Do Animals Have an Interest in Continued Life?

Environmental Ethics 31 (4):375-392 (2009)
Do we do anything wrong to animals simply by ending their lives if it causes them no pain or suffering? According to some, we can do no wrong to animals by killing them because animals do not have an interest in continued life. An attempt to ground an interest in continued life in animals’ desires faces the challenge that animals are supposedly incapable of desiring to live or of having the kinds of long-range desires which could be thwarted by death. Some philosophers argue that death harms animals not because it thwarts their desires, but rather because it forecloses their future opportunities for satisfaction. However, this argument is problematic because (1) it’s unclear that animals’ future opportunities belong to the same continuing selves and (2) it’s unclear why we should think that animals’ future opportunities have value for them. A more promising argument holds that many animals have an interest in continued life insofar as they possess certain enjoyments in life, where animals’ enjoyments are best understood not merely as fleeting experiences but rather as dispositional desires which animals continue to possess over time
Keywords animals  rights  killing  interests  life  harm  death  desires
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DOI 10.5840/enviroethics200931442
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