Moral Status of Animals

Edited by Nicolas Delon (University of Chicago, New College Of Florida)
About this topic
Summary This entry covers work on the theoretical and applied issues surrounding the idea of the moral status of nonhuman animals. Having moral status commonly means being the object of moral consideration and of (direct or indirect) duties. The issues discussed include what sorts of entities can have moral status; what grounds moral status; whether human beings have a distinctive--higher--moral status; whether moral status can be a matter of degree; whether animals can have direct moral status. Also: Is species membership relevant to moral status? Can nonsentient entities have moral status? What is the relation between moral status and welfare? Does moral status involve rights? What does moral status entail regarding our treatment of animals in particular contexts such as biomedical research, farming, hunting, zoos and circuses, and pet keeping, among others?
Key works Clark 1977 Cohen 1986 DeGrazia 1996 Diamond 1978 Gruen 2011 Midgley 1983 Regan 1983 Sapontzis 1987 Singer 1990 Singer 1979 Warren 1997
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  1. Animal Ethics and the Argument From Absurdity.Elisa Aaltola - 2010 - Environmental Values 19 (1):79-98.
    Arguments for the inherent value, equality of interests,or rights of non-human animals have presented a strong challenge for the anthropocentric worldview. However, they have been met with criticism.One form of criticism maintains that,regardless of their theoretical consistency,these 'pro-animal arguments' cannot be accepted due to their absurdity. Often, particularly inter-species interest conflicts are brought to the fore: if pro-animal arguments were followed,we could not solve interest conflicts between species,which is absurd. Because of this absurdity, the arguments need to be abandoned. The (...)
  2. The Anthropocentric Paradigm and the Posibility of Animal Ethics.Elisa Aaltola - 2010 - Ethics and the Environment 15 (1):pp. 27-50.
    Animal ethics has presented various 'pro-animal arguments' according to which non-human animals have a more significant moral status than traditionally assumed. Although these arguments (brought forward, for instance, by Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Mary Midgley, Stephen Clark, and Mark Rowlands) have been met with various forms of criticism, a quick overview of animal ethics literature suggests that they are difficult to overcome. Pro-animal arguments seem to have consistency and argumentative support on their side. However, recently a new type of criticism (...)
  3. Personhood and Animals.Elisa Aaltola - 2008 - Environmental Ethics 30 (2):175-193.
    A common Western assumption is that animals cannot be persons. Even in animal ethics, the concept of personhood is often avoided. At the same time, many in cognitive ethology argue that animals do have minds, and that animal ethics presents convincing arguments supporting the individual value of animals. Although “animal personhood” may seem to be an absurd notion, more attention needs to placed on the reasons why animals can or cannot be included in the category of persons. Of three different (...)
  4. Animal Ethics and Interest Conflicts.Elisa Aaltola - 2005 - Ethics and the Environment 10 (1):19-48.
    : Animal ethics has presented convincing arguments for the individual value of animals. Animals are not only valuable instrumentally or indirectly, but in themselves. Less has been written about interest conflicts between humans and other animals, and the use of animals in practice. The motive of this paper is to analyze different approaches to interest conflicts. It concentrates on six models, which are the rights model, the interest model, the mental complexity model, the special relations model, the multi-criteria model, and (...)
  5. Animal Ethics and Philosophy: Questioning the Orthodoxy.Elisa Aaltola & John Hadley (eds.) - 2014 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    Bringing together new theory and critical perspectives on a broad range of topics in animal ethics, this book examines the implications of recent developments in the various fields that bear upon animal ethics. Showcasing a new generation of thinkers, it exposes some important shortcomings in existing animal rights theory.
  6. Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents: The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy. [REVIEW]Ralph Acampora - 2006 - Journal of the History of Ideas 44:480-481.
    Ralph R. Acampora - Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents: The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy - Journal of the History of Philosophy 44:3 Journal of the History of Philosophy 44.3 480-481 Gary Steiner. Anthropocentrism and Its Discontents: The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. Pp. ix + 332. Cloth, $37.50. In this text Steiner surveys the history of doctrines, attitudes, and beliefs about the ethical standing of (...)
  7. The Chicken Fallacy and the Ethics of Cruelty to Non-Human Animals.Akande Michael Aina & Ofuasia Emmanuel - 2017 - Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics 8 (1):7-20.
    The ideological underpinning that guides our interaction with non-human animals needs revision. The traditional outlook, according to which humans have a higher moral status vis-à-vis non-human animals, is now otiose. If these claims are to be justified, what ideological framework would serve this end? What are the moral implications of endorsing the view that humans possess no higher moral status than non-human animals? This work takes as foundation Charles Darwins theory of evolution, which affirms that humans emerged from the long (...)
  8. The Value of Nonhuman Nature: A Constitutive View.Roman Altshuler - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3):469-485.
    A central question of environmental ethics remains one of how best to account for the intuitions generated by the Last Man scenarios; that is, it is a question of how to explain our experience of value in nature and, more importantly, whether that experience is justified. Seeking an alternative to extrinsic views, according to which nonhuman entities possess normative features that obligate us, I turn to constitutive views, which make value or whatever other limits nonhuman nature places on action dependent (...)
  9. Chimpanzee Rights: The Philosophers' Brief.Kristin Andrews, Gary Comstock, G. K. D. Crozier, Sue Donaldson, Andrew Fenton, Tyler John, L. Syd M. Johnson, Robert Jones, Will Kymlicka, Letitia Meynell, Nathan Nobis, David M. Pena-Guzman & Jeff Sebo - forthcoming - London: Routledge.
    In December 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus in the New York State Supreme Court on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee living alone in a cage in a shed in rural New York (Barlow, 2017). Under animal welfare laws, Tommy’s owners, the Laverys, were doing nothing illegal by keeping him in those conditions. Nonetheless, the NhRP argued that given the cognitive, social, and emotional capacities of chimpanzees, Tommy’s confinement constituted (...)
  10. The Philosophers' Brief on Chimpanzee Personhood.Kristin Andrews, Gillian Crozier, Sue Donaldson, Andrew Fenton, L. Syd M. Johnson, Robert Jones, Will Kymlicka, Letitia Meynell, Nathan Nobis, David Pena-Guzman, James Rocha, Bernard Rollin, Jeff Sebo, Adam Shriver, Rebecca Walker & Gary Comstock - 2018 - Proposed Brief by Amici Curiae Philosophers in Support of the Petitioner-Appelllant Court of Appeals, State of New York,.
    In this brief, we argue that there is a diversity of ways in which humans (Homo sapiens) are ‘persons’ and there are no non-arbitrary conceptions of ‘personhood’ that can include all humans and exclude all nonhuman animals. To do so we describe and assess the four most prominent conceptions of ‘personhood’ that can be found in the rulings concerning Kiko and Tommy, with particular focus on the most recent decision, Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc v Lavery.
  11. Animals and Their Moral Standing: A Philosophical Exploration of the Relationship Between Animals and Human Beings in Agriculture.Raymond Anthony - 2003 - Dissertation, Purdue University
    The main focus of this dissertation is to unearth some core values from within agriculture and to introduce to animal agriculture and philosophical animal ethics an ethic of fiduciary responsibility. Traditionally, an ethic of stewardship and accountability, which celebrated the intimate interconnectedness between human communities, nature and farmed animals, served as the cornerstone of sustainable communities and sanctioned legitimate uses and humane treatment of farmed animals. In recent times, a skewed productionist paradigm has displaced traditional agricultural norms and undermined the (...)
  12. What, If Anything, Renders All Humans Morally Equal?Richard J. Arneson - 1999 - In . Blackwell. pp. 103-128.
    All humans have an equal basic moral status. They possess the same fundamental rights, and the comparable interests of each person should count the same in calculations that determine social policy. Neither supposed racial differences, nor skin color, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, intelligence, nor any other differences among humans negate their fundamental equal worth and dignity. These platitudes are virtually universally affirmed. A white supremacist racist or an admirer of Adolf Hitler who denies them is rightly regarded as beyond the (...)
  13. Levinas and Our Moral Responsibility Toward Other Animals.Peter Atterton - 2011 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 54 (6):633 - 649.
    Abstract In this essay I show that while Levinas himself was clearly reluctant to extend to nonhuman animals the same kind of moral consideration he gave to humans, his ethics of alterity is one of the best equipped to mount a strong challenge to the traditional view of animals as beings of limited, if any, moral status. I argue that the logic of Levinas's own arguments concerning the otherness of the Other militates against interpreting ethics exclusively in terms of human (...)
  14. State Neutrality and the Ethics of Human Enhancement Technologies.John Basl - 2010 - AJOB 1 (2):41-48.
    Robust technological enhancement of core cognitive capacities is now a realistic possibility. From the perspective of neutralism, the view that justifications for public policy should be neutral between reasonable conceptions of the good, only members of a subset of the ethical concerns serve as legitimate justifications for public policy regarding robust technological enhancement. This paper provides a framework for the legitimate use of ethical concerns in justifying public policy decisions regarding these enhancement technologies by evaluating the ethical concerns that arise (...)
  15. Can We Use Social Policy to Enhance Compliance with Moral Obligations to Animals?John Basl & Gina Schouten - forthcoming - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-19.
    Those who wish to abolish or restrict the use of non-human animals in so-called factory farming and/or experimentation often argue that these animal use practices are incommensurate with animals’ moral status. If sound, these arguments would establish that, as a matter of ethics or justice, we should voluntarily abstain from the immoral animal use practices in question. But these arguments can’t and shouldn’t be taken to establish a related conclusion: that the moral status of animals justifies political intervention to disallow (...)
  16. Justice at the Margins: The Social Contract and the Challenge of Marginal Cases.Nathan Bauer & David Svolba - 2017 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 55 (1):51-67.
    Attempts to justify the special moral status of human beings over other animals face a well-known objection: the challenge of marginal cases. If we attempt to ground this special status in the unique rationality of humans, then it becomes difficult to see why nonrational humans should be treated any differently than other, nonhuman animals. We respond to this challenge by turning to the social contract tradition. In particular, we identify an important role for the concept of recognition in attempts to (...)
  17. Egalitarianism and the Equal Consideration of Interests.Stanley I. Benn - 1967 - In Louis P. Pojman & Robert Westmoreland (eds.), Equality: Selected Readings. Oup Usa.
  18. Duty and the Beast.John Benson - 1978 - Philosophy 53 (206):529 - 549.
    Non-human animals are as a matter of routine used as means to human ends. They are killed for food, employed for labour or sport, and experimented on in the pursuit of human health, knowledge, comfort and beauty. Lip-service is paid to the obligation to cause no unnecessary suffering, but human necessity is interpreted so generously that this is a negligible constraint. The dominant traditions of Western thought, religious and secular, have provided legitimation of the low or non-existent moral status of (...)
  19. Marxism and the Moral Status of Animals.Ted Benton - 2003 - Society and Animals 11 (1):73-79.
    Perlo's engagement with the complex and ambiguous relationship between Marxism (and, more broadly, the socialist traditions) and the moral status of animals is very much to be welcomed. This sort of engagement is valuable for three main reasons. First, the more narrowly focused social movement activitywhether committed to animal rights, social justice in the workplace, or advancement for womenis liable to cut itself off from critical insights created in the context of other movements. I became aware of this, particularly during (...)
  20. On Moral Considerability: An Essay on Who Morally Matters.H. Bernstein Mark - 1998 - Oxford University Press.
    In this fresh and powerfully argued book, Mark Bernstein identifies the qualities that make an entity deserving of moral consideration. It is frequently assumed that only (normal) human beings count. Bernstein argues instead for "experientialism"--the view that having conscious experiences is necessary and sufficient for moral standing. He demonstrates that this position requires us to include many non-human animals in our moral realm, but not to the extent that many deep ecologists champion.
  21. On the Relative Value of Human and Animal Lives.Mark Bernstein - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (6):1517-1538.
    It has become virtually a matter of dogma—among both philosophers and laypersons—that human lives are more valuable than animal lives. One argument for this claim dominates the philosophical literature and, despite its employment by a host of philosophers, should be found wanting. I try to show that this line of reasoning, as well as one that is less popular but still with significant appeal, are faulty. The errors in each argument seem fatal: the pervasive argument begs the question, and the (...)
  22. On the Dogma of Hierarchical Value.Mark Bernstein - 2006 - American Philosophical Quarterly 43 (3):207 - 220.
  23. Neo-Speciesism.Mark Bernstein - 2004 - Journal of Social Philosophy 35 (3):380–390.
  24. Marginal Cases and Moral Relevance.Mark Bernstein - 2002 - Journal of Social Philosophy 33 (4):523–539.
  25. Contractualism and Animals.Mark Bernstein - 1997 - Philosophical Studies 86 (1):49-72.
  26. Towards a More Expansive Moral Community.Mark Bernstein - 1992 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 9 (1):45-52.
  27. Korsgaard and Non-Sentient Life.Gregory L. Bock - 2014 - Between the Species 17 (1).
    Christine Korsgaard argues for the moral status of animals and our obligations to them. She grounds this obligation on the notion that we share a common identity, our animal nature, with them and that animal pain represents a public reason that binds us; nevertheless, her distinctive attempt to enlist Kantian arguments to account for our obligations to animals has a startling implication that she fails to adequately consider: that we have direct duties to plants as well.
  28. Contractarianism Gone Wild: Carruthers and the Moral Status of Animals.David Boonin-Vail - 1993 - Between the Species 10 (1):8.
  29. Disputes Over Moral Status: Philosophy and Science in the Future of Bioethics.Lisa Bortolotti - 2007 - Health Care Analysis 15 (2):153-8.
    Various debates in bioethics have been focused on whether non-persons, such as marginal humans or non-human animals, deserve respectful treatment. It has been argued that, where we cannot agree on whether these individuals have moral status, we might agree that they have symbolic value and ascribe to them moral value in virtue of their symbolic significance. In the paper I resist the suggestion that symbolic value is relevant to ethical disputes in which the respect for individuals with no intrinsic moral (...)
  30. Fish Welfare in Aquaculture: Explicating the Chain of Interactions Between Science and Ethics. [REVIEW]Bernice Bovenkerk & Franck L. B. Meijboom - 2013 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 26 (1):41-61.
    Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal-production sector in the world. This leads to the question how we should guarantee fish welfare. Implementing welfare standards presupposes that we know how to weigh, define, and measure welfare. While at first glance these seem empirical questions, they cannot be answered without ethical reflection. Normative assumptions are made when weighing, defining, and measuring welfare. Moreover, the focus on welfare presupposes that welfare is a morally important concept. This in turn presupposes that we can define (...)
  31. Darwinism and the Moral Status of Animals.Michael Bradie - 1994 - In Dag Prawitz & Dag Westerståhl (eds.), Logic and Philosophy of Science in Uppsala. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 499--509.
  32. The Moral Standing of Natural Objects.Andrew Brennan - 1984 - Environmental Ethics 6 (1):35-56.
    Human beings are, as far as we know, the only animals to have moral concerns and to adopt moralities, but it would be a mistake to be misled by this fact into thinking that humans are also the only proper objects of moral consideration. I argue that we ought to allow even nonliving things a significant moral status, thus denying the condusion of much contemporary moral thinking. First, I consider the possibilityof giving moral consideration to nonliving things. Second, I put (...)
  33. The Moral Standing of Natural Objects.Andrew Brennan - 1984 - Environmental Ethics 6 (1):35-56.
    Human beings are, as far as we know, the only animals to have moral concerns and to adopt moralities, but it would be a mistake to be misled by this fact into thinking that humans are also the only proper objects of moral consideration. I argue that we ought to allow even nonliving things a significant moral status, thus denying the condusion of much contemporary moral thinking. First, I consider the possibilityof giving moral consideration to nonliving things. Second, I put (...)
  34. Rights and Duties Under the Law of Nature:Contractarianism and the Moral Status of Animals.William Bull - 2005 - Ethic@ 4:39-53.
    This is a philosophical inquiry into the moral status of animals, focusing on which ethical principle should guide us in our relationship with animals. The author examines the case for applying contractarian theory to animals other than human beings by looking in particular at the issues of rationality and trusteeship. From the law of nature and by way of a contractarian approach the author arrives at the principle of humility, which he advances as the ideal basis for our behaviour in (...)
  35. Animal Minds and Neuroimaging: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Ethics?Tom Buller - 2014 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 23 (2):173-181.
    As Colin Allen has argued, discussions between science and ethics about the mentality and moral status of nonhuman animals often stall on account of the fact that the properties that ethics presents as evidence of animal mentality and moral status, namely consciousness and sentience, are not observable “scientifically respectable” properties. In order to further discussion between science and ethics, it seems, therefore, that we need to identify properties that would satisfy both domains.In this article I examine the mentality and moral (...)
  36. Doing Right by Our Companion Animals.K. Burgess-Jackson - 1998 - The Journal of Ethics 2:159-185.
  37. Doing Right by Our Animal Companions.Keith Burgess-Jackson - 1998 - The Journal of Ethics 2 (2):159-185.
    The philosophical literature on the moral status of nonhuman animals, which is bounteous, diverse, and sophisticated, contains a glaring omission. There is little discussion of human responsibilities to companion animals, such as dogs and cats. The assumption seems to be that animals are an undifferentiated mass – that whatever responsibilities one has to any animal are had to all animals. It is significant that we do not think this way about humans. Most of us (all but extreme impartialists) acknowledge the (...)
  38. The Moral Status of Animals.A. Burms - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 62 (3):549-564.
  39. De plaats Van het dier: Enkele beschouwingen bij de voorafgaande artikelen.Arnold Burms - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 62 (3):549 - 564.
    The current debate about the moral status of animals is strongly determined by a misunderstanding of the role of moral intuitions. It is often assumed that our moral intuitions contain an implicit understanding of something that could ideally always be made explicit in terms of a consistent set of general principles. I have argued that this assumption is certainly wrong with respect to our moral intuitions about how we should behave towards animals. The meaning of these intuitions will always be (...)
  40. Grounded in Love: A Theistic Account of Animal Rights.M. Cahill Jonathan - 2016 - Journal of Animal Ethics 6 (1):67-80.
    This article attempts to articulate a grounding of animal rights based on inherent worth as the most fitting way to draw attention to the moral status of animals. The primary objective is to identify the proper grounds of those rights. To that end, two influential philosophical accounts of animal rights are first surveyed: Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach and Tom Regan’s deontological argument. These are followed by two theistic accounts of rights put forth by Andrew Linzey and Nicholas Wolterstorff. It is (...)
  41. Animal Liberation.J. Baird Callicott - 1980 - Environmental Ethics 2 (4):311-338.
    The ethical foundations of the “animal liberation” movement are compared with those of Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic,” which is taken as the paradigm for environmental ethics in general. Notwithstanding certain superficial similarities, more profound practical and theoretical differences are exposed. While only sentient animals are moraIly considerable according to the humane ethic, the land ethic includes within its purview plants as weIl as animals and even soils and waters. Nor does the land ethic prohibit the hunting, killing, and eating ofcertain (...)
  42. Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair.J. Baird Callicott - 1980 - Environmental Ethics 2 (4):311-338.
    The ethical foundations of the “animal liberation” movement are compared with those of Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic,” which is taken as the paradigm for environmental ethics in general. Notwithstanding certain superficial similarities, more profound practical and theoretical differences are exposed. While only sentient animals are moraIly considerable according to the humane ethic, the land ethic includes within its purview plants as weIl as animals and even soils and waters. Nor does the land ethic prohibit the hunting, killing, and eating ofcertain (...)
  43. Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair.J. Baird Callicott - 1980 - Environmental Ethics 2 (4):311-338.
    The ethical foundations of the “animal liberation” movement are compared with those of Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic,” which is taken as the paradigm for environmental ethics in general. Notwithstanding certain superficial similarities, more profound practical and theoretical differences are exposed. While only sentient animals are moraIly considerable according to the humane ethic, the land ethic includes within its purview plants as weIl as animals and even soils and waters. Nor does the land ethic prohibit the hunting, killing, and eating ofcertain (...)
  44. Critical Perspectives on Veganism.Jodey Castricano & Rasmus Rahbek Simonsen (eds.) - 2016 - United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.
    This book examines the ethics, politics and aesthetics of veganism in contemporary culture and thought. Traditionally a lifestyle located on the margins of western culture, veganism has now been propelled into the mainstream, and as agribusiness grows animal issues are inextricably linked to environmental impact as well as to existing ethical concerns. -/- This collection connects veganism to a range of topics including gender, sexuality, race, the law and popular culture. It explores how something as basic as one’s food choices (...)
  45. Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments on the Ethics of Eating.Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo & Matthew C. Halteman - 2015 - Routledge.
    Everyone is talking about food. Chefs are celebrities. "Locavore" and "freegan" have earned spots in the dictionary. Popular books and films about food production and consumption are exposing the unintended consequences of the standard American diet. Questions about the principles and values that ought to guide decisions about dinner have become urgent for moral, ecological, and health-related reasons. In _Philosophy Comes to Dinner_, twelve philosophers—some leading voices, some inspiring new ones—join the conversation, and consider issues ranging from the sustainability of (...)
  46. The Moral Status of Animals.Stephen R. L. Clark - 1977 - Oxford University Press.
  47. Animal Rights Without Liberation: Applied Ethics and Human Obligations.Alasdair Cochrane - 2012 - Columbia University Press.
    Moving beyond theory to the practical aspects of applied ethics, this pragmatic volume provides much-needed perspective on the realities and responsibilities of the human-animal relationship.
  48. Response to “The Problem of the Question About Animal Ethics” by Michal Piekarski.Mark Coeckelbergh & David J. Gunkel - 2016 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 29 (4):717-721.
    In this brief article we reply to Michal Piekarski’s response to our article ‘Facing Animals’ published previously in this journal. In our article we criticized the properties approach to defining the moral standing of animals, and in its place proposed a relational and other-oriented concept that is based on a transcendental and phenomenological perspective, mainly inspired by Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida. In this reply we question and problematize Piekarski’s interpretation of our essay and critically evaluate “the ethics of commitment” that (...)
  49. Facing Animals: A Relational, Other-Oriented Approach to Moral Standing.Mark Coeckelbergh & David J. Gunkel - 2014 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 27 (5):715-733.
    In this essay we reflect critically on how animal ethics, and in particular thinking about moral standing, is currently configured. Starting from the work of two influential “analytic” thinkers in this field, Peter Singer and Tom Regan, we examine some basic assumptions shared by these positions and demonstrate their conceptual failings—ones that have, despite efforts to the contrary, the general effect of marginalizing and excluding others. Inspired by the so-called “continental” philosophical tradition , we then argue that what is needed (...)
  50. Contractarianism and Interspecies Welfare Conflicts.Andrew I. Cohen - 2009 - Social Philosophy and Policy 26 (1):227-257.
    In this essay I describe how contractarianism might approach interspecies welfare conflicts. I start by discussing a contractarian account of the moral status of nonhuman animals. I argue that contractors can agree to norms that would acknowledge the of some animals. I then discuss how the norms emerging from contractarian agreement might constrain any comparison of welfare between humans and animals. Contractarian agreement is likely to express some partiality to humans in a way that discounts the welfare of some or (...)
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