Ethical Treatment of Animals

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Ethical Treatment of Animals

What values and obligations should govern our treatment of animals? Is it morally acceptable to have pets and eat animals? If not, why? But even if it is acceptable to eat animals, what standards of treatment should govern our treatment of them? How do we extend values from human ethics to our treatment of animals? Is it okay to test medical or cosmetics on animals?
  • Spring 2017 update: I think you could focus on either "standards of care" for animals (both ones we eat, wild ones, and pets) or the ethics of consuming them. They are obviously related and you could take on both. This week in my Philosophy of Food class we happen to be addressing this issue. Check out the class notes for April 18 [1] and the 20th. You can access pdfs from this course.
  • Resource Needs:
  • Fundamental arguments in animal rights; how do philosopher's think we should think about extending moral categories for humans to animals?
  • Arguments from animal liberationists to defenders of animal agriculture. Accounts (text and documentary) of treatment of animals in industrial agriculture.
  • Information and analysis about the state of industrial agriculture.
  • Information on sentience, pain, and natural behaviors of animals.
  • Information on development of brains (i.e. primates (monkeys) vs mice)
  • Highly Recommended (pdfs under links in
  • Singer and Mason, "The Ethics of Eating Meat" (Chapter 4 on "Milk and Meat factories" is very good.)
  • Francione, "Animal Welfare, Happy Meat, and Veganism and the Morl Baseline"
  • Haynes, "The Myth of Happy Meat" (some notes on Haynes and Francione from another wiki page [2]


  • Post summaries of something you learned about the topic that is important to thinking about it. Consult the resource needs list above for ideas. Use both Google searches leading to authoritative information and online databases, books, and articles linked through Foley Library.

Animal Testing

Cons to Animal Testing

  • Ethical issues for animals because they cannot consent for testing- “One key argument against animal testing involves the inability of animals to consent to the tests. Humans, it is argued, can make an informed decision to consent while animals have tests forced upon them, with no choice.” “animal testing is that it involves pain, suffering and discomfort under some circumstances.” - Quinlyn Wika

  • Ethics in animal research: “Animals are subjected to painful procedures or toxic exposures that leave them injured, living impaired, or even dead.” -Quinlyn Wika

  • Should we experiment on animals? This article is saying yes- Antibiotics, insulin, vaccines for polio and cervical cancer, organ transplantation, HIV treatments, heart-bypass surgery - it reads like an A to Z of medical progress. But these major advances have something in common: they were all developed and tested using animals. -Quinlyn Wika

  • This article is talking about the psychological damage that the animals are enduring in the lab experiments as well as as the psychological damage that is being caused to the animals. It goes into what is happening in the lab and how it is affecting the animals. -Quinlyn Wika

General Information on Animal Testing:

Alternatives to Animal Testing:

  • This is from the cosmetic company Lush, which has been advocating against animal testing for over 30 years. They provide scientific examples and alternatives as well as a link to the history of animal testing. -Amy Wall

Animal Welfare Information

  • This report discusses many different aspects of the US livestock and agricultural industry. One of the biggest issues it tackles are CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), which have become the main method of raising livestock that are meant for slaughter. In the article, it not only discusses the treatment of the animals, but the effect of these CAFOs have on pollution and the US economy as well. The report discusses how the CAFOs have come to exist due to current economic and social conditions, and also talks about different possible solutions and alternatives for a more sustainable system. - Tore Kelln
  • This article presents an analysis of the last 50 years of animal treatment legislation as well as the implementation of such standards. Environmental implications, food safety and quality along with socioeconomic implications were also discussed. [Intentions and Values in Animal Welfare Legislation and Standards] (Posted by St. Peregrine Laziosi)
  • I like this article because it gives you a perspective from public policy and includes an ethical commitment. - Alfino
  • In September 2002, an international workshop was held where experts in pain of both animals and humans collaborated on the comparable aspects of pain research and treatment. They came to a conclusion that although most vertebrates and several invertebrates experience pain, there is currently no information as to what taxonomic level nociception is associated with pain, as well as whether pain is felt at the same intensity and quality among an array of species. The experts then suggested a call to action that pain assessment scientists should focus on performing cross-species studies to learn more. (citation: Paul-Murphy, Joanne, John W. Ludders, Sheilah A. Robertson. "The Need for a Cross-species Approach to the Study of Pain in Animals." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 224.5 (2004): 692-97. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.) -Laura Moretti
  • "California Proposition 2, Standards for Confining Farm Animals (2008).<,_Standards_for_Confining_Farm_Animals_(2008)>.→ In 2008 Proposition 2 was passed. The official summary of the ballot stated that, “[it]Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.”--> Definition of Free-Range in California. Is this definition to vague? Specific measurements are not included, the definition is merely a rough "approximation" that can vary from animal to animal. (Isabel Barichievich)
  • "All Proposition 2 requires is that each chicken be able to extend its limbs fully and turn around freely… Because hens have a wingspan and a turning radius that can be observed and measured, a person of reasonable intelligence can determine the dimensions of an appropriate confinement that will comply with Proposition 2."(Isabel Barichievich)
  • According to The National Chicken Council, “There’s no precise federal government definition of “free range.”....USDA generally permits the term to be used if chickens have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day, whether the chickens choose to go outside or not. <>. (Isabel Barichievich)
  • Organic definition according to the USDA: “Organic food is produced using sustainable agricultural production practices. Not permitted are most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.” Organic must be free-range; but not all free-range is organic. Important distinction to make.
  • “Department of Agriculture (USDA) approves these label claims on a case-by-case basis….In practice, most chickens stay close to water and feed, which is usually located within the chicken house.” (National Chicken Council). Very Broad standards? (Isabel Barichievich)


  • This article addresses the likelihood of consumers to deny animals they enjoy eating "minds". Cognitive dissonance occurs when thinking of eating something with a mind of it's own. The link provided is to the abstract, which lays out the basics of three different studies analyzing this phenomenon of "denial of a mind" to animals we like to eat. -Megan Lantsberger
  • Very interesting. This article engages the kind of research in moral psychology that you are also reading in Haidt. Here's a pdf link [3]- Alfino
  • This link could help as it leads to articles and informational text against the current trends in animal agriculture. It leads to many different scholarly articles regarding specific ethical animal problems, several of which I read and held helpful information. - Morgan Lancaster
  • Cowspiracy is a pretty good documentary and probably available to many of you. It takes a strong vegan turn at the end, which is a bit off the main argument, but Kip Anderson is very Socratic in the way he challenges leading environmental organizations on their lack of advocacy for reduction of meat production. -- Alfino
  • This article gives a brief info of animal sanctuaries and addresses the controversy of breeding. [4] -Kristen Mahoney
  • Resource from Encyclopedia of philosophy for reference to where a few famous philosophers are associated with the topic of animal welfare and ethics. - Kristina Krick

-Animals, Nature and Human.....pdf (this article talks about a sociological and ideological perspective on animal rights activism) Chelsey Hand


Post arguments that you find or want to put forward on this topic. You can research arguments by doing a Google search, but also by consulting databases like Philosopher's Index, Academic Search Complete, and Proquest.

  • Against testing
Darwin's evolution argument: humans are no different from animals because we have the same origin. Traditional morality is "speciesist," indicating that humans are above all other creatures and were only created in God's image. Using Darwin's theory of evolution, this idea can be rejected. This implies that humans may have a moral duty to animals because there is not a distinction between the two creatures, and should therefore not be a moral distinction. (Citation: Kaufman, Whitley. "Does Animal Ethics Need A Darwinian Revolution?." Ethical Theory & Moral Practice 17.4 (2014): 807-818. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Feb. 2016 [5] ) -Jordan Thurston
  • Radical Abolitionism argument: non-human animals have a moral status and animal use should be abolished because of JUSTICE. This counteracts the resource paradigm that animals are resources for humans to use. This paradigm does not address the underlying issue of animal rights, that treatment of animals does not matter as much as injustice towards animals. The resource paradigm (according to this article's argument) is unjust. There is a less radical argument along the lines of radical abolitionism called "welfarism" where animals DO have a moral status, but humans can use animals as long as they do not suffer. This suggests that humans do have a duty to animals, but does not go so far as to say that they cannot use animals as a resource. (Citation: Wyckoff, Jason. "Toward Justice For Animals." Journal Of Social Philosophy 45.4 (2014): 539-553.Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Feb. 2016 [6] ) -Jordan Thurston
  • Animal Pain: A proper understanding of neurological studies of animal pain begins with the distinction between nociception and pain. Nociception — the capacity to sense noxious stimuli — is one of the most primitive sensory capacities. Neurons functionally specialized for nociception have been described in invertebrates such as the medical leech and the marine snail Aplysia californica (Walters 1996). Because nociceptors are found in a very wide range of species, their presence and activity in a species provides little or no direct evidence for phenomenally conscious pain experiences. The gate control theory of Melzack and Wall (1965) describes a mechanism by which “top-down” signals from the brain modulate “bottom-up” nociception, providing space for the distinction between felt pain and nociception.(Citation:[7] Allen, Colin. "Animal Consciousness." Stanford University. Stanford University, 23 Dec. 1995. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.) -Savanah Van Citters
  • For testing
Humans have the highest capacity to understand, feel, and reason. There is a hierarchy in animals as well: monkeys and other primates are closer genetically to humans than other animals, and would be able to understand and possible feel what is happening to them. This would go beyond pain, to emotional stress, degradation, and shame. Animals that do not have the capacity to understand what is happening to them or feel shame, may be more conducive to testing than primates. -Abbey Sicuro
A different approach to Darwin's theories is taking the "survival of the fittest" standpoint. The goal of life is arguably to increase fitness to a maximum. If humans have claimed the spot as the top predator, they earned it due to being superior or better adapted than other animals. Just as a wolf has no moral obligation to protect a population of elk, neither do humans have a moral obligation to protect their prey. -Megan Landsberger
This article suggests that some of the discoveries made through animal testing have been used to not only benefit humans, but also the quality of life for other animals. (Help them prevent disease, etc.) -Sabrina Williams
This website provides a timeline documenting the most important medical discoveries that have been made through animal research -Sabrina Williams
  • Minimization of Animal Pain: Research that involves experiments in which pain is inflicted on animals on purpose should not be abolished, but should be minimized. Because humans have power over animals and animals with physical capability will feel pain, the pain inflicted on animals should be minimized in order to create the greatest welfare for the animals. However, the practice should not be abolished because much of the research is beneficial to the welfare of humans. In order to fully decide whether a particular experiment is ethical, one should consider how useful the research will be, how many trials will need to be conducted, how relevant the research is to human progress, and whether there is a better way to get the same answers. (Citation: Loveless, Sherry; Giordano, James. "Neuroethics, Painience, and Neurocentric Criteria for the Moral Treatment of Animals." Cambridge Quaterly of Healthcare Ethics. 23.2 (Apr 2014): 163-72.) -Alex Neitz
  • The following link is to an article written by Peter Singer about his view of the ethics behind the treatment of animals. Singer was one of the first individuals to fully address the issue and even though the full book is forty-years old, it is still prominent in the animal rights movement. The article is very helpful for obtaining an idea of his main points of the book without having to read the entire piece of literature. ( Citation: Singer, Peter. "The Animal Liberation Movement." Nwveg. Northwest VEG. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <> ) - Sophie Oswald
  • This is a classic statement. Worth reading, certainly if you pursue the paper. - Alfino
  • Summary of Article: Singer addresses the question: Should human interests prevail over animal interests? In his article, Singer challenges the assumption that they should. Singer argues that the ideal of equality is not based on actual equality of humans, but instead defines it as "a prescription for how we should treat humans." He takes the Utlitarian view of this prescription by arguing that each person's interests are just as important to them as your interests are to you and extends it to animals. If an animal has the capacity to suffer, it's interests to not suffer ought to be taken into account. However, this equality is an equality of interests, not rights, so although we should not inflict pain on animals, we do not need to give them the right to vote. In short, Singer's main argument is that pains of the same magnitude are equally bad regardless of the species. (This does not necessarily extend to death though.) Furthermore, interests of animals should be taken into account in terms of quantity, so its important to liberate chickens and lab rats because there are many of them who suffer. Humans tend to sympathize more with appealing animals such as cats and dogs and cute wild animals, rather than lab or farm animals. -Alex Neitz
  • Animal Rights Uncompromised: This article looks at animal rights differently than most. In this article, they argue that it would be in animals best interests if the idea of keeping animals as pets never existed. They see the desire to keep animals as pets as selfish and deprives them of their natural behavior. In today's society, they see animals as only being able to eat, drink, and even urinate when humans allow them to. Because of domesticating animals, it has created an over population crisis which has led to unwanted animals who are 'destroyed' every year. The article also has sub articles that talks more about animal rights. For example, the idea of no-kill shelters where they use the story of a pit bull who was confined in a cage for 12-years and no one adopted him. The manager of the no-kill shelter had a change of heart especially when the pit bull would start slamming his body against the side of the cage, having gone mad from his confinement. <> - Julia George
  • This article makes the argument that "in vitro" meat is something we should consider in society. It touches on the problem of raising and killing animals for food, as well as the arguments against the ideas that in vitro meat is against nature and will reduce the number of "happy" animals. [The Ethics of Producing 'In Vitro' Meat] (Posted by St. Peregine Laziosi)
  • Down side for humans in industrial agriculture: this article gives information about how animals are raised industrial production. It also argues that industrial farm animal production is harming humans more than it is doing good. Diets rich in animal products cause chronic disease and preventable death and the U.S. spends billions of dollars every year on the treatment of diseases caused by these diets such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Besides dietary diseases, industrial farm animal production poses a threat to other public health issues. Most of the antibiotic production goes to animal feed in the U.S. which is causing an increase in antimicrobiral resistance. Industrial farm animals carry influenza that is passed on to humans such as the H1N1 virus. This article also argues that industrial farm animal production is harmful to rural communities and farmworkers due to the threats posed on their health. Animal agriculture contributes to pollution and climate change. Finally the article argues that the animals involved are harmed through inhumane death sentences. When animals are not useful to the operation they are killed and disposed of instead of eaten. Most importantly these harms are avoidable. [8]. -Alex Neitz
  • This website called "The Philosophy of Food Project" was created by the University of North Texas (College of Arts and Sciences) and contains lots of information about food and it's relation to philosophy. One specific section, which I have linked below, talks specifically about many of the arguments common when talking about food, as well as links to further information, including both pros and cons. I would highly recommend others to use this website to do further research! [9] -Laura Moretti
  • The NY Times held an essay contest regarding the ethics behind eating (or not eating) meat. From over three thousand entries, this was chosen as the winner. The author's perspective is focused on circumstance rather than the an all encompassing principle. As a side note Peter Singer was one of the judges for the contest. Altogether a short, yet interesting read! [10] - Jacob Beardemphl
  • This article discusses the regulation of animal research. This discusses the Animal Welfare Act and how it has been amended multiple times to ensure proper treatment of animals in research. -Sophie Anton
  • This article on the NCBI website discusses the regulations and ethical considerations with animal experimentation and also includes the perspective of the Islamic religion. This article has a religious aspect, but also focuses on the standards that are already in place for the ethical treatment of animals in experimental testing. ---Kate Lester
  • This article from NCBI also discusses international efforts to maintain ethical standards in the treatment of animals in scientific research, specifically focusing on the efforts that the UK has instated. ---- Kate Lester


Post here under your name (or login anonymously and either use your saint name (if you want me to know who you are) or make up your own. Post a brief statement of your views as they are evolving on the topic. What arguments, values, and facts are central (or gaining prominence) in your thinking?

  • Just one insight: animal testing for scientific purposes and cosmetics makes sense, because we do not want to harm humans in the process. On the other hand, there are varying levels of harm, and varying levels of brain development. In other words, there is a difference between cancer drugs and makeup, and monkeys and mice. -Abbey Sicuro
  • Is testing animals for medical purposes only justified if there are positive results that could save lives or can animal testing be justified even if the goals are not being immediately met? I think ethical animal testing with or without results is justified because science is a process. Many medications are able to be successfully developed because of the numerous failed testings that show how to modify the medication to make it closer to success. -Sophie Anton