Hierarchical Animal Rights vs. Egalitarian Animal Rights Ethics & Animal Rights or Environmentalism/Ecology

In Interspecific Justice, VanDeVeer further explores the main arguments from Singer’s Animal Liberation. He too believes that we as moral agents have a duty not to cause the suffering of animals. Animals have personal interests and pain is not one of them. Therefore, in order to avoid causing any suffering, we must not engage in certain practices. VanDeVeer distinguishes certain levels of speciests, i.e. how humans view their interests in accordance with the interests of nonhumans. The first principle is Radical Speciesism, which applies no intrinsic value to nonhumans. This particular belief does not see nonhumans as conscious beings, and thus they are simply the means to our end. The second principle is Extreme Speciesism, which is similar to the former. This belief allows humans to do anything if it promotes human interests. Nonhuman interests need not be considered because they are ultimately seen as unimportant. The third principle is Interest Sensitive Speciesism, which also believes that the interests of humans override interests of nonhumans. Human interests hold insufficient weight and thus override interests of nonhumans. The fourth principle is Two Factor Egalitarianism, which believes the subordination of nonhuman interests is permissible if the animal is psychologically inferior. This belief is not along the lines of speciesism, for if a nonhuman is as sufficiently developed psychologically as a human, the human’s interests are not awarded with precedence. The final principle is Species Egalitarianism, which is the belief that no interest outweighs another beings interests. This is the most radical of all five principles. VanDeVeer divulges more about the last two principles. Two Factor Egalitarianism recognizes the importance of interests and the psychological capabilities between a human and a nonhuman. For example, how can we distinguish that a human’s death is more important and meaningful in comparison to a nonhuman’s death. VanDeVeer states, “the prospects of satisfaction are qualitatively and quantitatively greater for human beings than for animals” (158). Thus, humans will almost always lead a more meaningful and satisfactory life and therefore have precedence over a nonhuman. Yet, he believes that Species Egalitarianism is the most significant principle for one to hold and believe, for there is no precise way in determining levels of interests and psychological capabilities.

            In J. Baird Callicott’s essay Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair, he believes that the western system of ethics have not accorded to nonhuman beings. Callicott, however, discusses how Leopold’s land ethic has become very influential towards environmental ethics, for Leopold ethic was all encompassing, which included animals, plants, soils, and water. But Callicott believes it will be too extreme for people for accept moral consideration for nonhuman natural entities. Right now the closest to receiving moral consideration is animals. Perhaps it is seen as absurd to include plants, rocks and soils. But these entities still obtain a “biotic right to life.” Callitcott criticizes Leopold’s land ethic because he did not condemn the act of hunting or trapping. Hunting is not consistent with his idea of the land ethic, and Leopold cannot necessarily say to respect the dignity of wild animals if he allows hunting. Callicott continues to by distinguishing to major viewpoints. The first is human moralists, who believe that “not Imageall humans qualify as worthy of moral regard, according to specific criteria” (239). This criterion includes rationality, self-awareness, linguistic ability, etc. Ethical moralists hold a similar viewpoint to speciesists, who hold a philosophical indefensible prejudice against animals. Callicott again discusses how Leopold’s land ethic does not really concern domesticated animals. Leopold makes the assumption that naturally occurring pain in the wild is acceptable. Leopold simply considers factory-farming animals as the product of man, of which do not necessarily deserve respect and dignity as animals in the wild. Ultimately, Callicott believes the land ethic is a firm and practical approach to environmental ethics, but it does not encompass what animal liberation hopes to achieve for all animals.

Question: During the time when Leopold developed the land ethic, factory farming was not as severe as it is today. Therefore, can we even apply his land ethic towards the treatment of factory farm animals? Is it realistic to?

About dripley91

Senior at Fordham University. Environmental Policy Major and Sustainable Business Minor
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