Chapter 6: Animal Rights


Tom Regan, “Do Animals Have a Right to Life?”

Understanding

  1. What does it mean to say that something has a right to life? an equal right to life? a natural right to life?
  2. According to Regan, what is wrong with the view that only humans have an equal natural right to life?
  3. What does it mean to say that something has intrinsic worth?
  4. Regan disagrees with the view that only humans have intrinsic worth. Why?
  5. What characteristic with intrinsic worth does Regan think can ground an equal natural right to life?

Evaluation

  1. “The most plausible argument for the view that humans have an equal natural right to life . . . seems to provide an equally plausible justification for the view that animals have this right also,” Regan writes. What are his reasons for this claim? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
  2. Regan says non-vegetarian should have to justify why they do eat meat, rather than asking vegetarians to explain why they do not—that is, the burden of proof ought to be on meat-eaters, not vegetarians. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Steven L. Davis, “The Least Harm Principle May Require That Humans Consume a Diet Containing Large Herbivores, Not a Vegan Diet”

Understanding

  1. What is the least harm principle?
  2. Why does Davis argue that it would be better to eat pasture/ruminants such as cattle that have been grass-fed, than to be vegetarians?

Evaluation

  1. At the end of the reading, Davis disagrees with the claim that unintentionally inflicting harm is less bad than causing harm intentionally. Certainly this is true for criminal acts, though: motive and intention are crucial in assessing guilt or innocence in crimes. Davis disagrees with this with respect to killing animals of the field, though, saying “dead is dead.” Do you think killing animals of the field is less bad than killing pasture/ruminants because their deaths are unintentional? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think the lives of animals of the field matter less than the lives of cattle, pigs, chickens, and so on? Why or why not?

David Fraser, “Understanding Animal Welfare”

Understanding

  1. What is an affective state? How is it relevant to animal welfare?
  2. What are people referring to when they discuss the natural behaviour of an animal, especially animals such as cows and chickens that have been bred by humans for millennia? How is natural behaviour relevant to animal welfare?
  3. How is health and functioning relevant to animal welfare?
  4. What is the Romantic/Agrarian view? Do you think this is a fair name for this view? Why or why not?
  5. What is the Rational/Industrial view? Do you think this is a fair name for this view? Why or why not?
  6. What is mandated science? How does it differ from other sorts of science?

Evaluation

  1. Do you think that Fraser is right, that people with different normative views judge animal welfare differently? Why or why not? What difference, if any, does this have on your view of animal rights?
  2. Do you think Fraser favours the Romantic/Agrarian or the Rational/Industrial view? Why? Are those the only two views possible, or are there other alternatives?

Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, “From Polis to Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights”

Understanding

  1. Donaldson and Kymlicka assume that non-human animals have inviolable rights, analogous to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, they say rights are not enough. Why?
  2. Donaldson and Kymlicka say that “being a ‘person’ with universal human rights underdetermines one’s legal rights and political status.” What do they mean by this? What does it mean to “underdetermine” something?
  3. We should consider domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, cows, horses, chickens and so on, as co-citizens, Donaldson and Kymlicka argue. What are their reasons for this claim?
  4. Donaldson and Kymlicka discuss the implications of animals as co-citizens using two cases, socialization and work. What differences would co-citizenship make to the socialization of domesticated animals?
  5. What difference would co-citizenship make to humans using animals for work?
  6. What do Donaldson and Kymlicka mean by wild animal sovereigns? What do they say is the appropriate relationship between humans and wild animals sovereigns? Why?
  7. Donaldson and Kymlicka say that encroaching on wild animals’ territory is analogous to colonization. What are their reasons for this claim?
  8. What do Donaldson and Kymlicka mean by liminal animal denizens? What do we owe them, and why?

Evaluation

  1. Do you agree with Donaldson’s and Kymlicka’s argument that we should consider domesticated animals as co-citizens? It seems reasonably plausible with respect to cats and dogs, but it is harder to imagine what it would mean to cows, chicken, and other farm animals. Suppose we accepted Donaldson’s and Kymlicka’s argument. What would we do with the cows, chickens, pigs, and other farm animals we currently raise for food? What is your view, and why?
  2. Do you agree with Donaldson’s and Kymlicka’s argument about liminal animal denizens? Suppose you live in a city where raccoons get into garbage and strew it around, dig up lawns, and create other sorts of havoc? What could we do in this case, according to Donaldson and Kymlicka? Do you agree with them? What do you think we ought to be able to do, and why?

Comparisons

  1. Should Regan accept Davis’ argument that we should eat large pasture/ruminants rather than be vegetarians? Would Fraser? Donaldson and Kymlicka? Why? What do you think, and why?
  2. Is keeping wild animals in captivity justified? Suppose the animals were permitted only in zoos or wildlife parks with excellent animal treatment and habitats (which rules out most zoos and wildlife parks). Does this make it permissible to keep the animals in captivity? What do you think Fraser would say? Regan? Donaldson and Kymlicka? What is your view, and why? The following four arguments present a range of views on the issues:
  3. Some great apes have been trained to use sign language. The most famous of these is Koko the gorilla (http://www.koko.org/). Do you think Regan would support such research? Would Donaldson and Kymlicka? What do you think should happen to Koko, and why?
  4. What do you think Regan or Donaldson and Kymlicka would say about animal welfare science? Why? What is your view, and why?