Utilitarian killing, replacement, and rights

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 3 (2):147-171 (1990)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The ethical theory underlying much of our treatment of animals in agriculture and research is the moral agency view. It is assumed that only moral agents, or persons, are worthy of maximal moral significance, and that farm and laboratory animals are not moral agents. However, this view also excludes human non-persons from the moral community. Utilitarianism, which bids us maximize the amount of good in the world, is an alternative ethical theory. Although it has many merits, including impartiality and the extension of moral concern to all sentient beings, it also appears to have many morally unacceptable implications. In particular, it appears to sanction the killing of innocents when utility would be maximized, including cases in which we would deliberately kill and replace a being, as we typically do to animals on farms and in laboratories. I consider a number of ingenious recent attempts by utilitarians to defeat the killing and replaceability arguments, including the attempt to make a place for genuine moral rights within a utilitarian framework. I conclude that utilitarians cannot escape the killing and replaceability objections. Those who reject the restrictive moral agency view and find they cannot accept utilitarianism's unsavory implications must look to a different ethical theory to guide their treatment of humans and non-humans



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,386

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

When is it morally acceptable to kill animals?Evelyn B. Pluhar - 1988 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 1 (3):211-224.
On the moral acceptability of killing animals.Hugh Lehman - 1988 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 1 (2):155-162.
A critique of the preference utilitarian objection to killing people.Suzanne Uniacke - 2002 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (2):209 – 217.
Animal rights, human wrongs.Tom Regan - 1980 - Environmental Ethics 2 (2):99-120.
Experimentation on humans and nonhumans.Evelyn B. Pluhar - 2006 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (4):333-355.
Moral agency in other animals.Paul Shapiro - 2006 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (4):357-373.
Killing humans and killing animals.Peter Singer - 1979 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 22 (1-4):145 – 156.
Biocentric Ethics and Animal Prosperity.A. T. Anchustegui - 2005 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 19 (1):105-119.


Added to PP

99 (#171,909)

6 months
7 (#418,426)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

The world destruction argument.Simon Knutsson - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (10).
Can “Conservation Hunting” Be Ethically Justified?Matthew Colin Sayce - 2019 - Journal of Animal Ethics 9 (2):170-176.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Animal Liberation.Peter Singer (ed.) - 1977 - Avon Books.
Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Susan J. Armstrong & Richard George Botzler.
A theory of the good and the right.Richard B. Brandt - 1979 - Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.
Animal Liberation.Bill Puka & Peter Singer - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (4):557.
Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - Philosophy 56 (216):267-268.

View all 28 references / Add more references