Animal Rights and Human Morality

Overview

It’s been more than two decades since the first edition of this landmark book garnered public accolades for its sensitive yet honest and forthright approach to the many disquieting questions surrounding the emotional debate over animal rights. Is moral concern something owed by human beings only to human beings?

Drawing upon his philosophical expertise, his extensive experience of working with animal issues all over the world, and his knowledge of biological science, Bernard E. ...

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Overview

It’s been more than two decades since the first edition of this landmark book garnered public accolades for its sensitive yet honest and forthright approach to the many disquieting questions surrounding the emotional debate over animal rights. Is moral concern something owed by human beings only to human beings?

Drawing upon his philosophical expertise, his extensive experience of working with animal issues all over the world, and his knowledge of biological science, Bernard E. Rollin — now widely recognized as the father of veterinary ethics — develops a compelling analysis of animal rights as it is emerging in society. The result is a sound basis for rational discussion and social policy development in this area of rapidly growing concern. He believes that society must elevate the moral status of animals and protect their rights as determined by their natures. His public speaking and published works have contributed to passage of major federal legislation designed to increase the well-being of laboratory animals.

This new third edition is greatly expanded and includes a new chapter on animal agriculture, plus additional discussions of animal law, companion animal issues, genetic engineering, animal pain, animal research, and many other topics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Animal Rights and Human Morality is as relevant and important today as it was when first published. And just as necessary, for despite all we know about the minds and especially the feelings of animals, routine abuse of animals continues. Peppered with countless stories of his encounters with tough stockmen and steely laboratory workers, Rollin’s voice is an important one in the struggle for animal rights. Rollins brings a philosopher’s voice of reason to the often heated debate about cruelty to animals."
Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE
Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute, and UN Messenger of Peace www.janegoodall.org
Journal of the American Medical Association
"Professor Rollin is a serious man with an important message. He asks us not only to recognize that those who use animals have obligations for their care and respect, but also to translate this recognition into new habits. What he asks is reasonable and timely."
Booknews
Rollin's compelling analysis of animal rights was first published in 1981. Subsequent public and professional debate has helped to sharpen his earlier ideas, taking into account new research and important recent arguments from advocates on various sides of this issue. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591024217
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard E. Rollin (Fort Collins, CO), University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University, is also a professor of philosophy, professor of biomedical sciences, professor of animal sciences, and university bioethicist at the same institution. Rollins is the author of fourteen books and over three hundred articles and is the principal architect of 1985 federal legislation dealing with the welfare of experimental animals.

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Read an Excerpt

ANIMAL RIGHTS & HUMAN MORALITY


By Bernard E. Rollin

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2006 Bernard E. Rollin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59102-421-7


Chapter One

MORAL THEORY AND ANIMALS

INTRODUCTION

Ever since human beings began to think in a systematic, ordered fashion, they have been fascinated by moral questions, for it is upon morality that the possibility of all cultural advances depends. Few of us confronting the Dialogues of Plato, the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, the Bible, or the Talmud fail to experience a sense of awe at the breadth and depth of moral theorizing initiated in Athens and Jerusalem, and at the timeless nature of the questions addressed. If, as Thomas Hobbes remarked, leisure is the mother of philosophy, it is surely natural philosophy of which this is most true, for civilization itself is the mother of moral philosophy. At all stages of the development of human thought, mirrored in the development of each human child, questions of right and wrong, good and bad, emerge and cannot be avoided. With the origin of medicine in Greece, for example, came questions of medical ethics, not as a separate area of study, but as part and parcel of the thought of the school of the physician, now known as Hippocrates, whose oath eloquently bespeaks the unity of medicine and morality. And so it has been with morality and law, moralityand politics, morality and art, and so forth. In our post-industrial age of specialization and analysis, we have often tried to bury these questions as "unanswerable" or to shunt them off to be dealt with by "experts," or worse, by theologians, but they always reemerge, for they are as inseparable from culture as life itself.

Yet despite the perennial presence of ethical questions, and the perennial writings of those individuals who articulated these questions for their own age, Western thought has been characterized by a major omission, an omission so pervasive as to have become essentially invisible. Though the child's mind invariably frames this question, it is forgotten as we grow up, repressed by some strange mechanism that allows us to ignore what makes us uncomfortable. To be good philosophers, Thomas Reid reminded us in the eighteenth century, we must become again as children and allow ourselves to wonder. For the question is indeed childlike in its simplicity and profundity:

Why do we restrict our moral theorizing and the practices that follow in its wake to human beings?

What makes something an object of moral attention, worthy of being spoken of in the moral tone of voice?

What brings a thing into the moral arena; what makes it an object of moral concern?

Is moral concern something owed by human beings only to human beings? Certainly twenty-five hundred years of moral philosophy have tended to suggest that this is the case, surprisingly enough, not by systematic argument, but simply by taking it for granted. Yet this answer is by no means obvious, and it crumbles when exposed to the most childlike question of all, "Why?" Few thinkers have come to grips with the question of what makes a thing a moral object, and again, one wonders why. Philosophers have, after all, devoted much attention to proving that motion is impossible, that time is unreal, that change is an illusion, that the mind exists in the brain, that the brain exists in the mind, that God must be one or three or a committee, that there are neither minds nor bodies, and so forth. Surely the question of the moral status of nonhuman beings, of whether animals are direct objects of moral concern, is at least as legitimate a subject for inquiry. Yet, as we shall see, few thinkers have addressed this issue, and those who have done so have done it in a way that will not stand up to rational scrutiny. What has prompted our ignoring of this question? Perhaps a cultural bias that sees animals as tools, in Martin Heidegger's phrase, "ready at hand" to be used by us. Or, perhaps, a sense of guilt, mixed with a fear of where the argument may lead. For if it turns out that reason requires that other animals are as much within the scope of moral concern as are humans, we must view our entire history as well as all aspects of our daily lives from a new perspective. When Nicolaus Copernicus moved the center of the universe, the core of our existence was untouched. Whether or not the Earth is at the center of the universe, we eat, sleep, and work. But if animals must be brought under the umbrella of moral concern and deliberation, the comfortable sense of right and wrong, which securely governs our everyday existence, is no longer tenable, and we can no longer eat, sleep, and work in the same untroubled way.

MORAL INTUITIONS AND MORAL THEORY

How does one answer this question? As with most moral questions, we are inclined to start with our moral intuitions, our "gut feelings" about right and wrong, and the scope of morality. Whether ethical intuitions are inborn, socially conditioned, or parentally instilled, we all have such feelings. When such intuitions are virtually universal, ethical theorizing proceeds most easily, for at least all tentatively agree with the raw material. So, for example, virtually all of us share the intuition that it is wrong to boil babies for fun (our babies or anyone else's), though perhaps many of us could not provide a very articulate defense of that intuition. When it comes, however, to the moral status of animals, our intuitions are mixed and inchoate and inconsistent: for example, we may feel that our dog is an object of moral concern but not our neighbors', and they in turn may feel just the opposite. Or we may feel that it is not immoral to chain a dog, provided the chain is not too short. Or we may feel it is fine to kill ten Siberian tigers as long as they are not the last ten Siberian tigers. Or we may feel that it is legitimate to kill an animal "for its own good," while also feeling that the ultimate value for any living thing is life. Historically, we find the Catholic Church denying that animals have souls, yet excommunicating them. (In the Middle Ages, a horde of locusts was excommunicated in France for destroying crops!) We find secular society denying that animals are free agents, yet putting them on trial. In his book, Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, M. P. Evans chronicles these extraordinary proceedings, which continued into the nineteenth century. As early as 1697, Pierre Bayle, the great skeptic, marveled at this absurdity in his Historical and Critical Dictionary.

Fortunately for all ethical thought, intuitions are just a starting point. We begin with our intuitions; proceed to construct theories that explain, justify, and ground these intuitions; and most interestingly, we oftentimes change our intuitions on the basis of our theories. For example, many of my ethics students begin with the intuition that there is nothing immoral about telling a "little white lie." After reading Immanuel Kant on ethics, however, they often tend to modify that intuition on the basis of Kant's powerful theoretical argument that all lying, whatever the purpose, is immoral and irrational. Or, to take a more personal example, throughout much of my adult life I have had strong intuitions about abortion, namely, that abortion is essentially a matter of a woman's control over her own body, and thus I had no feelings that it was immoral. As I began to theorize about the moral status of animals, it was pointed out to me that many of my arguments extending the scope of moral concern to animals applied equally well to unborn children. In the face of these arguments, I was led to new intuitions more consonant with my general theory.

Thus, the relationship between intuitions and theory proceeds dialectically, each modifying the other. A strong analogy exists here between ethics and science. Just as intuitions lead to ethical theories that modify intuitions, so perceptions too give rise to scientific theories that may in turn modify our perceptions. Consider primitive people who see, as do children, the sun and the moon as small objects, not far away. They develop theories about these objects, test them, find them wanting, and conclude that they are large objects, far away. With this new theory, perception changes, and the sun and moon are seen differently. Or think of how one's perception of other people's remarks changes after one first encounters the theoretical notion of a "Freudian slip." One of my colleagues recounts the story of the nervous, male adolescent student who stands up in a literature class and quotes the line, "The best planned lays of mice and men gang oft aglay." Another of my colleagues recalls with amusement his response to a worried, buxom coed seeking solace about the final examination: "Don't worry, just do your breast."

When dealing with the question of the moral status of animals, our intuitions, both individual and societal, as we have seen, send mixed messages. So we must turn to theoretical accounts in the hope of finding some stable conceptual framework for tethering our intuitions or for cultivating new ones. Unfortunately, as we indicated, few moral theorists have directly addressed the question in any detail. Yet an examination of some of the standard grounds for excluding animals from the scope of moral concern may well give us the clue for arriving at a satisfactory account.

FINDING A FULCRUM-THE NEED FOR AN IDEAL

It is patent that both traditional moral theory and traditional moral practice have failed to deal adequately with the moral status of animals. In the face of such disregard, how can one make rational progress on both the theoretical and practical fronts pertaining to the treatment of animals we so depend upon in society? Wherein lies the fulcrum for levering change? One is, of course, free to approach the question de novo and to generate an ethical theory for animals ex nihilo. Such a strategy presents an almost irresistible temptation to creative philosophers, to soar unfettered in ethics as they have soared in metaphysics.

Yet to succumb to this temptation would be socially irresponsible. As Kant realized, ethical theory cannot soar unfettered, but must be tethered to common sense, common practice, and ordinary moral experience. If our ethical account of human moral obligation to animals cannot effect sympathetic resonance in the hearts and, even more so, in the minds, and ultimately in the practices of those in society to whom it is addressed, then it is of no value. Like a good motor, a good piece of moral philosophy should not only spin freely, but it should also move something. Similarly, our ethical account must speak not only, or even primarily, to the converted, to those already convinced in their hearts that we owe more to animals than we have provided, but even more important, to those not so convinced.

This was the dilemma I faced when I began to work in the area of animal ethics in the mid-1970s. On the one hand, I could get little help from extant social behavior and established moral theory because they essentially ignored animals. On the other hand, I could not merely generate my own ideal ethic for animals, for, however elegant I might find it, why would it be at all persuasive to others? Yet it seemed to me imperative that we in society have an articulated and shared ideal for the treatment of animals, as we do for the treatment of humans. To be sure, we do not always live up to our ideal for treating people, because of lack of resources, weakness of will, selfishness, and the like. We do not really treat people equally; all sorts of prejudices color that ideal. But we try, and we judge ourselves remiss when we fail. An ethic is a yardstick, a measure of where we are deficient, or a target to aim at that sharpens our skill. As Aristotle put it in stressing the need for an ideal:

Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like an archer who has a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?

Without an ideal, we confuse the way things are with the way things ought to be, and we are smug and complacent. Only by having an ideal to move toward can we progress beyond the status quo. It is by referring to the ideal of equality that we were able to achieve progress for blacks, women, and other minorities in the past few decades. It is by appeal to the ideal of fairness that we redistribute income, or share our wealth.

Similarly, we stand in desperate need of an ethical ideal for the treatment of animals in society. As we shall see later in our discussion, the closest we have come to an ideal for the treatment of animals is the notion embodied in what I have called the Presley Principle-"Don't be cruel"-which essentially enjoins us not to maliciously, willfully, or sadistically hurt animals for no purpose. Such an approach is basically flawed. For one thing, it describes our obligations to animals solely in terms of what is prohibited but is silent on our positive obligations to them. Second, it assumes that animal abuse is a matter of intentional cruelty, something patently not the case. Most animal agriculturalists, animal researchers, hunters, trappers, circus people, rodeo cowboys, zoo managers, and others who use animals are not cruel. They are decent people trying to make a living, advance human welfare, or pursue some other natural human goal; or else they are trapped by habit, tradition, training, lack of thought, or improper education. Yet, in pursuit of these goals, they cause incalculable amounts of animal suffering. The overwhelming majority of animal suffering is not the result of cruelty. Therefore, the injunction to avoid cruelty is largely irrelevant to the treatment of animals in society. At the same time, restricting one's moral vocabulary to "cruelty" in assessing the treatment of animals leads to a situation where those who are concerned about animals tar all those who cause animal suffering with the same brush, be they dog fighters or medical researchers; if they cause animal suffering, they are ipso facto "cruel." Over the years, I have given hundreds of lectures on animal ethics to a huge variety of groups. At some point during the lecture, I always ask the audience the following question: "Suppose I draw a pie chart representing all the suffering that animals experience at human hands. How much of that chart represents the results of intentional cruelty of the sort singled out by the anticruelty ethic and laws?" Whether I am speaking to animal activists at San Francisco State College or the Northern Rodeo Association in Billings, Montana, the answer is invariably the same: "One percent, i.e., a very tiny slice." In short, when reminded, most people recognize that cruelty is not the main component of why animals suffer!

By the same token, the paired exhortations to "be kind to animals" or to "love animals" are equally misdirected. Kindness suggests that the proper treatment of animals represents an overflowing of benevolence on the part of human beings rather than a duty or moral obligation binding on them. (Imagine someone suggesting that women should have equal access to educational opportunities only because we should "be kind to women"!)

In the absence of a rationally based, shared ethical ideal for the treatment of animals, the categories of kindness and cruelty are asked to bear far more weight than they are structurally capable of doing, and a social vacuum is created that is filled by emotion, sentiment, and much debate with little social awareness. Polarization inevitably occurs, with animal advocates stereotyping animal users as sadists, and with animal users seeing animal advocates as sentimental, misanthropic "bunny huggers." Social policy resulting from such polarization is inevitably irrational as well. Thus, when the Animal Welfare Act, allegedly designed to protect laboratory animals, was passed in 1966, it covered only cute and cuddly animals. According to the language of the act, as we shall discuss in detail later, a dead dog is an animal while a live mouse or rat is not.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from ANIMAL RIGHTS & HUMAN MORALITY by Bernard E. Rollin Copyright © 2006 by Bernard E. Rollin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface to the Third Edition...................................................................15
Original Preface to the Second Edition.........................................................21
Updated Preface to the First Edition...........................................................27
1. MORAL THEORY AND ANIMALS Introduction...................................................................................33
Moral Intuitions and Moral Theory..............................................................35
Finding a Fulcrum-The Need for an Ideal........................................................37
Constructing an Ideal for Animals..............................................................40
Having a Soul..................................................................................44
Relevant Differences...........................................................................45
Human Dominion.................................................................................46
Duties toward Animals as Duties toward Humans..................................................48
Reason, Language, and Moral Concern............................................................49
Social Contract Theories.......................................................................51
Kant's Theory of Reason........................................................................57
Kant's Ethic...................................................................................58
Humans as "Ends in Themselves".................................................................59
Animals asMeans...............................................................................60
Language and Reason............................................................................61
The Ordinary Notion of Rationality.............................................................65
Do Animals Behave Rationally?..................................................................66
Are Only Humans "Language-Rational"?-Do Animals Use Concepts?..................................67
Animals and Human Language.....................................................................71
Moral Concern and Nonrational Humans...........................................................71
Our Concern for Nonrational Human Interests....................................................73
The Moral Relevance of Pleasure and Pain.......................................................74
Scientific Ideology and the Denial of Animal Pain and Consciousness............................76
A Critique of Scientific Ideology..............................................................84
Variability of Pain Experience in Humans and Animals...........................................91
Interest in Survival and Freedom...............................................................94
Moral Concern and Creatures with Interests.....................................................95
Interests, Language, and Natural Signs.........................................................96
Life and Awareness as the Source of Interests: The Telos of Living Things......................99
Interests and Awareness........................................................................101
Moral Theory and Our Worldview.................................................................105
Do Animals Have "Moral Rights"?................................................................108
The Right to Moral Concern.....................................................................109
The Right to Life..............................................................................110
The Violation of Rights........................................................................114
Animals as Ends in Themselves..................................................................116
Specific Rights and Animals Nature.............................................................117
Telos and Ethology.............................................................................120
Telos and Genetic Engineering..................................................................124
Where Do You Draw the Line?....................................................................129
How Do We Deal with Competing Interests?.......................................................130
Must We Police Creation?.......................................................................135
Don't Animals Kill Each Other?.................................................................136
The Nonliving Environment......................................................................136
Don't We Have Enough Problems with Human Morality?.............................................141
Isn't All This Utopian?........................................................................141
2. ANIMAL RIGHTS AND LEGAL RIGHTS How Are Law and Morality Connected?............................................................143
Natural Law Theory.............................................................................144
Natural Rights.................................................................................145
The Rejection of Natural Law and Natural Rights: Legal Positivism..............................146
The Revival of Natural Rights..................................................................147
Rights Are a Protection for the Individual against the General Welfare.........................150
How Rights Are Established.....................................................................152
How Does This Relate to Animals?...............................................................153
Don't Animals Have Legal Rights Now?...........................................................155
Do Animals Need Rights? Their Legal Status Today...............................................155
Legalizing the Rights of Animals...............................................................162
What Can We Expect to Achieve?.................................................................166
Is Our Position Absurd?........................................................................169
Legal Rights of Animals Today..................................................................170
3. THE USE AND ABUSE OF ANIMALS IN RESEARCH Introduction...................................................................................175
The Six Senses of Research.....................................................................177
Moral Principles for Research: The Utilitarian and Rights Principles...........................180
Introduction to the Testing of Consumables.....................................................184
The LD50 Test..................................................................................185
The Draize Test................................................................................190
Carcinogen, Mutagen, and Teratogen Testing.....................................................194
The Concept of Alternatives to Animal Experimentation..........................................196
The Use of Animals in Teaching.................................................................198
Research Abuse and the Training of Scientists..................................................201
The Debasement of Language in Science..........................................................206
Creating a Revolution in Science Education-Some Personal Notes.................................208
Introduction to the Use of Animals in Basic Research...........................................217
Freedom of Thought versus the Moral Status of Animals..........................................218
The Use of "Alternatives" in Basic Research....................................................221
Theory-based Science versus Empirical Dabbling.................................................222
Improving the Lot of Research Animals..........................................................227
The Emergence of Viable Legislation............................................................231
Positive Features of the New Laws..............................................................236
Distress.......................................................................................241
Limitations and Inadequacies in the New Laws...................................................246
Animal Happiness...............................................................................250
Threats to the Current Regulatory System.......................................................252
The Role of Humanists in Science...............................................................267
Introduction to the Use of Animals in Applied Medical Research.................................269
The Focus of Medical Research and Practice: Some Philosophical Reflections.....................272
Introduction to the Use of Animals in Drug Research............................................276
Introduction to the Use of Animals for Product Extraction......................................280
Conclusion.....................................................................................283
4. MORALITY AND PET ANIMALS Morality, Empathy, and Individuality...........................................................285
The Triggering of Empathy......................................................................286
Pet Animals and the Social Contract............................................................289
The Changing Role of Companion Animals in Society..............................................292
Human Breach of Contract.......................................................................296
Violating the Right to Life....................................................................297
The Human Tragedy..............................................................................299
Violation of Telos.............................................................................300
Canine Racism..................................................................................306
Social Institutions as a Mirror of Individual Irresponsibility.................................307
Viable Legislation and the Pet Problem.........................................................311
The Need for an Educational Blitzkrieg.........................................................318
The Role of Animal Advocacy....................................................................319
The Role of Veterinarians......................................................................323
5. ANIMAL AGRICULTURE Introduction...................................................................................329
Husbandry Agriculture..........................................................................330
The Rise of Industrialized Agriculture.........................................................332
Welfare and Productivity.......................................................................335
Problems of Industrialized Agriculture.........................................................336
Sow Confinement................................................................................339
Other Problems in Confinement Swine Production.................................................347
Piglet Welfare.................................................................................349
Grower-Finishers...............................................................................351
Handling and Transport.........................................................................352
Recommendations................................................................................353
Egg Production.................................................................................354
Broiler Production.............................................................................355
Dairy..........................................................................................356
Veal...........................................................................................356
Husbandry versus Industry-Beef.................................................................358
Welfare Problems in the Beef Industry..........................................................360
Feedlots.......................................................................................362
What Is to Be Done?............................................................................362
Afterword to the Second Edition................................................................369
Afterword to the Third Edition.................................................................371
Bibliography...................................................................................373
Index..........................................................................................381
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