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.
Gary Comstock considers whether it is ethically justified to pursue genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. He first considers intrinsic objections to GM crops that allege that the process of making GMOs is objectionable in itself. He argues that there is no justifiable basis for the objections — i.e. GM crops are not intrinsically ethically problematic. He then considers extrinsic objections to GM crops, including objections based on the precautionary principle, which focus on the potential harms that may result from (...) the adoption of GM organisms. He argues that these concerns have some merit. However, they do not justify giving up GM crops altogether. Instead, they require that GM crops be developed carefully and with appropriate oversight. Comstock then presents the positive case for GM crops that he endorses. It is based on three considerations: (i) the right of people to choose to adopt GM technology; (ii) the balance of likely benefits over harms to consumers and the environment from GM technology; and (iii) the wisdom of encouraging discovery, innovation, and careful regulation of GM technology. (shrink)
Should people include beef in their diet? This chapter argues that the answer is “no” by reviewing what is known and not known about the presence in cattle of three psychological traits: pain, desire, and self-consciousness. On the basis of behavioral and neuroanatomical evidence, the chapter argues that cattle are sentient beings who have things they want to do in the proximal future, but they are not self-conscious. The piece rebuts three important objections: that cattle have injury information but not (...) pain; that cattle have goal-directed behavior but not desire; and that the absence of evidence for bovine self-consciousness should not be taken as evidence that cattle lack self-consciousness. In sum, what is known about cattle cognition shifts the moral burden of proof on to the beef eaters. (shrink)
Guardians of companion animals killed wrongfully in the U.S. historically receive compensatory judgments reflecting the animal’s economic value. As animals are property in torts law, an animal’s economic value is its fair market value (FMV), its value, as it were, to strangers. However, in light of the fact that guardians often value their companion animals at rates in excess of FMV, legislatures and courts have begun to recognize a second value, the animal’s value to its guardian, or its capital. Since (...) guardians invest in their animals, when animals are killed guardians lose the opportunity to recoup their investments. In this paper, I argue for a third value, an animal’s intrinsic value, its value to itself, and I propose a method to determine it. The method assesses investments animals make in themselves expecting a return. The theory has legal implications for economic damages in wrongful companion animal death lawsuits and philosophical implications for proper assessment of the value of nonhuman animal life. (shrink)
Experimenters claim some nonhuman mammals have metacognition. If correct, the results indicate some animal minds are more complex than ordinarily presumed. However, some philosophers argue for a deflationary reading of metacognition experiments, suggesting that the results can be explained in first-order terms. We agree with the deflationary interpretation of the data but we argue that the metacognition research forces the need to recognize a heretofore underappreciated feature in the theory of animal minds, which we call Unity. The disparate mental states (...) of an animal must be unified if deflationary accounts of metacognition are to hold and untoward implications avoided. Furthermore, once Unity is acknowledged, the deflationary interpretation of the experiments reveals an elevated moral standing for the nonhumans in question. (shrink)
A common view of nonhuman animals is that they lack rights because they lack conscious control over themselves. Two thoughts put pressure on this view. First, we recognize the rights of radically cognitively limited humans even though they lack conscious control over themselves. So it would seem mere prejudice to deny rights to nonhuman mammals on the grounds that animals lack autonomy. Tom Regan has been the most eloquent, powerful, and resolute defender of this thought. Second, evidence is growing that (...) healthy adults exercise non-conscious control over themselves most of the time. To deny rights to animals on the grounds that they can only exercise non-conscious control over themselves while affirming the rights of humans who similarly exercise non-conscious control over themselves most of the time also seems prejudicial. Notice that whereas the first thought compares animals to neurally diverse, cognitively challenged humans the second thought compares animals to typically developing, normal humans. In this paper I argue that accumulating empirical data lend increasing support to the second thought. (shrink)
Let us call the deliberate modification of an individual’s genome to improve it or its progeny intentional genetic enhancement. Governments are almost certain to require that any proposed intentional genetic enhancement of a human (IGEH) be tested first on (what researchers call) animal “models.” Intentional genetic enhancement of animals (IGEA), then, is an ambiguous concept because it could mean one of two very different things: an enhancement made for the sake of the animal’s own welfare, or an enhancement made for (...) the sake of satisfying a human desire. In either case, experimental procedures are likely to entail substantial risks to the experimental animals. What rules should govern IGEA? I criticize the abolitionist conclusions of animal rightists—that no IGEA should be permitted—and I criticize the permissive conclusions of speciesists—that all IGEA should be permitted. Both views are unsatisfying. I suggest instead that current animal welfare law provides a defensible platform on which to begin building ethically justifiable policy in this area. (shrink)
In his chapter, Gary Comstock introduces the notion of far-persons. Following Gary Varner, Comstock distinguishes near-persons, animals with a " robust autonoetic consciousness " but lacking an adult human's " biographical sense of self, " from the merely sentient, those animals living " entirely in the present. " Comstock notes the possibility of a third class. Far-persons, he argues, lack a biographical sense of self, possess a weak autonoetic consciousness, and are able to travel mentally through time a distance that (...) exceeds the capacities of the merely sentient. Far-persons are conscious of and exercise control over short-term cognitive states, states limited by their temporal duration. The animals in question, human and nonhuman, consciously choose among various strategies available to them to achieve their ends, making them subjects of what Comstock calls lyrical experience: brief and potentially intense, pleasures and pains. But their ends expire minute-by-minute, not stretching beyond, Comstock says metaphorically, the present hour. Comstock concludes by discussing the moral status of far-persons. (shrink)
In the voluminous literature on the subject of bovine growth hormone (bGH) we have yet to find an attempt to frame the issue in specifically moral terms or to address systematically its ethical implications. I argue that there are two moral objections to the technology: its treatment of animals, and its dislocating effects on farmers. There are agricultural biotechnologies that deserve funding and support. bGH is not one of them.
This second edition of Life Science Ethics includes four essays not found in the first edition: -/- Richard Haynes on “Animals in Research” Stephen M. Gardiner on “Climate Change” Christopher Kelty on “Nanotechnology” Gary Comstock on “Genetically Modified Foods” -/- and a revised and expanded version of the chapter on “Farms” in which Stephen Carpenter joins Charles Taliaferro as author. -/- In addition, Part III has been thoroughly revised with the goal of focusing attention on salient examples. Three new case (...) studies have been added: -/- Robert Streiffer and Sara Gavrell Ortiz on “Enviropigs” Donald F. Boesch, et al. on “Coastal Dead Zones” Deb Bennett-Woods on “Nanotechnology and Human Enhancement” -/- The first edition was praised for providing instructors with a stimulating text that will help students hone their critical thinking skills. That text is here enhanced with treatments of critical new issues, including global warming, nanotechnology, and the possibility that bioengineering may be able to change human nature. The new edition includes classroom discussion questions for use in provoking and guiding in-class discussions. Part I introduces ethics, the relationship of religion to ethics, how we assess ethical arguments, and a method ethicists use to reason about ethical theories. Part II demonstrates the relevance of ethical reasoning to the environment, land, farms, food, biotechnology, genetically modified foods, animals in agriculture and research, climate change, and nanotechnology. Part III presents case studies for the topics found in Part II. Two appendices include exercises to help students learn systematic ways of thinking through ethical dilemmas and notes for instructors using the book as a text. (shrink)
Should we continue to support publicly funded research on genetically engineered herbicide resistant crops? In Part One, I discussed the difference between science and ethics, presented a brief history of weed control, and explained three moral principles undergirding my environmentalist perspective. I then argued that unqualified endorsement (E) of the research is unjustified, as is unqualified opposition (O). In Part Two, I argue against qualified endorsement (QE), and for qualified opposition (QO).
Recent advances in molecular genetics, plant physiology, and biochemistry have opened up the new biotechnology of herbicide resistant crops (HRCs). Herbicide resistant crops have been characterized as the solution for many environmental problems associated with modern crop production, being described as powerful tools for farmers that may increase production options. We are concerned that these releases are occurring in the absence of forethought about their impact on agroecosystems, the broader landscape, and the rural and urban economies and cultures. Many of (...) the benefits and risks associated with HRCs are not apparent to either the public, farmers, policy makers, or the scientific community. HRC technology raises moral issues in three areas: our duties toward the natural environment; our political and economic responsibilities to each other; and our communal character as one generation among many. We also need a rational basis on which to make evaluations of this new biotechnology. The technical aspects of their release require a logical guide to the ecological, environmental, and biological effects the release might have in sustainable agroecosystems. The initial step should include an assessment of the intrinsic qualities of the crop, the herbicide, and the resistance mechanisms. The second step should include an assessment of effects associated with population ecology, population genetics, environmental degradation, consumer health, and farm economic viability due to the resistant crop-herbicide pair. Herbicides have been used in crop production for nearly a half a century. There has been a tremendous increase in the use of these chemicals in that time. Society has seen the use of these chemicals not only help to feed many people, but also to bring costs not anticipated before the introduction of the chemicals. We need to draw on that long history of use and learn the lessons it can provide us as we approach the introduction and commercialization of the next generation of weed control technology, herbicide resistant crops. We also need to reflect on the lessons we missed during that half century because we spend more time imagining the possible benefits that would come from the technology than scrutinizing the possible harm. (shrink)
In 1973, Richard Sylvan began his seminal essay, "Do We Need a New, an Environmental Ethic?" with these words: "It is increasingly said that ... Western civilization ... stands in need of a new ethic ... setting out people's relations to the natural environment." In the intervening years, it has increasingly been said that Western civilization is in need of ecocentrism, an ethic according to which a thing's value is derived from its contribution to the integrity, stability, and beauty of (...) ecosystems. Do those interested in agricultural ethics need a new, an ecocentric, ethic? I argue that the answer is no. Agriculturalists must look elsewhere for an adequate ethic setting out our relations to the natural environment. (shrink)
Not long ago, interreligious conversations were regulated by the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty. We are suspicious of these noble sounding ideals today. In a world of liberation theology, feminist criticism, and the hermeneutics of suspicion, can there be any new, “postmodern,” rules to govern our religious dialogues? Not able to consult any general theory, or “metanarrative,” in order to provide the answer, I simply tell the story of the only postmodern Catholic I have ever known. On the basis (...) of that experience, I argue that something like the old rules will have to accompany us into the new age. (shrink)
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 (...) a profound wrong that demanded remedy by the courts. Soon thereafter, the NhRP filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of Kiko, another chimpanzee housed alone in Niagara Falls, and Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees held in research facilities at Stony Brook University. Thus began the legal struggle to move these chimpanzees from captivity to a sanctuary, an effort that has led the NhRP to argue in multiple courts before multiple judges. The central point of contention has been whether Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo have legal rights. To date, no judge has been willing to issue a writ of habeas corpus on their behalf. Such a ruling would mean that these chimpanzees have rights that confinement might violate. Instead, the judges have argued that chimpanzees cannot be bearers of legal rights because they are not, and cannot be persons. In this book we argue that chimpanzees are persons because they are autonomous. (shrink)
Environmental ethics consists of a set of competing theories about whether human actions and attitudes to nature are morally right or wrong. Ecocentrists are holists whose theory locates the primary site of value in biological communities or ecosystems and who tend to regard actions interfering with the progress of an ecosystem toward its mature equilibrium state as prima facie wrong. I suggest that this form of ecocentrism may be built on a questionable scientific foundation, organismic ecology, and that a better (...) scientific foundation for environmental ethics may be found in individualistic neo-Darwinian population biology. However, the latter approach probably requires a corresponding shift away from ethical holism and toward approaches locating value primarily in individuals. I call such environmental ethicists ‘extensionists’ and briefly outline an extensionist environmental ethic. (shrink)
Agricultural biotechnology refers to a diverse set of industrial techniques used to produce genetically modified foods. Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods manipulated at the molecular level to enhance their value to farmers and consumers. This book is a collection of essays on the ethical dimensions of ag biotech. The essays were written over a dozen years, beginning in 1988. When I began to reflect on the subject, ag biotech was an exotic, untested, technology. Today, in the first year of (...) the millenium, the vast majority of consumers in the United States have taken a bite of the apple. Milk produced by cows injected with a GM protein called recombinant bovine growth hormone (bGH), is found, unlabelled, on grocery shelves throughout the US. In 1999, half of the soybeans and cotton harvested in the US were GM varieties. Billions of dollars of public and private monies are being invested annually in biotech research, and commercial sales now reach into the tens of billions of dollars each year. Whereas ag biotech once promised to change American agriculture, it now is in the process of doing so. (shrink)
This volume brings together essays by seminal figures and rising stars in the fields of animal ethics and moral theory to analyze and evaluate the moral status of non-human animals, with a special focus on the question of whether or not animals have moral rights. Though wide-ranging in many ways, these fourteen original essays and one reprinted essay direct significant attention to both the main arguments for animal rights and the biggest challenges to animal rights. This volume explores the question (...) of whether or not animals have moral rights through a number of different lenses, including classical deontology, libertarianism, commonsense morality, virtue ethics, and utilitarianism. The volume also addresses what are undoubtedly the most serious challenges to the strong animal rights position, which maintains that animals have moral rights equal in strength to the rights of humans, including challenges posed by rights nihilism, the ‘kind’ argument against animal rights, the problem of predation, and the comparative value of lives. In addition, the volume explores the practical import of animal rights both from a social policy standpoint and from the standpoint of personal ethical decisions concerning what to eat and whether or not to hunt animals. Unlike other volumes on animal rights, which focus primarily on the legal rights of animals, and unlike other anthologies on animal ethics, which tend to cover a wide variety of topics but only devote a few articles to each topic, the volume under consideration is focused exclusively on the question of whether or not animals have moral rights and the practical import of such rights. (shrink)