ANIMAL RIGHTS Chaim Soutine, Carcass of Beef, 1926
“A Moral Defense of Vegetarianism” Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Basket of Apples, 1890-1894 Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Apples, 1890-1894 James Rachels (1941-)
THE MORALITY OF EATING MEAT • For James Rachels “it is morally wrong for us to eat meat.” • Rachels will argue that it is morally wrong to eat meat because the animals which we eat are made to suffer in the meat production industry. • And, for Rachels, making an animal which is capable of feeling pain suffer needlessly is morally wrong.
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS • Some people think that we only ought not to be cruel to animals because of the effect of that cruelty on human beings, not because of the cruelty itself. • Or, the suffering of animals is not itself wrong, but it becomes wrong in virtue of its effects on human beings. • This is the Kantian position. And it regards the treatment of animals in relation to the effect of that treatment on human beings.
KANT AND ANIMALS I • For Kant and the Kantian tradition, animals have no moral standing in themselves. • Kant thinks that we have no duties to animals other than human beings. • His categorical imperative only applies to humans, not to other kinds of animal.
KANT AND ANIMALS II • Kant: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only. But so far as [other nonhuman] animals are concerned, we have no direct duties. Animals are not self-conscious, and are there merely as means to an end. That end is man.” • For Kant, self-consciousness is a property the possession of which guarantees moral protection. And if you are not a self-conscious being, then you are not deserving of respect or moral consideration.
KANT AND ANIMALS III • Nevertheless, Kant held that we should not be cruel to animals. However, not because of the effects which that cruelty has on the animal which is made to suffer, but because of its effects on us. “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard in his dealings with men.” • Thus if we could be cruel to animals without becoming cruel to one another, then such cruelty would be acceptable, and there would be no reason why animals could not be made to suffer by men.
RACHELS ON THE KANTIAN POSITION I • For Rachels, “this [Kantian position] is unacceptable.” • According to Rachels, we ought not to be cruel to animals not only because of its adverse effects on us, “but because of the direct effects on the animals themselves.” • Namely, that animals themselves suffer as the result of cruel actions.
THE IMMORALITY OF SUFFERING • For Rachels, the primary reason why cruelty to animals is wrong is that, in being cruel to them, they are made to suffer. • And it can never be right willingly to make any being capable of suffering suffer. • The main reason that torturing humans is wrong is that people suffer when tortured. And the main reason why torturing any animal is wrong is that the tortured animal suffers. • For Rachels, if suffering is wrong for the human animal then it is wrong for any other animal.
JUSTIFIED AND UNJUSTIFIED PAIN • However, Rachels recognizes that, although torture and cruelty to animals is wrong, “it does not follow that we are never justified in inflicting pain on an animal. However, there must be a good reason for causing the suffering, and if the suffering is great, the justifying reason must be correspondingly powerful.” • An example would be the use of animals in certain medical experiments designed to eliminated disease, where suffering is an ineliminable by-product of the experiment. But it is not justified to make animals suffer to produce perfume, for instance, or to get fur coats. • Rather, “causing suffering is not justified unless there is a good reason.” • [Read the treatment of Civet cats p. 859.]
RACHELS ON THE KANTIAN POSITION II • Rachels says that, just as it is not morally justifiable to make cats suffer to produce musk, so it is not morally acceptable to raise and slaughter animals for food. • Meat production is big business, and “helpless animals are treated more as machines in a factory than as living creatures.” • [READ treatment of veal calves, etc. p. 860-861.] • Rachels says that the cruelty to animals by meat producers is due to the Kantian view that “animals are merely means to an end; that end is man.”
RACHELS ON THE KANTIAN POSITION III • Meat producers want the least costly and most effective means of producing meat for human consumption. If that means that animals are made to suffer by that process, then, because they are not deserving of moral respect, we need not worry unduly about it. • But for Rachels, “clearly this use of animals is immoral if anything is.” • And Rachels says that liking the taste of meat is not moral justification for mistreating the animals we end up eating. • It might be morally justified to eat meat if that is all we had to eat, or if meat were the only thing which would properly nourish us, but neither of these things is the case.
MEAT PRODUCTION AND MORALITY • As Rachels realizes, saying that the mistreatment of animals in the meat production process is immoral is one thing, saying that eating meat itself is immoral is another. • The idea is that, if we can raise animals for slaughter that do not suffer, and which are quickly and painlessly killed, then that would make eating meat morally acceptable. (Cf. Frey.) • Rachels’ problem with this is “that it would be impossible to treat the animals [being raised for meat] decently and still produce meat in sufficient quantities to make it a normal part of our diets.” • It would cost too much money, and the average person could not afford meat.
IS EATING MEAT INTRINSICALLY WRONG? • Still, Rachels recognizes that it is an interesting theoretical question whether or not eating meat is wrong in itself. • The question is, “If meat could be produced humanely, without mistreating the animals prior to killing them painlessly, would there be anything wrong with it?” • One possible response here would be to say that it would still be wrong because the animals killed for our tables have a right to life.
THE MORALITY OF PAINLESS KILLING • Rachels wonders, if it is wrong to kill a person painlessly why it is not also wrong to kill an animal painlessly? • He recognizes that animals are not as complex as human beings, but they “live in communities, communicate with one another, and have ongoing social relationships.” • In addition, “they suffer, and are capable of happiness, as well as fear and distress, as we are.”
THE RIGHT TO LIFE AND PAINLESS KILLING • Rachels notes that “We assume that humans have a right to life - It would be wrong to murder a normal, healthy human even if it were done painlessly - and it is hard to think of any plausible rationale for granting this right to humans that does not also apply to other animals.” • Accordingly, Rachels wonders: “So what could be the rational basis for saying that we have a right to life, but that they don’t? Or, even more pointedly, what could be the rational basis for saying that a severely retarded person, who is inferior in every important respect to an intelligent animal, has a right to life but the animal doesn’t?” • For Rachels, considerations such as these, which are admittedly difficult, should make us skeptical of easy answers to these questions.
THE HUMAN AND THE NONHUMAN WORLD • A second reason for not killing animals for food even if it can be done humanely is that “it is important to see the slaughter of animals for food as part of a larger pattern that characterizes our whole relationship with the nonhuman world.” • Animals are taken from their natural environments and put in zoos, circuses, and rodeos. They are used in laboratories to test things like shampoos and chemical weapons, and sometimes they are simply killed for sport or for wall decorations.
RACHELS ON THE KANTIAN POSITION IV • Rachels: “This pattern of cruel exploitation flows naturally from the Kantian attitude that animals are nothing more than things to be used for our purposes.” • For Rachels, “it is this whole attitude which must be opposed.” And, if we reject the Kantian attitude, then it will not be acceptable to kill animals even painlessly for our food. • This is essentially a ‘right to life’ attitude again, that animals have as much right to live their lives apart from interference from us, as we have a right to live our lives apart from interference from them.
SUPPORT OF AN IMMORAL PRACTICE I • The more immediate practical issue though is that “the meat at the supermarket was not produced by humane methods.” • Rather, the animals whose flesh the meat once was were abused in order for the meat producers to provide the meat. • For Rachels, one should not buy meat, since then one is supporting the cruelty to animals that is part of meat production.
SUPPORT OF AN IMMORAL PRACTICE II • Rachels says that, even if one person’s stopping to eat meat won’t by itself make much of a dent in meat production, still, if animals are abused in providing meat for humans, that in itself is a reason not to eat it. • Rachels: “If one really thinks that a social practice is immoral, that in itself is sufficient grounds for a refusal to participate.”
THE ARGUMENT FROM PAIN AND SUFFERING • The argument from pain and suffering for vegetarianism = df. • a) Pain and suffering are bad. • b) It is wrong to make any being suffer or to feel pain which is capable of suffering or feeling pain. • c) Animals which we farm for food not only can suffer and feel pain, but farming practices are such as to make many animals suffer terribly before they are killed for human consumption. • d) To end this immoral cruelty we should cease to eat meat. And if we continue to eat meat then we are supporting the cruelty.
IMPROVING MEAT PRODUCTION I • Frey notes that the meat eaters’ response to the argument from pain and suffering will be to say that farming can be improved so that food animals are no longer made to suffer, and that they can be quickly and painlessly killed. • Frey says that nothing in Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation rules out making such improvements. One cannot say then that the only way to abolish immoral cruelty to animals in food production is to become a vegetarian. • Recall that Rachels says “that it would be impossible to treat the animals [being raised for meat] decently and still produce meat in sufficient quantities to make it a normal part of our diets.” It would cost too much money, and the average person could not afford meat.
FREY’S RESPONSE TO THE ARGUMENT FROM PAIN AND SUFFERING I • Frey’s responses to the argument from pain and suffering: • 1) “Even if the argument from pain and suffering were successful, it would demand only that we abstain from the flesh of those creatures leading miserable lives.” • 2) “The amelioration argument becomes applicable.”
THE AMELIORATION ARGUMENT • The amelioration argument = df. If animals can be made not to suffer, then they can be killed (quickly and painlessly) and eaten. • Frey: “The more animals that can be brought to lead pleasant lives, the more animals that escape the argument from pain and suffering and so may be eaten.” • All the concerned individual need do then, for Frey, is to look for improvements in factory farming so that animals no longer suffer.
IMPROVING MEAT PRODUCTION II • If factory farming can be improved, then the argument from pain and suffering no longer has any force, and it can’t be maintained that factory farming of animals for meat should be abolished. • Some will maintain that the pain and suffering of animals can never be eliminated, and so factory farming will remain immoral. • But Frey says that we can’t be sure of this, and “precisely how high a quality of life must be reached before animals may be said to be leading pleasant lives is a contentious and complex issue.”
FREY’S RESPONSE TO THE ARGUMENT FROM PAIN AND SUFFERING II • Frey recognizes two options here in response to the argument from pain and suffering: • 1) Singer’s and Rachels’ advocacy of vegetarianism. • 2) What he calls the response of “the concerned individual” which is “to seek improvements in and alternatives to those practices held to be the source of the pain and suffering in question.”
DEGREES OF SUFFERING • Frey accuses Singer of talking about the suffering of animals in two different respects: • 1) factory farming is wrong when animals are made to live miserable lives; and • 2) factory farming is wrong when animals are made to suffer at all. • The second kind of suffering is a stronger claim against the morality of eating meat, since if animals suffer at all, then raising them for food is wrong. Frey calls this “the single experience view.” • The first kind of suffering makes it immoral only if it rises to the level of being miserable. • The first claim would make it the case that we could only morally eat an animal which was never made to suffer at all.
THE AMBIGUITY OF SINGER’S POSITION • Frey thinks that Singer’s position is ambiguous. • This is because Singer has not made it clear whether he is arguing for the stronger or weaker claim about suffering. • And it is unclear whether he applies the criteria consistently in his writings and applies different criteria to different animals.
PAIN, SUFFERING, AND A GOOD LIFE • Frey also notes that experiencing some pain and suffering is consistent with leading a pleasant life. • In fact, pain “can recur on a daily basis, provided it falls short of that quantity over that duration required to tip the balance in the direction of a miserable life.” • For Frey, unless Singer takes the second view of suffering, that any pain whatsoever is bad, he cannot convince you not to buy meat. • This is because “he can be reasonably certain that the meat on display in supermarkets has come from animals who have had at least one painful experience, in being reared for food.”
SINGER’S TWO VIEWS I • According to Frey, “without this shift [from miserable suffering to any suffering], Singer has difficulty in discouraging you from buying meat.” • If the animals whose meat it is did not suffer terribly, did not lead miserable lives, then there is no reason not to buy the meat and eat it. • Thus Singer has two views of suffering: the miserable suffering view, and the any suffering or the single experience view. • Frey accuses him of sometimes using one view and sometimes another.
CONSEQUENCES OF SINGER’S VIEWS • In addition, the views have different consequences for any attempt to improve factory farming of animals for meat. • If it is only wrong to eat meat if the animals suffer miserably, then if farming can be improved so that animals do not suffer terribly, then it is not immoral to eat them. • On the other hand, if any suffering at all is unacceptable - the single experience view - then chances are farming cannot be improved to the point where it can be guaranteed that no animal ever suffers. • If any amount of pain or suffering is unacceptable, then we either have to become vegetarians or genetically engineer farm animals so that they become incapable of feeling pain or suffering.
PAIN AND PETS • A problem which Frey has with the single experience view is that it would seem to follow from it that we ought not to have pets. This is because “it is extremely unlikely that any method of rearing and keeping pets could be entirely without pain and suffering.” • For Frey, if we must give up meat because animals suffer to produce meat, then it would seem that we would have to give up pets.
PAIN AND CHILDREN • Further, Frey says that “if the only acceptable method of rearing animals, whether for food or companionship, is one free of all pain and suffering, then it is hard to see why the same should not be said of our own children.” • That is because “it is extremely unlikely that any method of rearing children could be entirely without pain or suffering.”
SINGER’S TWO VIEWS II • On the single experience view, it seems to Frey that we would have to give up both our pets and our children. • If we find this to be extreme and unacceptable, since some amount of suffering for pets and children is acceptable, then we cannot use the any pain or single experience view to argue for vegetarianism. • But then we would seem to be left with the miserable life view. And, on that view, as long as animals do not lead miserable lives in being reared for meat, then so rearing them is morally acceptable.
THE CONCERNED INDIVIDUAL I • Frey’s concerned individual is one who is concerned to eliminate as much pain and misery as possible for animals being reared for meat. • The concerned individual can find eating meat acceptable as long as animals are not made to lead miserable lives. • For Frey, what Singer and Rachels have proved is “not that it is wrong to eat meat but that it is wrong to rear and kill animals by (very) painful methods.”
THE CONCERNED INDIVIDUAL II • Thus vegetarianism does not necessarily follow from the arguments of thinkers such as Singer and Rachels, but only that we have a moral obligation to reduce pain and suffering to the greatest extent possible in raising animals. • This moral obligation to reduce pain and suffering Frey calls “the concerned individual’s response” [to people like Singer and Rachels who argue for vegetarianism on the miserable life view].
THE RIGHT TO LIFE ARGUMENT • A vegetarian might respond to the concerned individual by saying that “to deprive animals of the sort of life proper to their species is a form of pain or suffering in some broad sense,” and therefore wrong. • The idea here is that the animal is deprived “of the sort of life proper to their species.” • Thus vegetarianism could be argued for on what we might call a right to life argument. (Cf. Rachels.)
FREY’S RESPONSE TO THE RIGHT TO LIFE ARGUMENT I • However, Frey’s problem with “the sort of life proper to their species” argument is that “virtually none of our food animals are found in the wild. Beef, ham, pork, chicken, lamb, mutton, and veal all come form animals who are completely our own productions, bred by us in ways we select to ends we desire.” • The gene pools of these animals are manipulated by us, and research in this area continues, and so, for Frey, “it is a mistake to use expressions like ‘the sort of life proper to the species’ as if this sort of life were itself immune to technological advance.”
FREY’S RESPONSE TO THE RIGHT TO LIFE ARGUMENT II • Further, Frey points out that these animals are bred by us to a sort of life to which their bred species is proper. • Given that the kind of life which is proper to their species is the kind of life which they have been bred to have, how could pigs, chickens, and cows simply be released into the world? • If survival for them would be tough or even impossible, then would we be sentencing them to a worse life than the one they have as bred for meat?
FREY’S RESPONSE TO THE RIGHT TO LIFE ARGUMENT III • Frey: “What sort of life is proper to chickens? One cannot appeal to chickens in the wild or ‘non-developed chickens for an answer, since there are none; chickens are developments or productions of our own.” • We can’t then talk about a life proper to a chicken other than the one which it has been bred to have.
FREY’S CONCLUSIONS • Frey says that Singer’s view does not depend on seeing animal life as valuable in itself, but depends “exclusively on minimizing pain and suffering.” • Frey: “Pain alone is the basis of his case.” • And Frey has already taken himself to have proven that the single experience view is untenable because it would rule out our having pets and children. • And he thinks that he has shown that the miserable life view does not demand vegetarianism if pain and suffering are kept to a minimum.