- Do animals possess moral standing? That is to say, are they deserving of our sympathy and concern, and do they possess moral rights, in their own right? This chapter will claim that such questions should receive negative answers. The first four sections will argue that the pains and sufferings of almost all animals (including many insects and crustaceans) are of the right sort to make them possible objects of sympathy, figuring within a mind whose basic structure is similar to our own. In this case, utilitarian ethical theories will have a hard time denying that all such creatures have standing, thereby adding to the problems that such theories face. The remaining five sections will argue from a contractualist perspective that all humans, but probably no animals, possess moral standing. This conclusion, too, is admittedly counterintuitive, but some of the sting will be drawn from it by acknowledging that we can nevertheless have indirect duties toward animals.
- Although humans are, of course, a kind of animal, when I speak of animals in this chapter, I should be understood as referring to nonhuman animals only. This is merely for ease of expression, and should not be taken as a commitment to any sort of “Cartesian divide” between ourselves and members of other species. On the contrary, I believe firmly in the evolutionary and cognitive continuities between humans and other animals.
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