That is, if we’re not worried about getting nailed in the afterlife, why bother being moral? Why should I care about how my actions affect other people?

14 Utilitarianism Bentham’s original version rested on notion of psychological hedonism: – An act is good which sets off all the pleasure pods in my head As a social theory, then, Utilitarianism distinguishes the morality between alternative states of affairs by examining the amount of pleasure and pain it produces That act which produces the most pleasure is the one to be preferred

15 Utilitarianism We shouldn’t count our own preferences for more than we count others (since if we did so we’d be dictating the social outcome) Question that arises, then, is how do we achieve utilitarian objectivity? In rights based accounts, it is the notion of moral sympathy – I wouldn’t want my rights violated so I shouldn’t violate others’ rights

16 Utilitarianism If we are going to have to decide between different social states, how can we make sure the decision on which state to adopt is an impartial (objective) one? How do we become impartial? Bentham formula: – Everyone to count for one, no one to count for more than one

17 Utilitarianism Two points to note Democracy is integral to utilitarianism The way we determine what to do is to take a vote, and whatever the majority wants, wins It doesn’t matter where goods/bads happen to fall, so long as en toto more pleasure is produced than pain.

18 Utilitarianism Doesn’t matter, morally speaking, who is having wants, just as long as we satisfy as many wants as possible Singer adds the corollary that we can extend the argument to non human animals. The idea is to act so as to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number For our moral calculations, we need to view beings as vessels of utility satisfaction

19 Utilitarianism What we most want is to experience things in a certain way (i.e., pleasure over pain) For Bentham, a want is a want is a want – No difference between wanting to stay home and watch Spongebob and reading War and Peace For Singer, no difference between human and animal wants in pleasure/pain calculus

20 Animal Rights “If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering-- insofar as rough comparisons can be made-- of any other being…”

21 Animal Rights “If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. This is why the limit of sentience (using the terms as a convenient, if not strictly accurate, shorthand for the capacity to suffer or experience enjoyment or happiness) is the only defensible boundary of the interests of others…”

22 Animal Rights “To mark this boundary by some characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary way. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color?” -- Peter Singer

23 The Crisis

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27 Consequences of rapid human population growth – Increased energy demands – Increased food production demands – Increased employment – Increased education – Increased environmental stress

28 The Crisis

29 Water Pollution On 22 June 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland Fire lasted 30 minutes

30 Water Pollution “Some River! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows. ‘Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown,’ Cleveland's citizens joke grimly. ‘He decays’... The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly notes: ‘The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes." It is also -- literally -- a fire hazard.’” -- Time magazine, 1 August 1969

31 Signs along the River

32 Water Pollution In the late 1960s, Lake Erie, was officially declared “dead”Lake Erie Too many chemicals, particularly nitrates from fertilizer and phosphates from soap and cleansers, led to huge algae blooms that killed off the fish and other plant species.

33 Water Pollution On2/25/76 New York DEC made it illegal to fish in the upper Hudson from the Ft. Edward Dam to the federal dam at Albany Closed Hudson River commercial fisheries, and warned people about dangers of eating Hudson River fish. General Electric dumped Between 209,000 and 1.3 million pounds of PCBs directly into Hudson

34 Water Pollution Since that time, the spread of PCBs throughout the river and its food chain has created an extensive toxic waste problem. About 200 miles of the river is designated as a Superfund site.

35 Water Pollution In August 1995, the Upper Hudson was re- opened to fishing, but only on a catch and release basis. NY and NJ agencies recommend that people eat no striped bass or blue crabs from the Newark Bay area, and no more than one meal a week from other areas in the New York Harbor estuary. EPA guidelines recommend no consumption. EPA guidelines

36 New York City 1963 smog2007 smog

37 The Response Clean Air Act (1970) Clean Air Act Creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970) Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act (1972) Clean Water Act Endangered Species Act (1973) Endangered Species Act

38 Aldo Leopold Aldo Leopold ( ) Born in Iowa, along the Mississippi River Gets degree in forestry from Yale After graduation he takes gig with US Forestry Service in Arizona Transferred to US Forest Products Laboratory in Wisconsin

39 Aldo Leopold In 1933 he published Game Management, a groundbreaking study on managing and restoring wildlife populations

40 Aldo Leopold In 1949, he published A Sand County Almanac, a work that is viewed as the beginning of the modern land conservation movement

41 Land Use

42 “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land” -- Aldo Leopold

43 Land Use Conservation entails recognizing that human beings do not have sufficient understanding of the complexities of nature to “govern” or “conquer” nature Rather, we need to work with nature

44 Land Use Leopold introduces the idea of the “pyramid” instead of the balance The balance of nature implies that human and natural worlds are distinct and separate entities The pyramid is meant to convey the interrelationships between the various parts of creation

45 Soil

46 Plants

47 Soil Plants Insects

48 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles

49 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals

50 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores

51 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores Human beings

52 Land Use “Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. Food chains are the living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil.”

53 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores Human beings Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores Human beings

54 Land Use “This interdependence between the complex structure of the land and its smooth functioning as an energy unit is one of its basic attributes…When a change occurs in one part of the circuit, many other parts must adjust themselves to it.”

55 Land Use “Change does not necessarily obstruct or divert the flow of energy; evolution is a long series of self-induced changes, the net result of which has been to elaborate the flow mechanism and to lengthen the circuit.”

56 Soil

57 Plants

58 Soil Plants Insects

59 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles

60 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals

61 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores

62 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores Human beings Evolution provides a mechanism by which new life forms emerge and adapt to environmental conditions…

63 Soil Plants Insects Birds and Reptiles Rodents and small mammals Large mammalian carnivores Human beings Evolution provides a mechanism by which new life forms emerge and adapt to environmental conditions which in turn shape and change the environmental conditions

64 Land Use However, human activities have greatly altered the pace by which environments change and thereby have impacted species beyond anything found in nonhuman natural conditions, with the possible exception of catastrophic events (meteor strikes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, etc.)

65 Deep Ecology Deep Ecology, a term coined by Arne Naess ( ) to describe a view of human relationships with nature that emphasizes a complete equality between human and nonhuman species.

66 Deep Ecology Dave Foreman ( ) Co-founder, in 1976, of Earth First! a radical environmental groupEarth First!

67 Deep Ecology Earth Liberation Front (ELF) Animal Liberation Front (ALF) Animal Liberation Front

68 Deep Ecology The roots of both EarthFirst! and the ELF are in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) The a novel describes a group of environmental activists who sabotage and destroy various machines that they believe are enabling the destruction of the American southwest

69 Deep Ecology Foreman and friends realized that “mainstream” environmental groups (e.g., Sierra Club) were unlikely to succeed and prevent environmental degradation in time to save endangered plants, animals, and landscapes.

70 Deep Ecology: Basic Tenets 1. Human beings are not and should not be the measure of all things Human beings are no more nor less than another animal species. 2. All living creatures and communities have value intrinsic to their own being, not based on contributions or liabilities to human beings

71 Deep Ecology: Basic Tenets 3. Wilderness preservation is essential 4. Human populations are too large and thereby threaten the existence of other species 5. Questions about our understanding and definition of “Progress” and “Technology”

72 Deep Ecology: Basic Tenets 6. Expand beyond traditional ideological constraints and defend the earth as a whole 7. Actions are more important than philosophy Monkey-wrenching is legitimate political activity 8. Begin with changes in personal lifestyle choices


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