Animal Ethics website launch

animalethicsweb

This is great news! Animal Ethics has just launched its website. And the best part of it is that actually the site is not to remain like this, but will be further developed. In fact a brand new site will be up soon, in March.

Animal Ethics aims at doing research and outreach work aimed at addressing speciesism, and also at providing resources for other organizations and individuals concerned about issues in animal ethics, animal sentience and the situation of nonhuman animals.

Don’t hesitate to visit it and to get in touch if you’re interested in volunteering.

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Can Nonhuman Animals Have Intentional States?

A new issue on the journal of analytic philosophy Methode: Analytic Perspectives went out this year, on “New perspectives for the Philosophy of Cognitive Science“. It has been edited by Domenica Bruni and Leonardo Caffo.

In it you’ll find a paper on the reasons to claim nonhuman animals can have intentional states, as well as on some related matters. This is the summary of the paper:

According to a set of arguments initially defended by Frey and Davidson, nonhuman animals cannot have intentional states such as beliefs or desires because they lack language and metacognition. In Frey’s preferencialist view, this would entail that nonhuman animals cannot be significantly morally considerable. This paper argues that since not only sentences but also beliefs can be truth tracking, distinguishing truth for falsehood is possible without mastering a language. It also claims that Frey and Davidson’s arguments fail to prove that webs of beliefs and desires cannot be legitimally attributed to nonhuman animals, even if we cannot specify in detail the de dicto content of those intentional states. Finally, it argues that Frey’s version of the preference satisfaction theory is pluralistic and problematic.

The paper is more technical than others that have been posted here, anyway I hope it can be of some interest at least to some of you. Oh, and by the way, please excuse all the linguistic slips I guess it has, which are due to the fact that rush didn’t allow the paper to go through a process of native English-speakers proofreading. You can read the paper here:

Metacognition, Language and the Preference Satisfaction Theory: Can Nonhuman Animals Have Intentional States?

The moral status of animals in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics

An ambitious collective work on ethics, the International Encyclopedia of Ethics, which has been edited under the supervision of Hugh LaFollette, has been recently published by Wiley. Some of its entries are available online. I have written an entry for this encyclopedia, which you can read and download here:

Moral Status of Animals

The encyclopedia also includes several other entries on issues having to do with nonhuman animals, as well as on other topics closely related.

 

Celebrating predation II: disregarding the agony of animals

In a previous post, I presented an example of the ways in which many humans lack any concern for nonhuman animals suffering and dying for natural reasons. In this post I’m going to present some more examples of such speciesist attitudes. I won’t describe them, but post some videos showing this attitude displayed. To be honest, I find them just horrible, but my intention in showing them here is, of course, not just to claim they are terrible to watch. Rather, I’d like to promote some reflection on the question of whether we should be indifferent to the suffering of wild animals, even when it’s due to natural causes.

There are many other similar videos on the internet. If we find them repugnant, I think we have to reject the celebration of predation and the disturbing disregard for the plight of wild animals they imply.

In this video, we can see how another person is thrilled about how a centipede he has as a pet kills a mouse he puts in his or her cage.

And in this other one, we can see the same attitude with a mouse that is killed to feed a carnivorous plant (that is not even a sentient being).

In this other video, a couple of guys send a wasp to death by throwing it to a spider net just to see how the spider captures and kills this insect. This animal moves and twists as the spider is eating her body alive, while the guys comment how great that situation is.

I hope these gruesome images will encourage us to question the attitude of celebration of predation that is so common nowadays.

To those interested in this, some texts that question this attitude and reflect on the ethics of our position towards many natural processes can be seen  in this list that was published before in this blog. One of the papers that deals with this question is this one. Luckily, there is a growing number of people now concerned with this issue, as one can see in this recently created fb page.

Publications in English on the suffering of animals in the wild and the ways to help them

The suffering and death of animals in nature is an important question in animal ethics. This is a list with several papers and books that have addressed this question. Some of them are in favor of aiding animals in need of help in the wild, while others reject that we should do anything for them. I’ll try to update this list every now and then as new works are published. I hope this will be useful to those interested in this issue.

Publications in English on wild animal suffering and intervention

Talks in Slovenia on veganism and animal rights

Thanks to several great activists in Slovenia, such as Sara Stuva andTeja Brooks Pribac, this week I’ll be giving two talks on veganism and animals rights there. I’ll speak about the ethics of veganism in Koper on Thu 26th at the Faculty of Humanities at 18:30 while a great vegan dinner is served. And on Fri 27th, we’ll have a meeting to discuss animal rights activism in Tivoli Park at 17:00. We’ll enjoy a nice vegan picnic there too!
I must express my gratitude to Sara, Teja and the rest of the Slovenian activists who have made this possible. Thank you!

Debunking the idyllic view of natural processes

I have published a paper which aims at showing the way in which population dynamics increase to shocking levels the suffering and premature death that there is in nature.

Many people think that animal ethics entails respect for natural processes, on the assumption that nonhuman animals are able to live relatively easy and happy lives in the wild. Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong. The reason has to do with population dynamics. The most widespread reproductive strategy in nature is called r-selection. This strategy entails that the overwhelming majority of nonhuman animals die shortly after they come into existence, and they do so in painful ways. They starve or are eaten alive, which means their suffering vastly outweighs their happiness. The amount of harm nonhuman animals endure due to this is just dreadful.

If we think that nonhuman animals are morally considerable individuals there is no way in which we can dismiss this. If there are ways in which we may help them and reduce such a tremendous amount of harm that occurs in nature, we should do it. There are many who may find this conclusion very counter-intuitive at first. However, would we reject it if instead of nonhuman animals, the victims of misery and early death were humans? Hardly so. This entails that this conclusion, even if counter-intuitive, can only be rejected from a speciesist and callous viewpoint which completely disregards the plight of all these animals.

You can download the paper here:

Debunking the Idyllic View of Natural Processes: Population Dynamics and Suffering in the Wild

The paper appeared in the journal Télos, vol. 17, 2010, 73–88, in its special issue on animal ethics. The published version of the paper can be downloaded here.

Seminars at Lisbon, Coventry and Oxford on the Ethics of Helping Animals Suffering in Nature

I’ll soon be giving three seminars at Lisbon, Oxford and Coventry on the question of the harms that nonhuman animals suffer due to natural causes. Many people are unaware of such harms. However, they are often terrible to nonhuman animals. I claim that in those cases in which we can help animals without causing a bigger harm it would be a very good thing to do it. This is just what most of us think in the case of human beings, so defending a different view for nonhuman animals, which would be harmful for them, is speciesist. Here’s the info of the seminars: Continuar leyendo “Seminars at Lisbon, Coventry and Oxford on the Ethics of Helping Animals Suffering in Nature”

Animals in Society Conference

On March 10th I will be visiting the UK to attend the conference Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society, which will take place at the University of Exeter. I’m looking forward to it! You can check the whole programme of the event here. So if you can attend this conference, don’t miss the opportunity.

Among other activists, representatives from Animal Equality will be there. I want to thank them since they are the ones who have encouraged and helped me to attend this conference, so thanks for the invite!

You can find below the abstract of the talk I will be giving at this conference:

Disregarding Sentient Beings: Speciesism and Environmentalism

The ethics of antispeciesist animal activism defends the consideration of all sentient beings. Environmentalism, instead, claims that what we should consider are ecosystemic relations and other natural entities, even if they aren’t sentient. For this reason, it approves of sacrificing sentient beings if it benefits environmental balances.

This has significant consequences that are very harmful for nonhuman animals. A clear example of this is the politics of “culling” wild animals that are considered “invasive” or too populous, as encouraged by the Sierra Club and many other groups. Other examples include the support given to “natural” forms of hunting by Greenpeace or the campaign the WWF has ran for years to promote massive animal experimentation to test potentially environmentally harmful chemicals.

Environmentalism also disregards the interests of nonhuman animals when they are in need of help. Environmentalism advocates aiding some animals in nature only when they belong to certain (environmentally interesting) species. But when other animals are involved, they oppose helping them, often claiming that doing so wouldn’t be “natural” (even though intervention to cull or save certain animals is not “natural” either). Antispeciesists disagree with this. Note that, although many people have idyllic views of how nonhuman animals fare in nature, the fact is that they endure severe hardships and often suffer and die in situations in which it might be feasible to help them. Antispeciesist concern for individual animals favours helping them in these situations if doing so doesn’t cause some greater harm to others.

Note that environmentalists don’t favour the massive killing of humans for the sake of biocenotic or ecosystemic processes. Neither do they reject helping humans in need of aid in nature even if that’s not “natural”. But they assume a completely different perspective when nonhuman animals are affected. This is due to their speciesist viewpoint.

Disvalue in nature and intervention

Some time ago I wrote a paper in which I presented the following thought experiment: Suppose there is a rabbit and a fox that is about to capture and eat her. We are witnessing this, and we have two rations of vegan food. We consider what to do. Among the different ways in which we could act there are the following three ones: (1) We eat one of the rations of vegan food and see how the fox catches and eats the rabbit. (2) We give the fox one ration of our vegan food and we kill and eat the rabbit ourselves. (3) We give the fox one ration of our vegan food, we eat the other one and the rabbit runs free to live her life. Continuar leyendo “Disvalue in nature and intervention”

The idea of moral personhood under fire

Next week, on November the 10th and the 11th, there will be a philosophy conference at the FLUP, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto (Portugal). You can check the complete program of the conference here. The conference is organized by the Mind Language and Action Group.

I will be speaking at this conference. You can find below an abstract of the talk I will be giving. It’s a long abstract, which presents the main arguments why I think we should get rid of the concept of moral personhood, in particular given the way it’s currently understood.

The idea of moral personhood under fire

The concept of moral personhood plays a central role in a number of ethical theories. It is used to distinguish those entities that have certain capacities that are morally relevant. In these theories, moral persons always have moral status. According to some views, only persons are morally considerable. According to others, they deserve some special consideration other entities are not worthy of.

The capacities that render an entity a moral person are usually believed to be the same ones that make it a person in a metaphysical sense. But these are not the only two meanings of the word ‘person’. The term is also used in the legal realm to refer to those entities that have the capacity to sue. As we all know, it is also used in common language to refer to those beings that belong to the human species.

It is commonly assumed that persons in the metaphysical, legal, moral and common sense meanings coincide, that is, that they are the same entities. The picture that results from this is one in which humans (and only humans) are entities of a certain kind, the kind of beings that are morally considerable or deserve special moral consideration.

This entire picture is untenable.

First, the domain that the term ‘person’ has in common language and in the moral, legal and the metaphysical realms differ significantly. There are legal persons who are not metaphysical ones or moral ones, there are legal, metaphysical and moral persons who are not human beings, and there are humans who are not moral or metaphysical persons.

Second, the division between animals and persons, which is often made in theories of personal identity, is confusing, since it may lead us to think nonhuman animals are not persons. According to this view, animals are somatic entities while persons are psychological ones. But we have every reason to believe that nonhuman animals who have mental states are metaphysical persons.

Third, the capacities that are relevant when deciding who deserves moral consideration are possessed not only by human beings, but also by other conscious animals.

Fourth, the whole idea of moral status should be rejected. If the concept of moral status were simply a synonym of “moral consideration”, it would be a superfluous one. However, it is commonly used in a different way, to claim that those individuals who have certain capacities that grant personhood are to be morally considered in a privileged way. Against this view, what we should take into account is simply the weight of the morally relevant interests different individuals have. This renders the idea of moral personhood either superfluous or unjustified.

Podcast at Animal Rights Zone

Some days ago I was invited by Animal Rights Zone to be a guest at one of their discussion sessions. In it, we discussed a bunch of topics, from animal ethics and the situation of the antispeciesist movement in Spain to the strategies of vegan education and helping animals suffering in nature.

I’m very thankful for this opportunity to the ARZone team, who had already given me before another opportunity to discuss my view in a Live Chat Session (also transcribed here) six months ago.

I hope you find the podcast interesting. You can listen to it here:
Animal Rights Zone Podcast on Anti-Speciesism

Clarifications on “What Is Speciesism?”

In a recent post in Animal Rights Zone, Paul Hansen has presented several objections to the account of speciesism I present in my paper “What Is Speciesism?” (which can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 23 (3), 243-266 and can be read and downloaded here). [*]

I am honored by the attention that Hansen has given to my paper, and want to thank him for his challenging criticisms, which provides me with the opportunity of further clarifying the views expressed in the paper. I am also very thankful to Animal Rights Zone for providing a forum in which these issues can be discussed.

Hansen’s interesting  objections cover several issues, which I will examine and respond to in turn. First, I will examine those objections that are related to my examination of different moral positions. Second, I will examine the objections that have to do with definitions of the concepts I use.

You can also download these clarifications as a pdf file here.

Continuar leyendo “Clarifications on “What Is Speciesism?””

80’s and 90’s numbers of Between the Species and Ethics and Animals available online

Good news for those interested in doing research in animal ethics. The print editions of the journal Between the Species, which appeared between 1985 and 1996, are now available online, hosted by California Polytechnic State University (and thanks to the work of the journal’s current editor, Joe Lynch). You can download them from here: Between the Species

Moreover, they have also uploaded the issues of the journal which anteceded Between the Species, that is, Ethics and Animals, published between 1980 and 1984.  As far as I know, that was the first journal ever published on ethics and animals (so the journal’s name is certainly germane). You can download them from here: Ethics and Animals

Celebrating predation and making fun of the agony of animals in nature

In a previous post, I presented an article by ethicist Jeff McMahan on the issue of natural harms and predation. In it, McMahan argued that the fact that nonhuman animals suffer and die in nature is a very important issue that deserves our attention. I agree.

Most people’s attitude towards natural evils, and in particular predation, is a rather simplistic one. In fact, most people tend to see these evils as something good. In this post, I want to present an example of this attitude. It’s something we can see very clearly in this loathsome video:

This ghastly attitude of celebration of predation and other natural processes which means death and suffering for animals is at odds with the moral consideration of their interests.

There is a widespread view of nature as a pristine idyllic place in which animals live in paradisiacal conditions. This, unfortunately, is wrong. The scene this video shows is everyday life in nature.

We should definitely go beyond the disgusting attitude of celebration of animal suffering and death in nature displayed in this video. In order to do that, we should start by acknowledging that animals suffer terribly and die in many different ways in nature. There is no reason to keep this fact hidden. It is something we should be able to consider. Insofar as we are concerned with the interests of sentient beings, we should not dismiss this issue.

In fact, we should be able to change our view of natural processes and our attitude toward it. I really think that this is an issue we should think about.

Live Chat at Animal Rights Zone

On March 19th I was honored by Animal Rights Zone to be a guest at one of their great Live Chat sessions. We had a terrific time discussing many interesting issues, including speciesism, egalitarianism, the strategies of the antispeciesist movement, the question of whether we should help animals living in the wild, the problem of what are the conditions for being sentient, and many other topics.

You can read the transcript of the chat in the ARZone transcripts site or at the main ARZone site. In order to have access to ARZone main site you need to sign up. I’d like to encourage you to do so. If you’re concerned with animal rights and speciesism and are interested in debating with other people who are also concerned with this, ARZone is an excellent place to do it!

I’d like to thank the amazing team that runs ARZone for this opportunity to discuss so many important issues. I also want to thank all those who (for more than five hours!) attended the chat.

It was a most interesting and pleasing chat session. Thanks so much for your challenging questions!

McMahan on natural evils

Some months ago, ethicist Jeff McMahan published an interesting piece on predation in the NY Times with the title “The Meat Eaters”.

The comments on the paper in the Times were terribly poor and simplistic (many of them by people who had clearly not read the paper, or had not really understood the view presented in it).  However, a very interesting discussion on the paper took place at the web of the On the Human project.

McMahan has also written a response in the Times in which he explains in more detail the kind of view he has been arguing for. Continuar leyendo “McMahan on natural evils”

Interview for Fuente Vegana translated into English

Fuente Vegana is a great site about veganism and antispeciesism in Spanish. In 2009 they published an interview with me there. The questions they made were, in my view, very interesting and challenging. Fuente Vegana has translated this interview into English. You can read it here:

Interview for Fuente Vegana (English)

You can also read the original interview in Spanish here.