Ethics of whaling
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Ethics of Whaling. In search of the right thing to do. History of Antarctic Whaling. Should Whaling Be Banned?. Answer has several dimensions: economic cultural scientific moral Our discussion will be limited to moral arguments. Ethical Inquiry. “Seeking the right thing to do.”

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Ethics of whaling l.jpg

Ethics of Whaling

In search of the right thing to do

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Should Whaling Be Banned?

  • Answer has several dimensions:

    • economic

    • cultural

    • scientific

    • moral

  • Our discussion will be limited to moral arguments

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Ethical Inquiry

  • “Seeking the right thing to do.”

  • What is the right thing to do?

    • action with best reasons (Socrates)

    • among choices available to you

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Is Whaling Morally Wrong?

  • Develop a list of relevant reasons to support a moral argument for/against whaling.

For Whaling

Against Whaling

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Example Morally Significant Characteristics

  • Sentience - ability to suffer

  • Intelligence

  • Self-aware

  • Immortal soul

  • Concern for conspecifics

  • Playfulness

  • Ability to communicate

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Form of Moral Argument

  • Premises

  • Guiding Principle

  • Conclusion

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Example Moral Argument

  • Action x causes pain and suffering to sentient* beings

    • sentient = “capable of feeling pleasure and pain”

  • There are alternatives to action x

  • It is wrong to cause pain and suffering, unless there is a sufficiently good reason to justify it

  • Therefore, we should not do action x

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    Develop Your Own Argument

    • Premises

    • Guiding Principle

    • Conclusion

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    Evaluating Moral Arguments

    • Are premises true?

    • Does conclusion follow logically?

    • Is moral principle justifiable?

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    Need for General Moral Principles

    • Cultural Relativism

      • our cultural preferences are NOT based on rational reasoning

    • Consequences of Cultural Relativism

      • Social practices would be immune from criticism

      • Social reform (or moral progress) is meaningless

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    Moral Theories

    • Utilitarianism

      • Morally right actions maximize aggregate happiness. Pleasure is only intrinsically good thing. Pain and suffering are intrinsically bad things.

      • Egalitarianism

      • equal consideration to interests of everyone affected by our conduct.

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    Other Moral Theories

    • The Rights View --Beings have certain moral rights that limit how they may be treated. Rights are more basic than utility and independent of the consequences of our actions.

    • e.g. right to life

      • hunter-gatherer societies

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    Justice (Fairness)

    • Treat beings fairly according to individual needs and merits

    • e.g. - punishment

    • any differential treatment must be justified by relevant reasons

    • Is it fair to deny whales to Norwegians but not deny whales to Inuits?

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    Other Moral Theories

    • Moral Individualism

      • equal consideration of interests unless there is a relevant difference that justifies difference in treatment

    • Divine command

      • Action is right if, and only if, God commands it

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    Review of Ethics Lesson

    • Ethics involves deciding “What is the right thing to do?”

      • action with best reasons (Socrates)

      • among choices available to you

  • Evaluating Moral Arguments

    • Are premises true?

    • Does conclusion follow logically?

    • Is moral principle justifiable?

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    Review Continued

    • Dependence on whaling

      • Arctic regions (Iceland & Norway) & regions where land-based protein production is limited by climate or geography (Japan)

    • Resumption of whaling

      • no longer represents same threat of extinction of great whales because whale oil replaced by petroleum and vegetable oils.

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    Anti-whaling Argument #1

    • Killing whales is sadistic and cruel behavior

    • Cruelty ought to be condemned and discouraged

    • Therefore whaling is wrong.

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    Killing whales is sadistic and cruel behavior

    Cruelty ought to be condemned and discouraged

    Therefore whaling is wrong.

    Are premises true?

    Does conclusion follow logically?

    Is moral principle justifiable?

    Argument #1 Evaluation

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    Anti-whaling Argument #2

    • Whaling involves the infliction of unnecesary suffering and death on sentient beings.

    • Anything that causes unnecessary suffering, or unnecessary death, on sentient beings is wrong.

    • Therefore whaling is wrong.

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    Whaling = Livestock Slaughter?


    discrimination based

    solely on species


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    Pro-whaling Argument #1

    • Whaling is an important cultural tradition

    • All cultural traditions are permissible

    • Therefore, whaling is permissible

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    All Cultural Traditions Permissible?

    • cock-fighting

    • hub-cap stealing

    • infanticide

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    The Appropriate Questions

    • What Cultural Differences are Respectable?

    • Are we being consistent in our moral arguments?

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    Pro-whaling Argument #2

    • Whaling provides for nutritional and cultural needs of certain coastal societies.

    • Whale killing can be done with minimum pain and suffering to whales.

    • Humane killing of whales would maximize the interests of all sentient beings affected by whaling.

    • Therefore, whaling is permissible in these circumstances.

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    Ethics of Other Wildlife Decisions

    • Deer Management

    • Wolf Re-introduction

    • International Wildlife Management

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    The Case for Animal RightsTom Regan 1983

    • Normal mammals (1 yr+) have basic moral right not to be harmed on the grounds that doing so benefits others

    • In philosophical jargon:

      • moral rights are “trump cards” against utilitarian arguments

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    Animal Rights View Incompatible with Environmental Ethics?

    • Captive breeding of individual sentient beings (e.g. endangered species) is a moral atrocity

    • Impermissible to kill exotic, destructive animals

    • Hunting would be prohibited, even therapeutic (required to preserve ecosystem integrity

    • Obliged to prevent “natural” predation

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    Can the Utilitarian Argument Bridge the Gap?

    • Utilitarianism: max aggregate “happiness”

    • How to define happiness? two ways:

      • Hedonism: happiness is pleasure or absence of pain and suffering

      • Preference: satisfaction of conscious aims

    • Harm of action depends on “future-oriented” desires of a being

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    A Hedonistic Utilitarian Argument for Therapeutic Hunting

    • We have a moral obligation to minimize pain.

    • More pain would be caused by letting “nature” take its course than by carefully regulated therapeutic hunts.

    • Therefore, we are morally obligated to conduct carefully regulated therapeutic hunts.


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    Can Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics Converge?

    • Any workable ethics must recognize some hierarchies.

    “Whenever I injure life of any

    sort, I must be quite clear

    whether it is necessary.

    Beyond the unavoidable,

    I must never go.” Albert Schweitzer

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    Overriding Moral Duties

    • General duty to preserve integrity of ecosystems as the necessary context in which future generations pursue their most important interests.

    • Theseinterests are of overriding moral importance, and

    • safeguarding future generations’ pursuit of these interests requires us to remove exotics, breed endangered species, reintroduce predators, and ...

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    Lessons Learned

    • Desired goals must be acceptable

    • Science is one part of management

    • Regulations must be enforceable

    • Animal welfare is a desirable goal (humane killing, if killing is necessary)

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    Leopold’s Land Ethic

    • An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.

    • The extension of ethics to land is an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.

    • All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts.

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    The Leopold Imperative

    “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

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    Homework Assignment

    • Continue to develop and debate moral arguments

    • Evaluate sources of information

    • Recognize your ethnocentric biases

    • Identify oversimplified or exaggerated arguments

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    Ethics Quiz

    • Your Name:

    • What was the most important thing you learned today?

    • What question is still troubling you about this topic?