Tag Archives: speciesism

Shelly Kagan

Although I will be defending a hierarchical approach to animal ethics, I do so with considerable misgivings, for I am afraid that some may come away thinking that my aim is to defend an approach that would justify much or all of our current treatment of animals. […] [N]othing like this is remotely the case. Our treatment of animals is a moral horror of unspeakable proportions, staggering the imagination. Absolutely nothing that I say here is intended to offer any sort of justification for the myriad appalling and utterly unacceptable ways in which we mistreat, abuse, and torture animals. […] [I]t seems to me to be true both that animals count for less than people and yet, for all that, that they still count sufficiently that there is simply no justification whatsoever for anything close to current practices.

Shelly Kagan, How to Count Animals, More or Less, Oxford, 2019, pp. 4–5

Jeff McMahan

It is arguable […] that a further effect of our partiality for members of our own species is a tendency to decreased sensitivity to the lives and well-being of those sentient beings that are not members of our species.

One can discern an analogous phenomenon in the case of nationalism. It frequently happens that the sense of solidarity among the members of a nation motivates them to do for one another all that—and perhaps even more than—they are required to do by impartial considerations. But the powerful sense of collective identity within a nation is often achieved by contrasting an idealized conception of the national character with caricatures of other nations, whose members are regarded as less important or worthy or, in many cases, are dehumanized and despised as inferior or even odious. When nationalist solidarity is maintained. in this way—as it has been in recent years in such places as Yugoslavia and its former provinces—the result is often brutality and atrocity on an enormous scale. Thus, while nationalist sentiment may have beneficial effects within the nation, these are greatly outweighed from an impartial point of view by the dreadful effects that it has on relations between nations.

I believe that our treatment of the severely retarded and our treatment of animals follow a similar pattern. While our sense of kinship with the severely retarded moves us to treat them with great solicitude, our perception of animals as radically “other” numbs our sensitivity to them, allowing us to abuse them in various ways with an untroubled conscience. We are not, of course, aggressively hostile to them the way nationalists often are to the members of rival nations; we are simply indifferent. But indifference to their lives and well-being is sufficient, when conjoined with motives of self-interest, for the flourishing of various practices that involve both killing and the infliction of suffering on a truly massive scale and that go virtually unchallenged in all contemporary human societies: factory farming, slaughtering animals for food or to take their furs, using them for the testing of cosmetic products, killing them for sport, and so on. When one compares the relatively small number of severely retarded human beings who benefit from our solicitude with the vast number of animals who suffer at our hands, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the good effects of our species-based partiality are greatly outweighed by the bad.

Jeff McMahan, The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life, Oxford, 2002, p. 221

Alastair Norcross

[T]o the extent that we view morality as not simply a human creation, a device whose sole purpose is to ensure cooperation among humans, and thereby promote human flourishing, we have powerful reasons to reject the view that the interests of animals are less significant than the like interests of humans. Such a rejection will render much animal experimentation morally unacceptable. This is not a conclusion that will be eagerly embraced by the scientific community. It is, however, the conclusion best supported by a careful examination of the relevant moral reasons.

Alastair Norcross, ‘Animal Experimentation’, in Bonnie Steinbock (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics, Oxford, 2007, p. 666

Henry Sidgwick

We have next to consider who the “all” are, whose happiness is to be taken into account. Are we to extend our concern to all the beings capable of pleasure and pain whose feelings are affected by our conduct? or are we to confine our view to human happiness? The former view is the one adopted by Bentham and Mill, and (I believe) by the Utilitarian school generally: and is obviously most in accordance with the universality that is characteristic of their principle. It is the Good Universal, interpreted and defined as ‘happiness’ or ‘pleasure,’ at which a Utilitarian considers it his duty to aim: and it seems arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the end, as so conceived, any pleasure of any sentient being.

Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics, 7th ed., London, 1907, bk. 4, chap. 1, sect. 1

Florentino Ameghino

Preguntadle a un inglés: ¿cuál es la raza humana más perfecta? La sajona, responderá imperturbablemente. Haced la misma pregunta a un francés o a un italiano, y os contestará: la latina. Si interrogáis a un chino, sus compatriotas constituyen la raza más perfecta y el pueblo más avanzado de la tierra; a los europeos llámanlos con desprecio los bárbaros de Occidente. Así, si nosotros preguntáramos: ¿cuál de los diferentes grupos de mamíferos puede considerarse el más perfecto y cuál de ellos tiene derecho a figurar a la cabeza del reino animal? El hombre, nos contestarían unánimes. Nuestro voto formaría una nota discordante en medio del concordante coro.

Quizá si pudiéramos hacer la misma pregunta a un elefante, a un león o a un caballo y ellos pudieran contestarnos, tendríamos una segunda edición de las contestaciones del inglés, el francés, el chino y el italiano; pero como esto no es posible, vamos a reemplazarlos, figurándonos por momentos que somos un proboscídeo que va a examinar el raro bípedo o un león que contempla una media docena de víctimas distintas para hacerse una idea de la presa de más alto precio.

Florentino Ameghino, Filogenia, Buenos Aires, 1884, pp. 115-116