Clarifying the Concept of Cruelty: What Makes Cruelty to Animals Cruel

Heythrop Journal 56 (5):818-835 (2015)
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The topic of cruelty features regularly in discussions concerning animals’ moral status. Further, condemnation of cruelty to animals is virtually unanimous. As Regan points out, ‘[i]t would be difficult to find anyone who is in favour of cruelty.’ What is to count as cruelty is therefore important. My aim here is to gain a clearer understanding of one aspect of our moral landscape: cruelty to animals. I will start by analyzing the concept of cruelty in section II. In section III I will examine some implications of this analysis. I will present two arguments for why we should reassess whether modern farming practices are cruel. First, farming practices have changed and our understanding of the concept of cruelty needs to change with them. Second, our application of the concept of cruelty is inconsistent: we would consider many routine practices involving farm animals to be cruel if they involved pets. This inconsistency presents a dilemma: either extending farming practices to pets would not be cruel, or continuing our current farming practices is cruel. In section IV I consider some objections.



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Julia Tanner
Durham University

References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Ethics and the limits of philosophy.Bernard Williams - 1985 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
The case for animal rights.Tom Regan - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring ethics: an introductory anthology. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 425-434.

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