- In order to understand how we think about animals as a moral and a legal matter — both historically and at the present time — it is necessary to consider two different aspects of our relationship with other animals: our use of animals and our treatment of animals. These aspects are different because whether we use animals at all for a particular purpose is a different question from how we treat them pursuant to that purpose. For example, whether it is morally acceptable to kill and eat animals at all is a different question from how we treat the animals we eat and whether, for instance, we raise them in intensive "factory farms" or in "free-range" conditions, or how we slaughter them. Our use of animals is a separate matter from whether our treatment of them is "humane" or "cruel."
- Based on this distinction between use and treatment, we can identify four primary ways in which we have conceptualized our moral and legal obligations to nonhuman animals:
- Before the nineteenth century, we generally regarded animals as things both in moral theory and under the law. According to this view, neither use nor treatment raised a moral or legal concern because animals simply did not matter at all.
- The animal welfare position, which became popular in the nineteenth century and represents the prevailing contemporary paradigm, separates use and treatment and holds that it is acceptable to use animals for our purposes. We do, however, have a moral and legal obligation to treat them "humanely" and to avoid imposing "unnecessary" suffering on them. The primary focus of animal welfare is the regulation of animal treatment.
- The animal rights position, which maintains that our use of animals cannot be justified, seeks to abolish ail animal use. The abolitionist position rejects regulation on theoretical grounds (even "humane" animal use cannot be justified morally) as well as practical grounds (regulation does not sufficiently protect animal interests and even facilitates the continued social acceptance of animal use).
- The "new welfarist" position, of which there are multiple versions, is more or less critical of traditional welfarist regulation but continues to promote regulation as a means to achieve abolition or significantly reduce animal use and exploitation in the future. Most large animal advocacy organizations promote some version of the new welfarist position.
- At each stage, our views about supposed cognitive or spiritual differences between humans and nonhumans and the perceived moral significance of those differences have informed our views about the use and treatment of nonhumans.
- I will now briefly examine these four positions in very general terms and then describe the essays in this book, which discuss these topics in greater detail.
- The animal advocacy movement is really two vastly different movements. One sees our use of animals as central and seeks the abolition of animal exploitation through the progressive and deliberate eradication of the property status of animals. The other regards treatment as the primary concern and seeks better regulation of animal exploitation through measures that mainly make animal exploitation more efficient but do not effectively challenge property status. The essays in this book focus on the inherent tension between these two approaches, the failure of animal welfare laws to provide significant protection to animal interests, and the idea, present even in the writing of animal advocates Peter Singer and Tom Regan, that issues of use and treatment are properly informed by supposed differences between the minds of humans and those of nonhumans.
- It is my hope that these essays will help sharpen the meaning of the "animal rights," which has come to be used to describe any normative position that vaguely concerns animals, and to make clear that the rights approach means abolishing the exploitation of animals and accepting the personhood of nonhuman animals. By "personhood of non-human animals," I do not mean that we are morally obligated to treat nonhumans as human persons. Humans have interests that nonhumans do not have, and vice versa. But just as we regard every human as having inherent value that precludes treating that human exclusively as a resource for others, so, too, do animals have inherent value that precludes our treating them as our property. It is my hope also that my views will inform the debate between the abolitionist and welfare approaches, a debate that is increasingly taking the center stage in our thinking about the moral and legal status of nonhuman animals.
- This is basically the Introduction and the Conclusion.
- The detailed elaboration of the “four positions” has been omitted, and
- The abstracts of the seven papers have been removed to form abstracts for the papers themselves.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)