Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


The Moral Status of Animals

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/

Excerpt: What is distinctive about humanity such that humans are thought to have moral status and non-humans do not? Providing an answer to this question has become increasingly important among philosophers as well as those outside of philosophy who are interested in our treatment of non-human animals. For some, answering this question will enable us to better understand the nature of humans and the proper scope of our moral obligations. Some argue that there is an answer that can distinguish humans from the rest of the natural world. Many of those who accept this answer are interested in justifying certain human practices towards non-humans—practices that cause pain, discomfort, suffering and death. This latter group expect that in answering the question in a particular way, humans will be justified in granting moral consideration to other humans that is neither required nor justified when considering non-human animals. In contrast to this view, many philosophers have argued that there is no philosophically defensible way to morally distinguish humans and to deny non-human animals moral consideration, but what the basis of that consideration is and what it amounts to has been the source of much disagreement.

1. The Moral Considerability of Animals

To say that a being deserves moral consideration is to say that there is a moral claim that this being has on those who can recognize such claims. A morally considerable being is a being who can be wronged in the morally relevant sense. It is generally thought that all and only human beings make such claims, however, when we ask why it is thought that all and only humans are the types of beings that can be wronged, answers are not particularly easy to come by. Humans are members of the species Homo sapiens. But species membership does not explain why there is a moral claim made by those that belong to this species and not other species. That humans are members of the species Homo sapiens is certainly a distinguishing feature of humans -- humans share a genetic make-up and a distinctive physiology, but this is unimportant from the moral point of view. Species membership is a morally irrelevant characteristic, a bit of luck which is no more morally interesting than being born male or female, Malaysian or French. Thus species membership itself cannot support the view that members of one species, namely ours, deserve moral consideration that is not owed to members of other species. Of course, one might respond that it is not membership in a biological category that matters morally, it is our humanity that grounds the moral claims we make. Humans are morally considerable because of the distinctively human capacities we possess, capacities that only we humans have.

2. The Moral Significance of Animals' Moral Claims

That non-human animals can make moral claims on us does not in itself indicate how such claims are to be assessed and conflicting claims adjudicated. Being morally considerable is like showing up on a moral radar screen—how strong the signal is or where it is located on the screen are separate questions. Of course, how one argues for the moral considerability of non-human animals will inform how we are to understand the force of an animal's claims.

According to the view that an animal's moral claim is equivalent to a moral right, any action that fails to treat the animal as a being with inherent worth would violate that animal's right and is thus morally objectionable. According to the animal rights position, to treat an animal as a means to some human end, as many humans do when they eat animals or experiment on them, is to violate that animal's right. As Tom Regan has written,

…animals are treated routinely, systematically as if their value were reducible to their usefulness to others, they are routinely, systematically treated with a lack of respect, and thus are their rights routinely, systematically violated. (Regan, 1985)

The animal rights position is an absolutist position. Any being that is a subject of a life has inherent worth and the rights that protect such worth, and all subjects of a life have these rights equally. Thus any practice that fails to respect the rights of those animals who have them, e.g. eating animals, hunting animals, experimenting on animals, using animals for entertainment, is wrong, irrespective of human need, context, or culture.

The utilitarian position on animals, most commonly associated with Peter Singer and popularly, though erroneously, referred to as an animal rights position, is actually quite distinct. Here the moral significance of the claims of animals depends on what other morally significant competing claims might be in play in any given situation. While the equal interests of all morally considerable beings are considered equally, the practices in question may end up violating or frustrating some interests but would not be considered morally wrong if, when all equal interests are considered, more of these interests are satisfied than frustrated. For utilitarians like Singer, what matters are the strength and nature of interests, not whose interests these are . So, if the only options available in order to save the life of one morally considerable being is to cause harm, but not death, to another morally considerable being, then according to a utilitarian position, causing this harm may be morally justifiable. Similarly, if there are two courses of action, one which causes extreme amounts of suffering and ultimate death, and one which causes much less suffering and painless death, then the latter would be morally preferable to the former.

Consider factory farming, the most common method used to convert animal bodies into relatively inexpensive food in industrialized societies today. An estimated 8 billion animals in the United States are born, confined, biologically manipulated, transported and ultimately slaughtered each year so that humans can consume them. The conditions in which these animals are raised and the method of slaughter causes vast amounts of suffering. (See, for example, Mason and Singer 1990.) Given that animals suffer under such conditions and assuming that suffering is not in their interests, then the practice of factory farming would only be morally justifiable if its abolition were to cause greater suffering or a greater amount of interest frustration. Certainly humans who take pleasure in eating animals will find it harder to satisfy these interests in the absence of factory farms; it may cost more and require more effort to obtain animal products. The factory farmers, and the industries that support factory farming, will also have certain interests frustrated if factory farming were to be abolished. How much interest frustration and interest satisfaction would be associated with the end to factory farming is largely an empirical question. But utilitarians are not making unreasonable predictions when they argue that on balance the suffering and interest frustration that animals experience in modern day meat production is greater than the suffering that humans would endure if they had to alter their current practices.

In sum, the animal rights position takes the significance of morally considerable claims to be absolute. Thus, any use of animals that involves a disregard for their moral claims is problematic. The significance of an animal's morally considerable interests according to a utilitarian is variable. Whether an action is morally justified or permissible will depend on a number of factors. The utilitarian position on animals would condemn a large number of practices that involve the suffering and death of billions of animals, but there are cases in which some use of non-human animals, and perhaps even human animals, may be morally justified.


Taking Animals Seriously  http://www.hedweb.com/animals/c0.htm    

Mental Life and Moral Status by David DeGrazia (ISBN 0-521-56760-2) Excerpt

"As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis"
Isaac Bashevis Singer

 Since World War Two, traditional family farms have largely gone out of business. They have been superseded by what's blandly known as factory-farming. Factory-farms seek to raise as many animals as possible in the smallest possible space in order to maximise profits. The single-minded pursuit of profit has the corollary that animals are nothing but meat-producing objects. They have been overwhelmingly treated as such. Here is DeGrazia talking about the fate of the 100 million mammals and 5 billion birds slaughtered annually in the USA alone:

"After hatching broiler chickens are moved to enclosed sheds containing automatic feeders and waterers. From 10 000 to 75 000 birds are kept in a single shed, which becomes increasingly crowded as they grow at an abnormally fast rate. Crowding often leads to cannibalism and other aggressive behaviors; another occurrence is panic-driven piling on top of each other, sometimes causing suffocation. Concerns about the possibility of aggression have led many farmers to debeak their chickens, apparently through sensitive tissue. By slaughter time, chickens have as little as six tenths of a square-foot apiece. There is typically little ventilation, and the never-cleaned droppings produce an air thick with ammonia, dust and bacteria."

"Laying hens live their lives in "battery" cages made entirely of wire. Cages are so crowded that hens can seldom fully stretch their wings; debeaking is common practice to limit the damage of the hens' pecking cagemates. For hours before laying an egg, a hen, deprived of any nest, paces anxiously amid the mob; at egg laying time, she must stand on a sloped, uncomfortable wire floor that precludes the instinctual behaviors of scratching, dust bathing, and pecking for food. Unnatural conditions, lack of normal exercise and demands for high egg production cause bone weakness. Some hens undergo forced molting, stimulated by up to twelve days without food. When considered spent, hens are stuffed into crates and transported in uncovered trucks for slaughter; during handling and transport, many (over two thirds in one study) incur broken bones. Laying hens and broiler chickens have the same fate; They are shackled upside down, fully conscious, on conveyor belts before their throats are cut by an automated knife. (Hens' brothers have short lives due to their commercial uselessness. After hatching, they are dumped into plastic sacks and left to suffocate, or ground up while still alive to make feed for their sisters.)"

"Hogs, a highly intelligent and social species, have virtually nothing to do in factory farms except stand up, lie down, eat and sleep. Usually deprived of straw and other sources of amusement, and separated from each other by iron bars in small crates, hogs appear to suffer greatly from boredom. Sometimes they amuse themselves by biting a tail in the next crate. Industry's increasingly common response is to cut off their tails - a procedure that, like castration of males, is usually done without anesthesia. Hogs stand on either wire mesh, slatted floors, or concrete floors - all highly unnatural footings. Poor ventilation and accumulated waste products cause powerful fumes. Hogs are often abused at the loading and unloading stage of transport, particularly at the slaughterhouse. Rough handling sometimes includes the use of whips and electrical 'hot shots'."

"Veal calves are probably worse off than other farm animals. Shortly after birth, they are taken from their mothers and transported considerable distances - often with rough handling, exposure to the elements, and no food or rest. At the veal barn, they are confined in solitary crates too small to allow them to turn round or even sleep in a natural position. Denied solid food and water, they are given a liquid milk replacer deficient in iron (in order to produce the gourmet white flesh), resulting in anemia. Because it is drunk from buckets, rather than suckled, the liquid food often enters the rumen rather than the true stomach, causing diarrhea and indigestion. The combination of deprivations sometimes results in such neurotic behaviors as sucking the boards of crates and stereotyped tongue-rolling."

"Like their veal-calf siblings, many dairy cows, as calves, never receive colostrum - the milk produced by their mothers which helps to fight diseases. More and more they are confined either indoors or in overcrowded drylots (which have no grass). Unanesthetised tail docking is increasingly performed. In order to produce some twenty times the amount of milk a calf would need, dairy cows are fed a diet heavy in grain - as distinct from the roughages for which their digestive tracts are suited - creating health problems that include painful lameness and metabolic disorders, which are exacerbated by confinement. About half U.S. dairy cows at any one time have mastitis, a painful udder. Many cows today are given daily injections of Bovine Growth Hormone to stimulate additional growth and increase milk production (despite a surplus of dairy products). Although their natural life span is about twenty to twenty-five years, at about age four, dairy cows become unable to maintain production levels and are transported for slaughter. Most processed beef comes from them."

"Cattle raised specifically for beef are, on the whole, better off than the other farm animals already described. Many of the cattle get to roam in the outdoors for about six months. Then they are transported long distances to feedlots, where they are fattened up on grain rather than grass. Craving roughage, the cattle often lick their own and other cattle's coats; the hair that enters the rumen sometimes causes abscesses. Most feedlots do not confine intensively. Their major sources of distress are the boredom likely to result from a barren environment, unrelieved exposure to the elements, dehorning (which cuts through arteries and other tissue), branding, the cutting of ears into special shapes for identification purposes, and unanesthetized castration (which involves pinning the animal, cutting his scrotum, and ripping out each testicle)."

"Transporting hogs and cattle for slaughter - which can entail up to three days without food, water, or rest - typically results in conspicuous weight loss and other signs of deprivation. The slaughtering process itself is likely to cause fear. The animals are transported on a conveyor belt or goaded up a ramp in the stench of their fellows' blood. In the best of circumstances, animals are rendered unconscious by a captive-bolt gun or electric shock before their throats are slit."

        This horrible suffering occurs, one has to remind oneself, primarily because we enjoy the taste of meat; and because our appetites are financially profitable.

November 16, 2012  When does an animal count as a person?

NB: This will be discussed forever just like other philosophical issues. Gary Francione, American legal scholar, criticizes the concept of granting personhood because the animal in question is human-like, and argues instead that sentience is the only characteristic a being requires to have basic rights.

Sentience Institute is a think tank that specializes in effective altruism and social movement research. It was founded by Jacy Reese & Kelly Witwicki in June 2017 & has published research reports on various social movements & new technologies. 

Our mission is to build on the body of evidence for how to most effectively expand humanity’s moral circle, and to encourage advocates to make use of that evidence. Because the scope of this mission is so large, we’re initially focusing on effective strategies to expand the circle to farmed animals.

When animals are treated as commodities their welfare will always be compromised.

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