What Is the Moral Status of Animals?

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. [...] A full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

- Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

Podcast of the Day

Human beings don't need to eat meat. But should we? Jeff McMahan thinks that it is obvious that we shouldn't. In this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast he discusses his views with Nigel Warburton.

Listen to Jeff McMahan on Vegetarianism

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Short Article of the Day

Human beings interact with non-human animals in a variety of ways. Some animals, like dogs, cats, and hamsters, live in our homes under our care. Others, like mice, often live in our homes as unwelcome residents. Still others, like cows, pigs, and chickens, are bred for human consumption of their flesh, milk, or eggs. Other animals are experimented on by humans in laboratories, hunted by humans for sport, or used for entertainment purposes in circuses, zoos, and films. Some people believe that at least some—maybe all—of these interactions are morally problematic, while others believe that at least some—maybe all—of them are morally permissible (meaning not wrong). Here, we will examine the range of viewpoints on the ethics of human-animal relations, and explore some reasons in support of each view...

Continue reading Jason Wyckoff's article: The Moral Status of Animals

Further Reading

Is there something distinctive about humanity that justifies the idea that humans have moral status while non-humans do not? Providing an answer to this question has become increasingly important among philosophers as well as those outside of philosophy who are interested in our treatment of non-human animals. For some, answering this question will enable us to better understand the nature of human beings and the proper scope of our moral obligations. Some argue that there is an answer that can distinguish humans from the rest of the natural world. Many of those who accept this answer are interested in justifying certain human practices towards non-humans—practices that cause pain, discomfort, suffering and death. This latter group expects that in answering the question in a particular way, humans will be justified in granting moral consideration to other humans that is neither required nor justified when considering non-human animals. In contrast to this view, an increasing number of philosophers have argued that while humans are different in a variety of ways from each other and other animals, these differences do not provide a philosophical defense for denying non-human animals moral consideration. What the basis of moral consideration is and what it amounts to has been the source of much disagreement...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on The Moral Status of Animals

Related Topics

Equality | Justice | Moral Psychology

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