Introduction to animal ethics
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What are the different positions with regards to an animals moral standing?
- Animals have no moral status - we have no duties towards them
- Animals have instrumental value - we have indirect duties towards them
- Animals have intrinsic value - have have direct duties towards towards them
What is sentience?
The capacity to have feelings
Which animals are traditionally seen as sentient?
Vertebrates and now cephalopods are seen as sentient, whereas invertebrates are not
What are the two arguments for and against animal sentience?
- For: inferential (inference from behavioural and neurological similarity, and evolutionary continuity) and non-inferential (knowledge of animal consciousness derives directly from our interactions with animals as conscious beings).
- Against: behavioural comparisons (animal behaviour is automatic) and higher order definition of consciousness (phenomenal consciousness requires the capacity to think about ones own thought).
What is the socio-zoological scale?
A hierarchy of animals - a moral ordering, based on traditions and prejudices
What is the contractarian view?
The contractarian idea is that ethical obligations originate in mutual agreements or contracts between people. Non-human animals cannot make agreements. They lack the understanding and control needed to enter a contractual arrangement. As a result, animals neither create nor have moral duties.
How do contractarians view the use of animals?
Animal suffering or killing of animals are not ethical problems - any form of animal use is acceptable. Use of animals may even be ethically desirable if it benefits humans. We may have indirect ethical obligations towards animals because they can matter to other humans - people like animals.
What is the utilitarian view?
All sentient beings, human and non-human, have interests. All interests count morally and deserve equal consideration. The impact of one's actions on all sentient creatures is a matter for moral concern. If a being suffers there is no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.
How do utilitarians view the use of animals?
Animals deserve moral consideration. In deciding what to do we must consider the welfare consequences for animals as well as potential benefits for humans (and animals). Activities which have an adverse impact on the well being animals may be well justified if, all things considered, they lead to a net increase in welfare. The interests with most weight should prevail, no matter whose interests they are.
What are the problems with utilitarianism?
- Only the net costs and benefits count - e.g. 49% vs 51%
- No clear moral distinction between the killing of humans and animals
- Does not respect the moral value of each individual
- What is 'net welfare' - how do we calculate this?
What is the deontology (animal rights) view?
It is unacceptable to treat a sentient being as a means to achieve a goal. They argue that animals, like humans, have an 'intrinsic worth, a dignity'.
How do deontologists view the use of animals?
Defenders of animal rights believe that fixed ethical rules place limits on our treatment of animals - there are some things that we are not permitted to do to an animal whatever the circumstances. No benefit can justify the violation of the rights of an animal, so there is no reason to look for expected benefits. To find out whether a form of animal use is morally justified ask whether it is respectful and preserves the animals dignity.
What are the three senses of 'animal rights'?
- The moral-status sense: animals have at least some moral status. Animals do not exist solely for human use so they should be treated well for their own sake.
- The equal-consideration sense: we must give equal moral weight to humans' and animals' interests.
- The utility-trumping sense: like humans, animals have certain vital interests that we must not override, even in an effort to maximise benefit for society.
What are the problems with animal rights?
Interests of individuals (or groups) are often opposing or even mutually exclusive
What is a hybrid view?
A view that is distinct from each principle but contains elements of each
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