Animal Studies Bibliography

Cigman, Ruth. 1980. Death, misfortune, and species inequality. Philosophy and Public Affairs 10(1): 47-64.

Some argue that speciesism is parallel to sexism and racism in that it makes distinctions based on morally irrelevant differences. This is based on the idea that animals can suffer as much as humans and therefore have an equal right to be spared this suffering. This is much less, however, than what an anti-sexist or anti-racist is claiming, and therefore the analogy breaks down. Human beings have a range of possible misfortunes, including death, of which we are aware and therefore have a right to be protected against, but this is not the case for animals. To have a right to be protected from some misfortune, one must have a capacity to be subject of that misfortune--one must have the capacity for the awareness of its meaning and consequences and the capacity to desire to avoid it. We may, because of the fact than animals can suffer pain, correctly conclude that animals have a right not to suffer cruelty and that we therefore have an obligation not to inflict it. This does not necessarily extend, however, to the painless killing of animals, if animals do not qualify for the right to life. Our awareness of misfortune is reflected in the complexity of our behavior. Thus while both humans and animals may be subject to similar vulnerabilities, we do not therefore have the same rights. Humans may experience such things as fear of death, fear of getting a fatal disease, desire to meet certain life goals, and fear of misfortunes happening to others. Misfortune is not, then, simply a utilitarian measure of pain or suffering that might be applied equally to humans and animals; rather, it is made complex and perhaps tragic by the capacity of the being suffering it to deal with it in a complex fashion. Death is such a misfortune for humans because we can have an understanding of long-term future prospects and plans and of the finality of death and can desire to avoid it. Animals respond instinctually to protect themselves when they are in danger, but this does not mean that they have the complex understanding of the meaning of death and life, and the desire to remain alive for the purpose of meeting future goals and the like, which makes death a morally relevant misfortune. The primitive (62) behavior of many animals, like mice, suggests the absurdity (61) of attributing such complicated capacities and philosophical understandings to them. There may be come animals, however, like chimps or dolphins, who upon further empirical investigation may be found to have such understandings, and these animals might then be extended the right to life. This argument has implications for vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is usually based on the argument that animals have a right not to suffer and right to life and that it is therefore wrong to kill them for our hedonistic pleasure in meat-eating. We have found, however, that as long as the animal's death is quick and painless, the death is not of moral concern. However, while the death of the animal is not of moral concern, we may still see the act of causing the death as morally relevant. If there is no justifiable reason for using the animals for meat, then killing them may be seen as an act of senseless destruction like destroying an artifact or tree. We must determine, then, what bases there are for using the meat--for example, long-standing traditions and nutritional value--and combine these with study to determine the suffering that animals actually go through in slaughter, to determine whether vegetarianism is the morally required course or not.


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