27 June 2012

Tom Regan on Kant's View of Animals

Tom ReganUnlike [John] Rawls, whose considered views on our duties regarding animals are unclear at best, [Immanuel] Kant provides us with an explicit statement of an indirect duty view. That Kant should hold such a view should not be surprising; it is a direct consequence of his moral theory, the main outlines of which may be briefly, albeit crudely, summarized. . . . On Kant's view, rational beings, by which he means moral agents, are ends in themselves (have, that is, independent value, or worth, in their own right, quite apart from how useful they happen to be to others). As such, no moral agent is ever to be treated merely as a means. This is not to say that we may never make use of the skills or services of moral agents in their capacities as, say, mechanics, plumbers, or surgeons. It is to say that we must never impose our will, by force, coercion, or deceit, on any moral agent to do what we want them [sic] to do just because we stand to benefit as a result. To treat moral agents in this way is to treat them as if they had no value in their own right or, alternatively, as if they were things. As Kant remarks, "beings whose existence depends, not on our will, but on nature, have nonetheless, if they are non-rational only a relative value and are consequently called things."  Moral agents are not nonrational, do not have "only a relative value," and are not things. Moral agents (rational beings) are ends in themselves.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 174-5 [italics in original; ellipsis added; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])

12 June 2012

Tom Regan on Harm to Animals

Tom ReganThat individuals can be harmed without knowing it has important implications for the proper assessment of the treatment of animals. Modern farms (so-called factory farms), for example, raise animals in unnatural conditions. The animals frequently are crowded together, as in the case of hogs, or kept in isolation, as in the case of veal calves. Since the only environments these animals ever see are the artificial ones in which they live, it sometimes is claimed that they don't know what they are missing and so cannot be worse off for having to forego [sic] an alternative environment they know nothing about. The unspoken assumption is not that what you don't know can't hurt you; it is that what you don't know can't harm you. This assumption is false. If I were to raise my son in a comfortable cage, in isolation from other human contact, though seeing to it that his basic biological needs were satisfied, and if, in all of my dealings with him, I went to considerable trouble to insure [sic] that he experienced no unnecessary pain, then I could not be faulted on the grounds that I was hurting him. However, I would have quite obviously harmed him and this in a most grievous way. How lame would be my retort that my son "didn't know what he was missing" and so wasn't harmed by me. That he doesn't know what he's missing is part of the harm I have done to him. Those animals who are raised intensively, then, let us assume, do not know what they're missing. But that does not show that they are not being harmed by the conditions under which they live. Quite the contrary, just as would be true in the case of my son, what we should say is that part of the harm done to these animals by factory farming is that they do not know this.

(Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, updated with a new preface [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004], 97-8 [italics in original; endnote omitted] [first edition published in 1983])

01 June 2012


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