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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

Ethics of Whaling

In search of the right thing to do

should whaling be banned
Should Whaling Be Banned?
  • Answer has several dimensions:
    • economic
    • cultural
    • scientific
    • moral
  • Our discussion will be limited to moral arguments
ethical inquiry
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
is whaling morally wrong
Is Whaling Morally Wrong?
  • Develop a list of relevant reasons to support a moral argument for/against whaling.

For Whaling

Against Whaling

example morally significant characteristics
Example Morally Significant Characteristics
  • Sentience - ability to suffer
  • Intelligence
  • Self-aware
  • Immortal soul
  • Concern for conspecifics
  • Playfulness
  • Ability to communicate
form of moral argument
Form of Moral Argument
  • Premises
  • Guiding Principle
  • Conclusion
example moral argument
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
develop your own argument
Develop Your Own Argument
  • Premises
  • Guiding Principle
  • Conclusion
evaluating moral arguments
Evaluating Moral Arguments
  • Are premises true?
  • Does conclusion follow logically?
  • Is moral principle justifiable?
need for general moral principles
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
moral theories
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.
other moral theories
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
justice fairness
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?
other moral theories15
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
review of ethics lesson
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?
review continued
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.
anti whaling argument 1
Anti-whaling Argument #1
  • Killing whales is sadistic and cruel behavior
  • Cruelty ought to be condemned and discouraged
  • Therefore whaling is wrong.
argument 1 evaluation
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
anti whaling argument 2
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.
whaling livestock slaughter
Whaling = Livestock Slaughter?


discrimination based

solely on species


pro whaling argument 1
Pro-whaling Argument #1
  • Whaling is an important cultural tradition
  • All cultural traditions are permissible
  • Therefore, whaling is permissible
all cultural traditions permissible
All Cultural Traditions Permissible?
  • cock-fighting
  • hub-cap stealing
  • infanticide
the appropriate questions
The Appropriate Questions
  • What Cultural Differences are Respectable?
  • Are we being consistent in our moral arguments?
pro whaling argument 2
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.
ethics of other wildlife decisions
Ethics of Other Wildlife Decisions
  • Deer Management
  • Wolf Re-introduction
  • International Wildlife Management
the case for animal rights tom regan 1983
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
animal rights view incompatible with environmental ethics
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
can the utilitarian argument bridge the gap
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
a hedonistic utilitarian argument for therapeutic hunting
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.


can animal rights and environmental ethics converge
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

overriding moral duties
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 ...
lessons learned
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)
leopold s land ethic
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.
the leopold imperative
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.”

homework assignment
Homework Assignment
  • Continue to develop and debate moral arguments
  • Evaluate sources of information
  • Recognize your ethnocentric biases
  • Identify oversimplified or exaggerated arguments
ethics quiz
Ethics Quiz
  • Your Name:
  • What was the most important thing you learned today?
  • What question is still troubling you about this topic?