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?

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Egalitarian Animal Rights Ethics: Singer’s Utilitarian Approach or Regan’s Kantian, Deontological Approach

In Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, he begins by addressing how other forms of liberation have significantly helped those who were once discriminated on the basis of sex and race. However, he notes that most may be skeptical in regards to a liberation movement for nonhumans. He believes that “liberation movements demand expansion of our moral horizons so that practices that were previously regarded as natural and inevitable are now seen as intolerable” (135). Singer does not understand why humans cannot extend moral equality to nonhumans and the reasons we hold for not doing so. Humans hold different levels of intelligence but are still held to the same moral standard. Yet why do humans not consider these differences in regards to nonhumans? All beings hold various interests but we as humans do not equally consider the interests of nonhumans. When justifying our practices of animal testing, we assume that animals do not experience pain or at least not on the same level as humans. This is simply not true. That would be on the same level as inferring that other humans do not experience pain on the same level as others. Nonhumans cannot use language or communicate that they are in pain, which some humans regard as the strongest indication of pain. Some even question that consciousness of a being cannot be considered if they do not vocally communicate through language. Nonhumans, however, still show behavioral signs such as yelping and thrashing, clear signs that they are in pain. Humans also use these characteristics to indicate that they are in pain. We cannot necessarily believe that someone is in pain because they say so. Body language enables us to tell more about a person’s actual level of pain more than just the person communicating to us their level of pain. Speciesism is not particular to animal testing, as it also is used as a justification for human’s methods in the production of food. Nonhumans are regarded as machines in factory farming. Humans hold almost no Imageregard for the nonhuman’s well being. Rather, “farming has succumbed to business methods, the objective is to get the highest possible ratio of output (meat, eggs, milk) to input (fodder, labor, costs, etc.)” (140). Some argue that these animals have never experienced a normal life, therefore does not make a difference if they are treated inhumanely. Singer argues that these animals still hold natural instincts and that not all behavior has to be learned. Ultimately, Singer believes that animal liberation can only be achieved when humans recognize that our exploitation of nonhumans is wrong for the sake our own needs.

            Tom Regan, who has also written about the animal rights movement, believes that non-human animals are what he calls the “subjects-of-a-life.” His main argument is that if we want to ascribe value to all human beings regardless of their ability to be rational agents, then to be consistent, we must similarly ascribe it to non-humans. Regan criticizes “utilitarian” ethics since he thinks it sees human beings as a “means to an end,” namely, the end of individual or collective “happiness/pleasure.” He further criticizes Singer’s utilitarian animal rights, arguing that it would still allow for the mistreatment of animals and still violates their basic rights, such as with hunting over-populated areas, which would ultimately benefit both animals and humans leading to the  “Greatest Happiness.” Regan’s case for animal rights includes three goals: 1. Total abolition of the use of animals in science, 2. Total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture, and 3. Total elimination of commercial sport hunting and trapping (143). Ultimately, Regan believes that in order to achieve a basic level of animal rights intrinsic value should be given regardless of status or usefulness we must give equal inherent value as individuals existing on earth, possessing the quality of life. Our entire system must be replaced, not just tidied it up. Finally, humans must approach the solution with disciplined passion. We must value equal human and non-human rights to life, liberty, habitat, social life, nourishment, and pursuit of happiness. Thus nonhumans should never be viewed as a means to an end.

Question:  Is the level of sentience the strongest component of moral standing?

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How Do We Treat Other Animals?

The study and behavior of animals began from the studies performed by Charles Darwin. In his studies, Darwin discovered that animals do in fact harbor similar behavioral and emotional characteristics as humans. Although many scientists have done similar work to Darwin’s studies, some of the most ground-breaking knowledge about animals came from Donald R. Griffin. Griffins Imagestudies “indicated that scientists had underestimated the abilities of nonhuman animals to accomplish complex mental tasks” (158). Today, we are much more knowledgeable about the behavior of animals as just how closely it relates to that of humans. Although we are well aware that animals have the ability to remember past events and are conscious of themselves and of their situation, we do not treat them as sophisticated beings they truly are. Rather, we treat them as a means to an end. In the severely disturbing yet informing documentary Earthlings, we are shown every situation in which we abuse and exploit animals, ranging from graphic images and videos from slaughterhouses to the production of fur and leather. For me personally, it was a very emotional and painful experience to watch this documentary. I have been a vegetarian for eight years now and try to lead a life according to the humane treatment of animals. I have always held a strong affection for animals and refused to remain ignorant about our treatment of them. Although I was already aware of the many topics covered in the documentary, it was still very difficult for me to them once again. Many people become uncomfortable by the idea of slaughterhouses and where their meat comes from. They are aware of these conditions but are apathetic to the idea of an animal being harmed. They would rather continue to consume their meat, or rather the result of misery and pain, and remain in an ignorant state of bliss. I, however, cannot turn away from such heinousness. As stated in the documentary, our mistreatment and abuse of animals is comparable to that of mass genocide. Yet, our society believes our current treatment of animals is justifiable because of just that: they are animals. As mentioned earlier, animals have the same capabilities as humans and are just as aware when they are beaten or close to being slaughtered. They have complex minds and emotions just as we humans do. But again, we refuse to believe that this is true. Although I feel better for not supporting the meat industry, I know that animals are still facing injustice everyday. They cannot fight back or have any control over their situations although they are well aware of what is being done to them. That is why I aspire to one day become an animal rights lawyer and work for the Humane Society of the United States. I want to work to bring an end to every area of exploitation of animals.

Question: Should movies such as Earthlings be broadcasted on national television? Would this bring awareness to everyone or would it just turn people off from wanting to help animals?

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Case Study: Sustainable Design, Natural Capitalism, and the 2nd Industrial Revolution

When looking back upon earth’s long history, it is difficult to think of how it was able to adapt to the vast of amount of changes it has undergone and its resilience to overcome these changes. The earth has experienced meteorites and ice ages and yet has still evolved successfully from such catastrophic events. Humans have only been around on this planet for a blink of earth’s existence and yet we have managed to vastly degrade it more than any other time in its lifetime. We believe we are the smartest species but we have still managed to create irreversible damage more than other species. Humans are extremely intelligent and are capable of creating some of the greatest technology and perhaps that it is why is so perplexing to think why we cannot thrive while Imagesimultaneously live in harmony with earth’s natural processes. In chapter one, Environmental Problems, Their Causes, and Sustainability, we learn three ways of how to live more sustainably. The first is through solar energy. The sun provides the most amount of natural energy for earth’s systems yet we have not fully adopted it as a method of energy for our own technology. Solar energy should be used for electricity for we know it is a constant source that creates zero emissions. Along with using solar energy, we should study earth’s biodiversity and utilize these techniques. Biodiversity will also provide us with ways to adapt to earth’s ever changing conditions. The third way to adapt sustainability is through chemical cycling. The circulation of chemicals to keep natural processes occurring is necessary for life on earth. Sustainability of natural resources must be recognized as a necessity for life on earth to continue. “Our lives and economies depend on energy from the sun, and on natural resources and natural services (natural capital) provided by the earth” (10). Degrading natural capital faster than we can replenish it will surely lead to our downfall. The only solution to ensuring sustainability is for our governments to enforce laws and regulations. Some companies have brought it upon themselves to act sustainably. In Hawken’s, The Declaration of Sustainability, he begins by discussing how Ben & Jerry’s is just one company to have become a successful company while still remaining environmentally and socially conscious. He states that, “corporations, because they are the dominant institution on the planet, must squarely face the social and environmental problems that afflict humankind” (432). In order for corporations to become more sustainable, Hawken believes that we need to align our systems of commerce productions with the natural world. Corporations were inherently created to exist for us, not the other way around. But citizens have rather become those who are working for the corporations’ favor. Hawken secondly believes that they must project costs to the environment and that companies should be taxed for environmental degradation. They impacts made to the environment should not go unnoticed. In order for corporations to reduce their impact on the environment they can imitate natural systems in their production and thus make certain their products can be reused and not simply discarded. Citizens however have a duty to ensure the corporations follow sustainable procedures. We should boycott products that use unsustainable methods and become biologically literate. Corporations must respect the well being of humans as well as the nonhumans and the earth. A corporation, as Hawken describes, has no purpose is it not working for the betterment of the world. All corporations, by law, should hold social and environmental responsibility.

Question: Would corporations follow a code of sustainability if the government provided tax breaks or subsidies for doing so?  

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Environmental Justice Ethics (Intergenerational Justice)

In sections 2.8, 80, and 81, and the article Environmental Justice, the authors discuss the distributions and benefits and burdens of environmental issues. We often only think in terms of environmental justice for humans. Although, environmental issues face a number of non-humans and other organisms that cannot participate are make reasonable arguments against injustice. Environmental justice originally began and merged with the civil rights movement. It was evident that African Americans suffered most of the burden of environmental hazards and waste. Thus, the United States EJM or environmental justice movement came forth through which distributive-justice analyses were performed. These analyses “not only delineated inequalities but also focused attention on the hidden processes of political influence and decision making that have underlain this inequitable distribution of environmental burdens” (Figueroa 342). Work done by the EPA further unveiled the unequal distribution of environmental hazardous waste sites by showing how white communities were rarely within a mile radius of a site in comparison to African American communities. Vicki Been makes an interesting observation about why this may not be from environmental racism. She believes that “poorer cities may very well be drawn to lower property values, and more affluent citizens may enjoy even greater mobility in moving away from burdens before experiencing the loss of property value and self esteem” (344). Therefore, it might not be that the people themselves are specifically being targeted but rather the areas of which they live are targeted and thus they suffer the heaviest burdens. However, this argument does not take into consideration the desperation of some communities being compensated for being subjected to these burdens. Peter Wenz came up with a rather radical idea about distribution of environmental burdens. He believes that those who consume the most of environmental resources should suffer the most burdens. This in turn would dissuade high levels of consumption and take away about “70 percent of environmental racism” (344). Environmental justice is not only a Imageproblem faced by Americans; rather it is a global issue just the same. Normally countries that benefit the most environmental resources suffer the least amount of burdens, yet these countries insist on the strongest environmental measures. Thus, developing countries suffer a loss as well as the burdens brought upon by the developed nations. It is a constant slope of inequality.

            I believe that environmental discrimination and racism are surely happening around the world. The expression of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard), is evident in almost every natural disaster. For example, Americans only seem to become strongly concerned about the environment when they face the direct effects of climate change. When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last year, suddenly Americans were supporting the idea of climate change. Thus, the only real way for them to have some concern is if they are personally at risk. As other countries, most recently the Philippines, are faced with devastating disasters from hurricanes and typhoons, climate change is already on the back burner of our countries’ concerns. Unless we are directly affected, and environmental issues become a burden for us, there will be no immediate change to regards towards the environment. It is hypocritical of developed nations to be telling developing nations that they cannot omit a certain amount of CO2, for we our prohibiting their development. Yet, it was ok for us to deplete resources and ruin the ozone layer in order for us to become a super power. Our entire outlook on the environment is unjust, for we think we have more authority over other nations. 

Question: Why were the United States and China allowed to not agree upon following the Kyoto Protocol?

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Environmental Virtue Ethics & Pragmatism

In Bryan Norton’s Environmental Ethics and Weak Anthropocentrism, he works to come up with a distinct environmental ethic. Norton begins by asking whether or not the environment should have fundamental value, for this notion is what ultimately shapes one’s own environmental ethics. Firstly, he believes that successful environmental ethics must be nonindividualistic. One cannot view nature and how they treat nature within their own terms, for this would surely lead to exploitation of resources. Without a universal set of environmental ethics, there is still a set of human actions that all environmentally conscious individuals believe are threatening to the environment. In order to establish a code of environmental ethics, Norton makes the distinction felt preferences and considered preferences. Felt preferences are “any desire or need of a human individual that can at least temporarily be sated by some specifiable experience of that individual” (183). Considered preferences are “any desire Imageor need that a human individual would express after careful deliberation, including a judgment that the desire is consistent with a rationally adopted worldview” (183). After distinguishing two preferences, Norton categorizes them into an anthropocentric view. He believes that strong anthropocentrists hold felt preferences, for all value references to the human individual. Thus, weak anthropocentrists hold considered preferences, which bear the ideals of a broader worldview. Norton explains that he developed this distinction to show that a framework exists for developing powerful reasons for protecting the environment. Norton states that “ethical questions about the environment can be divided into one’s concerning distributional fairness within generations and others concerning longer-term cross-generational issues” (187). Norton concludes by stating that it is most important for humans to have a sense of harmony with nature. Instead of wanting to protect the environment for its intrinsic value, we should see ourselves as part of its many systems. Lastly, he believes that since these preferences are now far too exploitative and too consumptive for the good of our own species, showing concern for other species that share our long-term needs for survival might be one useful tool in a very large kit” (191).

            I agree with Norton, that we should stray away from felt preferences and instead hold considered preferences, for they take away the focus from the individual. However, I don’t necessarily believe that people will begin to make decisions based on the fact that it correlates with rational worldviews. When it comes down to it, most people make decisions on how it affects them personally. Only after analyzing how a situation will affect them do people take other people into consideration. Therefore, I agree more with Calicott’s point of view who Norton criticizes. I believe that if people are going to fully respect nature and make rational decisions for how they treat nature, they must believe that it holds some intrinsic value. People however must be taught that nature has intrinsic value from an early age. They must earn respect and concern for its well-being. Most people will disregard the notion of universal worldviews, for they will always look upon their actions towards the environment with an individualistic attitude. It is step in the right direction for humans to hold considered preferences, but considered preferences will only result from attribution of intrinsic value. 

Question: Humans are aware that they are reliant on the earth’s resources such as clean air, clean water, and other ecosystem services for survival. However, does this awareness necessarily mean that humans will recognize their excessive consumptive preferences? 

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Should Citizenship, Values and Politics Be Able to Override the Free Market? The Case For Environmental Politics and Law

In section 40, entitled At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic, Mark Sagoff discusses how we approach environmental decisions based on economic reasoning and the consumers’ influence on the policy formation. Sagoff recognizes that it is impossible to put a price label on goods and services such as open, untouched land and clean air. He states that, “the question arises, then, whether what we want is consistent with the goals we would set for ourselves collectively as citizens” (328). He concludes that it is Congress’s role to have policy balance “ideological, aesthetic, and moral goals” with our economic goals. Sagoff further argues that people cannot merely be viewed as consumers just as the environment cannot merely be seen as a resource to fulfill the needs of the market. Thus, a cost-benefit analysis cannot be used when environmental policy is being shaped. Cost-benefit analysis is strictly concerned with “maximizing efficiency or wealth” (331). Economists claim that they are best to handle policy making because they hold a neutral stance among the competition of values. I, however, do not believe that this is true. Economists are most interested in decision-making that will create the greatest economic growth. They are not interested in analyzing what might be right or wrong in terms of policy making, rather it all comes down to the maximization of wealth. As Sagoff puts it, “it is an indifference toward value—an indifference so deep, so studied, and so assured that at first one hesitates to call it by its right name” (333). In terms of policy-making, our society is broken up into those who can create such policies and those who have preference over the decisions of such policies. But the level of value placed upon both parties is unequal. Sagoff concludes that the effective party is the source of all value, which in turn affects the public self’s participation of power over policy-making.

            In Ernest Partridge’s Consumer or Citizen?, Partridge begins by questioning how the United State’s views its citizens. He believes that our freedom is no longer the priority; rather, we are valued according to our level of consumption. To put it simply, we are mindless consumers. Partridge goes on to discuss how politicians even treat us as consumers when campaigning. When Imagepoliticians are soliciting votes, they are practically selling themselves to us, even if this requires them to lie about their positions on social issues. Yet, Partridge believes that our “moral point of view” is our saving grace, as it “enables us to recognize excellence in individuals (“virtues”) and in societies (“justice”).” Furthermore, the ideal citizen is unmoved by the salesmanship of the government and politicians. Those who do not agree with the United State’s recent shift in “freedom” are seen as traitors. But doesn’t this statement contradict the first values of the United States, that being the freedom of speech. We should be allowed to question our country’s current state as it says so in the Bill of Rights. But the United States, and as Partridge describes them as, the oligarchs, view the ideal resident, “while well-trained so as to increase productivity, will not be well-educated to think critically or creatively, for original and dissenting ideas may upset the efficiency of the market place.” I believe that the best solution for people to shift from mindless consumers to informed citizens is through education. The more informed the citizen is, the less inclined they will be to move through society like cattle and accord to the lies of the oligarchs.

Question: Is it far ahead in the future before our country shifts from consumers to citizens, or will our condition only get worse before it gets better? 

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