How much should animals count, morally? Can we defend the continued use of nonhuman animals for food, labor, entertainment, and research? In this landmark contribution to a debate that has raged since the 1970s, ethicist Paola Cavalieri argues not only that many animals should be granted full moral status but also that we are compelled to do so by the most powerful, widely held moral doctrine in existence.
Cavalieri proposes that we extend basic human rights to most of the nonhuman animals that we currently treat as mere things. She contends that the logic of universal human rights doctrine -- a set of beliefs about what human beings are owed morally that nearly all of us accept -- points in the direction of including many nonhuman animals.
In framing her deeply controversial argument, she traces the roots of the animal rights debate in the fields of contemporary ethics and science and examines precedents for it in mainstream Western philosophy. Next she considers the current leading proposals for reforming the way we think about the moral status of animals. Emphasizing that these proposals all derive their core premises from a specific, rather than broadly shared, ethical perspective, she then develops her own radical view that in spite of the phrase that defines them, human rights are not the prerogative of the species Homo sapiens.
The history of what we call moral progress, argues Cavalieri, can for the most part be seen as the history of replacing hierarchical visions with presumptions in favor of equality. The animal question, then, is a profoundly important one -- and our pursuit of answers is part of a vital, ongoing cultural evolution.
Greeted with acclaim on its release in Italy in 1999, The Animal Question is sure to stimulate vigorous debate in the English-speaking world. It makes essential reading for animal rights advocates and will engage all those concerned with the nature, scope, and language of contemporary ethics and the legal system.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
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About the Author
Paola Cavalieri is editor of the international philosophy journal Etica & Animali, and has published widely in the area of applied ethics. She co-edited, with Peter Singer, the award-winning 1993 book The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity.