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29: APR 30


Ethics Day 3
  • McPherson, Tristram. "The Ethical Basis for Veganism" 209-221; 229-236
  • Milligan, Tony. Chapter 4: "Contract Theories", from Animal Ethics: the basics, 61-84.

McPherson, Tristram. "The Ethical Basis for Veganism"

  • Defining Ethical Veganism
  • Absolute vs. Modest definitions - absolute position difficult. not all animals suffer. Modest more typical meaning.
  • Strength of modest thesis still admits variation, from grave prohibition to supererogatory behavior (beyond duty, like the bike commuter)
  • Modal (having to do with necessity) fragility -- Is it absolutely wrong to consume animal products or "typically" wrong? Wrong because of less essential conditions, like the state of animal agriculture or regulatory systems that allow excess suffering? (Do you admit a range and exceptions?)
  • Sources of Defense for Veganism
  • Self-interested Reasons -- the positive values of an animal free diet.
  • Doesn't get at non-dietary uses of animals.
  • Doesn't support absolute non-consumption.
  • Environmental Reasons -- strong arguments about the unsustainability of high levels of animal agriculture and animal consumption
  • But there may be a non-zero optimal level of animal agriculture (We saw this in Simon Fairlie's argument for "default animal production")
  • Religious Reason -- He doesn't mention Judeo-Christian sources, but you could see from Soler how you might revive a spirituality of non-animal consumption based on God's creation of life and avoidance of taking life.
  • Still not clear this involves an absolute prohibition.
  • Animal-focused Arguments
  • This is the avenue McPherson finds most promising, though he is sceptical of applying systematic theories (Like Regan's rights theory). Too many ways of interpreting them. Highly contested.
  • Principle of non-suffering: "Other things being equal, it is wrong to cause suffering"
  • But note that our intuitions about killing and suffering might not map onto animals directly: Strong vs. Weak asymmetry. 218.
  • Weak - causing suffering worse than killing (torturing a kitten worse than killing it) (kitten thought experiment on 2190.
  • Strong - wrong to cause suffering to an animal but not wrong to kill it. McPherson sceptical of Strong: it seems wrong to kill an animal gratuituously.
  • Still might be "defeasible" -- meaning it might admit of exceptions.
  • Complications result from considering the Principle of non-suffering in relation to a prohibition against killing. A "gap" between these principles and a strong case for veganism still exists. This is what he means by the section title "Completing the Naive Argument" (221)
  • Proposals for "closing the gap"
  • Individual Efficacy
  • Group Efficacy
  • Complicity
  • Complications for Vegan Arguments
  • aggregation
  • demandingness of principles (It's hard to be vegan)
  • specificity of response
  • methodological burdens -- counter-intuitive.

Milligan, Tony. "Contract Theories"

  • Reviews some basic positions. Regan is more of a natural rights theorist, but contemp. animal rights isn't nec. Might be more about interests or rationally defensible social conventions.
  • This might lead you to embrace a contractarian approach to animal rights, since it is more relational (unlike nat'l right)
  • notion of "original position" -- describes situations in which we should infer a rational agreement. (example of emergency aid, 69)
  • Big problem with using contract theory in animal ethics: animal can't be parties to a contract. Rawls excludes them.
  • 71: review of Rawls. Does it makes sense to ask the question: If you were behind the veil of ignorance and didn't know whether you would be a food animal or not, what principle of justice would you agree to?
  • Problems: You might not care what happens if you turn out to be a pig. Or only care about pain. Human excellences not being available.
  • More problems: Do we abstract from concrete aspect of our identity (like being carnivores?)
  • Milligan: Maybe it helps to think of animals like marginal humans. They need our advocacy, but they might not be parties to the contract.
  • Some efforts (Scanlon) to think of contract rights without the Rawlsian machinery of deliberation. Just rational or reasonable agreement.
  • Domestication as a Contract
  • very popular justification for meat eating: it's part of the deal that is domestication. Animal gets: existence ("opportunity of life") and care Human gets: meat. Ironically, though, if you accept this, then curtailment of meat production is against the interests of animals. Something seems to have gone wrong. Still, extinctionism is also an odd way of advocating for animals.
  • Conclusion: Death is an extreme kind of payment in a contract. Even if parties could agree to a contract covering domestic animal consumption, would we allow it? (Like consensual cannabalism contracts. Yikes.)