Rational Engagement, Emotional Response, & the Prospects for Moral Progress in Animal Use Debates Ethicists have increasingly turned their attention to moral questions about the treatment of non-human animals. Arguments from a range of perspectives have been given for the conclusion that routine uses of animals in agriculture, the fashion industry, and experimentation are morally wrong. Defenses of these practices, however, have been far fewer, and generally less developed, than the cases in favor of animals. My aim in this presentation is to encourage development of stronger arguments in favor of animal use and provide methodological guidance on how to do so. Nathan Nobis For Animal Research in Theory & Practice, ed. Jeremy Garrett, Rice, Philosophy
Many fields and occupations involve harming animals, making them worse off. ‘Animals’ = for our purposes, mammals & birds; least controversial cases for discussion. Typically, people in these fields will agree that animals are being harmed. They claim, however, that these harms are morally justified: not all harms are wrong, and these harms aren’t wrong (indeed, perhaps some are morally obligatory). Harms & Moral Justification
drowning, suffocating, starving, burning, blinding, destroying their ability to hear, damaging their brains, severing their limbs, crushing their organs inducing heart attacks, cancers ulcers paralysis, Seizures forcing them to inhale tobacco smoke, drink alcohol, and ingest various drugs, such as heroine and cocaine. Common experimental procedures include:
(1) “Painless” killing can be (and often is) harmful for the one who is killed; it is bad for him/her. Why? They are deprived of whatever goods they would have experienced. No interests can be satisfied. Thus, the common “if ‘painlessly killed,’ then ‘humane’, so nothing morally objectionable” views need defense. (2) Recent ethological research shows that just being in a laboratory, and undergoing routine procedures, is stressful (and thus harmful) for animals. A few commonly overlooked observations about harm:
Balcombe JP, Barnard ND, Sandusky C, “Laboratory routines cause animal stress,”Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science, 2004, Nov, 43 (6):42-51 Abstract: Eighty published studies were appraised to document the potential stress associated with three routine laboratory procedures commonly performed on animals: handling, blood collection, and orogastric gavage . . . Significant changes in physiologic parameters correlated with stress . . were associated with all three procedures in multiple species in the studies we examined. The results of these studies demonstrated that animals responded with rapid, pronounced, and statistically significant elevations in stress-related responses for each of the procedures . . . We interpret these findings to indicate that laboratory routines are associated with stress, and that animals do not readily habituate to them. The data suggest that significant fear, stress, and possibly distress are predictable consequences of routine laboratory procedures,and that these phenomena have substantial scientific and humane implications for the use of animals in laboratory research.
Balcombe JP, “Laboratory environments and rodents’ behavioural needs: A review,” Laboratory Animals (in press) Abstract: Laboratory housing conditions have significant physiological and psychological effects on rodents, raising both scientific and humane concerns. Published studies of rats, mice and other rodents were reviewed to document behavioural and psychological problems attributable to predominant laboratory housing conditions. Studies indicate that rats and mice value opportunities to take cover, build nests, explore, gain social contact, and exercise some control over their social milieu, and that the inability to satisfy these needs is physically and psychologically detrimental, leading to impaired brain development and behavioural anomalies (e.g., stereotypies).To the extent that space is a means to gain access to such resources, spatial confinement likely exacerbates these deficits. Adding environmental “enrichments” to small cages reduces but does not eliminate these problems, and I argue that substantial changes in housing and husbandry conditions would be needed to further reduce them.
Many ethicists have argued that it’s wrong to use animals these ways; they’ve given reasons for their views and defended them: • utilitarianism and other consequentialisms, • rights-based deontologies, • ideal contractarianisms (“veil of ignorance,” “Golden rule” ethics), • virtue ethics, • “common-sense” (“least harm,” “needless harm”) moralities, • religious moralities, feminist ethics, • and more: indeed almost every major, influential perspective in moral theory.
Even Kant’s, Rawls’, and other moral theories have been modified to be friendly to non-rational moral patients (not moral agents): • Improve the theory so there are direct duties to baby (& other ‘non-rational’ & powerless humans : she’s of moral value not because others care about her, despite her not being a moral agent, rational, etc.
If the theory is now notBad for Baby (and other vulnerable humans), it is now not Bad for Animals?
Thus, an abundance of ethical resources in defense of animals. • However, this hasn’t made much of a difference in thought or deed regarding uses of animals. • Possible explanations: • big changes are always slow; trickle-down is slow… • philosophers (and other thinkers and authors) typically just aren’t very influential, • personal, financial, legal, political, institutional barriers to doing the right thing, • ???
A competing explanation: • There are strong arguments that morally justify (much of) the current treatment of animals. • Since these arguments are strong / sound / very reasonable to accept, the defenses of animals are weak / unsound / unreasonable. • I’m going to suggest that this explanation is unlikely, because these arguments are weak. • I encourage development of more and stronger arguments in favor of, defending, animal use and provide methodological guidance on doing so.
Emotional responses to moral issues: “It sometimes appears that the quality of our thought on a topic is inversely proportional to the intensity of our emotions concerning that topic.” -- Fred Feldman, Confrontations With the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death (Oxford, 1994).
Rational engagement of moral issues: • Identify some past instances of “moral progress” in thought, attitude, & deed: • Hopefully, rational evaluation of arguments contributed to this, somewhat! • We can identify some basic “logical skills” that can help us improve the quality of our thought. • Apply these “skills” to some recent arguments made by scientists and philosophers regarding animals. • This is important because it seems that not enough people consistently use these skills; this is not good.
Formerly “controversial” issues and simple arguments: • “Women shouldn’t be allowed to go to university becausewomen are so emotional that abstract thought is so difficult for them.” • "Slavery is morally right because we slave-owners benefit greatly from slavery." • "Since animals are not rational, it's morally ok to raise them to be killed and eaten." These are arguments; what are their faults?
Women (1) • Conclusion: • “Women shouldn’t be allowed to go to university.” • Why think that? • “Women are such emotional beings that abstract thought is difficult for them.” • Imprecise! ‘SOME’? or ‘ALL’? • “Some women are so emotional that abstract thought is difficult.” [True, and true for some men!] • “All women are so emotional …” [False, empirically indefensible claim, so unsound argument]
Women (2) • “Some women are so emotional that abstract thought is difficult.” [True, and true for some men!] • “Therefore, [no] women should be allowed to go to university.” But how do you get from (1) to (2)? What’s the missing linking premise? A question: How would some women’s “emotionality” justify restricting educational opportunities from all women? Not clear.
Women (3) • However, even if some or even all women are so “emotional” and have difficulty with “abstract thought” why would that justify denying any women the opportunity to “improve themselves” through education? • “If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?” • Sojourner Truth, “Ain't I A Woman?” 1851
Slavery "Slavery is morally right because we slave-owners benefit greatly from slavery.“ (1) Slave-owners benefit from slavery. [True] (C) Therefore, slavery is morally right. [?] -------------------------------------------------------------- How do you get from (1) to (2)? What’s the missing, assumed linking premise? • Slave-owners benefit from slavery. [True] • If some group benefits from some arrangement, then that arrangement is right. ? • Therefore, slavery is morally right.
Animals "Since animals are not rational, it's morally ok to raise them to be killed and eaten.” • “Animals are not rational.” • Therefore, it’s OK to kill them… Observations and questions: • (1) is imprecise: some, or all, animals are not rational? Which animals? • Ambiguity, lack of clarity: what is meant by ‘rational’? • ‘Missing-link’ premise needed to make argument logically valid: ‘If a being is not ‘rational’, then it’s ok to kill it.’ [False?]
“Logical skills”: The (moral) value of basic predicate logic • Attending to the intended meanings of unclear or ambiguous words: • what do you mean? • ‘animal,’ ‘human’, ‘being human’, ‘human being’, ‘person’, ‘human person’, ‘humanity’ • Precision regarding #, quantity: some, all? • Assumed, unstated premises that link stated reason(s) to conclusion. (Logical validity).
It seems these “logical skills” are generally useful. A bioethicist disagrees about the value of these skills for professional ethics: “Frankly, science students would have very little patience for the abstract argumentation and reasoning that one finds in your paper and is standard fare in philosophy journals.”
Scientists Stuart Derbyshire, Ph.D., U Birmingham UK (used to be at Pitt); pain researcher. Mark Mattfield, Ph.D., Research Defense Society, UK Colin Blakemore, Ph.D., Medical Research Council, UK Adrian Morrison, Ph.D., DVM, U Penn, sleep disorders Philosophers Carl Cohen Neil Levy, “Cohen & Kinds: A Response to Nathan Nobis,” JoAP) Tibor Machan, Putting Human’s First Matthew Liao, “Virtually All Human Beings as Rightholders: A Non-Speciesist Approach” Apply these (& other) logical skills to some recent arguments:
The issue needn’t be whether animals have ‘rights’: • Moral or legal rights? • Which moral rights? (be specific) • ‘Rights’ conflicts: ‘right’ to smoke, ‘right’ to a smoke-free environment • ‘Rights’ appeals can conceal details. • Common invalid argument: • ‘If animals have rights, then serious change is needed. But they don’t have rights, so change isn’t needed.’ • Logically invalid – conclusion doesn’t follow – and avoids the concrete questions.
The issue needn’t be whether animals have ‘rights’: • Better to consider • (1) whether various (specific) uses of animals are morally permissible or not, whether any ways of treatment are morally obligatoryand • (2) why or why not. • Keep this the focus on these ‘deontic’ categories is helpful for many practical and theoretical reasons.
The issue also needn’t be whether animals are “equal” to humans: • Are any animals “equal” to humans? Are all humans “equal”? Hard to answer: • What is meant by “equal”? Not obvious. • Which humans, which animals? (What is meant by ‘humans’ and ‘animals’?). (fetus, baby, adult, 100 y/o?) • Common invalid argument; avoids the concrete questions. • ‘If animals are ‘equal’ to humans, then serious change is needed. But they aren’t equal, so change isn’t needed.’ • “Equal consid.” vs.“No consid.”vs. “mid-level” consid? • Again, ideal Q’s are about moral permissibility.
Objection: An abundance of resources is a philosophical embarrassment? • “Many philosophers argue that animals are treated wrongly, but disagree on why (e.g., Peter Singer ‘demolishes’ Tom Regan and Regan ‘demolishes’ Singer). Therefore, there is no justification for thinking that animals are treated wrongly.” • Adrian Morrison; Richard Vance, JAMA
A parallel argument: • Many thinkers argue that animals are not treated wrongly, but disagree on why (e.g., Carl Cohen ‘demolishes’ Jan Narveson & Narveson ‘demolishes’ Cohen). Therefore, there is no justification for thinking that animals are not treated wrongly.”
The false, unstated assumption: • If you believe p, and for reasons X, Y, & Z, but others believe p for reasons A, B, C, etc. and these reasons are logically incompatible (and you recognize this), then either you have no (good) reason to believe p or there is no good reason to believe p. • At the very least, this principle isn’t one typically accepted or universally applied (e.g., global warming is bad).
Appeals to evolution / “biological perspectives” • Morrison: “to refrain from exploring nature in every possible way would be an arrogant rejection of evolutionary forces.” • “Evolution has endowed us with a need to know as much as we can.” (Nicoll, Russell). • “Humans evolved; therefore, morally we should ….” Does not follow. • Constraints on using other humans to advance our own genetic line, when it’s in our interest?
Benefits Arguments / Arguments from “Necessity” • “animal experiments are vital to the future well-being of humans and, as long as they are conducted to high ethical standards, they are entirely justifiable.” – Mark Matfield • The argument: Benefits for humans justify animal experimentation (and other uses) • The are “necessary.”
Is animal use ‘necessary’? (1) • Depends on what you mean by necessary. • In one sense, yes! • To do animal experiments, it is necessary to do animal experiments. To make these exact scientific discoveries using animals, it is essential to use animals: if animals weren’t used, the experiments would be different.
Is animal use ‘necessary’? (2) • In other senses, perhaps not. Is animal necessary for making medical progress and for, more generally, bettering human welfare? • “Necessary for the well-being of humans,” but which humans? A few? (Maybe!). Everyone? Doubtful that every human benefits from (every) animal experiment. • There are other ways of bringing about goods for humans: • clinical research, epidemiology, in vitro research, uses of technology, autopsies, prevention, etc.; • feeding people, getting existing medical care to them, etc.. It’s been argued that these would yield greater human utility.
Defenses of the low (human) utility of animal experimentation • RC Greek & N Shanks, Animal Research in Light of Science (2006? Rodopi) • N Shanks & LaFollette, Brute Science (Routledge 1997) • RC Greek & J Greek [DVM], Sacred Cows & Golden Geese (Continuum 2000), Specious Science (2002), What Will We Do if We Don’t Experiment on Animals? (2004) • They argue that other methods of research are more effective at addressing human needs.
Benefits argument: • Animal experiment yields [some] benefits. • If some action benefits someone (or some group), then that action is right. [false; needs refinement and serious defense] • Therefore, animal experimentation (and other uses) are right. What about direct harms (to animals, to humans, esp. indirect harms from opportunity costs)? How are these weighed? A careful methodology would be nice, at least; is necessary for serious defense.
Want benefits? “Whatever benefits animal experimentation is thought to hold in store for us, those very same benefits could be obtained through experimenting on humans [esp. vulnerable ones] instead of animals. Indeed, given that problems exist because scientists must extrapolate from animal models to humans, one might think there are good scientific reasons for preferring human subjects.” – Philosopher Ray Frey
Why not use these humans?Blakemore’s answer • “The only firm line [to make moral distinctions] on genetic and morphological grounds is between our own species and other species.” • Suggested: if something is of our species, then it is more morally valuable than any animals. • But he says a human “embryo, certainly before the nervous system begins to develop, is just a bundle of cells.” • Suggested : being of our species does not necessarily confer moral value. • “We should have a special attitude toward other humans, so crucial to this argument is how we define a person.” He did not do this.
Why not use these humans?Derbyshire’s answer • “Animals lack the capacity for reflection (and therefore an inner world) and the capacity for reasoning” (So do many humans!!) • “It’s remarkable that we have to consider the question.” • Not remarkable if someone suggests that what’s required for a presumption against harm are properties that many, many human beings lack. • “Society cares about vulnerable humans.” • All of them? What about secret experiments? What if they could be re-educated? Why do they care? (Harms)
Avoiding objections from non-rational human beings. • A common claim: • It’s wrong to seriously harm a being only if that being is rational, autonomous, makes moral choices, is creative, intelligent, contributes to society, etc. • OK, animals aren’t like that, but neither are lots of (conscious, feeling) humans. This principle suggests it’s not seriously wrong to harm them. Is this principle correct?
Some odd inferences:Cohen, Levy & Kinds • Cohen [NEJM]: Moral “rights” depend on moral agency, the ability to respond to “moral claims.” A being has rights only if it’s a of a kind characterized by moral agency. • Finnis: “to be a person is to belong to a kind of being characterized by rational (self-conscious, intelligent) nature.” • Scanlon: “the class of beings whom it is possible to wrong will include at least all those beings who are of a kind that is normally capable of judgment-sensitive attitudes.”
Cohen, Levy & Kinds • Cohen: All humans are of a kind capable of moral agency, but • “[animals] are not beings of a kind capable of exercising or responding to moral claims. Animals therefore have no rights, and they can have none.” • What kind are animals? How are humans who are not moral agents of the kind “moral agent”? Cohen doesn’t explain.
Cohen’s possible answer? • Humans who are non-moral agents are of this kind because they are members of a set – e.g., the kind, a species – some of which are moral agents. • Response: But animals are also members of a set – e.g., the kind, sentient beings – some of whom are moral agents also! They have rights too, on Cohen’s account! • Humans and animals are of many kinds, some overlapping, some not. Inconsistent conclusions follow from Cohen-esque reasoning.
Levy’s attempt to find the right kind: the “narrowest” natural kind If (1) an individual A is a member of some species S and (2) some, most or all of the other members of that species have some property C and (3), on the basis of having property C, they have moral property R, then individual A has moral property R as well, even though A lacks property C.
C = non-moral property of "having doneno serious crimes”; R= "not deserving lifeimprisonment." Implications for lone criminal? C= "intelligent" and "aware“; R= "being such that one ought to be allowed to make decisions to direct one's own life." Implications for young children and others? If (1) an individual A is a member of some species S and (2) some, most or all of the other members of that species have some property C and (3), on the basis of having property C, they have moral property R, then individual A has moral property R as well, even though A lacks property C.
Machan’s Arguments from What’s “Normal” • A being has “moral rights” (presumably making it wrong to harm it) only if it a “moral nature,” a “capacity” to see the difference between right and wrong and choose accordingly.” • “It is this moral capacity that establishes a basis for rights, not the fact that animals, like us, have interests or can feel pain.” • Humans are of the “kind” of being that have such a moral nature and animals are not; thus humans have rights and animals do not.
What about humans who seem to lack this moral “capacity”? • We must consider humans as they exist “normally, not abnormally” and focus on the “healthy cases, not the special or exceptional [or “borderline”] ones.” • “We do need to deal with borderline cases. But we can do so only by applying and adapting the knowledge we acquire from the normal case. We can’t start with the exception and infer the rule.”
The suggested argument: • Humans who lack “moral capacities” are human.[T!] • If someone ishuman, then they have all the (moral) properties that ‘normal’, ‘healthy’, typical humans have. • Therefore, these humans have moral capacities, and so they have “rights.” Reply: 2 is, at least, unsupported, and is an instance of a generally false principle for moral & non-moral properties. (e.g., 4 limbs; Ted Bundy)
Matthew Liao, “Virtually All Human Beings as Rightholders: The Species-Norm Account” • to be a rightholder (“a being with the highest moral status”), something need not: • be a moral agent • have the potential to be a moral agent • be of the kind (species) that normally is a moral agent • be actually sentient, conscious, etc. or even have the potential, i.e., that it’s “possible” in some sense • Could be tinkered into a pro-animal exper. view.
The correct answer is… A being has “rights” iff the entity has incorporated into it the “genetic basis for the species capacity for moral agency” (i.e. the relevant bits of DNA that normally allow for moral agency) or the functional equivalent thereof (e.g. software and/or hardware that would normally allow for moral agency in an artificial being). The “intrinsic value” that resides in the relevant genetic bits “grounds” rightholding even when that genetic material is blocked from developing and cannot allow for moral agency. If X is like that, then X has “moral rights.”
Liao’s reasoning in favor of the view, it seems: • There are moral duties only if there are moral agents. [T] • There are moral agents only if there are beings with the “genetic basis” for moral agency. [OK; accept this for sake of argument] • Therefore, there are moral duties only if there are beings with the “genetic basis” for moral agency. • Therefore (?), any being with the “genetic basis” for moral agency is a ‘rightholder.’
A parallel argument: • There are moral duties only if there are living beings, or beings that can perceive, or …. [T] • There are living beings, or beings that can perceive only if there are beings with the “genetic basis” for life, perception, etc. [OK] • Therefore, there are moral duties only if there are beings with the “genetic basis” for life, perception, etc. • Therefore (?), any being with the “genetic basis” for life, perception, is a ‘rightholder.’