Philosophy is not politics, and we do our best, within our all-too-human limitations, to seek the truth, not to score points against opponents. There is little satisfaction in gaining an easy triumph over a weak opponent while ignoring better arguments against your views.
Sometimes we know the best thing to do, but fail to do it. New year's resolutions are often like that. We make resolutions because we know it would be better for us to lose weight, or get fit, or spend more time with our children. The problem is that a resolution is generally easier to break than it is to keep.
For most humans, especially for those in modern urban and suburban communities, the most direct form of contact with nonhuman animals is at meal time: we eat them.... The use and abuse of animals raised for food far exceeds, in sheer numbers of animals affected, any other kind of mistreatment.
If zoos are like arks, then rare animals are like passengers on a voyage of the damned, never to find a port that will let them dock or a land in which they can live in peace. The real solution, of course, is to preserve the wild nature that created these animals and has the power to sustain them. But if it is really true that we are inevitably moving towards a world in which mountain gorillas can survive only in zoos, then we must ask whether it is really better for them to live in artificial environments of our... Read more »
The new freedom of expression brought by the Internet goes far beyond politics. People relate to each other in new ways, posing questions about how we should respond to people when all that we know about them is what we have learned through a medium that permits all kinds of anonymity and deception.
Whatever the reason, for most of the present century, the literature and publicity of the old established [animal welfare] groups made a significant contribution to the prevailing attitude that dogs and cats and wild animals need protection, but other animals do not. Thus people came to think of "animal welfare" as something for kindly ladies who are dotty about cats, and not as a cause founded on basic principles of justice and morality.
...the proposed air force and army experiments were designed so that many animals would suffer and die without any certainty that this suffering and death would save a single human life or benefit humans in any way at all; but the same can be said of millions of their experiments performed each year in the United States alone.
In some parts of the world, what you are doing is already apparent.According to the World Health Organization, the warming of the planet caused an additional 140,000 deaths in 2004, as compared with the number of deaths there would have been had average global temperatures remained as they were during the period 1961 to 1990. This means that climate change is already causing, every week, as many deaths as occured in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
I am not saying that factory farming is the same as the Holocaust or the slave trade, but it's clear that there is an immense amount of suffering in it, and just as we think that the Nazis were wrong to ignore the suffering of their victims, so we are wrong to ignore the sufferings of our victims.
Unfortunately for ethical egoism, the claim that we will all be better off if every one of us does what is in his or her own interest is incorrect. This is shown by what are known as "prisoner's dilemma" situations, which are playing an increasingly important role in discussions of ethical theory... At least on the collective level, therefore, egoism is self-defeating - a conclusion well brought out by Parfit in his aforementioned Reasons and Persons.
Sometimes animals may suffer more because of their more limited understanding. If, for instance, we are taking prisoners in wartime we can explain to them that although they must submit to capture, search, and confinement, they will not otherwise be harmed and will be set free at the conclusion of hostilities. If we capture wild animals, however, we cannot explain that we are not threatening their lives. A wild animal cannot distinguish an attempt to overpower and confine from an attempt to kill; the one causes as much terror as the other.
If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering - insofar as rough comparisons can be made - of any other being. So the limit of sentience is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin... Read more »
Becoming a vegetarian is not merely a symbolic gesture. Nor is it an attempt to isolate oneself from the ugly realities of the world, to keep oneself pure and so without responsibility for the cruelty and carnage all around. Becoming a vegetarian is a highly practical and effective step one can take toward ending both the killing of nonhuman animals and the infliction of suffering on them.
The newspapers do little better. Their coverage of nonhuman animals is dominated by "human interest" events like the birth of a baby gorilla at the zoo, or by threats to endangered species; but developments in farming techniques that deprive millions of animals of freedom of movement go unreported.
As for cages themselves, an ordinary citizen who kept dogs in similar conditions for their entire lives would risk prosecution for cruelty. A pig producer who keeps an animal of comparable intelligence in this manner, however, is more likely to be rewarded with a tax concession or, in some countries, a direct government subsidy.