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Lecture 7 Animal rights


Defenders of animal rights say that discrimination against animals is arbitrary ... Many animal rights advocates admit that death is worse for humans than for ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Lecture 7 Animal rights

Lecture 7Animal rights
Racism, sexism
  • Racism is treating people differently merely
    because of their race. Since race is regarded as
    an irrelevant characteristic, racism is condemned
    as unfair and morally wrong.
  • Sexism is treating people differently merely
    because of their sex. Since sex (being male or
    female) is regarded as an irrelevant
    characteristic in many contexts, sexism is
    condemned as unfair and morally wrong.
  • These condemnations are based on the principle of
    equal consideration it is all right to treat two
    individuals differently only if they differ in
    relevant respects.
  • If there is no relevant difference (as between
    blacks and whites, or between men and women) ,
    the individuals should be treated in the same way.

and speciesism?
  • Defenders of animal rights say that
    discrimination against animals is arbitrary in a
    similar way as racism and sexism, and hence
    morally unjustified. They call it speciesism.
  • The principle of equal consideration requires
    that, as with race and sex, members of one
    species (homo sapiens) should not be favored over
    other kinds of animals, just because they belong
    to that particular species.
  • Does this mean that advocates of animal rights
    think that, for example, dogs should have a right
    to vote?
  • Of course not. Dogs (and other animals) are here
    relevantly different from humans since they lack
    necessary concepts for taking part in elections,
    their exclusion is entirely justified.

Two kinds of speciesism
  • A distinction is usually made between bare
    speciesim and indirect speciesism.
  • Bare speciesism is the belief that we have a
    moral right to treat other animals differently
    merely because they do not belong to our species
    Homo sapiens.
  • Indirect speciesism is the belief that we have a
    moral right to treat other animals differently
    because of some specific characteristics of our
    species, which other animals do not possess (e.g.
    rationality, language, moral sense, etc.).
  • If there are indeed morally relevant differences
    between us and other animals, speciesism would be
  • Are there such differences?

Kant was a speciesist
  • But so far as animals are concerned, we have no
    direct duties. Animals are not self-conscious and
    are there merely as a means to an end. That end
    is man. 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. If he is not to stifle his
    human feelings, he must practice kindness toward
    animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes
    hard also in his dealing with men. (Lectures on
  • An obvious question If, indeed, we have no
    duties towards animals, why then does Kant think
    that bad treatment of animals would lead to bad
    treatment of people?

Bentham on animals
  • The day may come, when the rest of the animal
    creation may acquire those rights which never
    could have been withholden from them but by the
    hand of tyranny. The French have already
    discovered that the blackness of the skin is no
    reason why a human being should be abandoned
    without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It
    may come one day to be recognized, that the
    number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or
    the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons
    equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive
    being to the same fate. What else is it that
    should trace the insuperable line? Is it the
    faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of
    discourse? The question is not, Can they reason?
    nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? (An
    Introduction to the Principles of Morals and
    Legislation, 1789)

Equal consideration
  • Bentham also said Everyone is to count for one,
    and no one for more than one.
  • Does this rule apply to situations where we have
    to decide whether to sacrifice animals or
    peoples interests? For example, what to do if we
    have to choose whether to save one human life or
    lives of 5 monkeys? Is human life worth more? If
    we say yes, are we guilty of speciesism?
  • How about choosing between saving a human or a
  • Many animal rights advocates admit that death is
    worse for humans than for animals (because of
    self-consciousness, sense of future) and that
    consequently saving humans rather than animals is
  • But in case of pain and suffering there may be no

Dog pain and human pain
  • Descartes thought than animals have no mental
    states, but very few people believe this today.
  • Equal consideration demands that we regard same
    amounts of pain as equally evil, independently of
    the species to which the suffering organism
  • If a dog attacks a child and we can protect the
    child only by inflicting a greater pain on the
    dog than the pain the child would suffer if
    bitten by the dog, are we allowed to protect the
  • Wouldnt that be speciesism (irrationally and
    unjustifiably protecting our own kind)? Or would
  • What should carry more weight here (a) the
    philosophical argument about equal consideration,
    or (b) an intuitive gut reaction that protecting
    the child is the only right action?

Two letters
  • Sir,you appeal for money to save the gorillas.
    Very laudable, no doubt. But it doesn't seem to
    have occurred to you that there are thousands of
    human children suffering on the very same
    continent of Africa. There'll be time enough to
    worry about gorillas when we've taken care of
    every last one of the kiddies. Let's get our
    priorities right, please!
  • Sir,you appeal for money to save the gorillas.
    Very laudable, no doubt. But it doesn't seem to
    have occurred to you that there are thousands of
    aardvarks suffering on the very same continent of
    Africa. There'll be time enough to worry about
    gorillas when we've saved every last one of the
    aardvarks. Let's get our priorities right,

Do humans have a special moral status?
  • Dawkins says that, of course, much better reasons
    can be given in support of the first letter, but
    he criticizes our tendency to take for granted
    that humans are special (so much so that the
    question Why? often does not arise).
  • The interesting issue is what happens if we are
    unable to find cogent reasons for giving priority
    to human interests.
  • Should we then (1) treat humans and animals
    equally, because no ground for preferring humans
    is discovered, or (2) should we nevertheless
    continue treating humans as special, relying on
    the deep, strong and persistent moral intuition
    that behaving otherwise would be wrong.
  • In other words, in this conflict should we trust
    more an abstract argument or a basic feeling
    about what is right?

Reflective equilibrium
  • General moral ideas are often tested by their
    implications in particular cases. If the conflict
    arises between what a general idea advises and
    our intuitive reaction about what is right, we
    have a choice.
  • Either we can reject the general idea or abandon
    our intuitive reaction. Sometimes its hard to
    say what is right.
  • Reflective equilibrium is the name for
    balancing the two considerations and for
    indicating that there is no clear and unambiguous
    answer which side to trust more.
  • Another example of such a conflict is
    consequentialism and its implication that it can
    be OK to punish the innocent.
  • In the context of animal rights the question is
    does the rule of equal consideration trump the
    intuition that a monkeys or dogs pain is not as
    important to avoid as a childs pain.

Animal experimentation
  • Medical experiments are often conducted on
    animals, with the purpose of understanding better
    the human physiology and developing cures for
    various diseases.
  • Is such practice morally acceptable?
  • Most people agree that unnecessarily cruel
    experiments should be avoided, as well as those
    with inadequate justification.
  • But if the suffering is minimized and the goal is
    worthy, does this make the experimentation moral?
  • The principle of equal consideration seems to
    forbid them even under these circumstances.
  • Two issues are frequently run together here (a)
    do these experiments really promise to give us
    knowledge? and (b) what is their moral status,
    even if they yield knowledge?

Generalizing from animals to humans
  • Some philosophers claim that (1) if animal
    experimentation is useful, this shows that it is
    morally unacceptable, and that (2) if it is
    morally acceptable, this shows that it will not
    be useful.
  • If the cognitive abilities of humans and animals
    are so drastically different as to morally
    justify experimentation, then those differences
    will both reflect and promote other biological
    differences which undercut inductions from
    animals to humans. On the other hand, if
    underlying biological mechanisms are sufficiently
    similar to justify scientific inferences from
    animals to humans, then the higher-order traits
    of the test subjects are sufficiently similar to
    human traits to make research morally
  • H. LaFollette N. Shanks, The Origins of
    Speciesism, Philosophy (1996)

Generalizing from animals to humans (2)
  • This is a fallacious argument.
  • True, in order to generalize from animals to
    humans, there has to be a similarity between the
    two kind of organisms.
  • True, if animals and humans have a different
    moral status, there has to be a difference
    between the two kinds of organisms.
  • But the argument that the similarity in the first
    sense necessarily undermines the difference in
    the second sense is not convincing.
  • There is no a priori reason why organs of some
    animals should not be very similar to human
    organs, but with their moral status being
    nevertheless very different.
  • The same applies to the reasoning in the opposite
    direction (from moral difference to functional

Dogs and people
  • Researchers have developed a process to stop and
    restart a dog's heartbeat. This was the first
    step in heart surgery.
  • Research on dogs led to development of the
    heart-lung machine, which allows surgeons to
    sustain life while performing heart surgery.
  • Heart surgery techniques, such as coronary bypass
    surgery, artificial heart valve insertion, and
    pacemaker implantation were tested and studied in
    dogs before being used in humans.
  • Through the use of dogs, researchers found that
    diabetics lack the hormone insulin.
  • The 1990 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to
    researchers who studied the immunologic basis of
    organ rejection by working with dogs. These
    studies resulted in the ability to transplant
    kidneys, hearts, lungs, livers and pancreases in
    human patients.
  • Through research on dogs, scientists have gained
    extensive information on repairing fractured
    bones and saving the limbs of humans. The
    artificial hip was first developed in dogs.

Are people special?
  • We think that it is more wrong to harm a mouse
    than a cockroach. Also, that it is more wrong to
    harm a monkey than a mouse.
  • Are we right about this? If yes, isnt it
    possible that it is more wrong to harm a human
    being than a monkey?
  • There is an argument that we should stop killing,
    say, antelopes. But we dont think that we should
    stop lions from killing antelopes. Why not, if
    killing antelopes is wrong?
  • One answer is that it is in lions nature to kill
  • But why should we change our natural behavior
    (which harms other animals), but let other
    animals continue doing these horrible things that
    we can stop.
  • If we are the only living beings that can change
    their natural behavior, does not this make us

Cruelty no, but
  • There is a consensus today that cruelty to
    animals and causing them unnecessary suffering
    are both wrong.
  • But not all want to go so far as to say that we
    should never hurt animals or use them as a means
    toward our ends.
  • Some say that the equality between animals and
    people is established as much by increased
    respect for animals as by decreased respect for
    people. Contrast the care expressed for animals
    with some of Peter Singers views about people
  • Killing unborn babies is OK.
  • Killing handicapped babies after birth is OK.
  • Killing healthy but unwanted children is OK.
  • Killing old and sick people is sometimes OK
    (occasionally even against their will).
  • It is sometimes a waste of resources to care for
    old and sick.
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