Introduction to Ethics Lecture 19 Regan & The Case for Animal Rights

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Introduction to Ethics
Lecture 19
Regan & The Case for Animal Rights
By David Kelsey
The animal rights movement
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The 3 goals of the animal rights movement:
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The total abolition of the use of animals in science
The total dissolution of commercial animal agriculture
The total elimination of commercial and sport hunting and trapping
Regan wants to argue for the position by arguing that we should change the way we view and value animals…
What’s wrong with mistreating animals
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To Regan, what is wrong with mistreating animals:
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Isn’t just the pain, suffering and deprivation it causes them.
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There is a wrong more fundamental than this. The fundamental wrong is the basic belief that animals are our
resources, resources to be used as we please…
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So for Regan, a moral wrong is done if we raise a calf to eat it (veal) no matter if we treat the calf abhorrently by
allowing it to live in a very confined space or if we treat the calf more humanely. What matters isn’t how we treat the
calf, instead it’s that we raise it to eat it…
Regan’s method
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Regan’s method:
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Indirect duties views:
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Regan first looks at views that deny that animals have rights. He then argues against them.
Hold that the duties we have to animals are only duties in virtue of our duties we have to one another.
If I kick my neighbor’s dog this is wrong. And I have a duty not to do so. But only in virtue of my duty to my neighbor
to not upset him or do wrong to him or his property…
Justifying the indirect duties view:
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To justify the view we might say that though you and your dog are harmed when it is kicked, it is only your (human)
pain that matters.
Regan dismisses this argument because “pain is pain wherever it occurs.”
Contractarianism
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Contractarianism:
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Morality consists of a set of rules that individuals voluntarily agree to abide by
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Those who understand and accept the terms of the contract are covered directly. They have rights
that are created and recognized by, and protected in the contract.
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The contractors can also spell out the protection for others who cannot understand morality
sufficiently enough so as to sign the contract themselves.
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If one cannot sign the contract themselves then they have no rights…
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My duty to animals consists and is founded in my duty to the people who love and care for them…
Regan against Contractarianism
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Regan’s argument against Contractarianism:
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It isn’t an adequate theoretical approach to the moral status of human beings.
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Morality consists of rules people agree to abide by. But the people that set up the rules are the ones
who enforce them. So whoever is strong enough to enforce the rules makes them.
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If too few contactors care about an injustice then the victim isn’t protected against it…
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So the view could sanction the most blatant forms of social, economic, moral and political injustice…
Rawls’ Contractarianism
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John Rawls’ view:
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Regan’s reply to Rawls:
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The view puts the contractors behind a veil of ignorance. All accidental features of being a human being are
ignored, for example, race, sex, age, intelligence, etc.
This eliminates all bias and prejudice in choosing our morality.
Thus, might doesn’t make right because the contractor doesn’t know whether he will be the one being
discriminated against.
On Rawls’ view we have no direct duties to those who cannot sign the contract, i.e. those who do not
understand morality such as small children or the mentally challenged.
But Regan’s point is that if we harmed a small child we would be doing a wrong to the child and not just a
wrong to those who care about him.
Question:
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Is this reply sufficient? Maybe small children and the mentally challenged are granted rights behind the veil
of ignorance just because I don’t know whether I am one or not.
Could we idealize the terms of the contract such that one is granted full moral rights by the contract so long
as:
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He or she can sign the contract or
Were the individual fully rational he would sign it...
Regan on Indirect duties views
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Regan’s point against Contractarianism:
– Regan thinks Contractarianism is an indirect duties view. Only those who can sign the
contract are granted full moral rights.
• Maybe we can grant full moral rights based on some other criteria. For example, if one were
fully rational and healthy and he would sign the contract then he is granted full moral rights.
– Thus, we have a duty to not harm something or someone who cannot sign the contract
only insofar as one who can sign cares about them.
– But Regan thinks such a view is plainly false because when we harm a young child for
instance it is plain that we are wronging the child and not merely his parents or loved
ones.
Regan against Utilitariansim
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Regan argues against Utilitarianism:
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Regan considers Utilitarianism as a direct duties view. Utilitarianism can prohibit mistreating animals
so long as doing so leads to evil consequences…
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But suppose you have an Aunt Bea who is rich and intends to give you a large inheritance after she
dies. She won’t give you this money now. She is a rather old, inactive, cranky and sour person but
she prefers to go on living.
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Suppose you could pay someone to take care of her.
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Thus, the world will be better off without Aunt Bea.
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So according to Utilitarianism you ought to take care of it.
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But according to Regan this would be wrong.
Regan’s view
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The Rights View:
– Regan begins with the view that an individual has inherent moral worth.
• So we are more than merely a receptacle or machine out to produce utility or pleasure and the
absence of pain.
– For the sake of equality Regan adds that anyone who has inherent value has it equally.
• Thus, one’s race or sex doesn’t determine whether one is inherently valuable.
– All those having inherent value then have “an equal right to be treated with respect, to
be treated in ways that do not reduce them to the status of things, as if they existed as
resources for others.”
• I violate an individuals rights when I treat him in some way that fails to show respect for their
value.
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Benefits of the rights view:
– It denies the tolerability of any and all forms of discrimination
– It denies that we can bring about good results by using evil means that violate an
individuals rights
The Rights View
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The Rights view:
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Regan thinks that full moral rights aren’t limited to only humans.
His argument:
• Although animals lack the intelligence, autonomy or reason so do some human beings…
• To say that Rights only belong to Homo Sapiens is speciesism…
• We cannot say that although animals do have inherent value that they have less value than do
humans.
– Regan’s argument: if animals have less inherent value than us because of something they lack like
reason or autonomy or intellect then it will follow that certain humans, for example the mentally
challenged, have less value as well.
The Rights view
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What grants one full moral rights?
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Regan thinks it isn’t rationally defensible to hold that only humans have full moral rights.
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What is common and similar to all human life, according to Regan is this:
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“we are each of us the experiencing subject of a life, a conscious creature having an individual
welfare that has importance to us whatever our usefulness to others.”
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Every dimension of our life, our pleasure and pain, suffering and sadness, satisfaction and
frustration, continued existence or untimely death “make a difference to the quality of our life as
lived, as experienced, by us as individuals.
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For Regan, since animals are the experiencing subject of a life as well it follows that animals too have
rights…
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An animal’s experiences, (its pleasure and pain, etc.), make a difference to the quality of life as lived and
experienced by that animal…
What follows from the Rights view…
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What follows from the rights view:
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The animal rights movement is part of the human rights movement.
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The use of animals in science ought to be abolished.
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Just as we fight for women’s rights so to ought we fight for the rights of animals.
Doing so doesn’t treat them with the respect they deserve.
Commercial animal agriculture ought to be abolished.
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The fundamental wrong is that animals cannot be treated as resources for human beings.

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