Ethical Attitudes to Animals Animal Use Approved practices Philosophical basis Scientific beliefs

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Gary Varner, Texas A&M U.

Gary Comstock, Iowa State U.

Ethical Attitudes to Animals

1. Animal Use
Approved practices Philosophical basis Scientific beliefs
"Animals were put here Cockfighting, bullfighting Consciousness necessary Animals lack

for our use by (Nature, Injuring animals for movies to suffer. Language and reason, language,

God). Their primary Cosmetic testing reason necessary for & consciousness.

purpose is to serve us. Confined exotic animal hunting consciousness. Have only "non-

They are our property; Sport hunting R. Descartes, conscious"

we are their masters." Circuses, rodeo P. Carruthers experiences.

2. Animal Welfare
"We are stewards of Raising food animals humanely Consciousness necessary Animals possess

animals created by Slaughter with minimal pain to suffer. Trade-off costs consciousness.

(Nature, God). They Pets and animal ownership against benefits. Benefits Have interests,

are our companions; Subsistence hunting to humans of using animals can suffer pain.

we should care for Some, not all, rodeo events often outweigh the costs But these pains &

them. We may use Killing animals for clothes to the animals. pleasures are on a

them considerately." Some, not all, zoo animals P. Singer, R. G. Frey comparatively

low level.

3. Animal Rights
"Animals have their Vegetarianism, or veganism. Consciousness necessary Animals possess

own interests, desires, Conserve wildlife habitat. to suffer. Do not trade- interests. Some

and social lives. We Rightists may condone some off costs against benefits. can reason about

should respect their illegal activities to save Animal interests are their immediate

interests because they especially intelligent animals, typically equivalent to future. Some live

are subjects of a life, such as great apes. identical human interests in social groups, and

just as we are." Opposed to much animal research T. Regan, E. Pluhar have projects that

Many opposed to leather, milk matter to them.

All three positions assume that animals must be capable of being conscious if they are to be capable of suffering.

  1. For those in the Animal Use position: What is the scientific basis for denying that animals are conscious?

  1. For those in the Animal Welfare and Animal Rights positions: What is the moral status of an animal not capable of being conscious?

Three case studies in animal agriculture
1. Beef slaughter
Approximately 30 million cattle are slaughtered yearly in the United States. When it comes to.the slaughter procedure itself, the large-scale, state-of-the-art facilities capable of slaughtering as many as 400 or 600 animals per hour are, perhaps contrary to popular belief, the most humane. The races approaching the stunning chute can be designed to look just like those through which cattle have traveled previously for routine veterinary care, experienced handlers can move animals along without prodding, cattle do not "smell blood in the chutes," and "stunning" is a misnomer for what happens in the kill chute, since a properly placed shot with a "stun gun" obliterates the animal's brain, making it impossible to regain consciousness.
Question: Should this method of slaughter be legally required?

Use the form on the next page to answer the question from the perspective of three different theoretical positions in animal ethics.

2. Milk cows
On average, milking cows spend between three and four years in production, after which they are slaughtered for relatively low-grade beef. Dairy farmers maintain high productivity by breeding cows to calve about yearly. The calves are removed from their mothers immediately or within days, with most of the female calves becoming replacement milk cows and almost all of the male calves being raised for veal. Statistics indicate that about one seventh of the cattle slaughtered yearly are from dairy herds.

Question: Is this method of milking morally permissible?

Use the form on the next page to answer the question from the perspective of three different theoretical positions in animal ethics.
3. Laying hens
Today over 90% of laying hens in the United States live caged in intensive egg production facilities, which have increased the average yield per hen from 70 in 1933 to 275 today. In these facilities, birds cannot forage, flap their wings, dust-bathe, nest, establish dominance hierarchies, or even preen themselves in natural ways; culling of injured birds is economically inefficient, and the entire population of a battery operation is slaughtered and replaced periodically (every 12-15 months on state of the art operations).
Poultry are still exempt from federal humane slaughter legislation and by comparison to state of the art cattle slaughter facilities, poultry slaughter is still a relatively indelicate affair; fully conscious birds are hung from their legs on conveyor belts before being stunned and beheaded.
Question: Is this method of obtaining eggs morally permissible?

Use the form on the next page to answer the question from the perspective of three different theoretical positions in animal ethics.

Reference and acknowledgement
Gary Comstock prepared the first draft of the chart, basing it on an online lecture by Gary Varner of the Philosophy Department, Texas A & M University, “Lecture on animal rights and animal welfare.” Varner wrote the three cases, which appeared originally in The Ag Bioethics Forum 8 (December 1996): 4, 6, 9. They are based on information in Bernard Rollin's Farm Animal Welfare: Social, Bioethical, and Research Issues (Iowa State University Press, 1995), and in Gary E. Varner, "What's Wrong with Animal By-Products?" Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 7 (1994): 7-17. Comstock devised the student exercise on p. 3.

Three case studies in animal agriculture

Explain how each ethical theory assesses each way of treating animals .
1. On each line, write "J," "NJ," or "D"
J = Ethically justified

NJ = Not ethically justified

D = Depends

  1. In complete sentences, explain each of your answers.

Beef slaughter Milk cows Laying hens

Animal use : ___________ ___________ _________

Animal welfare : ___________ ___________ __________

Animal rights : ___________ ____________ ____________

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