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ANIMALS AND SOCIETY: AN INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN-ANIMAL STUDIES Chapter 18: The Moral Status of Animals Copyright Margo DeMello and Columbia University Press,

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Presentation on theme: "ANIMALS AND SOCIETY: AN INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN-ANIMAL STUDIES Chapter 18: The Moral Status of Animals Copyright Margo DeMello and Columbia University Press,"— Presentation transcript:

1 ANIMALS AND SOCIETY: AN INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN-ANIMAL STUDIES Chapter 18: The Moral Status of Animals Copyright Margo DeMello and Columbia University Press, 2012

2 Do animals have rights? How we answer this question will affect our views on controversial moral questions:  Should we rear and kill animals for food?  Should animals be used for laboratory experiments?  Should hunting be banned? WHO CAN HAVE RIGHTS?

3 WHAT DO WE DO TO ANIMALS THAT WE DON’T DO TO HUMANS?

4 WE DON’T DO THOSE THINGS TO HUMANS. WHY?

5  If it is immoral to treat humans in these ways, but perfectly permissible to treat animals in these ways, then there must be some morally relevant difference between humans and animals that accounts for this striking difference in permissible treatment. BECAUSE WE THINK IT’S IMMORAL.

6  Since the time of the Greeks, philosophers have been asking about the nature and extent of moral considerability in general and the moral status of animals in particular: 1. Which entities deserve moral consideration and how much consideration are these entities owed? 2. Do animals deserve moral consideration, have moral rights, or in some other sense possess moral standing?  How do we answer these questions? THE MORAL STATUS OF ANIMALS

7  The view that only human beings deserve moral consideration and all human beings deserve equal moral consideration. A direct consequence is that all non-human animals lack moral standing, and hence, there is nothing that we could do to animals that would wrong them.  Two strategies for defending the claim that all and only human beings deserve moral consideration: 1.Unqualified speciesism: species membership alone grants moral consideration; everyone/thing who is not of the human species gets no consideration 2.Qualified speciesism: some morally relevant property of the species grants such consideration  What are the problems with #1?  What is the morally relevant property for #2? ETHICAL HUMANISM

8  What is the morally relevant property for qualified speciesism?  Aristotle: rationality; those without rationality are forced to serve those with it  The book of Genesis and Divine Hierarchy: a soul  Aquinas : rationality and “intrinsic value” vs. Irrationality and “instrumental value”  Descartes: the Mind; animals only have a body; automata devoid of thought or reason  Kant: reciprocal obligations; only those with obligations have rights  Agency approach: animals don’t possess the desires that correspond to rights ETHICAL HUMANISM

9 The major problems: 1.The factual accuracy of the qualified speciesists’ claims. Do animals really lack rationality? Does lacking language indicate lack of thought? 2.Do they really lack the desire to not be harmed or to live a happy life? 3.A morally relevant difference that justifies one kind of difference in treatment need not justify another. Men and women are different in some ways, but what kind of different treatment does that justify? 4.The properties identified as morally relevant are not possessed by all humans. Do all humans possess rationality? What should we do to those who don’t? 5.Either the relevant feature is not possessed by all humans, or, if it is possessed by all humans, it is possessed by at least some animals as well. ASSESSING THE CASE FOR ETHICAL HUMANISM

10 CHALLENGES TO ETHICAL HUMANISM

11 Jeremy Bentham, the father of Utilitarianism: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Peter Singer: utilitarianism requires:  that we give equal consideration to the interests of all beings and  that we act in ways that maximize the satisfaction of interests of all those affected by our conduct.  The basic principle of equality is not based on who humans are; it is a moral claim that all human beings deserve to have their interests considered equally with the like interests of others.  Every being with interests deserves moral consideration and deserves to have its interests considered equally with the like interests of others.  Which beings have interest? Sentient beings.  Without the capacity to feel pain or pleasure, a being cannot have a well- being that can be promoted or harmed  At a minimum, all sentient beings have an interest in avoiding pain. PETER SINGER: UTILITARIANISM

12  Giving animals equal consideration does not imply that we must treat all animals alike or accord them exactly the same rights as humans, but it does require that we give their pleasures and pains equal weight with human pleasures and pains when carrying out utilitarian calculations.  An action is right for a person if and only if, out of all the actions available to that person, that action maximizes the satisfaction of interests of all those affected by the action.  In order that the practice of killing animals be justified, the animal’s pain must not only be outweighed by the human’s pleasure, but there can be no alternative act that would foreseeably result in a better balance of pleasure over pain.  Question: Do infants, comatose patients, or the senile require moral judgement under this position? PETER SINGER: UTILITARIANISM

13 “The capacity for suffering and enjoying things is a pre-requisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in any meaningful way. It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. Nothing that we can do to it could possibly make any difference to its welfare. A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being tormented, because it will suffer if it is.” --Peter Singer

14 What are rights?  Moral vs. legal rights  Negative rights vs. positive rights  Animals have negative moral rights to non-interference  Regan rejects utility-maximization principle of utilitarianism (sacrificing individuals for the greater good), and the equal consideration of interests  Human beings have inherent value and the moral standing that goes along with it in virtue of the fact that they are subjects of a life  All who have inherent value have it equally, regardless of their sex, race, religion, species, intellectual capacity, sexual preference, etc., since this is the only way to preclude such injustices as slavery, sexual discrimination, religious persecution, and so on. TOM REGAN: ANIMAL RIGHTS

15 CAN WE KILL AUNT BEA?

16  Singer: Philosophy based on utilitarianism  We must give equal consideration to interests of all beings  We must act in ways that maximize the satisfaction of interests of ALL or MOST affected by our conduct  The principle of equality is not based on how we ARE (since we are different), but on the fact that we all share interests  All interest sharing creatures, then, deserve to have their interests given equal consideration  Sentient creatures (those who feel pleasure or pain) have interests (a comatose patient does not)  We must weigh our own actions based on whether they will maximize the satisfaction for all or most parties  Killing animals for food cannot be justified since 1) their pain doesn’t outweigh our pleasure and 2) there are alternatives to killing animals for food. On the other hand, sacrificing individuals for the greater good is fine when it results in maximum satisfaction to all, or when the animal does not foresee its own death  Rejects the concept of rights in favor of interests based on sentience, which excludes “marginal” humans  Could possibly accept animal welfare as long as the greatest good was met (benefits outweigh harm) COMPARISON BETWEEN SINGER AND REGAN

17 Regan: Philosophy based on moral rights We must give equal consideration to interests of all beings Animals & humans share moral rights, and in particular, negative rights to non- interference (right to not be killed, tortured, etc.) It is wrong to sacrifice even one individual to benefit even a great many This is because every creature has an inherent value and thus a moral right to be treated well All creatures are subjects of a life which grants them moral rights, regardless of their utility (comatose patients still have moral rights and inherent value) We cannot justify harming even a single human or animal, even if lots of humans or animals will benefit Killing animals for food cannot be justified because ALL animals are subjects of a life who thus deserve moral rights Rejects the concept of interests in favor of rights based on subjectivity, which includes all humans (even “marginal” ones) and animals Rejects animal welfare because it’s inconsistent with a rights position

18 We think it wrong to sacrifice the lives of innocent human beings for the greater good. Regan’s theory of rights seems to capture this idea. We might think it acceptable to sacrifice the lives of some animals for the greater good – e.g. deer-culling. Singer’s utilitarian theory seems to fit this idea. RIGHTS VS. UTILITARIANISM

19 Questions to consider: If animals have a right to life, what are the practical implications for  our use of animals for food, and  our use of animals for laboratory experiments? What are the practical implications of utilitarianism for  our use of animals for food, and  our use of animals for laboratory experiments? RIGHTS, UTILITARIANISM AND ANIMALS

20 OTHER CHALLENGES TO ETHICAL HUMANISM

21  This argument is predicated on commonsense beliefs that most of us hold, and ensuring that those beliefs are consistent. Beliefs such as: 1.Other things being equal, a world with less pain and suffering is better than a world with more pain and suffering. 2.Cruelty is wrong and should not be supported or encouraged. 3.Many animals (including cows, pigs, and chickens) are capable of feeling pain. 4.It is morally wrong to cause an animal unnecessary pain or suffering. 5.It is wrong to harm animals for no good reason.  Can you hold the above statements as true and still support, for example, factory farming? CONSISTENCY: MYLAN ENGEL

22  Wise's position is that some animals, particularly primates, because of their inherent qualities, meet the criteria of legal personhood, and should therefore be awarded certain rights and protections.  His criteria for personhood are that the animal must be able to desire things, to act in an intentional manner to acquire those things, and must have a sense of self i.e. the animals must know that s/he exists. PERSONHOOD: STEVEN WISE

23  Animals, like humans, deserve to live a “dignified existence.” That we deny such an existence to most animals is, to her, is a social justice issue.  Nussbaum’s theory of justice is based on a capabilities approach: what are people actually able to do and to be?  She argues that each individual creature, of each species, should be allowed to flourish in its own way, and to fulfill all of its capabilities.  Because all animals have different “natural” capabilities, what is necessary for one to have a dignified life will differ from that of another.  The goal is for all humans and animals, regardless of species or disability, to be able to flourish in their own communities. CAPABILITIES: MARTHA NUSSBAUM

24  A virtue ethics position is based on the actions that a “virtuous person” might engage in. A virtuous person would not, for example, kick a dog to death, because that would demonstrate that that person’s character is not virtuous at all. If the attitudes that underlie such behaviors are not compassionate or kind or virtuous, then we are not those things. In this approach, humans and animals share with each other membership in a moral community, and members of a moral community do not kick each other to death. VIRTUE ETHICS: DIAMOND

25  Ecofeminism is both a philosophy and a social movement which focuses on the links between the oppression of women and the destruction of nature. Ecofeminists examine the relationship between industrial capitalism and patriarchy as well as a host of other systems of inequality, including animal exploitation. Ecofeminist positions are structural—focusing on the power structures of society and the different forms of institutional inequality—rather than individualistic, and argue not for individual change (becoming a vegetarian, for example) but for largescale social change. FEMINIST ETHICS: ADAMS, DONOVAN

26  The feminist ethic of care, on the other hand, is an individualistic approach and focuses on the relationship between humans and non-humans. Because animals have feelings like humans do, humans have a moral obligation to them, that is not based on abstract qualities like rights or justice, but on the idea of relationships. Proponents of this theory argue that other ethical approaches are too heavily based on rationality and downplay qualities associated with women like empathy, caring and love. These theorists argue that we need to re-insert emotion back into discussions of animal welfare, because without an emotional response to animal suffering, it’s easy to see why abuse continues. FEMINIST ETHICS: ADAMS, DONOVAN


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