Article responds to the criticism of speciesism that it is somehow less immoral than other -isms by showing that this is a mistake resting on an inadequate taxonomy of the various -isms. Criticizes argument by Bonnie Steinbock that preference to your own species is not immoral by comparison with racism of comparable level.
In this essay I argue that the evolutionary and comparative study of nonhuman animal (hereafter animal) cognition in a wide range of taxa by cognitive ethologists can readily inform discussions about animal protection and animal rights. However, while it is clear that there is a link between animal cognitive abilities and animal pain and suffering, I agree with Jeremy Bentham who claimed long ago the real question does not deal with whether individuals can think or reason but rather with whether (...) or not individuals can suffer. One of my major goals will be to make the case that the time has come to expand. The Great Ape Project (GAP) to The Great Ape/Animal Project (GA/AP) and to take seriously the moral status and rights of all animals by presupposing that all individuals should be admitted into the Community of Equals. I also argue that individuals count and that it is essential to avoid being speciesist cognitivists; it really doesn't matter whether ‘dogs ape’ or whether ‘apes dog’ when taking into account the worlds of different individual animals. Narrow-minded primatocentrism and speciesism must be resisted in our studies of animal cognition and animal protection and rights. Line-drawing into ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ species is a misleading speciesist practice that should be vigorously resisted because not only is line-drawing bad biology but also because it can have disastrous consequences for how animals are viewed and treated. Speciesist line-drawing also ignores within species individual differences. (shrink)
In spite of the considerable literature nowadays existing on the issue of the moral exclusion of nonhuman animals, there is still work to be done concerning the characterization of the conceptual framework with which this question can be appraised. This paper intends to tackle this task. It starts by defining speciesism as the unjustified disadvantageous consideration or treatment of those who are not classified as belonging to a certain species. It then clarifies some common misunderstandings concerning what this means. (...) Next, it rejects the idea that there are different kinds of speciesism. Such an idea may result from confusion because there are (1) different ways in which speciesism can be defended; and (2) different speciesist positions, that is, different positions that assume speciesism among their premises. Depending on whether or not these views assume other criteria for moral consideration apart from speciesism, they can be combined or simple speciesist positions. But speciesism remains in all cases the same idea. Finally, the paper examines the concept of anthropocentrism, the disadvantageous treatment or consideration of those who are not members of the human species. This notion must be conceptually distinguished from speciesism and from misothery (aversion to nonhuman animals). Anthropocentrism is shown to be refuted because it either commits a petitio principia fallacy or it falls prey to two arguments: the argument from species overlap (widely but misleadingly known as “argument from marginal cases”) and the argument from relevance. This rebuttal identifies anthropocentrism as a speciesist view. (shrink)
Properly understood speciesism regards membership in one's own species (e.g., being a fellow human being) as sufficient for sharing one's own moral status, but NOT as being necessary. Speciesism is consistent with any of a great range of attitudes toward alter-specific animals. When nonhuman animals are accorded a lesser moral status it is not per se because they are not human.
Jeff McMahan has shown himself to be a vigorous and incisive critic of speciesism, and he has been particularly critical of speciesist arguments that draw inspiration from Wittgenstein. In this essay I argue that McMahan’s ethical framework (as outlined in The Ethics of Killing) is more nuanced and more open to the incorporation of speciesist intuitions regarding deprivation than he himself sometimes suggests. I will also argue that a sensible speciesism can be pluralist and flexible enough to accommodate (...) many of McMahan’s arguments in defense of “moral individualist” intuitions. In this way, I hope to make the case for at least a partial reconciliation between McMahan and the “Wittgensteinian speciesists”. (shrink)
In the last decade, the study of moral heuristics has gained in importance. I argue that we can consider speciesism as a moral heuristic: an intuitive rule of thumb that substitutes a target attribute (that is difficult to detect, e.g. “having rationality”) for a heuristic attribute (that is easier to detect, e.g. “looking like a human being”). This speciesism heuristic misfires when applied to some atypical humans such as the mentally disabled, giving them rights although they lack rationality. (...) But I argue that it is not necessarily irrational or inconsistent to hold on to this heuristic rule, because we have to take time and knowledge constraints, uncertainty aversion and emotional costs into account. However, this “heuristic defense” of speciesism uses a target attribute (rationality) that has implications of disrespect towards some atypical humans. Therefore, based on notions of impartiality and compassion, I argue for a morally better target attribute: sentience (“having a sense of well-being”). “Being a vertebrate” is suitable as a corresponding heuristic attribute because it is easy to detect and has a strong correlation with the target attribute of sentience. (shrink)
Many people believe that all human life is of equal value. Most of them also believe that all human beings have a moral status superior to that of nonhuman animals. But how are these beliefs to be defended? The mere difference of species cannot in itself determine moral status. The most obvious candidate for regarding human beings as having a higher moral status than animals is the superior cognitive capacity of humans. People with profound mental retardation pose a problem for (...) this set of beliefs, because their cognitive capacities are not superior to those of many animals. I argue that we should drop the belief in the equal value of human life, replacing it with a graduated view that applies to animals as well as to humans. (shrink)
This paper offers several criticisms of the account of rightholding laid out in S. Matthew Liao’s recent paper “The Basis of Human Moral Status.” I argue that Liao’s account both does too much and too little: it grants rightholder status to those who may not deserve it, and it does not provide grounds for offering such status to those who arguably do deserve it. Given these troubling aspects of his approach, I encourage Liao to abandon his “physical basis of moral (...) agency” account of moral status and instead adopt a position closer to a traditional “speciesist” view. (shrink)
This paper reviews the argument by Peter Singer that speciesism, the exploitation of other species without regard for their interests, is as morally objectionable as racism and sexism. Objections to this argument by philosophers such as Peter Carruthers, Mary Midgley, and Cora Diamond as well as conventional wisdom about notions of species differences are presented and critically examined. I conclude that Alaine Locke would have supported Singer's expansion of the moral circle.
Bonnie Steinbock argues that Peter Singer has made an important contribution to remind us that animals deserve very special consideration, but that he fails to make a compelling case against "speciesism.".
Anti-vivisectionists charge that animal experimenters are speciesists people who unjustly discriminate against members of other species. Until recently most defenders of experimentation denied the charge. After the publication of `The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research' in the New England Journal of Medicine , experimenters had a more aggressive reply: `I am a speciesist. Speciesism is not merely plausible, it is essential for right conduct...'1. Most researchers now embrace Cohen's response as part of their defense of (...) animal experimentation. Cohen asserts that both rights and utilitarian arguments against the use of animals in research fail because they `refuse to recognize the moral differences among species'.2 If we appreciate the profound differences between humans and non-human animals, he says, we would understand why animals do not and could not have rights and why animal pain does not have as much moral weight as human pain. Animal liberationists think speciesism is immoral because they mistakenly equate it with racism and sexism. Cohen claims this equation is `unsound', `atrocious', `utterly specious', and `morally offensive'. Doubtless Cohen is right that the charge of speciesism is founded on an analogy with racism and sexism. He is mistaken, however, in asserting that the comparison is categorically illicit. (shrink)
It seems impossible for a human being not to have some point of view concerning nonhuman animal (hereafter animal) welfare. Many people make decisions about how humans are permitted to treat animals using speciesist criteria, basing their decisions on an individual's species membership rather than on that animal's individual characteristics. Although speciesism provides a convenient way for making difficult decisions about who should be used in different types of research, we argue that such decisions should rely on an analysis (...) of individual characteristics and should not be based merely on species membership. We do not argue that the concept of species is never useful or important. To make our points, we present a conversation among a skeptic, an agnostic, and a proponent of the view that our moral obligations to an animal must be based on an analysis of that individual's characteristics. In the course of the discussion, concepts such as personhood, consciousness, cognitive ability, harm, and pain are presented, because one's understanding of these concepts informs his or her ethical decisions about the use of animals by humans. (shrink)
“Speciesism” accords greater value to human beings and their interests. It is supposed to be opposed to a liberationist stance, since it is precisely the numerous forms of discounting of animal interests which liberationists oppose. This association is mistaken. In this paper I claim that many forms of speciesism are consistent with upholding a robust liberationist agenda. Accordingly, several hotly disputed topics in animal ethics can be set aside. The significance of such clarification is that synthesizing liberationism with (...)speciesism substantially modifies some of the coordinates of the debates over animal ethics. Secondly, defusing some counterintuitive implications of liberationism may make liberationism more popular than it currently is. Liberationism would no longer demand the eradication of ingrained speciesist intuitions. The paper finally presents a form of speciesism that does oppose liberationism, but is too strong and (fortunately) shared by few. (shrink)
As we begin our exploration of our relationship with animals, we come face to face with Peter Singer and his insistence that speciesism is a vice. It is important to come to know what he means by speciesism, why he regards it as a moral mistake.
During nearly two millennia of European history in which Christian dogmas could not be questioned, many prejudices put down deep roots. Humanists are, rightly, critical of Christians who have not freed themselves of these prejudices-for example, against the equality of women or against nonreproductive sex. It is curious, therefore, that, despite many individual exceptions, humanists have on the whole been unable to free themselves from one of the most central of these Christian dogmas: the prejudice of speciesism.
Many people in the animal welfare communityhave argued that the use of nonhuman animals inmedical research is necessarily based onspeciesism, an unjustified prejudice based onspecies membership. As such it is morally akinto racism and sexism. This is misguided. Thecombined capacities for autonomy and sentiencewith the obligations derived from relationssupport a morally justifiable rationale forusing some nonhuman animals in order to limitthe risk of harm to humans. There may be a fewcases where it is morally better to use a neversentient human (...) than a sentient animal, butthese cases are few and would not fulfill thecurrent need for research subjects. The use ofnonautonomous animals instead of humans inrisky research can be based on solid moralground. It is not necessarily speciesism. (shrink)
Ethical reasoning of all types is anthropocentric, in that it is addressed to agents, but anthropocentric starting points vary in the preference they accord the human species. Realist claims about environmental values, utilitarian reasoning and rights-based reasoning all have difficulties in according ethical concern to certain all aspects of natural world. Obligation-based reasoning can provide quite strong if incomplete reasons to protect the natural world, including individual non-human animals. Although it cannot establish all the conclusions to which anti-speciesists aspire, it (...) may establish many of them with some clarity. (shrink)
Christopher Grau argues that the genetic basis for moral agency account of rightholding is problematic because it fails to grant all human beings the moral status of rightholding; it grants the status of rightholding to entities that do not intuitively deserve such status; and it assumes that the genetic basis for moral agency has intrinsic/final value, but the genetic basis for moral agency only has instrumental value. Grau also argues that those who are inclined to hold that all human beings (...) are rightholders should reconsider speciesism. In this paper, I argue that Grau's objections do not undermine the genetic basis for moral agency account of rightholding, and I also offer criticisms of Grau's defense of speciesism. (shrink)
Humans often intervene in the wild for anthropocentric or environmental reasons. An example of such interventions is the reintroduction of wolves in places where they no longer live in order to create what has been called an “ecology of fear”, which is being currently discussed in places such as Scotland. In the first part of this paper I discuss the reasons for this measure and argue that they are not compatible with a nonspeciesist approach. Then, I claim that if we (...) abandon a speciesist viewpoint we should change completely the way in which we should intervene in nature. Rather than intervening for environmental or anthropocentric reasons, we should do it in order to reduce the harms that nonhuman animals suffer. This conflicts significantly with some fundamental environmental ideals whose defence is not compatible with the consideration of the interests of nonhuman animals. (shrink)
It is undeniable that many human practices are detrimental to the well-being of non-human animals. Among other things, we trap and hunt them, experiment upon them, and kill them to use their flesh for food. We cause pain and suffering, and so a moral justification for these activities is required. Traditionally such a justification has taken the form of claiming that humans have some property–intelligence, ability to morally deliberate, etc.–which is both morally significant and missing in non-humans. However, once we (...) recall the existence of marginal or deficient humans, those who suffer from senility, retardation, Alzheimer disease, etc., this appeal loses much of its force. I investigate whether loyalty appeals can be used to support our treatment of non-humans as resources. That is, can we legitimately appeal to the fact that an individual is a fellow human to ground inferior moral behaviors toward non-human animals. I conclude that, concerning any of the major uses of animals, including the experimenting upon them in the hopes of finding cures and treatments of human diseases, loyalty appeals have no efficacy. (shrink)
Some philosophers have argued that moral agency is characteristic of humans alone and that its absence from other animals justifies granting higher moral status to humans. However, human beings do not have a monopoly on moral agency, which admits of varying degrees and does not require mastery of moral principles. The view that all and only humans possess moral agency indicates our underestimation of the mental lives of other animals. Since many other animals are moral agents (to varying degrees), they (...) are also subject to (limited) moral obligations, examples of which are provided in this paper. But, while moral agency is sufficient for significant moral status, it is by no means necessary. (shrink)
How much do animals matter--morally? Can we keep considering them as second class beings, to be used merely for our benefit? Or, should we offer them some form of moral egalitarianism? Inserting itself into the passionate debate over animal rights, this fascinating, provocative work by renowned scholar Paola Cavalieri advances a radical proposal: that we extend basic human rights to the nonhuman animals we currently treat as "things." Cavalieri first goes back in time, tracing the roots of the debate from (...) the 1970s, then explores not only the ethical but also the scientific viewpoints, examining the debate's precedents in mainstream Western philosophy. She considers the main proposals of reform that recently have been advanced within the framework of today's prevailing ethical perspectives. Are these proposals satisfying? Cavalieri says no, claiming that it is necessary to go beyond the traditional opposition between utilitarianism and Kantianism and focus on the question of fundamental moral protection. In the case of human beings, such protection is granted within the widely shared moral doctrine of universal human rights' theory. Cavalieri argues that if we examine closely this theory, we will discover that its very logic extends to nonhuman animals as beings who are owed basic moral and legal rights and that, as a result, human rights are not human after all. (shrink)
Can material Egalitarianism (requiring, for example, the significant promotion of fortune) include animals in the domain of the equality requirement? The problem can be illustrated as follows: If equality of wellbeing is what matters, and normal mice are included in this egalitarian requirement, then normal mice have a much stronger claim to resources than almost any human. This is because normal mice have a much stronger claim to resources than almost any human. This is because their wellbeing is much lower (...) than that of normal humans. Thus, equality of wellbeing requires a massive shift of resources away from most humans to mice. This view, however, seems crazy. I explore this problem and propose a solution. (shrink)
Abstract In a recent issue of Neuroethics , I considered whether the notion of human dignity could help us in solving the moral problems the advent of the diagnostic category of minimally conscious state (MCS) has brought forth. I argued that there is no adequate account of what justifies bestowing all MCS patients with the special worth referred to as human dignity. Therefore, I concluded, unless that difficulty can be solved we should resort to other values than human dignity in (...) addressing the moral problems MCS poses. In his new book Christopher Kaczor criticizes the argument I put forward. Below, I respond to Kaczor’s criticism. I maintain that the considerations he presents do not undermine my argument nor succeed in providing adequate justification for the view that all MCS patients possess the worth referred to as human dignity. Content Type Journal Article Category Original Paper Pages 1-11 DOI 10.1007/s12152-011-9147-z Authors Jukka Varelius, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku, Turku, 20014 Finland Journal Neuroethics Online ISSN 1874-5504 Print ISSN 1874-5490. (shrink)
The theory of evolution has beenused in arguments regarding animalexperimentation. Two such arguments areanalyzed, one against and one in favor. Eachargument stresses the relevance of the theoryof evolution to normative ethics but attemptsexplicitly to avoid the so-called naturalisticfallacy.According to the argument against animalexperimentation, the theory of evolution`undermines' the idea of a special humandignity and supports `moral individualism'. Thelatter view implies that if it is wrong to usehumans in experiments, then it is also wrong touse animals, unless there are relevantdifferences between (...) them that justify adifference in treatment. No such differencescan be found with regard to animals which lead`biographical lives'.The argument in favor of animal experimentationis based on evolutionary psychology. It statesthat humans, as all social animals, arespeciesist by nature and stresses that thisshould be taken seriously in normative ethics.This does not mean that animal interests shouldnot be considered, only that vital humaninterests may outweigh them.In order to assess the arguments, one has totake a stand on certain more basic issues: `is'versus `ought', impartiality versus specialobligations, and feelings/intuitions versusreason. Given the author's own position withregard to these more basic considerations, theevolutionary argument in favor of animalexperimentation is judged to be more convincingthan the one against but not decisive. It isalso maintained that not all animal experimentsare acceptable. Which animal experiments areacceptable and which are not has to be decidedon a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
Perhaps the commonest reasons for the keeping of pets are companionship and as a conduit for affection. Pets are, therefore, being “used” for human ends in much the same way as laboratory or farm animals. So shouldn’t the same arguments apply to the use of pets as to those used in other ways? In accepting the “rights” of farm animals to fully express their natural behavior, one must also accept the “right” of pets to express their intrinsic natural behavior. Dogs (...) kept in houses for most of the day are being kept in an unnatural environment. So are rabbits kept in hutches, and guinea-pigs or birds in cages. These conditions infringe the animals’ telos. Dogs are naturally pack animals, so is a dog in isolation being denied its telos? Other actions more deliberately infringe telos and autonomy. Enforced shampooing – or even exercise; hair-cutting of poodles; putting animals in clothes; and tail-docking. If de-beaking of chickens is considered wrong, then the same must be true for tail-docking of dogs. One should also question the ethics of specialist breeding – especially when that results in physiological disadvantages (boxers with breathing troubles). There would appear to be no advantage to the animals in having such health problems and when these are the direct result of the breeders’ desire for specific cosmetic traits, we should question the ethics of the practice at least as much as when animals are bred for specific agricultural traits. (shrink)
An environmental ethics open to the charge of speciesism would be a weak environmental ethics at best. Ferré criticizes the environmental ethics of Callicott and Rolston, presenting his version of an environmental ethics; one he refers to as organicistic. His version does indeed avoid the pitfalls of the environmental ethics of Callicott and Rolston. But, as I show, the charge of speciesism can be leveled against Ferré (and many others). I suggest that properly understood speciesism is so (...) deeply rooted in our concepts that the only hope lies in what I term a thoughtful speciesism. (shrink)