27 July 2005

Cruelty-Free Baseball and Softball

Khursh Mian Acevedo sent a link to this interesting site.

11 July 2005

John Rawls (1921-2002) on the Moral Status of Animals

Last of all, we should recall here the limits of a theory of justice. Not only are many aspects of morality left aside, but no account is given of right conduct in regard to animals and the rest of nature. A conception of justice is but one part of a moral view. While I have not maintained that the capacity for a sense of justice is necessary in order to be owed the duties of justice, it does seem that we are not required to give strict justice anyway to creatures lacking this capacity. But it does not follow that there are no requirements at all in regard to them, nor in our relations with the natural order. Certainly it is wrong to be cruel to animals and the destruction of a whole species can be a great evil. The capacity for feelings of pleasure and pain and for the forms of life of which animals are capable clearly imposes duties of compassion and humanity in their case. I shall not attempt to explain these considered beliefs. They are outside the scope of the theory of justice, and it does not seem possible to extend the contract doctrine so as to include them in a natural way. A correct conception of our relations to animals and to nature would seem to depend upon a theory of the natural order and our place in it. One of the tasks of metaphysics is to work out a view of the world which is suited for this purpose; it should identify and systematize the truths decisive for these questions. How far justice as fairness will have to be revised to fit into this larger theory it is impossible to say. But it seems reasonable to hope that if it is sound as an account of justice among persons, it cannot be too far wrong when these broader relationships are taken into consideration.

(John Rawls, A Theory of Justice [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1971], 512)

10 July 2005

George F. Will

See here for my column about conservatism and animal rights.

New Harvest

Joanna Lucas sent a link to this interesting site. See here as well. And if you have an inexplicable craving for human flesh, see here.

07 July 2005

Animal Rights

Can animals have rights? Not do they have rights, but can they have rights? If they can, then it's an open question whether they do. If they can't, then they don't. See here.

06 July 2005

Happy Birthday, Peter

Peter Singer—“the dangerous philosopher”—is 59 years old today. He has been writing at a furious pace since at least 1970, when his first philosophical publication (on determinism) appeared. I have always had a love-hate relationship with Singer. I detest his leftist politics. I reject his consequentialism. I even disagree with him about the nature of philosophy. Singer thinks the aim of philosophy is to change the world. I think the aim of philosophy is to understand the world—specifically, its logical structure. To the extent that Singer advocates change, he is acting not as a philosopher but as what Richard A. Posner calls a “moral entrepreneur.”

But I love Singer’s concern for nonhuman animals. Reading his book Animal Liberation (1975) during law school changed my life. It is one of the most important books ever written. Singer says he’s an animal liberationist because he’s a utilitarian, but his argument for changing our treatment of animals—as he admitted to me in correspondence—doesn’t presuppose utilitarianism or any other normative ethical theory. All it presupposes is a principle of equal consideration of interests. Animals have interests. Disregarding or discounting these interests, while giving full weight to the like interests of humans, is irrational, a kind of self-contradiction. What would you say of someone who accorded full weight to the interests of whites, or men, but disregarded or discounted the interests of nonwhites, or women? Speciesism has the same logical structure, and hence the same moral status, as racism and sexism. That we put animals in a separate moral category doesn’t make it right, any more than our putting blacks or women in a separate moral category would make it right.

Even when I disagree with Singer, I admire his courage, his honesty, his adherence to principle (the principle of utility), and his decency. He has been badly treated over the years, and yet he keeps working. Six years ago, in correspondence with the late James Rachels, I mentioned the controversy surrounding Singer’s recent hiring by Princeton University. Rachels wrote back: “Hi Keith, thanks for forwarding the item about Peter. He’s catching a lot of flack, which is a tribute to his stature—no one cares much what the rest of the crazy philosophers think! But it’s too bad that he is having to endure this sort of press, since he’s about the most admirable human being I know.” I agree. Happy birthday, Peter! May you have many more “dangerous” years.

Addendum: Here is a column I wrote about Singer almost two years ago.

Addendum 2: Here is my review of Dale Jamieson's book Singer and His Critics.

04 July 2005

Animal-Centered History

Khursh Mian Acevedo sent a link to this interesting story about the history of nonhuman animals. I wrote a history of wolf legislation when I was in law school. The title was "The Legal Status of the Wolf (Canis Lupus) in Michigan, 1805-1982." I also wrote a philosophical essay entitled "Do Plants Have Rights?" A year later, I wrote an historical essay entitled "Hunting in Colonial America: An Essay on Nationalism and Popular Culture." More recently, I have written about the moral status of animal companions. See here.

03 July 2005

Mercy for Animals

Here is a website devoted to compassionate, respectful living.

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Re "Face to Face With the Foie Gras Problem," by Lawrence Downes (Editorial Observer, June 26):

If it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. And so, too, I would argue that if a duck is force-fed by shoving a tube down its throat three times a day until its liver grows to as much as 10 times its normal size, you have animal cruelty.

Farmed animals deserve to lead their brief, often tortured lives as animals, not units of production unable to experience their natural instincts.

Although Mr. Downes suggests that there were no signs of suffering at the foie gras farm, polls show that the public rejects the practice. New York should make foie gras production illegal.

Brad Goldberg
President, Animal Welfare Trust
Mamaroneck, N.Y., June 27, 2005

To the Editor:

"Face to Face With the Foie Gras Problem," by Lawrence Downes, is a clarion call to do nothing.

Because billions of chickens and millions of pigs and cows are slaughtered in this country each year, should we not try to end the suffering of some? Should we stop trying to alleviate poverty in Africa because millions are in poverty in Asia and South America?

Will stopping foie gras production end the suffering of the billions of other animals we torture in factory farms and slaughterhouses each year? No, but it is a step in the right direction, and that is better than standing still.

Rebecca Wittman
Waterville, N.Y., June 27, 2005