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.

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?””

Interview for Fuente Vegana translated into German

As I’ve previously written in this blog, Fuente Vegana, which is a great site about veganism and antispeciesism in Spanish, has published an interview with me in their blog. Fuente Vegana has also translated this interview into German. You can read it here:

Interview for Fuente Vegana (German)

You can also read the original interview in Spanish here, and in English here.

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.

The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature

Humans often intervene in the wild for anthropocentric or environmental reasons. An example of such interventions is the reintroduction of wolves in places where they no longer live in order to create what has been called an “ecology of fear”, which is being currently discussed in places such as Scotland. I have written a paper in which I discuss the reasons for this measure and argue that they are not compatible with a nonspeciesist approach.

In it I also claim that if we abandon a speciesist viewpoint we should change completely the way in which we should intervene in nature. Rather than intervening for environmental or anthropocentric reasons, we should do it in order to reduce the harms that nonhuman animals suffer. This conflicts significantly with some fundamental environmental ideals whose defence is not compatible with the consideration of the interests of nonhuman animals.

You can read and download the paper here:

The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature

I’m glad the paper has been published in Between the Species, a great journal on animal ethics and other issues related, as its website reads, “to the philosophical examination of the relationship between human beings and other animals”.

What Is Speciesism?

I recently got a paper on the concept of speciesism published in the The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. The journal’s final version of the paper is here. The paper tries to clarify in some detail what is speciesism, as well as to classify the different ways in which it is defended and to distinguish it from other concepts related to it.

You can download the paper here:

What Is Speciesism?

Questions of Priority and Interspecies Comparisons of Happiness

This paper tries to compare the current situation in which humans and those nonhuman animals raised to be eaten are. I’ve been working in different drafts of this paper for the last three years. Unfortunately, this is not going to be the last version of it yet. The data needs to be updated, and there are some other things in the paper that need to be fixed. But it seems that we’re getting close to it. I hope to finish it in a couple of months or so. So I’d be really grateful for any comments and criticisms of the paper. You can publish them here or send them to OHorta (a) dilemata.net

Questions of Priority and Interspecies Comparisons of Happiness

(Please note it’s a very heavy file—around 10MB—since it has lots of graphics. So it may take some time to download).