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ANIMAL ETHICS

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Tyler Zimmer

on 9 March 2016

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Transcript of ANIMAL ETHICS

ANIMAL ETHICS
Moral Status
Do animals have a moral status?
If so,
what
is it? What exactly do we owe them? And
which
animals have it?
CASE #1: EATING MEAT
CASE #2: ANIMAL TESTING
NEIU | PHIL 213 | ETHICS | FALL 2015
Learning Objectives
Discuss how the four theories we learned differ on the question of "moral status."
Think critically about how to answer the question "do animals have a moral status?"
Discuss ethical debates about eating meat and using animals for research.
To have a "moral status" is to have some kind of standing when ethical decisions are being made.
It is to "count" when someone is deciding what they ought (morally) to do.
If something has a moral status, then it is owed some consideration, it is deserving of ethical treatment.
Moral Status
Human beings have some moral status.
Human beings obviously "count" when decisions are being made whereas other things in the universe do not -- e.g. rocks and tools.
But
why
do we count? What is it about us that makes us relevant when ethical questions arise? What feature or trait do we have that makes us deserving of ethical treatment?
What do each of the four theories say about this?
CONSEQUENTIALISM
Ability to feel pleasure or pain.
KANTIANISM
Rational agency; ability to decide for oneself what to do.
CONTRACTUALISM
Ability to cooperate, contract/agree to fair terms.
VIRTUE ETHICS
Subjects of a life that could go better or worse.
MORAL STATUS
Human beings clearly have some moral standing, no matter what theory we agree with.
But are we the
only
beings in the universe who count? Are we the
only
beings whom it is possible to wrong?
What do each of the four theories say?
CONSEQUENTIALISM?
KANTIAN ETHICS?
CONTRACTUALISM?
VIRTUE ETHICS
Do animals have a
moral status
?
CONSEQUENTIALISM
"The question is not whether they can talk or can they reason... but can they
suffer
?"
-Jeremy Bentham
PETER SINGER
He is a consequentialist.
He applies the theory to animals.
He argues that it is wrong to cause animals unnecessary suffering.
We have no good reasons to ignore their pain as morally irrelevant.
When judging what the best outcome is we must take animal's interests into account.
Animal Rights? Equality?
Are animals sentient (can they feel pleasure/pain)?
Which animals?
Many animals are conscious beings who can feel pain/pleasure.
We know this because...
Physiological similarities with us.
Behavioral parallels in appropriate circumstances.
Shared evolutionary history.
Which
animals?
Mammals and birds
Vertebrates
Some invertebrates (e.g. octopus)
Crustacea (e.g. lobster)
Clams, oysters?
Descending confidence in their ability to feel pleasure/pain
What is the sense in which "all animals are equal" according to Singer?
Not equal rights. Why not?
Not equal treatment. Why not?
What do Kantians say about it?
Contractualists?
Virtue Ethicists?
Treatment
of Animals -- An Ethical Issue?
Mini-documentary produced by the Humane Society.
Is it consistent to think that animals have a moral status, that is wrong to treat them in certain ways, but that it is permissible to kill them and eat them?
Each year, hundreds of millions of animals are harmed or killed in chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests as well as in biology lessons, medical training exercises, and curiosity-driven medical experiments at universities.
SINGER'S ARGUMENT
Would you be prepared to perform similar experiments on an orphaned human infant, if that would save many lives?
If not, why then is it OK to use non-human animals who are more aware of what is happening to them, such as apes, cats, mice and so on?
If so -- and Singer thinks this is right -- then we should only conduct harmful tests on humans or animals when it is necessary for best outcome.
What considerations are relevant here?
What should we be taking into account?
Kantians and Contractualists
It may be wrong to deliberately confine certain beings against their will and force them to endure things it is obvious they do not want to endure or which they would not freely choose to endure.
Virtue Ethicists
What would a virtuous person do? Do we have reason to do things that would be bad for animals -- other things equal, no we don't. Are there over-riding considerations? What might they be?
Consequentialists
Animal testing is only ethically justified if it is necessary to bring about the best outcomes for all (humans and animals included).
Is it?
Blackfish
(2013)
SINGER'S POSITION
It's wrong to cause
unnecessary suffering
to
any
being that is capable of experienceing suffering.
It's wrong to cause
unnecessary harm
to any being capable of being harmed.
Consequentialism on the wrongness of killing
It does not derive from the pain involved in some forms killing. Rather, it derives from
the total elimination of any possibility of future pleasure.
Is it
necessary
for human beings to kill animals and eat them in order to maximize the sum total amount of pleasure and minimize the sum total amoung of suffering in the world?
But human beings get
nutritional benefits
from eating meat.
True, but the question is whether there are other ways to get the same benefits without killing other sentient beings.
But for most human beings, eating meat isn't about health, it's about
pleasure
.
Consequentialists advise us to promote the greatest amount of pleasure possible.
Thus, they won't say that the pleasure we get from eating meat is morally irrelevant. In fact, they take it into consideration.
The question is: does the pleasure we gain outweigh the loss caused by killing an animal?
Does the amount of pleasure one gains from eating a chicken outweigh the future pleasure the chicken won't get to experience if it is dead?
Singer's Position on Meat
It's wrong to kill animals and eat them unless doing so is necessary to bring about the best overall outcome for all sentient beings (maximal pleasure, minimal suffering).
It's not necessary for us here and now.
Therefore, it is morally wrong to kill and eat animals here and now.
Notice that Singer does not think meat-eating is
inherently wrong.
OBJECTION: Animals eat other animals.
1.
It is morally acceptable for non-human animals to kill and eat other animals.
2.
Therefore, it is morally acceptable for human beings to kill and eat non-human animals.
Does this work?
As it stands, this argument is invalid - that is, the conclusion does not follow from the premise.
In other words, it does seem true that it's not morally wrong for other animals to kill and eat each other -- after all, most animals are incapable of grasping the very idea of morality or ethics.
But this does not entail that it's morally justifiable for human beings -- who can grasp the idea of morality -- to behave in the same way animals behave.
Think of it like this:
Imagine some obviously unethical way of treating a person.
Imagine that the person does this unethical action, and upon being criticized says this:
"Well, animals do other animals what I just did to you... and we don't find them to be morally culpable when they do it to one another... so I'm not morally culpable when I do it to you."
Few of us would find this reply convincing.
But what about species-membership?
What if someone said: "it's (ethically) alright to do things to members of other species that it is not (ethically) alright to do members of our speicies."
This assumes that the reason we should treat other human beings ethically is only because we're members of the same species.
Imagine intelligent aliens with bodies very similar to ours landed on earth.
They're capable of reasoning, talking, experiencing pain and pleasure, social cooperation, etc. etc.
They're very similar to us except they're a totally different species.
Would it be wrong to harm them for no reason? Would it be wrong to kill them for no reason?
Full transcript