Animal research, non-vegetarianism, and the moral status of animals - understanding the impasse of the animal rights problem

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 27 (5):589 – 615 (2002)
Abstract
I offer some reasons for the theory that, compared with human beings, non-human animals have some but lesser intrinsic value. On the basis of this theory, I first argue that we do not know how to compare an animal's claim to be free from a more serious type of harm (e.g., death), and a human's claim to be free from some lesser type of harm (e.g., non-fatal morbidity). For we need to take account of these parties' intrinsic value, and their competing types of claim. Yet, there exists no known way for making such comparison, when a human's intrinsic value is higher than that of an animal, whereas the type of claim an animal has is morally weightier than the type of claim a human has. Second, I explain why utilitarianism is unhelpful in making such comparison. Third, in the case where some animals can be sacrificed for saving a larger number of humans, it is crucial to ask whether animals have the right to life, and I argue that this question is more perplexing than we might think. My conclusion is that the various difficulties mentioned above have a deeper source than we have so far acknowledged, and that this reflects that the moral reality is less tidy and more complex than many theories portray.
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