Archive-name: ar-faqLast-modified: 95/Apr/29Version: ar_faq.txt 2.08a -------------------------- Animal Rights Frequently Asked Questions (AR FAQ) --------------------------------------INTRODUCTION------------ Welcome to the Animal Rights Frequently Asked Questionstext (AR FAQ).This FAQ is intended to satisfy two basic goals: a) toprovide a sourceof information and encouragement for people exploring theissues involvedin the animal rights movement, and b) to answer thecommon questions andjustifications offered up by AR opponents. It isunashamedly an advocacyvehicle for animal rights. Opponents of AR are invited tocreate a FAQthat codifies their views; we do not attempt to do sohere. The FAQ restricts itself specifically to AR issues;nutrition andother vegetarian/veganism issues are intentionallyavoided because theyare already well covered in the existing vegetarianismand veganism FAQsmaintained by Michael Traub. To obtain these FAQs,contact Michael athis e-mail address given below. The FAQ was created through a collaboration of authors.The answers havebeen attributed via initials, as follows: TA Ted Altartaltar@beaufort.sfu.ca JE Jonathan Esterhazy firstname.lastname@example.org DG Donald Graft email@example.com JEH John Harrington firstname.lastname@example.org DVH Dietrich Von Haugwitz email@example.com LJ Leor Jacobileor@mellers1.psych.berkeley.edu LK Larry Kaiser firstname.lastname@example.org JK Jeremy Keens email@example.com BL Brian Luke firstname.lastname@example.org PM Peggy Madison email@example.com
BRO Brian Owen firstname.lastname@example.org JSD Janine Stanley-Dunham email@example.com JLS Jennifer Stephens firstname.lastname@example.org MT Michael Traub email@example.com AECW Allen ECW firstname.lastname@example.org The current FAQ maintainer is Donald Graft (see addressabove). Ideas andcriticisms are actively solicited and will be verygratefully received. Thematerial included here is released to the public domain.We request that itbe distributed without alteration to respect the authorattributions. This FAQ contains 96 questions. If they are not allpresent, then a mailerhas probably truncated it. Contact the FAQ maintainer fora set of split-upfiles. DG-------GENERAL------------------------------#1 What is all this Animal Rights (AR) stuff and whyshould it concern me?----------------------- The fundamental principle of the AR movement is thatnonhuman animalsdeserve to live according to their own natures, free fromharm, abuse, andexploitation. This goes further than just saying that weshould treatanimals well while we exploit them, or before we kill andeat them. Itsays animals have the RIGHT to be free from human crueltyandexploitation, just as humans possess this right. Thewithholding of thisright from the nonhuman animals based on their speciesmembership isreferred to as "speciesism". Animal rights activists try to extend the human circleof respect andcompassion beyond our species to include other animals,who are alsocapable of feeling pain, fear, hunger, thirst,loneliness, and kinship.When we try to do this, many of us come to the conclusionthat we can no
longer support factory farming, vivisection, and theexploitation ofanimals for entertainment. At the same time, there arestill areas ofdebate among animal rights supporters, for example,whether ANY researchthat harms animals is ever justified, where the lineshould be drawn forenfranchising species with rights, on what occasionscivil disobediencemay be appropriate, etc. However, these areas ofpotential disagreement donot negate the abiding principles that join us:compassion and concernfor the pain and suffering of nonhumans. One main goal of this FAQ is to address the commonjustifications thatarise when we become aware of how systematically oursociety abuses andexploits animals. Such "justifications" help remove theburden from ourconsciences, but this FAQ attempts to show that they donot excuse theharm we cause other animals. Beyond the scope of thisFAQ, more detailedarguments can be found in three classics of the ARliterature. The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan (ISBN 0-520-05460-1) In Defense of Animals, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-06-097044-8) Animal Liberation, Peter Singer (ISBN 0-380-71333-0,2nd Ed.) While appreciating the important contributions of Reganand Singer, manyanimal rights activists emphasize the role of empatheticcaring as theactual and most appropriate fuel for the animal rightsmovement incontradistinction to Singers and Regans philosophicalrationales. To thereader who says "Why should I care?", we can point outthe followingreasons: One cares about minimizing suffering. One cares about promoting compassion in humanaffairs. One is concerned about improving the health ofhumanity. One is concerned about human starvation andmalnutrition. One wants to prevent the radical disruption of ourplanets ecosystem. One wants to preserve animal species. One wants to preserve wilderness.
The connections between these issues and the AR agendamay not be obvious.Please read on as we attempt to clarify this. DG The day may come when the rest of the animal creationmay acquire thoserights which never could have been withholden from thembut by the handof tyranny. Jeremy Bentham(philosopher) Life is life--whether in a cat, or dog or man. There isno differencethere between a cat or a man. The idea of difference is ahumanconception for mans own advantage... Sri Aurobindo (poet andphilosopher) Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is thegoal of allevolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings,we are stillsavages. Thomas Edison (inventor) The time will come when men such as I will look uponthe murder ofanimals as they now look on the murder of men. Leonardo Da Vinci (artistand scientist)SEE ALSO #2-#3, #26, #87-#91-----------------------#2 Is the Animal Rights movement different from theAnimal Welfare movement? The Animal Liberation movement?----------------------- The Animal Welfare movement acknowledges the sufferingof nonhumans andattempts to reduce that suffering through "humane"treatment, but it doesnot have as a goal elimination of the use andexploitation of animals. TheAnimal Rights movement goes significantly further byrejecting theexploitation of animals and according them rights in thatregard. A personcommitted to animal welfare might be concerned that cowsget enough space,proper food, etc., but would not necessarily have anyqualms about killingand eating cows, so long as the rearing and slaughter are"humane". The Animal Welfare movement is represented by such
organizations as theSociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and theHumane Society. Having said this, it should be realized that some holda broaderinterpretation of the AR movement. They would argue thatthe AW groups do,in fact, support rights for animals (e.g., a dog has theright not to bekicked). Under this interpretation, AR is viewed as abroad umbrellacovering the AW and strict AR groups. This interpretationhas the advantageof moving AR closer to the mainstream. Nevertheless,there is a validdistinction between the AW and AR groups, as described inthe first paragraph. Animal Liberation (AL) is, for many people, a synonymfor Animal Rights(but see below). Some people prefer the term "liberation"because it bringsto mind images of other successful liberation movements,such as the movementfor liberation of slaves and liberation of women, whereasthe term "rights"often encounters resistance when an attempt is made toapply it to nonhumans.The phrase "Animal Liberation" became popular with thepublication of PeterSingers classic book of the same name. This use of the term liberation should be distinguishedfrom the literalmeaning discussed in question #88, i.e., an AnimalLiberationist is notnecessarily one who engages in forceful civildisobedience or unlawfulactions. Finally, intellectual honesty compels us to acknowledgethat the accountgiven here is rendered in broad strokes (but is at leastapproximatelycorrect), and purposely avoids describing ongoing debateabout the meaningof the terms "Animal Rights", "Animal Liberation", and"Animal Welfare",debate about the history of these movements, and debateabout the actualpositions of the prominent thinkers. To depict the flavorof such debates,the following text describes one coherent position.Naturally, it will beattacked from all sides! Some might suggest that a subtle distinction can bemade between the AnimalLiberation and Animal Rights movements. The Animal Rightsmovement, at leastas propounded by Regan and his adherents, is said torequire total abolitionof such practices as experimentation on animals. The
Animal Liberationmovement, as propounded by Singer and his adherents, issaid to reject theabsolutist view and assert that in some cases, suchexperimentation can bemorally defensible. Because such cases could also justifysome experimentson humans, however, it is not clear that the distinctiondescribed reflectsa difference between the liberation and rights views, somuch as it does abroader difference of ethical theory, i.e., absolutismversus utilitarianism. DG Historically, animal welfare groups have attempted toimprove the lot ofanimals in society. They worked against the popularWestern concept ofanimals as lacking souls and not being at all worthy ofany ethicalconsideration. The animal rights movement set itself upas an abolitionistalternative to the reform-minded animal welfarists. Asthe animal rightsmovement has become larger and more influential, theanimal exploiters havefinally been forced to respond to it. Perhaps inspired bythe efforts of TomRegan to distinguish AR from AW, industry groups intenton maintaining thestatus quo have embraced the term "animal welfare". Pro-vivisection,hunting, trapping, agribusiness, and animal entertainmentgroups now referto themselves as "animal welfare" supporters. Severalumbrella groups whosegoal is to defend these practices have also arisen. This classic case of public-relations doublespeakacknowledges the issueof cruelty to animals in name only, while allowing forthe continued use andabuse of animals. The propaganda effect is to stigmatizeanimal rightssupporters as being extreme while attempting to portraythemselves as thereasonable moderates. Nowadays, the cause of "animalwelfare" is invoked bythe animal industry at least as often as it is used byanimal protectiongroups. LJSEE ALSO: #1, #3, #87-#88-----------------------#3 What exactly are rights and what rights can we giveanimals?-----------------------
Despite arguably being the foundation of the Westernliberal tradition,the concept of "rights" has been a source of controversyand confusionin the debate over AR. A common objection to the notionthat animals haverights involves questioning the origin of those rights.One such argumentmight proceed as follows: Where do these rights come from? Are you in specialcommunication with God, and he has told you that animals haverights? Have the rights been granted by law? Arent rights somethingthat humans must grant? It is true that the concept of "rights" needs to becarefully explicated.It is also true that the concept of "natural rights" isfraught withphilosophical difficulties. Complicating things furtheris the confusionbetween legal rights and moral rights. One attempt to avoid this objection is to accept it,but argue thatif it is not an obstacle for thinking of humans as havingrights, then itshould not be an obstacle for thinking of animals ashaving rights. HenrySalt wrote: Have the lower animals "rights?" Undoubtedly--if menhave. That is the point I wish to make evident in this openingchapter... The fitness of this nomenclature is disputed, but theexistence of some real principle of the kind can hardly be called inquestion; so that the controversy concerning "rights" is little elsethan an academic battle over words, which leads to no practicalconclusion. I shall assume, therefore, that men are possessed of"rights," in the sense of Herbert Spencers definition; and if any of myreaders object to this qualified use of the term, I can only say that Ishall be perfectly willing to change the word as soon as amore appropriate one is forthcoming. The immediate question thatclaims our attention is this--if men have rights, have animals theirrights also?
Satisfying though this argument may be, it still leavesus unable torespond to the sceptic who disavows the notion of rightseven for humans.Fortunately, however, there is a straightforwardinterpretation of"rights" that is plausible and allows us to avoid thecontroversialrights rhetoric and underpinnings. It is the notion thata "right" is theflip side of a moral imperative. If, ethically, we mustrefrain from an act performed on a being, then that beingcan be said tohave a "right" that the act not be performed. Forexample, if our ethicstells us that we must not kill another, then the otherhas a right not tobe killed by us. This interpretation of rights is, infact, an intuitiveone that people both understand and readily endorse. (Ofcourse, rights sointerpreted can be codified as legal rights throughappropriatelegislation.) It is important to realize that, although there is abasis for speakingof animals as having rights, that does not imply orrequire that theypossess all the rights that humans possess, or even thathumans possess allthe rights that animals possess. Consider the human rightto vote. (On theview taken here, this would derive from an ethicalimperative to give humansinfluence over actions that influence their lives.) Sinceanimals lack thecapacity to rationally consider actions and theirimplications, and tounderstand the concept of democracy and voting, they lackthe capacity tovote. There is, therefore, no ethical imperative to allowthem to do so,and thus they do not possess the right to vote. Similarly, some fowls have a strong biological need toextend and flaptheir wings; right-thinking people feel an ethicalimperative to makeit possible for them to do so. Thus, it can be said thatfowl have the rightto flap their wings. Obviously, such a right need not beextended to humans. The rights that animals and humans possess, then, aredetermined by theirinterests and capacities. Animals have an interest inliving, avoiding pain,and even in pursuing happiness (as do humans). As aresult of the ethicalimperatives, they have rights to these things (as dohumans). They can
exercise these rights by living their lives free ofexploitation andabuse at the hands of humans. DGSEE ALSO: #1-#2-----------------------#4 Isnt AR hypocritical, e.g., because you dont giverights to insects or plants?----------------------- The general hypocrisy argument appears in many forms. Atypical formis as follows: "It is hypocritical to assert rights for a cow butnot for a plant; therefore, cows cannot have rights." Arguments of this type are frequently used against AR.Not muchanalysis is required to see that they carry littleweight. First, onecan assert an hypothesis A that would carry as acorollary hypothesisB. If one then fails to assert B, one is hypocritical,but this doesnot necessarily make A false. Certainly, to assert A andnot B wouldcall into question ones credibility, but it entailsnothing about thevalidity of A. Second, the factual assertion of hypocrisy is oftenunwarranted. Inthe above example, there are grounds for distinguishingbetween cowsand plants (plants do not have a central nervous system),so the chargeof hypocrisy is unjustified. One may disagree with thecriteria, butassertion of such criteria nullifies the charge ofhypocrisy. Finally, the charge of hypocrisy can be reduced in mostcases tosimple speciesism. For example, the quote above can berecast as: "It is hypocritical to assert rights for a human butnot for a plant; therefore, humans cannot have rights." To escape from this reductio ad absurdum of the firstquote, onemust produce a crucial relevant difference between cowsand humans,in other words, one must justify the speciesistassignment of rights
to humans but not to cows. (In question #24, we apply asimilar reductionto the charge of hypocrisy related to abortion. Forquestions dealingspecifically with insects and plants, refer to questions#39 through #46.) Finally, we must ask ourselves who the real hypocritesare. The followingquotation from Michael W. Fox describes the grosslyhypocritical treatmentof exploited versus companion animals. DG Farm animals can be kept five to a cage two feetsquare, tied upconstantly by a two-foot-long tether, castrated withoutanesthesia, orbranded with a hot iron. A pet owner would be no lessthan prosecuted fortreating a companion animal in such a manner; an Americanpresident was, infact, morally censured merely for pulling the ears of histwo beagles. Michael W. Fox (VicePresident of HSUS)SEE ALSO: #24, #39-#46-----------------------#5 What right do AR people have to impose their beliefson others?----------------------- There is a not-so-subtle distinction between impositionof ones viewsand advertising them. AR supporters are certainly notimposing their viewsin the sense that, say, the Spanish Inquisition imposedits views, or theChurch imposed its views on Galileo. We do, however, feela moral duty topresent our case to the public, and often to our friendsand acquaintances.There is ample precedent for this: protests againstslavery, protestsagainst the Vietnam War, condemnation of racism, etc. One might point out that the gravest imposition is thatof the exploiterof animals upon his innocent and defenseless victims. DG If liberty means anything at all, it means the right totell people whatthey do not want to hear. George Orwell (author) I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and theythink its hell. Harry S. Truman (33rd U.S.
President)SEE ALSO: #11, #87-#91-----------------------#6 Isnt AR just another facet of politicalcorrectness?----------------------- If only that were true! The term "politically correct"generally refersto a view that is in sync with the societal mainstreambut which some mightbe inclined to disagree with. For example, some peoplemight be inclinedto dismiss equal treatment for the races as mere"political correctness".The AR agenda is, currently, far from being a mainstreamidea. Also, it is ridiculous to suppose that a viewsvalidity can beoverturned simply by attaching the label "politicallycorrect" or"politically incorrect". DG-----------------------#7 Isnt AR just another religion?----------------------- No. The dictionary defines "religion" as the appeal toa supernaturalpower. (An alternate definition refers to devotion to acause; that isa virtue that the AR movement would be happy to avow.) People who support Animal Rights come from manydifferent religionsand many different philosophies. What they share is abelief in theimportance of showing compassion for other individuals,whetherhuman or nonhuman. LK-----------------------#8 Doesnt it demean humans to give rights to animals?----------------------- A tongue-in-cheek, though valid, answer to thisquestion is given byDavid Cowles-Hamar: "Humans are animals, so animal rightsare human rights!" In a more serious vein, we can observe that givingrights to women andblack people does not demean white males. By analogy,then, giving rights tononhumans does not demean humans. If anything, by beingmorally consistent,and widening the circle of compassion to deserving
nonhumans, we ennoblehumans. (Refer to question #26 for other relevantarguments.) DG The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can bejudged by the wayits animals are treated. Mahatma Gandhi (statesmanand philosopher) It is mans sympathy with all creatures that firstmakes him truly a man. Albert Schweitzer(statesman, Nobel 1952) For as long as men massacre animals, they will killeach other. Indeed, hewho sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy andlove. Pythagoras (mathematician)SEE ALSO: #26-----------------------#9 Werent Hitler and Goebbels in favor of animalrights?----------------------- This argument is absurd and almost unworthy of seriousconsideration.The questioner implies that since Hitler and Goebbelsallegedly held viewssupportive of animal rights (e.g., Hitler was avegetarian for some time),the animal rights viewpoint must be wrong or dubious. The problem for this argument is simple: bad people andgood people canboth believe things correctly. Or put in another way,just because a personholds one bad belief (e.g., Nazism), that doesnt makeall his beliefswrong. A few examples suffice to illustrate this. TheNazis undertook smokingreduction campaigns. Is it therefore dubious todiscourage smoking?Early Americans withheld respect and liberty for blackpeople. Does thatmean that they were wrong in giving respect and libertyto others? Technically, this argument is an "ignoratio elenchusfallacy", arguingfrom irrelevance. Finally, many scholars are doubtful that Hitler andGoebbels supportedAR in any meaningful way. DGSEE ALSO: #54
-----------------------#10 Do you really believe that "a rat is a pig is a dogis a boy"?----------------------- Taken alone and literally, this notion is absurd.However, thisquote has been shamelessly removed from its originalcontext andmisrepresented by AR opponents. The original context ofthe quote isgiven below. Viewed within its context, it is clear thatthe quoteis neither remarkable nor absurd. DG When it comes to having a central nervous system, andthe ability tofeel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog isa boy. Ingrid Newkirk (ARactivist)SEE ALSO: #47--------------------ANIMALS AND MORALITY-------------------------------------------#11 There is no correct or incorrect in morals; you haveyours and I have mine, right?----------------------- This position, known as moral relativism, is quiteancient but becamefashionable at the turn of the century, as reports on thecustoms ofsocieties alien to those found in Europe becameavailable. It fell out offashion, after the Second World War, although it isoccasionally revived.Ethical propositions, we are asked to believe, are nomore than statementsof personal opinion and, therefore, cannot carry absoluteweight. The main problem with this position is that ethicalrelativists areunable to denounce execrable ethical practices, such asracism. On whatgrounds can they condemn (if at all) Hitlers ideas onracial purity?Are we to believe that he was uttering an ethical truthwhen advocatingthe Final Solution? In addition to the inability to denounce practices of
other societies,the relativists are unable to counter the arguments ofeven those whosesociety they share. They cannot berate someone whoproposes to raiseand kill infants for industrial pet food consumption, forexample,if that person sees it as morally sound. Indeed, theycannot articulatethe concept of societal moral progress, since they lack abasis forjudging progress. There is no point in turning to therelativists foradvice on ethical issues such as euthanasia, infanticide,or the use offetuses in research. Faced with such arguments, ethical relativistssometimes argue thatethical truth is based on the beliefs of a society;ethical truth isseen as nothing more than a reflection of societalcustoms and habits.Butchering animals is acceptable in the West, they wouldsay, becausethe majority of people think it so. They are on no firmer ground here. Are we to acceptthat chattelslavery was right before the US Civil War and wrongthereafter? Can allethical decisions be decided by conducting opinion polls? It is true that different societies have differentpractices thatmight be seen as ethical by one and unethical by theother. However,these differences result from differing circumstances.For example, ina society where mere survival is key, the diversion oflimited food toan infant could detract significantly from the well-beingof theexisting family members that contribute to foodgathering. Given that,infanticide may be the ethically correct course. The conclusion is that there is such a thing as ethicaltruth(otherwise, ethics becomes vacuous and devoid ofproscriptive force).The continuity of thought, then, between those who rejectthe evils ofslavery, racial discrimination, and gender bias, andthose who denouncethe evils of speciesism becomes striking. AECW Many AR advocates (including myself) believe thatmorality is relative.We believe that AR is much more cogently argued when itis argued from thestandpoint of your opponents morality, not some
mythical, hard-to-defineuniversal morality. In arguing against moral absolutism,there is a verysimple objection: Where does this absolute morality comefrom? Moralabsolutism is an argument from authority, a tautology. Ifthere were sucha thing as "ethical truth", then there must be a way ofdetermining it, andobviously there isnt. In the absence of a known proof of"ethical truth",I dont know how AECW can conclude it exists. An example of the method of leveraging a personsmorality is to ask theperson why he has compassion for human beings. Almostalways he will agreethat his compassion does not stem from the fact that: 1)humans use language,2) humans compose symphonies, 3) humans can plan in thefar future, 4) humanshave a written, technological culture, etc. Instead, hewill agree that itstems from the fact that humans can suffer, feel pain, beharmed, etc. It isthen quite easy to show that nonhuman animals can alsosuffer, feel pain, beharmed, etc. The persons arbitrary inconsistency in notaccording moralstatus to nonhumans then stands out starkly. JEH There is a middle ground between the positions of AECWand JEH. One canassert that just as mathematics is necessarily built upona set ofunprovable axioms, so is a system of ethics. At thefoundation of a systemof ethics are moral axioms, such as "unnecessary pain iswrong". Giventhe set of axioms, methods of reasoning (such asdeduction and induction),and empirical facts, it is possible to derive ethicalhypotheses. It isin this sense that an ethical statement can be said to betrue. Of course,one can disagree about the axioms, and certainly suchdisagreement rendersethics "relative", but the concept of ethical truth isnot meaningless. Fortunately, the most fundamental ethical axioms seemto be nearlyuniversally accepted, usually because they are necessaryfor societies tofunction. Where differences exist, they can be elucidatedand discussed,in a style similar to the "leveraging" described by JEH. DG To a man whose mind is free there is something even
more intolerablein the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings ofman. For with thelatter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil andthat the manwho causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals areuselesslybutchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If anyman were torefer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that isthe unpardonablecrime. Romain Rolland (author,Nobel 1915)SEE ALSO: #5-----------------------#12 The animals are raised to be eaten; so what is wrongwith that?----------------------- This question has always seemed to me to be a fancyversion of "Butwe want to do these things, so what is wrong with that?"The idea thatan act, by virtue of an intention of ours, can beexonerated morally istotally illogical. But worse than that, however, is the fact that such abelief is adangerous position to take because it can enable one tojustify somepractices that are universally condemned. To see how thisis so,consider the following restatement of the basis of thequestion:"Suffering can be excused so long as we breed them forthe purpose."Now, cannot an analogous argument be used to defend agroup ofslave holders who breed and enslave humans and justify itby saying "buttheyre bred to be our workers"? Could not the Nazisdefend theirmurder of the Jews by saying "but we rounded them up tobe killed"? DG Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, andthat fails torecognize the eternal essence that exists in every livingthing, andshines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyesthat seethe sun! Arthur Schopenhauer(philosopher)
SEE ALSO: #13, #61-----------------------#13 But isnt it true that the animals wouldnt exist ifwe didnt raise them for slaughter?----------------------- There are two ways to interpret this question. First,the questionermay be referring to "the animals" as a species, in whichcase the argumentmight be more accurately phrased as follows: "The ecological niche of cows is to be farmed; theyget continued survival in this niche in return for our usingthem."Second, the questioner may be referring to "the animals"as individuals,in which case the phrasing might be: "The individual cows that we raise to eat would nothave had a life had we not done so."We deal first with the species interpretation and thenwith theindividuals interpretation. The questioners argumentappliespresumably to all species of animals; to make things moreconcrete,we will take cows as an example in the following text. It is incorrect to assert that cows could continue toexist only ifwe farm them for human consumption. First, today in manyparts of Indiaand elsewhere, humans and cows are engaged in areciprocal and reverentialrelationship. It is only in recent human history thatthis relationshiphas been corrupted into the one-sided exploitation thatwe see today.There IS a niche for cows between slaughter/consumptionand extinction.(The interested reader may find the book Beyond Beef byJeremy Rifkinquite enlightening on this subject.) Second, several organizations have programs for savinganimalsfrom extinction. There is no reason to suppose that cowswould notqualify. The species argument is also flawed because, in fact,our intensivefarming of cattle results in habitat destruction and theloss of otherspecies. For example, clearing of rain forests for
pasture has led tothe extinction of countless species. Cattle farming isdestroyinghabitats on six continents. Why is the questioner soconcerned aboutthe cow species while being unconcerned about these otherspecies?Could it have anything to do with the fact that he wantsto continueto eat the cows? Finally, a strong case can be made against the speciesargument fromethical theory. Arguments similar to the questionerscould bedeveloped that would ask us to accept practices that areuniversallycondemned. For example, consider a society that breeds aspecial raceof humans for use as slaves. They argue that the racewould not existif they did not breed them for use as slaves. Does thereader acceptthis justification? Now we move on to the individuals interpretation of thequestion. Oneattempt to refute the argument is to answer as follows: "It is better not to be born than to be born into alife of misery and early death."To many, this is sufficient. However, one could arguethat the fact that thelife is miserable before death is not necessary. Supposethat the cows aretreated well before being killed painlessly and eaten. Isit not true thatthe individual cows would not have enjoyed their shortlife had we notraised them for consumption? Furthermore, what if wecompensate the takingof the life by bringing a new life into being? Peter Singer originally believed that this argument wasabsurd becausethere are no cow souls waiting around to be born. Manypeople accept thisview and consider it sufficient, but Singer now rejectsit because he acceptsthat to bring a being to a pleasant life does confer abenefit on that being.(There is extensive discussion of this issue in thesecond edition of AnimalLiberation.) How then are we to proceed? The key is that the AR movement asserts that humans andnonhumans have aright to not be killed by humans. The ethical problem canbe seen clearlyby applying the argument to humans. Consider the case ofa couple that gives
birth to an infant and eats it at the age of nine months,just when theirnext infant is born. A 9-month old baby has no morerational knowledge ofits situation or future plans than does a cow, so thereis no reason todistinguish the two cases. Yet, certainly, we wouldcondemn the couple. Wecondemn them because the infant is an individual to whomwe confer the rightnot to be killed. Why is this right not accorded to thecow? I think theanswer is that the questioner wants to eat it. DG It were much better that a sentient being should neverhave existed,than that it should have existed only to endureunmitigated misery. Percy Bysshe Shelley(poet)SEE ALSO: #12-----------------------#14 Dont the animals we use have a happier life sincethey are fed and protected?----------------------- The questioner makes two assumptions here. First, thathappiness orcontentment accrues from being fed and protected, andsecond, thatthe animals are, in fact, fed and protected. Both ofthese premises canbe questioned. Certainly the animals are fed; after all, they must befattened forconsumption. It is very difficult to see any way that,say,factory-farmed chickens are "protected". They are notprotected frommutilation, because they are painfully debeaked. They arenot protectedfrom psychological distress, because they are crowdedtogether inunnatural conditions. And finally, they are not protectedfrom predation,because they are slaughtered and eaten by humans. We can also question the notion that happiness accruesfrom feedingand protection alone. The Roman galley slaves were fedand protectedfrom the elements; nevertheless, they would presumablytrade theircondition for one of greater uncertainty to obtainhappiness. The samecan be said of the slaves of earlier America.
Finally, an ethical argument is relevant here. Consideragain thecouple of question #13. They will feed and protect theirinfant up tothe point at which they consume it. We would not acceptthis as ajustification. Why should we accept it for the chicken? DGSEE ALSO: #13-----------------------#15 Is the use of service animals and beasts of burdenconsidered exploitative?----------------------- A simple approach to this question might be to suggestthat we all mustwork for a living and it should be no different foranimals. The problem isthat we want to look at the animals as like children,i.e., worthy of thesame protections and rights, and, like them, incapable ofbeing morallyresponsible. But we dont force children into labor! Onecan make adistinction, however, that goes something like this: Theanimals arepermanently in their diminished state (i.e., incapable ofvoluntarilyassenting to work); children are not. We do not impose achoice of work forchildren because they need the time to develop into theirfull adult andmoral selves. With the animals, we choose for them a rolethat allows themto contribute; in return, we do not abuse them by eatingthem, etc. If thisis done with true concern that their work conditions areappropriate and notof a sweat-shop nature, that they get enough rest andleisure time, etc.,this would constitute a form of stewardship that isacceptable and beneficialto both sides, and one that is not at odds with ARphilosophy. DG-----------------------#16 Doesnt the Bible give Humanity dominion over theanimals?----------------------- It is true that the Bible contains a passage thatconfers on humanitydominion over the animals. The import of this factderives from theassumption that the Bible is the word of God, and that
God is the ultimatemoral authority. Leaving aside for the momentconsideration of the meaningof dominion, we can take issue with the idea of seekingmoral authority fromthe Bible. First, there are serious problems with theinterpretation ofBiblical passages, with many verses contradicting oneanother, and withmany scholars differing dramatically over the meaning ofgiven verses. Second, there are many claims to God-hood among thediverse cultures ofthis world; some of these Gods implore us to respect alllife and to notkill unnecessarily. Whose God are we to take as theultimate moralauthority? Finally, as Tom Regan observes, many people do notbelieve in a God andso appeals to His moral authority are empty for suchpeople. For suchpeople, the validity of judgments of the supposed Godmust be cross-checkedwith other methods of determining reasonableness. Whatare the cross-checksfor the Biblical assertions? These remarks apply equally to other assertions ofBiblical approval ofhuman practices (such as the consumption of animals). Even if we accept that the God of the Bible is a moralauthority, wecan point out that "dominion" is a vague term, meaning"stewardship" or"control over". It is quite easy to argue thatappropriate stewardshipor control consists of respecting the life of animals andtheir rightto live according to their own nature. The jump fromdominion to approvalof our brutal exploitation of animals is not contained inthe citedBiblical passage, either explicitly or implicitly. DG-----------------------#17 Morals are a purely human construction (animalsdont understand morals); doesnt that mean it is not rational toapply our morality to animals?----------------------- The fallaciousness of this argument can be easilydemonstrated by makinga simple substitution: Infants and young children dontunderstand morals,doesnt that mean it is not rational to apply ourmorality to them? Of course
not. We refrain from harming infants and children for thesame reasons thatwe do so for adults. That they are incapable ofconceptualizing a system ofmorals and its benefits is irrelevant. The relevant distinction is formalized in the conceptof "moral agents"versus "moral patients". A moral agent is an individualpossessing thesophisticated conceptual ability to bring moralprinciples to bear indeciding what to do, and having made such a decision,having the free willto choose to act that way. By virtue of these abilities,it is fair to holdmoral agents accountable for their acts. The paradigmaticmoral agent is thenormal adult human being. Moral patients, in contrast, lack the capacities ofmoral agents and thuscannot fairly be held accountable for their acts. Theydo, however, possessthe capacity to suffer harm and therefore are properobjects of considerationfor moral agents. Human infants, young children, thementally deficient orderanged, and nonhuman animals are instances of moralpatienthood. Given that nonhuman animals are moral patients, theyfall within thepurview of moral consideration, and therefore it is quiterational to accordthem the same moral consideration that we accord toourselves. DGSEE ALSO: #19, #23, #36-----------------------#18 If AR people are so worried about killing, why dontthey become fruitarians?----------------------- Killing, per se, is not the central concern of ARphilosophy, which isconcerned with the avoidance of unnecessary pain andsuffering. Thus, becauseplants neither feel pain nor suffer, AR philosophy doesnot mandatefruitarianism (a diet in which only fruits are eatenbecause they can beharvested without killing the plant from which theyissue). DGSEE ALSO: #42-#46-----------------------
#19 Animals dont care about us; why should we careabout them?----------------------- The questioners position--that, in essence, we shouldgive rights onlyto those able to respect ours--is known as thereciprocity argument. It isunconvincing both as an account of the way our societyworks and as aprescription for the way it should work. Its descriptive power is undermined by the simpleobservation that wegive rights to a large number of individuals who cannotrespect ours.These include some elderly people, some people sufferingfrom degenerativediseases, some people suffering from irreversible braindamage, theseverely retarded, infants, and young children. Aninstitution that, forexample, routinely sacrificed such individuals to test anew fertilizerwould certainly be considered to be grievously violatingtheir rights. The original statement fares no better as an ethicalprescription.Future generations are unable to reciprocate our concern,for example, sothere would be no ethical harm done, under such a view,in dismissingconcerns for environmental damage that adversely impactsfuturegenerations. The key failing of the questioners position lies inthe failure toproperly distinguish between the following capacities: The capacity to understand and respect others rights(moral agency). The capacity to benefit from rights (moralpatienthood). An individual can be a beneficiary of rights withoutbeing a moralagent. Under this view, one justifies a difference oftreatments of twoindividuals (human or nonhuman) with an objectivedifference that isRELEVANT to the difference of treatment. For example, ifwe wished toexclude a person from an academic course of study, wecould not cite thefact that they have freckles. We could cite the fact thatthey lackcertain academic prerequisites. The former is irrelevant;the latter isrelevant. Similarly, when considering the right to befree of pain and
suffering, moral agency is irrelevant; moral patienthoodIS relevant. AECW The assumption that animals dont care about us canalso bequestioned. Companion animals have been known to summonaid whentheir owners are in trouble. They have been known tooffer comfortwhen their owners are distressed. They show grief whentheir humancompanions die. DGSEE ALSO: #17, #23, #36-----------------------#20 A house is on fire and a dog and a baby are inside.Which do you save first?----------------------- The one I choose to save first tells us nothing aboutthe ethicaldecisions we face. I might decide to save my child beforeI saved yours,but this certainly does not mean that I should be able toexperiment onyour child, or exploit your child in some other way. Weare not in anemergency situation like a fire anyway. In everyday life,we can choose toact in ways that protect the rights of both dogs andbabies. LK Like anyone else in this situation, I would probablysave the one towhich I am emotionally more attached. Most likely itwould be the child.Someone might prefer to save his own beloved dog beforesaving the babyof a stranger. However, as LK states above, this tells usnothing aboutany ethical principles. DVH-----------------------#21 What if I made use of an animal that was alreadydead?----------------------- There are two ways to interpret this question. First,the questionermight really be making the excuse "but I didnt kill theanimal", orsecond, he could be asking about the morality of using ananimal that
has died naturally (or due to a cause unassociated withthe demand foranimal products, such as a road kill). For the firstinterpretation, wemust reject the excuse. The killing of animals for meat,for example,is done at the request (through market demand), and withthe financialsupport (through payment), of the end consumers. Theircomplicity isinescapable. Society does not excuse the receiver ofstolen goods becausehe "didnt do the burglary". For the second interpretation, the use of naturallykilled animals,there seems to be no moral difficulty involved. Manywould, for estheticreasons, still not use animal products thus obtained.(Would you use thebodies of departed humans?) Certainly, natural killscannot satisfy thegreat demand for animal products that exists today; non-animal andsynthetic sources are required. Other people may avoid use of naturally killed animalproducts becausethey feel that it might encourage a demand in others foranimal products,a demand that might not be so innocently satisfied. DG This can be viewed as a question of respect for thedead. We feelinnate revulsion at the idea of grave desecration forthis reason.Naturally killed animals should, at the very least, beleft alone ratherthan recycled as part of an industrial process. This wascommonlypracticed in the past, e.g., Egyptians used to mummifytheir cats. AECW You have just dined, and however scrupulously theslaughterhouse isconcealed in the graceful distance of miles, there iscomplicity. Ralph Waldo Emerson(author)-----------------------#22 Where should one draw the line: animals, insects,bacteria?----------------------- AR philosophy asserts that rights are to be accorded tocreatures thathave the capacity to experience pain, to suffer, and tobe a "subject of
a life". Such a capacity is definitely not found inbacteria. It isdefinitely found in mammals. There is debate about suchanimals as molluscsand arthropods (including insects). One should decide,based upon availableevidence and ones own conscience, where the line shouldbe drawn to adhereto the principle of AR described in the first sentence. Questions #39 and #43 discuss some of the evidencerelevant to drawingthe line. DGSEE ALSO: #39, #43-----------------------#23 If the killing is wrong, shouldnt you stoppredators from killing other animals?----------------------- This is one of the more interesting arguments againstanimal rights. Weprevent human moral patients from harming others, e.g.,we prevent childrenfrom hitting each other, so why shouldnt we do the samefor nonhuman moralpatients (refer to question #17 for a definition of moralpatienthood)? Ifanything, the duty to do so might be considered moreserious becausepredation results in a serious harm--death. A first answer entails pointing out that predators mustkill to survive;to stop them from killing is, in effect, to kill them. Of course, we could argue that intervening on a massivescale to preventpredation is totally impractical or impossible, but thatis not morallypersuasive. Suppose we accept that we should stop a cat fromkilling a bird. Then werealize that the bird is the killer of many snakes.Should we now reasonthat, in fact, we shouldnt stop the cat? The point isthat humans lack thebroad vision to make all these calculations anddeterminations. The real answer is that intervening to stop predationwould destroy theecosystems upon which the biosphere depends, harming allof life on earth.Over millions of years, the biosphere has evolved complexecosystems thatdepend upon predation for their continued functioning andstability. Massiveintervention by humans to stop predation would inflictserious and
incalculable harm on these ecosystems, with devastatingresults for all life. Even if we accept that we should prevent predation (andwe dont acceptthat), it does not follow that, because we do not, we aretherefore justifiedin exploiting moral patients ourselves. When we fail tostop widespreadslaughter of human beings in foreign countries, it doesnot follow that we,ourselves, believe it appropriate to participate in suchslaughter. Similarly,our failure to prevent predation cannot be taken asjustification of ourexploitation of animals. DGSEE ALSO: #17, #19, #36, #64-----------------------#24 Is the AR movement against abortion? If not, isntthat hypocritical?----------------------- Attempts are frequently made to tie Animal Rightsexponents to one sideor the other of the abortion debate. Such attempts aremisguided. Claimsthat adherence to the ethics of AR determine onesposition on embryorights are plainly counter-intuitive, unless one is alsoprepared to arguethat being a defender of human rights compels one to aparticular positionon abortion. Is it the case that one cannot consistentlydespise torture,serfdom, and other barbaric practices without coming to aparticularconclusion on abortion? AR defenders demand that the rights currently held byhumans be extendedto all creatures similar in morally relevant ways. Forexample, sincesociety does not accept that mature, sentient human moralpatients (referto question #17 for a brief description of thedistinction between patientsand agents) may be routinely annihilated in the name ofscience, itlogically follows that comparable nonhuman animals shouldbe given the sameprotection. On the other hand, abortion is still a mootpoint. It isplainly illogical to expect the AR movement to reflectanything other thanthe full spectrum of opinion found in society at large onthe abortion issue. Fundamentally, AR philosophers are content withsubmitting sufficient
conditions for the attribution of rights to individuals,conditions thatexplain the noncontroversial protections afforded todayto humans. Theyneither encourage nor discourage attempts to widen thecircle of protectionto fetuses. AECW There is a range of views among AR supporters on theissue of abortionversus animal rights. Many people believe, as does AECW,that the issuesof abortion and AR are unrelated, and that the questionis irrelevant to thevalidity of AR. Others, such as myself, feel thatabortion certainly isrelevant to AR. After all, the granting of rights toanimals (and humans)is based on their capacity to suffer and to be a subject-of-a-life. Itseems clear that late-term fetuses can suffer from theabortion procedure.Certain physiological responses, such as elevated heartrates, and theexistence of a functioning nervous system support thisview. It also can be argued that the fetus is on a course tobecome asubject-of-a-life, and that by aborting the fetus wetherefore harm it.Some counter this latter argument by claiming that the"potential" tobecome subject-of-a-life is an invalid grounds forassigning rights, butthis is a fine philosophical point that is itself subjectto attack. Forexample, suppose a person is in a coma that, given enoughtime, willdissipate--the person has the potential to be sentientagain. Does theperson lose his rights while in the coma? While the arguments adduced may show that abortion isnot irrelevantto AR, they do not show that abortion is necessarilywrong. The reasonis that it is possible to argue that the rights of thefetus are inconflict with the rights of the woman, and that therights of the womandominate. All may not agree with this trade-off, but itis a consistent,non-hypocritical stance that is not in conflict with ARphilosophy. See question #4 for an analysis of hypocrisy argumentsin general. DGSEE ALSO: #4
-----------------------#25 Doesnt the ethical theory of contractarianism showthat animals have no rights?----------------------- Contractarianism is an ethical theory that attempts toaccount for ourmorality by appealing to implicit mutually beneficialagreements, orcontracts. For example, it would explain our refusal tostrike each otherby asserting that we have an implied contract: "You donthit me and Iwont hit you." The relevance of contractarianism to ARstems from thesupposition that nonhuman animals are incapable ofentering into suchcontracts, coupled with the assertion that rights can beattributed onlyto those individuals that can enter into such contracts.Roughly, animalscant have rights because they lack the rational capacityto assent to acontract requiring them to respect our rights. Contractarianism is perhaps the most impressive attemptto refute the ARposition; therefore, it is important to consider it insome detail. It iseasily possible to write a large volume on the subject.We must limitourselves to considering the basic arguments and problemswith them. Thosereaders finding this incomplete or nonrigorous areadvised to consult theprimary literature. We begin by observing that contractarianism fails tooffer a compellingaccount of our moral behavior and motives. If the averageperson is asked whythey think it wrong to steal from their neighbor, they donot answer that byrefraining from it they ensure that their neighbor willnot steal from them.Nor do they answer that they have an implicit mutualcontract with theirneighbor. Instead of invoking contracts, people typicallyassert some variantof the harm principle; e.g., they dont steal because itwould harm theneighbor. Similarly, we do not teach children that thereason why they shouldnot steal is because then people will not steal fromthem. Another way to point up the mismatch between the theoryof contractarianismand our actual moral behavior is to ask if, upon riskingyour own life to
save my child from drowning, you have done this as aresult of a contractualobligation. Certainly, one performs such acts as aresponse to the distressof another being, not as a result of contractualobligations. Contractarianism can thus be seen as a theory thatfails to account for ourmoral behavior. At best, it is a theory that itsproponents would recommendto us as preferable. (Is it seen as preferable because itdenies rights toanimals, and because it seems to justify continuedexploitation of animals?) Arguably the most serious objection to contractarianismis that it can beused to sanction arrangements that would be almostuniversally condemned.Consider a group of very rich people that assemble andcreate a contractamong themselves the effect of which is to ensure thatwealth remains intheir control. They agree by contract that evenrepressive tactics can beused to ensure that the masses remain in poverty. Theyargue that, by virtueof the existence of their contract, that they do nowrong. Similar contractscould be drawn up to exclude other races, sexes, etc. John Rawls attempts to overcome this problem bysupposing that thecontractors must begin from an "initial position" inwhich they are not yetincarnated as beings and must form the contract inignorance of their finalincarnation. Thus, it is argued, since a given individualin the startingposition does not know whether, for example, she will beincarnated as a richwoman or a poor woman, that individual will not formcontracts that are basedon such criteria. In response, one can begin to wonder atthe lengths towhich some will go in creating ad hoc adjustments to adeficient theory. Butmore to the point, one can turn around this ad hocdefense to support the ARposition. For surely, if individuals in the initialposition are to be trulyignorant of their destiny, they must assume that they maybe incarnated asanimals. Given that, the contract that is reached islikely to include strongprotections for animals! Another problem with Rawls device is thatprobabilities can be such that,even given ignorance, contracts can result that mostpeople would see asunjust. If the chance of being incarnated as a slave
holder is 90 percent, acontract allowing slavery could well result because mostindividuals wouldfeel they had a better chance of being incarnated as aslave holder. Thus,Rawls device fails even to achieve its purpose. It is hard to see how contractarianism can permitmovement from the statusquo. How did alleged contracts that denied liberty toslaves and excludedwomen from voting come to be renegotiated? Contractarianism also is unable to adequately accountfor the rights wegive to those unable to form contracts, i.e., infants,children, senilepeople, mental deficients, and even animals to someextent. Various meanshave been advanced to try to account for the attributionof rights to suchindividuals. We have no space to deal with all of them.Instead, we brieflyaddress a few. One attempt involves appealing to the interests of truerights holders.For example, I dont eat your baby because you have aninterest in it and Iwouldnt want you violating such an interest of mine. Butwhat if no-onecared about a given infant? Would that make it fair gamefor any use orabuse? Certainly not. Another problem here is that manypeople express aninterest in the protection of all animals. That wouldseem to require othersto refrain from using or abusing animals. While thisresult is attractive tothe AR community, it certainly weakens the argument thatcontractarianismjustifies our use of animals. Others want to let individuals "ride" until they arecapable of respectingthe contract. But what of those that will never becapable of doing so, e.g.,senile people? And why can we not let animals ride? Some argue a "reduced-rights" case. Children get areduced rights setdesigned to protect them from themselves, etc. Theproblem here is that withanimals the rights reduction is way out of proportion. Weaccept that wecannot experiment on infants or kill and eat them due totheir reduced rightsset. Why then are such extreme uses acceptable fornonhumans? Some argue that it is irrelevant whether a givenindividual can enter intoa contract; what is important is their theoreticalcapacity to do so. But,future generations have the capacity but clearly cannot
interact reciprocallywith us, so the basis of contractarianism is gutted(unless we assert that wehave no moral obligations to leave a habitable world forfuture generations).Peter Singer asks "Why limit morality to those who havethe capacity to enterinto agreements, if in fact there is no possibility oftheir ever doing so?" There are practical problems with contractarianism aswell. For example,what can be our response if an individual renouncesparticipation in anyimplied moral contracts, and states that he is thereforejustified inengaging in what others would call immoral acts? Is thereany way for us toreproach him? And what are we to do about violations ofthe contract? If anindividual steals from us, he has broken the contract andwe should thereforebe released from it. Are we then morally justified instealing from him? Orworse? In summary, contractarianism fails because a) it failsto accurately accountfor our actual, real-world moral acts and motives, b) itsanctions contractualarrangements that most people would see as unjust, c) itfails to account forthe considerations we accord to individuals unable toenter into contracts,and d) it has some impractical consequences. Finally,there is a betterfoundation for ethics--the harm principle. It is simple,universalizable,devoid of ad hoc devices, and matches our real moralthinking. TA/DGSEE ALSO: #11, #17, #19, #96----------------PRACTICAL ISSUES---------------------------------------#26 Surely there are more pressing practical problemsthan AR, such as homelessness; havent you got better things to do?----------------------- Inherent in this question is an assumption that it ismore importantto help humans than to help nonhumans. Some would dismissthis as aspeciesist position (see question #1). It is possible,however, to
invoke the scale-of-life notion and argue that there isgreater sufferingand loss associated with cruelty and neglect of humansthan with animals.This might appear to constitute a prima-facie case forexpending onesenergies for humans rather than nonhumans. However, evenif we acceptthe scale-of-life notion, there are sound reasons forexpending timeand energy on the issue of rights for nonhuman animals. Many of the consequences of carrying out the AR agendaare highlybeneficial to humans. For example, stopping theproduction and consumptionof animal products would result in a significantimprovement of thegeneral health of the human population, and destructionof the environmentwould be greatly reduced. Fostering compassion for animals is likely to paydividends in termsof a general increase of compassion in human affairs. TomRegan puts itthis way: ...the animal rights movement is a part of, notantagonistic to, the human rights movement. The theory that rationallygrounds the rights of animals also grounds the rights of humans.Thus those involved in the animal rights movement are partners inthe struggle to secure respect for human rights--the rights ofwomen, for example, or minorities, or workers. The animal rightsmovement is cut from the same moral cloth as these. Finally, the behavior asked for by the AR agendainvolves littleexpenditure of energy. We are asking people to NOT dothings: donteat meat, dont exploit animals for entertainment, dontwear furs.These negative actions dont interfere with our abilityto care forhumans. In some cases, they may actually make more timeavailable fordoing so (e.g., time spent hunting or visiting zoos andcircuses). DG Living cruelty-free is not a full-time job; rather,its a way of life.When I shop, I check ingredients and I consider if theproduct is testedon animals. These things only consume a few minutes of
the day. There isample time left for helping both humans and nonhumans. JLS I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.That is theway of a whole human being. Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S.President) To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious thanthat of ahuman being. Mahatma Gandhi (statesmanand philosopher) Our task must be to free ourselves...by widening ourcircle of compassionto embrace all living creatures and the whole of natureand its beauty. Albert Einstein(physicist, Nobel 1921)SEE ALSO: #1, #87, #95-----------------------#27 If everyone became vegetarian and gave up keepingpets, what would happen to all the animals?----------------------- As vegetarianism grows, the number of animals bred forfood graduallywill decline, since the market will no longer exist forthem.Similarly, a gradual decrease would accompany thelessening demand forthe breeding of companion animals. In both cases, thoseanimals thatremain will be better cared for by a more compassionatesociety. LKSEE ALSO: #75-----------------------#28 Grazing animals on land not suited for agricultureincreases the food supply; how can that be considered wrong?----------------------- There are areas in the world where grazing of livestockis possible butagriculture is not. If conditions are such that peopleliving in theseareas cannot trade for crops and must raise livestock tosurvive, fewwould question the practice. However, such areas are verysmall in
comparison to the fertile and semi-arid regions currentlyutilized forintensive grazing, and they do not appreciably contributeto the worldfood supply. (Some would argue that it is morallypreferable not to live insuch areas.) The real issue is the intensive grazing in the fertileand semi-aridregions. The use of such areas for livestock raisingreduces the worldfood supply. Keith Acker writes as follows in his "AVegetarianSourcebook": Land, energy, and water resources for livestockagriculture range anywhere from 10 to 1000 times greater than thosenecessary to produce an equivalent amount of plant foods. Andlivestock agriculture does not merely use these resources, itdepletes them. This is a matter of historical record. Most of theworlds soil, erosion, groundwater depletion, and deforestation--factors now threatening the very basis of our food system--arethe result of this particularly destructive form of food production. Livestock agriculture is also the single greatest causeof world-widedeforestation both historically and currently (between1967 and 1975,two-thirds of 70 million acres of lost forest went tograzing). Between1950 and 1975 the area of human-created pasture land inCentral Americamore than doubled, almost all of it at the expense ofrain forests.Although this trend has slowed down, it still continuesat an alarming andinexorable pace. Grazing requires large tracts of land and theconsequences ofovergrazing and soil erosion are very serious ecologicalproblems. Byconservative estimates, 60 percent of all U.S. grasslandsare overgrazed,resulting in billions of tons of soil lost each year. Theamount of U.S.topsoil lost to date is about 75 percent, and 85 percentof that isdirectly associated with livestock grazing. Overgrazinghas been thesingle largest cause of human-made deserts. One could argue that grazing is being replaced by the"feedlot
paradigm". These systems graze the livestock prior totransport to afeedlot for final "fattening" with grains grown on croplands. Althoughthis does reduce grazing somewhat, it is not eliminated,and the feedlotpart of the paradigm still constitutes a highlyinefficient use of crops(to feed a human with livestock requires 16 times thegrain that would benecessary if the grain was consumed directly). It hasbeen estimated thatin the U.S., 80 percent of the corn and 95 percent of theoats grown arefed to livestock. TA I grew up in cattle country--thats why I became avegetarian. Meat stinks,for the animals, the environment, and your health. k.d. lang (musician)-----------------------#29 If we try to eliminate all animals products, wellbe moving back to the Stone Age; who wants that?----------------------- On the contrary! It is a dependency upon animalproducts that could beseen as returning us to the technologies and mind set ofthe Stone Age.For example, Stone Age people had to wear furs inNorthern climates toavoid freezing. That is no longer the case, thanks tocentral heatingand the ready availability of plenty of good plant andhuman-made fabrics.If we are to characterize the modern age, it could be interms of thegreater freedoms and options made possible bytechnological advance andsocial progress. The Stone Age people had few options andso were forcedto rely upon animals for food, clothing, and materialsfor their implements.Today, we have an abundance of choices for better foods,warmer clothing,and more efficient materials, none of which need dependupon the killingof animals. TA It seems to me that the only Stone Age we are in anydanger of enteringis that constituted by the continuous destruction ofanimals habitatsin favor of the Portland-cement concrete jungle! DG
SEE ALSO: #60, #62, #95-----------------------#30 Its virtually impossible to eliminate all animalproducts from ones consumption; whats the point if you still causeanimal death without knowing it?----------------------- Yes, it is very difficult to eliminate all animalproducts from onesconsumption, just as it is impossible to eliminate allaccidental killingand infliction of harm that results from our activities.But this cannotjustify making it "open season" for any kind of abuse ofanimals. Thereasonable goal, given the realities, is to minimize theharms one causes.The point, then, is that a great deal of suffering isprevented. DGSEE ALSO: #57-#58-----------------------#31 Wouldnt many customs and traditions, as well asjobs, be lost if we stopped using animals?----------------------- Consider first the issue of customs and traditions. Theplain truth isthat some customs and traditions deserve to die out.Examples aboundthroughout history: slavery, Roman gladiatorial contests,torture, publicexecutions, witch burning, racism. To these the ARsupporter adds animalexploitation and enslavement. The human animal is an almost infinitely adaptableorganism. The loss ofthe customs listed above has not resulted in any lastingharm tohumankind. The same can be confidently predicted for theelimination ofanimal exploitation. In fact, humankind would likelybenefit from aquantum leap of compassion in human affairs. As far as jobs are concerned, the economic aspects arediscussed inquestion #32. It remains to point out that for a human,what is at stake isa job, which can be replaced with one less morallydubious. What is atstake for an animal is the elimination of torture andexploitation, and
the possibility for a life of happiness, free from humanoppression andbrutality. DG People often say that humans have always eaten animals,as if this is ajustification for continuing the practice. According tothis logic, weshould not try to prevent people from murdering otherpeople, since thishas also been done since the earliest of times. Isaac Bashevis Singer(author, Nobel 1978)SEE ALSO: #32-----------------------#32 The animal product industries are big business;wouldnt the economy be crippled if they all stopped?----------------------- One cannot justify an action based on itsprofitability. Many crimes andpractices that we view as repugnant have been or continueto beprofitable: the slave trade, sale of child brides, drugdealing, scams ofall sorts, prostitution, child pornography. A good example of this, and one that points up anotherkeyconsideration, is the tobacco industry. It is amultibillion-dollarindustry, yet vigorous efforts are proceeding on manyfronts to put it outof business. The main problem with it lies in its side-effects, i.e., themassive health consequences and deaths that it produces,which easilyoutweigh the immediate profitability. There are sideeffects to animalexploitation also. Among the most significant are thepollution anddeforestation associated with large-scale animal farming.As we see inquestion #28, these current practices constitute anonsustainable use ofthe planets resources. It is more likely true that theeconomy will becrippled if the practices continue! Finally, the profits associated with the animalindustries stem frommarket demand and affluence. There is no reason tosuppose that thisdemand cannot be gradually redirected into otherindustries. Instead ofprime beef, we can have prime artichokes, or prime pasta,etc. Humanitys
demand for gourmet food will not vanish with the meat.Similarly, thejobs associated with the animal industries can begradually redirectedinto the industries that would spring up to replace theanimalindustries. (Vice President Gore made a similar point inreference tocomplaints concerning loss of jobs if logging was halted.He commentedthat the environmental movement would open up a huge areafor jobs thathad heretofore been unavailable.) DG It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living byits purely physicaleffect on the human temperament would most beneficiallyinfluence the lot ofmankind. Albert Einstein(physicist, Nobel 1921)SEE ALSO: #28, #31----------------------ARGUMENTS FROM BIOLOGY---------------------------------------------#33 Humans are at the pinnacle of evolution; doesntthat give them the right to use animals as they wish?----------------------- This is one of many arguments that attempt to drawethical conclusionsfrom scientific observations. In this case, the scienceis shaky, and theethical conclusion is dubious. Let us first examine thescience. The questioners view is that evolution has created alinear ranking ofgeneral fitness, a ladder if you will, with insects andother "lower"species at the bottom, and humans (of course!) at thetop. This ideaoriginated as part of a wider, now discreditedevolutionary system calledLamarckism. Charles Darwins discovery of naturalselection overturnedthis system. Darwins picture, instead, is of a"radiating bush" ofspecies, with each evolving to adapt more closely to itsenvironment,along its own radius. Under this view, the idea of apinnacle becomesunclear: yes, humans have adapted well to their niche
(though many woulddispute this, asserting the nonsustainable nature of ouruse of theplanets resources), but so have bacteria adapted well totheir niche. Canwe really say that humans are better adapted to theirniche than bacteria,and would it mean anything when the niches are sodifferent? Probably, what the questioner has in mind in using theword "pinnacle"is that humans excel in some particular trait, and that ascale can becreated relative to this trait. For example, on a scaleof mentalcapability, humans stand well above bacteria. But adifferent choice oftraits can lead to very different results. Bacteria stand"at thepinnacle" when one looks at reproductive fecundity. Birdsstand "atthe pinnacle" when one looks at flight. Now let us examine the ethics. Leaving aside thedubious idea of apinnacle of evolution, let us accept that humans areranked at the top ona scale of intelligence. Does this give us the right todo as we pleasewith animals, simply on account of their being lessbrainy? If we say yes,we open a Pandoras box of problems for ourselves. Doesthis mean thatmore intelligent humans can also exploit less intelligenthumans as theywish (shall we all be slaves to the Einsteins of theworld)? Consideringa different trait, can the physically superior abuse theweak? Only amorally callous person would agree with this generalprinciple. AECWSEE ALSO: #34, #37-----------------------#34 Humans are at the top of the food chain; arent theytherefore justified in killing and eating anything?----------------------- No; otherwise, potential cannibals in our society couldclaim the samedefense for their practice. That we can do something doesnot mean that itis right to do so. We have a lot of power over othercreatures, but withgreat powers come even greater responsibilities, as anyparent willtestify.
Humans are at the top of the food chain because theyCHOOSE to eatnonhuman animals. There is thus a suggestion of tautologyin thequestioners position. If we chose not to eat animals, wewould not beat the top of the food chain. The idea that superiority in a trait confers rightsover the inferior isdisposed of in question #33. AECWSEE ALSO: #33-----------------------#35 Animals are just machines; why worry about them?----------------------- Centuries ago, the philosopher Rene Descartes developedthe idea thatall nonhuman animals are automatons that cannot feelpain. Followers ofDescartes believed that if an animal cried out this wasjust a reflex,the sort of reaction one might get from a mechanicaldoll. Consequently,they saw no reason not to experiment on animals withoutanesthetics.Horrified observers were admonished to pay no attentionto the screamsof the animal subjects. This idea is now refuted by modern science. Animals areno more "meremachines" than are human beings. Everything science haslearned aboutother species points out the biological similaritiesbetween humans andnonhumans. As Charles Darwin wrote, the differencesbetween humans andother animals are differences of degree, not differencesof kind. Sinceboth humans and nonhumans evolved over millions of yearsand sharesimilar nervous systems and other organs, there is noreason to thinkwe do not share a similar mental and emotional life withother animalspecies (especially mammals). LK-----------------------#36 In Nature, animals kill and eat each other; so whyshould it be wrong for humans?----------------------- Predatory animals must kill to eat. Humans, incontrast, have a choice;they need not eat meat to survive.
Humans differ from nonhuman animals in being capable ofconceiving of, andacting in accordance with, a system of morals; therefore,we cannot seekmoral guidance or precedent from nonhuman animals. The ARphilosophy assertsthat it is just as wrong for a human to kill and eat asentient nonhuman asit is to kill and eat a sentient human. To demonstrate the absurdity of seeking moralprecedents from nonhumananimals, consider the following variants of the question: "In Nature, animals steal food from each other; sowhy should it be wrong for humans [to steal]?" "In Nature, animals kill and eat humans; so whyshould it be wrong for humans [to kill and eat humans]?" DGSEE ALSO: #23, #34, #64-----------------------#37 Natural selection and Darwinism are at work in theworld; doesnt that mean its unrealistic to try to overcome suchforces?----------------------- Assuming that Animal Rights concepts somehow clash withDarwinian forces,the questioner must stand accused of selective moralfatalism: our sense ofmorality is clearly not modeled on the laws of naturalselection. Why,then, feel helpless before some of its effects and notbefore others? Male-dominance, xenophobia, and war-mongering arepresent in many humansocieties. Should we venture that some mysterious,universal forces must beat work behind them, and that all attempts at quellingsuch tendencies shouldbe abandoned? Or, more directly, when people become sick,do we abandon thembecause "survival of the fittest" demands it? We do notabandon them; and wedo not agonize about trying to overcome naturalselection. There is no reason to believe that the practicalimplications of the AnimalRights philosophy are maladaptive for humans. On thecontrary, and forreasons explained elsewhere in this FAQ, respecting therights of animalswould yield beneficial side-effects for humans, such asmore-sustainable
agricultural practices, and better environmental andhealth-care policies. AECW The advent of Darwinism led to a substitution of theidea of individualorganisms for the old idea of immutable species. Themoral individualismimplied by AR philosophy substitutes the idea thatorganisms should betreated according to their individual capacities for the(old) idea that itis the species of the animal that counts. Thus, moralindividualism actuallyfits well with evolutionary theory. DGSEE ALSO: #63-62-----------------------#38 Isnt AR opposed to environmental philosophy (asdescribed, for example, in "Deep Ecology")?----------------------- No. It should be clear from many of the answersincluded in this FAQ, andfrom perusal of many of the books referenced in question#92, that thephilosophy and goals of AR are complementary to the goalsof the mainstreamenvironmental movement. Michael W. Fox sees AR andenvironmentalism astwo aspects of a dialectic that reconciles concerns forthe rights ofindividuals (human and nonhuman) with concerns for theintegrity of thebiosphere. Some argue that a morality based on individual rightsis necessarilyopposed to one based on holistic environmental views,e.g., the sanctityof the biosphere. However, an environmental ethic thatattributes someform of rights to all individuals, including inanimateones, can bedeveloped. Such an ethic, by showing respect for theindividuals that makeup the biosphere, would also show respect for thebiosphere as a whole, thusachieving the aims of holistic environmentalism. It isclear that a rightsview is not necessarily in conflict with a holistic view. In reference to the concept of deep ecology and theclaim that it bearsnegatively on AR, Fox believes such claims to beunfounded. The followingtext is excerpted from "Inhumane Society", by Michael W.Fox.
DG Deep ecologists support the philosophy of preservingthe naturalabundance and diversity of plants and animals in naturalecosystems...The deep ecologists should oppose the industrialized,nonsubsistenceexploitation of wildlife because...it is fundamentallyunsound ecologically,because by favoring some species over others, populationimbalances andextinctions of undesired species would be inevitable. In their book "Deep Ecology", authors Bill Devall andGeorge Sessions...take to task animal rights philosopher Tom Regan, whowith others of likemind "expressed concern that a holistic ecologicalethic...results in akind of totalitarianism or ecological fascism"...In anappendix, however,George Sessions does suggest that philosophers need towork towardnontotalitarian solutions...and that "in all likelihood,this will requiresome kind of holistic ecological ethic in which theintegrity of allindividuals (human and nonhuman) is respected". Ironically, while the authors are so critical of theanimal rightsmovement, they quote Arne Naess (...arguably the founderof the deepecology movement)...For instance, Naess states: "Theintuition ofbiocentric equality is that all things in the biospherehave an equalright to live and blossom and to reach their own forms ofunfolding andself-realization..." Michael W. Fox (VicePresident of HSUS)SEE ALSO: #28, #59------------------INSECTS AND PLANTS-----------------------------------------#39 What about insects? Do they have rights too?----------------------- Before considering the issue of rights, let us firstaddress thequestion "What about insects?". Strictly speaking,insects are smallinvertebrate animals of the class Insecta, having anadult stage
characterized by three pairs of legs, a segmented bodywith three majordivisions, and usually two pairs of wings. Well adoptthe looserdefinition, which includes similar invertebrate animalssuch as spiders,centipedes, and ticks. Insects have a ganglionic nervous system, in contrastto the centralnervous system of vertebrates. Such a system ischaracterized by localaggregates of neurons, called ganglia, that areassociated with, andspecialized for, the body segment with which they are co-located. Thereare interconnections between ganglia but theseconnections function not somuch as a global integrating pathway, but rather forlocal segmentalcoordination. For example, the waves of leg motion thatpropagate alongthe body of a centipede are mediated by theintersegmental connections. In some species the cephalic ganglia are large andcomplex enough tosupport very complex behavior (e.g., the lobster andoctopus). Thecuttlefish (not an insect but another invertebrate with aganglionicnervous system) is claimed by some to be about asintelligent as a dog. Insects are capable of primitive learning and doexhibit what many wouldcharacterize as intelligence. Spiders are known for theirskills andcraftiness; whether this can all be dismissed as instinctis arguable.Certainly, bees can learn in a limited way. When offereda reward from aperch of a certain color, they return first to perches ofthat color. Theyalso learn the location of food and transmit thatinformation to theircolleagues. The learning, however, tends to be highlyspecialized andapplicable to only limited domains. In addition to a primitive mental life as describedabove, there is someevidence that insects can experience pain and suffering.The earthwormnervous system, for example, secretes an opiate substancewhen theearthworm is injured. Similar responses are seen invertebrates and aregenerally accepted to be a mechanism for the attenuationof pain. On theother hand, the opiates are also implicated in functionsnot associatedwith analgesia, such as thermoregulation and appetite
control. Nevertheless,the association of secretion with tissue injury is highlysuggestive. Earthworms also wriggle quite vigorously when impaledon a hook. Inpossible opposition to this are other observations. Forexample, theabdomen of a feeding wasp can be clipped off and the headmay go onsucking (presumably in no distress?). Singer quotes three criteria for deciding if anorganism has thecapacity to suffer from pain: 1) there are behavioralindications, 2)there is an appropriate nervous system, and 3) there isan evolutionaryusefulness for the experience of pain. These criteriaseem to satisfiedfor insects, if only in a primitive way. Now we are equipped to tackle the issue of insectrights. First, onemight argue that the issue is not so compelling as forother animalsbecause industries are not built around the exploitationof insects. Butthis is untrue; large industries are built around honeyproduction, silkproduction, and cochineal/carmine production, and, ofcourse, mass insectdeath results from our use of insecticides. Even if theargument weretrue, it should not prevent us from attempting to beconsistent in theapplication of our principles to all animals. Insects area part of theAnimal Kingdom and some special arguments would berequired to excludethem from the general AR argument. Some would draw a line at some level of complexity ofthe nervoussystem, e.g., only animals capable of operantconditioning need beenfranchised. Others may quarrel with this line and placeit elsewhere.Some may postulate a scale of life with an ascendingcapacity to feel painand suffer. They might also mark a cut-off on the scale,below whichrights are not actively asserted. Is the cut-off aboveinsects and thelower invertebrates? Or should there be no cut-off? Thisis one of theissues still being actively debated in the AR community. People who strive to live without cruelty will attemptto push the lineback as far as possible, giving the benefit of the doubtwhere there isdoubt. Certainly, one can avoid unnecessary cruelty toinsects.
The practical issues involved in enfranchising insectsare dealt with inthe following two questions. DG I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merelywith the beingscalled human, but I want to realize identity with alllife, even withsuch things as crawl upon earth. Mahatma Gandhi (statesmanand philosopher) What is it that should trace the insuperable line?...The questionis not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Canthey suffer? Jeremy Bentham(philosopher)SEE ALSO: #22, #40-#41, #47-----------------------#40 Do I have to be careful not to walk on ants?----------------------- The Jains of India would say yes! Some of their moredevout memberswear gauze masks to avoid inhaling and killing smallinsects andmicrobes. Regardless of how careful we are, we will cause somesuffering as aside-effect of living. The goal is to avoid unnecessarysuffering andto minimize the suffering we cause. This is a far cryfrom wanton,intentional infliction of cruelty. I refer here to thehabit of some ofpulling off insects wings for fun, or of torching acongregation ofants for pleasure. This question is an issue for the individual conscienceto decide. Perhapsone need not walk around looking out for ants on theground, but should onebe seen and it is easy to alter ones stride to avoid it,where is the harmin doing so? DGSEE ALSO: #39, #41-----------------------#41 There is some evidence of consciousness in insects;arent you descending to absurdity to tell people not to killinsects?-----------------------
Enfranchising insects does not mean it is neverjustifiable to killthem. As with all threats to a being, the rule of self-defense applies.If insects are threatening ones well-being in anontrivial way, ARphilosophy would not assert that it is wrong to eliminatethem. Pesticides and herbicides are often used for massdestruction of insectpopulations. While this might be defended on the self-defense principle,one should be aware of the significant adverse impact onthe environment,on other non-threatening animals, and indeed on our ownhealth. (Refer toquestion #59 for more on the use of insecticides.) It is not absurd to attempt to minimize the amount ofsufferingthat we inflict or cause. DG We should begin to feel for the flies and other insectsstruggling tobe free from sticky fly paper. There are humanealternatives. Michael W. Fox (VicePresident of HSUS)SEE ALSO: #39-#40, #59-----------------------#42 Isnt it hypocritical to kill and eat plants?----------------------- It would be hypocritical IF the same criteria ormorally relevantattributes that are used to justify animal rights alsoapplied toplants. The criteria cited by the AR movement are "painand suffering"and being "subjects-of-a-life". An assessment of howplants measure upto these criteria leads to the following conclusions. First, our best science to date shows that plants lackany semblanceof a central nervous system or any other system designfor such complexcapacities as that of conscious suffering from felt pain. Second, plants simply have no evolutionary need to feelpain. Animalsbeing mobile would benefit from the ability to sensepain; plants wouldnot. Nature does not gratuitously create such complexcapacities as thatof feeling pain unless there is some benefit for theorganismssurvival.
The first point is dealt with in more detail inquestions #43 and #44.The general hypocrisy argument is discussed in question#4. TASEE ALSO: #4, #39-#44-----------------------#43 But how can you prove that plants dont feel pain?----------------------- Lest we forget the ultimate point of what follows, letus not forget thecentral thesis of AR. Simply stated: to the extent otheranimals sharewith us certain morally relevant attributes, then to thatextent we conferupon them due regard and concern. The two attributes thatare arguablyrelevant are: a) our capacity for pain and suffering, andb) the capacityfor being the "subject-of-a-life", i.e., being such thatit matters to onewhether ones life fares well or ill. Both of these qualities require the existence of mentalstates. Alsonote that in order to speak of "mental states" proper, wewould denote, ascommon usage would dictate, that such states are markedby consciousness.It is insufficient to mark off mental states by only theapparent presenceof purposefulness or intentionality since, as we shallsee below, manymaterial objects possess purposeful-looking behaviors. So then, how do we properly attribute the existence ofmental states toother animals, or even to ourselves for that matter? Wecannot infer thepresence of felt pain simply by the presence of a classof behaviors thatare functional for an organisms amelioration oravoidance of noxiousstimuli. Thermostats obviously react to thermal changesin the environmentand respond in a functionally appropriate manner torestore an initial"preferred" state. We would be foolish, however, toattribute tothermostats a capability to "sense" or "feel" some kindof thermal "pain".Even placing quotes around our terms doesnt protect usfrom absurdity. Clearly, the behavioral criterion of even functionalavoidance/defensereactions is simply not sufficient nor even necessary forthe properattribution of pain as a felt mental state.
Science, including the biological sciences, arecommitted to the workingassumption of scientific materialism or physicalism (see"The MetaphysicalFoundations of Modern Science", E. A. Burtt, 1924). Wemust then startwith the generally accepted scientific assumption thatmatter is the onlyexistent or real primordial constituent of the universe. Let it be said at the outset that scientificmaterialism as such doesnot preclude the existence of emergent or functionalqualities like thatof mind, consciousness, and feeling (or even, dare I sayit, free will),but all such qualities are dependent upon the existenceof organizedmatter. If there is no hardware, there is nothing for thesoftware to runon. If there is no intact, living brain, there is nomind. It should alsobe said that even contemporary versions of dualism ormind-stuff theorieswill also make embodiment of mental states dependent onthe presence ofsufficiently organized matter. To briefly state the case, cognitive functions likeconsciousness andmind are seen as emergent properties of sufficientlyorganized matter.Just as breathing is a function of a complex system oforgans referred toas the respiratory system, so too is consciousness afunction of theimmensely complex information-processing capabilities ofa central nervoussystem. It is possible, in theory, that future computers,given asufficiently complex and orderly organization of hardwareand cleversoftware, could exhibit the requisite emergent qualities.While suchcomputers do not exist, we DO know that certain livingorganisms on thisplanet possess the requisite complexity of specializedand highlyorganized structure for the emergence of mental states. In theory, plants could possess a mental state likepain, but if, andonly if, there were a requisite complexity of organizedplant tissue thatcould serve to instantiate the higher order mental statesof consciousnessand felt pain. There is no morphological evidence that such acomplexity of tissueexists in plants. Plants lack the specialized structuresrequired foremergence of mental states. This is not to say that they