Monday, July 10, 2017

The Species Barrier - Introduction

[Please note that this version of this text has been recovered from an early draft due to a server crash. There may be a few typos and even mistakes in the following]

How slender so ever it may sometimes appear, the barrier
which separates men from brutes is fixed and immutable.

Naturalist William Bingley,
quoted in Man and the Natural World

by Keith Thomas.

What moral difference should species membership make?  What may justify such differentiation?  There is little doubt that observed species differences have historically been presented as morally significant.  In the following chapter, philosophical and theological underpinnings of this significance are outlined and discussed.  Following that, chapter 7 will seek to provide some evidence of the importance of species categorisation, based on the harm and violence that can be created by conceptually consigning human beings into carefully constructed ‘nonhuman’ categories despite, moreover, actually remaining human throughout.  Finally, in the last of the thesis sections substantially concerning the species barrier, chapter 8 suggests that its ‘maintenance’ remains a fundamental way by which human beings can interactively establish and talk about understandings of their own moral standing in everyday life and social practices. 

Before embarking on this three-part investigation of the species barrier, a few preliminary remarks may be helpful in order to clarify the ‘current state of play’ regarding debates about the moral status of nonhuman animals.  A further examination of moral theorising about humans, nonhumans and human-nonhuman relations, this time in relation to animal advocacy and social movement mobilisation, features in Part Two of the thesis.  These initial remarks begin with Elstein’s (2003) challenging perspective in which he argues that the whole notion of ‘species’ is a social construction.  The following closely follows his reasoned claims. 

Species as a Social Construction.

Daniel Elstein (2003) sets himself the not inconsiderable task of persuading speciesists that the notion of species is a fiction.  At least he argues that ‘the concept of species is socially constructed in significant ways’ (ibid.)  He believes that this means that ‘speciesism, or the doctrine that species in itself is a characteristic that can justifiably be used as a criterion for discriminating between individuals, cannot be valid’ (ibid.)

          Elstein claims that speciesists ‘tend to see species as a concept that marks essential natures and boundaries’.  This view, he argues, means that it relies on a fiction to form moral judgements about individuals on such a basis.  Elstein maintains that once the origin and meanings attached to the notion of ‘species’ are revealed, ‘it becomes clear that there is no such thing as species that transcends its aggregate parts (ibid.)  He suggests further that, if:

the aggregate parts are not relevant to morality, neither is species; and species can only be morally relevant in the ways that its component parts are. Species has no essential “core” nature. Therefore, to make moral distinctions based on species in itself, without reference to what species consist of, is to make moral distinctions based on nothing.  In other words, it is to commit [a] fallacy (ibid.)

Having said this, Elstein is quick to say that he does not mean that moral distinctions, based upon socially constructed notions of species, can never be made.  However, ‘it does mean…that we should never make moral decisions based on species’.  He says that, given that the social construction of species is real, ‘it is the reality of species itself that is under examination’ (ibid.) For Elstein:

There are practical reasons for taking social constructions into consideration in our moral reasoning. Ideas can exist without reference to things that are real. Likewise, ideas can be morally relevant without their referents being morally relevant (ibid.)

Elstein invites his readers to imagine that an ‘insane’ man believes that he sees a unicorn.  The belief is morally relevant, he argues, because reason is given to the idea of treating this person medically, or calming him down if he appears agitated by ‘the unicorn’:

But this certainly does not mean that the nonexistent unicorn he sees is either real or something to be taken into consideration in our moral judgement. It is the idea, not the unicorn, that is morally relevant (ibid.) 

Elstein also argues that ‘something real in the world’ may correlate with the man’s illusion.  For example:

Suppose the man thinks he sees a unicorn every time a bulldog walks in front of him. The existence of the bulldog can be taken into consideration in our moral judgement (keep small children away, etc.) Therefore, the man’s illusionary idea is correlated with something real in the world that is morally relevant (i.e. the presence of a bulldog). But this of course does not mean that unicorns are morally relevant (ibid.)

Given that perceptions and their correlation ‘with something real in the world’ may bear on moral decisions, Elstein points out that pro-nonhuman philosophers have not claimed otherwise.  For example, the case for animal rights (or that for animal liberation) makes no claim that pigs, for example, have voting rights that should be respected.  Elstein states that this avoids ‘the parallel problem of being called sexist for discriminating against one of the sexes based upon real differences between men and women’.  Is it not sexist, for instance, to deny men the right to an abortion (ibid.)

          Elstein asserts that he does not intend to deny differences between human and nonhuman beings, nor that species concepts are not useful in common sense usage or in science.  He claims, however, that species concepts are ‘interest-relative’, for example:

Biologists whose main interest is in evolution tend to use species concepts that focus on evolution; ecologists tend to use species concepts that stress ecological niches; biologists interested in morphology focus on morphological characteristics in their species concepts, etc. (ibid.)

For Elstein, this means there ‘is currently no universally accepted species concept in the scientific community’.  Elstein’s principal concern, therefore, is to ask ‘whether “the species concept” is ever useful in moral philosophy?’  If the concept is useful in the context of philosophical thinking, then when is it useful?  Once this question is raised, Elstein argues, then the question of which species concept is being referred to is automatically raised:

Is it the everyday-language concept of laypeople, and if so, whose? Or is it one of the more than a dozen species concepts currently held by biologists? Anyone who argues that “the species concept” is useful in moral philosophy must first specify which species concept they have in mind. One cannot simply say “species” is morally relevant as if the term has some precise and obvious meaning – as if species were some sort of essential thing that needs no explanation, because it is God-given and beyond question (ibid.)

Elstein cites a passage written by philosopher Carl Cohen who, according to Regan (2001), provides one of the most coherent challenges to the animal rights case:

We incorporate the different moral standing of different species into our overall moral views; we think it reasonable to put earthworms on fishhooks but not cats; we think it reasonable to eat the flesh of cows but not the flesh of humans. The realisation of the sharply different moral standing of different species we internalise…In the conduct of our day to day lives, we are constantly making decisions and acting on these moral differences among species. When we think clearly and judge fairly, we are all speciesists, of course (Cohen, quoted by Elstein 2003).

Cohen uses the term ‘speciesist’ incorrectly, Elstein maintains, because he does not talk about the importance of ‘species’ but ‘about the importance of qualities that are correlated with our perceptions of species’.  Cohen fails to acknowledge that philosophers ‘point [out] that individuals of different species (and individuals of the same species) should be treated differently insofar as they have morally relevant differences – just as men have no right to an affordable mammogram and wealthy white men have no right to the benefits of affirmative action’ (ibid.)  Elstein, however, has a more fundamental question in mind: what does Cohen actually mean by “species”:

One might think that it would be giving Cohen the benefit of the doubt to name just one [definition of species], preferably one that is accepted by many experts. Let’s suppose, for instance, he is talking about Mayr’s biological species concept,[1] which defines a species as a group of individuals capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. But surely Cohen does not believe that when we “are constantly making decisions and acting on these moral differences among species”, we are making our decisions based upon matters of who is capable of breeding with whom. For not only do we not need to know any information about the mating capabilities of these animals to make moral distinctions between them; most of us wouldn’t even know what to do with this kind of information if we had it! (ibid.)  

Elstein speculates that perhaps Cohen may be relying on a “commonsense” concept of species: ‘That is, what is morally relevant are the distinctions that we are all capable of making simply by looking, with no scientific or philosophical training.  What is morally relevant, in other words, is appearance’ (ibid.) However, he doubts that Cohen’s passage had appearance in mind as a morally relevant characteristic.  ‘For Cohen, unlike Darwin,[2] the difference between humans and other animals is not merely one of degree, but one of kind’. Elstein argues that it is difficult to imagine how Cohen could hold this essential difference of kind to be based upon appearance.  More likely, he thinks:

[Cohen] would probably claim that we make distinctions between species based upon appearance, but it is not the appearance that is morally relevant but something else that is inevitably correlated with appearance. For instance, we distinguish between worms and cats based upon how they look, but the morally important distinction is ‘something else’ that is correlated by appearance (ibid.)

Unless someone can explain what this ‘something else’ is, Elstein suggests, it is only prudent to assume that it is an illusion.  Furthermore, ‘this ‘something else’ cannot be intelligence, self-awareness, language, or capacity for suffering, because then those properties would be the morally relevant characteristics - but no one argues that they are equivalent to “species.”’

Elstein says that this ‘something else’ must simultaneously satisfy at least two conditions, which he believes is not possible.  ‘First’, he argues, ‘it must correspond with what we really mean when we talk about species, and second, it must at least be plausible that it is really the basis of our moral distinctions between supposed species.’

Mayr’s biological species concept and species concepts based on genes or DNA, for instance, do not satisfy the second condition. And properties like rationality and language do not satisfy the first condition (ibid.)

          Elstein argues that his principal reason for claiming that species is socially constructed is that debate about it is often unconsciously conducted on the basis that ‘species’ has an essence.  Common orientations toward the concept of species treat it ‘as if there is something about species in the background that can not be described, but which can simultaneously satisfy both the first and second condition’ (ibid.)  Elstein concludes that:

Given the basis of any species concept, few would argue that that basis is morally relevant in any significant way. Given the basis of Mayr’s biological species concept, few would argue that whom we have the ability to mate with is a relevant characteristic for determining how much moral consideration we should be granted (ibid.)


Given the major basis of commonsense notions of species, few would argue that how we look should determine how much moral consideration we should be granted (ibid.) 

Elstein suggests that ‘some philosophers hold that our species can determine how much moral consideration we should be granted’, but not because they equate species with any biological or common sense way of determining the term.  ‘Rather’, he argues, ‘they are probably committing [a] fallacy, thinking of species membership as some essential characteristic of an individual that, in reality, does not exist’ (ibid.)

          Elstein suggests that further theorising is required in the context of the philosophical discourse on animal rights.  He says that, compared to the discourse of biologists and philosophers of science, ‘nearly every philosophical discussion of animal rights (with some notable exceptions), the concept has been unanalysed and taken for granted, as if the “problem” has been solved.  The use of the term “species” within the philosophical context of animal rights has hardly been addressed at all’ (ibid.)  He thinks it is something of a mistake if philosophical discourse about the moral relevance of species occurs without investigating what ‘species’ means.  He adds that theorists certainly should have an awareness of exactly what they mean when talking about species in the context of human-nonhuman relations.  Elstein claims that, for all his influence, pre-Darwinian attitudes continue to surface in relation to moral thinking about human and nonhuman animals.  It is true that, ‘Darwin refuted the prevailing Western view that the world was naturally divided into essential categories of plants and animals’.  Moreover, ‘Formally, his discovery radically altered our understanding of the workings of nature’.  After Darwin, the Aristotelian view was much less easy to hold, for Aristotle believed that the world was divided into essential natural kinds with inherent ‘separations’, such as those between masters and slaves, men and women, and humans and other animals (ibid.)

          Despite the Darwinian attack on such a view, Elstein argues that, ‘the pre-Darwinian worldview of essentially existing species continues to drive many of our philosophical and moral attitudes’.  Although humanity has abandoned the Aristotelian tendency to ‘believe that some humans are naturally inferior, because of their essence, to other humans’, it has not yet done this in terms of its beliefs about nonhuman animals.  Elstein says that some biologists suggest that humans are strongly biased toward believing in an ‘essences’ in kinds of living beings, and this bias ‘is not easily dispelled, especially given that it has been ingrained in Western culture since Plato’ (ibid.)  However, for Elstein, animal advocates may not be free of such biases themselves:

The concept of species holds argumentative “weight” in animal rights debates largely because it is viewed as an essential category, whether consciously or unconsciously. Most of us now "know,” or claim to know, that different species do not have distinct essences, but we still think and argue as if they do. And if, in the back of our mind, we still hold a conviction that species have essences, it would never occur to us to ask the question “what is species?” - it just is what it is, we imagine (ibid.)

Elstein states that Darwin found the question ‘what is species’ rather meaningless, and suggests that Darwin believed species to be ‘indefinable’.  However, ‘it was indefinable for Darwin not because species have essences, but because, for Darwin, species-talk is nothing more than a convenient conceptual tool for biological inquiry’.  Thus, ‘In contrast to a long line of Western thinkers following Aristotle, Darwin recognised that no divinely determined invisible walls, no Platonic forms, separated one group of animals from another’ (ibid.)

Elstein claims that the species concept in animal rights debates has not been deconstructed sufficiently.  Because of this, philosophers like Cohen ‘are able to rely upon it in their philosophical arguments against animal rights’:

At one point in time, this was also the case with race. Racists may claim that race is a morally relevant category with no explanation. But we can then ask them what they mean by race, rather than allowing them to hide behind vague, undefined, and equivocal terms. If they answer ‘skin colour’, or ‘geographical origin’, we can then ask them why skin colour or geographical origin should have anything at all to do with moral principles (ibid.)

Just as someone committed to anti-racism can ask a racist to justify the moral relevance of ‘race’, Elstein suggests that animal advocates can ask opponents what they mean by species.  And what of their answer?

If they reply that a species is determined by how an individual looks, (the most honest answer, in my opinion), or the capacity to mate and have fertile offspring with certain other individuals, we can then ask them why appearance or an ability to mate with certain individuals might have anything to do with moral principles.  Here, they are on much weaker ground than when they are allowed to simply call this “species”.  It is much more apparent to most people that appearance and mating capacities are irrelevant to morality than it is that “species”, whatever that may be, is irrelevant to morality.  The claim that species is morally significant seems to hold more water when we have not said what species is (ibid.)

If ‘race’ is socially constructed because ‘it is based upon our perceptions and interpretations of physical traits’, then, says Elstein, ‘species is also socially constructed in the sphere of common sense in part because it is based upon our perceptions and interpretations of physical traits’.  Moreover, ‘it is the nature of interpretations that they can differ from one individual to another or from one culture to another’ (ibid.)  However, in the main, species categories correspond across cultures.  Elstein says that, ‘what differences we find important depend upon many factors, including the values of our society’.

          He uses North American attitudes to pigs to illustrate this point.  He claims that, ‘Our culture influences our perceptions of species differences in very important ways, and our perceptions of members of a given species are often misinformed because of our beliefs about the ‘nature’ of that species’ (ibid.)  Elstein suggests, for example, that many people think that pigs are stupid animals, perhaps especially compared to animals kept by humans as companions, such as dogs and cats.  However, Elstein says that there is research indicating that pigs are more intelligent than either cats or dogs.  Often, therefore, ‘the qualities we attribute to the members of a perceived species depend in large part on the nature of our interactions with them’.  While most may regard pigs as ‘stupid’, they have little empirical evidence to go on, again, especially compared to cats and dogs.

          Elstein also suggests that regard for nonhuman animals is bound up with how humans use them.  Therefore, he argues, ‘For most of us, our perception of ‘pigs’ is inextricably linked with the function that they serve for us.  We see them as ‘farm animals’ or ‘food’, as if this were part of their essential nature.  But of course this view of pigs is entirely contingent upon social forces’ (ibid.)  He says a similar situation exists in relation to certain birds.  While many people appear to ‘feel a moral imperative to protect birds such as parakeets and parrots’, little concern may be expressed for the chickens and turkeys that are eaten.  He says that such people:

are likely to justify this dichotomy with an appeal to some supposed important difference between the individuals of these species, though they will probably be unable to give an account of what this important difference is (ibid.)

Elstein’s ‘Moral Species Concept’.

If there are historical and contemporary problems in the moral philosophising about the concept of species, how may they be overcome?  According to Elstein, acknowledging ‘differences’ is not the problem.  He reiterates that ‘the fact that species is a social construction does not mean there are no differences between, say, humans and chimpanzees’.  Indeed, differences are obvious: ‘Chimpanzees have a strong tendency to be more hairy, walk differently, look different, sound different, have different mental capacities, and live in different environments; plus they are unable to mate with humans, have different genotypic characteristics, and have a different set of recent ancestors’ (ibid.)  Elstein accepts that it is possible that ‘any of these factors could be morally relevant’:

Which of them determines an individual’s “species”, as construed by biologists, everyday language, and moral philosophers? Biologists cannot agree. In every-day language, we generally determine an individual’s species by their appearance and behaviour, along some bits that we inherit from biologists, especially in making distinctions that are hard to call. As for moral philosophers, in their discussions of the role of species in moral considerations, they have, for the most part, not broached the question of which characteristic distinctions count in defining species (ibid.)

But which of such characteristics should moral philosophers concentrate on in order to understanding ‘species’?  Elstein remarks that biologists use the characteristics that are relevant to their purposes, and laypeople use the characteristics that are relevant to their purposes.  It follows that ‘moral philosophers should use the characteristics that are relevant to moral philosophy in deciding what species concept they ought to adopt’.  Forming a species concept relevant to moral philosophy means deciding which characteristics should be examined for their moral relevancy.  Yet Elstein says that, ‘currently, most of us use appearance as our major criteria in distinguishing between species’.  This, despite the fact that, ‘few people any longer believe that appearance is a morally relevant characteristic’.

Using an appeal to so-called ‘marginal humans’, Elstein asserts that, ‘While we may claim to use ‘reason’ or ‘language ability’ as our moral criteria, few would deny moral rights to humans who lack those capacities.  It is therefore appearance and a false essentialist assumption that are the real basis of our moral distinctions when we deny animals moral rights’ (ibid.)  Elstein argues that a change is in order: 

Moral philosophers, in forming a species concept relevant to their work, should shift the emphasis from physical to mental traits of individuals.  The result of this I will call the “Moral Species Concept”, under which individuals are categorised according to their morally relevant properties.

Roughly, the qualities that I propose should be included in the Moral Species Concept are as follows:

1. The ability to feel physical pain and pleasure.
2.  The ability to feel emotional suffering and joy: incorporating 1. The ability to feel physical pain and pleasure.
3. The ability to experience boredom: incorporating 2. The ability to feel emotional suffering and joy, and 1. The ability to feel physical pain and pleasure.
4. The ability to have future goals: incorporating 3. The ability to experience boredom, 2. The ability to feel emotional suffering and joy, and 1. The ability to feel physical pain and pleasure.
(adapted from ibid.)

Elstein states that his model incorporates, ‘the four most important qualities in making moral decisions about how to treat an individual.  Ceteris paribus,[3] if an individual can feel physical pain, she should not be physically harmed; if she can feel emotional suffering, she should not be prematurely removed from her loved ones; if she can feel boredom, she should not be confined; and if she has future goals, she should not have her life taken away’.
          Elstein argues that his Moral Species Concept allows the classification of individuals ‘according to the types of moral respect they require’.  He further asserts that, ‘Basing moral decisions upon the Moral Species Concept, rather than the species concepts that are intended for biologists and laypeople, would have tremendous implications for animal liberation’ (ibid.) Elstein maintains that the Moral Species Concept would require a consideration of the mental and psychological capacity of each individual meaning that human beings would never automatically be given precedence over non-human ones.  He concludes that, if no ‘arbitrary barriers’ such as appearance enter the decision, ‘all individuals would be given fair moral consideration of their interests’ (ibid.)
            In later stages of the thesis, when the perspectives of animal rights philosophers are outlined, it is possible to see in what ways they correspond to Estein’s model.  For example, Regan’s subject-of-a-life criteria arguable features all the qualities in 1-4; while Francione argues that individuals have moral standing if they correspond to 1. 

          Presently, however, interest returns to those who have had no qualms about using “species” as the basis of moral theorising to the extent that a deep and meaningful gulf was constructed between the human and nonhuman worlds.

Persons and Things.

In terms of exploring the traditional view of the moral significance of differences based on ‘species membership’, Midgley (1985: 56) begins with the philosophy of Kant.  She states, for example, that Kant created a ‘single, simple, black-and-white antithesis’ between persons and things which has led to nonhuman animals being placed in the latter category, a categorical position currently being challenged in various ways by animal law professionals such as Francione (1996a, 1996b), Lee Hall (2000) and Steven Wise (2000).[4] 

As a consequence of this dualistic positioning, Midgley goes on, modern perceptions commonsensically understand that only human beings can be persons,[5] and it is understood that, ‘Things can properly be used as means to human ends in a way that people cannot’ (1985: 56, emphasis in original).  ‘Things’ are objects, not subjects, therefore ‘thing-treatment’ is theoretically seen as inappropriate if directed toward human beings.  Thoughts such as these, according to historian Keith Thomas (1983: 36), resulted in a strong and long-standing interest among human beings in ‘maintaining boundaries’ between humans and the other animals.  This maintenance has been achieved, as might most obviously be expected, through religious and moral traditions, and as a consequence of social habit and routine.  Thomas points out that several distinctions have been emphasised to clearly differentiate humans from animals.  For example, he cites ideas about the ‘polite education’ of humans, and notions of exclusively human ‘civility’ and ‘refinements’.  It has also been suggested that nonhumans are dirty while humans, the ‘decent’ ones at least, are concerned with ‘cleanliness’ (ibid.: 38).  Furthermore, the lack of nakedness is seen as important in human society: and do humans not generally cook their food? 

          Boundary maintenance between humans and other animals - that is, between person and thing categories - has led at various times to the promotion of social norms such as not wearing hair long - and even doubts about the appropriateness of humans working after nightfall.  After all, the hours of darkness may be regarded as the hours of human rest, whereas ‘beasts’ may ‘run about in the night’ seeking prey (ibid.: 39).  Historian Thomas goes on to suggest that this apparent need for separation and distinction led to yet more social prohibitions against ‘persons’ engaging in the ‘animal-like activity’ of swimming, or censure of simply ‘pretending to be animals’.  The latter activity frowned upon because of its apparent capacity to ‘obliterate’ the glorious image of humankind.[6]  Moreover, some of the earliest objections to the use of vaccination were based on the fear that humans may be thereby ‘animalised’ by the introduction of animal-derived vaccines.  Given such factors, Thomas is clearly not particularly surprised to find that the activity of having ‘sexual relations’ with other animals was criminalised well before incest was made illegal (ibid).  
        Once historical factors relating to ethical orientations towards species membership have been outlined; and after an investigation of the harmful utilisation of dividing humans into a privileged moral category; exploring the modern day maintenance of prevailing ideas about the species barrier in this first section, Part Two of the current work turns to an investigation of emerging ‘animal rights’ thought which attempts to seriously question the moral status quo concerning human-nonhuman relations.  For, in the face of continuing boundary-maintaining activities, modern animal advocacy not orientated toward traditional welfarism demands an answer to the question at the head of this section: ‘What moral difference should species membership make?’ 
         In fact, this question may well represent what the majority of current animal advocates would likely consider as one of the most fundamental questions arising out of contemporary thinking about human-nonhuman relations.  Therefore, without denying numerous and significant species differences,[7] what precisely does the ‘barrier’ that has been constructed between humankind and other animals actually mean in terms of the ethical relations between human and nonhuman animals?  Does the ability to recognise the existence of a barrier based on ‘species’ classification give warrant to views that, for example, a ‘vast moral gulf’ exists between nonhuman and human animals?  Such questions provided the basis of much ‘second-wave’ animal advocacy and inquiry.         

          In 1977, an international conference was held at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, on the subject of the possible rights of nonhuman animals.  It is probably fair to note and acknowledge that the whole idea of ‘animal rights’ was even more contentious and considerably more appalling to some commentators in the 1970’s than it is today.  Nevertheless, more than one hundred and fifty conference delegates signed a declaration, written by Richard Ryder, entitled ‘The Rights of Animals.  A Declaration Against Speciesism’, which included the following words:

We do not accept that a difference in species alone (any more than a difference in race) can justify wanton exploitation or oppression in the name of science or sport, or for food, commercial profit or other human gain (reproduced in Ryder 2000: 179; Regan 2001: 28).

Here is an example of an a position that explicitly sets out its key ethical stance about just exactly what differences in species membership should mean in terms of moral treatment.  Thus, are even conventionally accepted species differences sufficient to permit humans to utilise other sentient beings in the ways they are routinely used?  Alternatively, does this ‘use’ amount to prejudicial and instrumental exploitation that goes some distance in explaining the property designation of nonhuman animals and the social prevalence of speciesism

As with human slavery, some reasons, presumably beyond ‘might makes right’, must be given that seemingly morally permits exploitative usage.  In Marjorie Spiegal’s (1988) comparative analysis of ‘human and animal slavery’, the author defines ‘speciesism’ as ‘a belief that different species of animals are significantly different from one another in their capacities to feel pleasure and pain and live an autonomous existence, usually involving the idea that one’s own species has the right to rule and use others’.  Moreover, she claims that, just like domination based on hierarchical constructions of ‘race’, the notion of speciesism involves a ‘policy of enforcing such asserted rights’, and a ‘system of government and society based upon it’. 
         Animal advocacy asks for an earnest consideration of the ethical relevance of the species barrier: yet advocates tend not to attempt to deny any differences based on species membership.  A much reproduced assertion by utilitarian Jeremy Bentham[8] has appeared in a great deal of animal liberation, ‘animal rights’, scientific anti-vivisectionist and animal welfare literature over the last thirty years or so.  The quote ends thus: ‘The question is not, Can they [other animals] reason?  nor Can they talk?  but Can they suffer?’ (quoted in Midgley 1983: 89).[9] 

However, in a much less frequently reproduced section of the same work, written in 1789, Bentham states:

The French[10] have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognised that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum [he means fur or tail] are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? (quoted in Midgley 1983: 89, emphasis in original, comment by Midgley).

Contrary to any notion of seeking to deny species differences, Bentham explicitly points them out.  But, he asks, are such differences morally relevant? - and if so, why? - and to what degree?  Bentham notes the extension of moral concern to coloured human beings and proceeds to speculate about the basis of protection from torment.  Evidently, for Bentham, sentiency, being a sensitive being, is enough to morally punch holes through the species barrier.  If not this dividing line, he asks, what other?  Much animal protection thinking and debate tends to centre on this type of speculation: and thus, it is essentially an extensionist discourse.  For both utilitarian animal liberationists and deontological animal rightists,[11] moral concern can and should logically expand - or extend - beyond human beings to include at least some other types of nonhumans as well. 

          Given this extensionist trait in nonhuman rights and animal liberationist thinking and discourse, many animal advocates are extremely critical of suggestions from opponents and commentators that their views amount to some form of ‘attack’ on, or deliberate ‘denigration’ of, the whole notion of human rights.[12]  Most obviously, supporters of animal rights use extensions of (human) rights thinking in their thoughts about human-nonhuman relations; however, even rhetorical animal rightists appear prepared to declare support for human rights and animal liberation.  Rights-based animal ethicists such as Regan (1983; 1988; 2001) tend to begin their case for animal rights by explicitly supporting universal human rights[13] - especially in ‘liberal rights’ formulations that see rights as a means of giving expression to fundamental interests.  The basic rights seen logically to apply to humans, especially those connected to their status as sentient individuals, provide starting points for many animal rights advocates.[14]  The argument subsequently turns to questions about the feasibility of applying rights theory to all relevant and suitable candidates until it no longer makes sense to apply it (see Benton 1998 for details and a critique).[15]    

          This explains the use of language in Francione (1996a, 1996b) when he asserts that many nonhumans seem to be the ‘sorts of beings’ to which rights theory can intelligibly be applied.  My own view on rights theory and nonhuman animals would entail acknowledging that many of the rights traditionally claimed as the most basic human rights can, rather, be seen as the animal rights of human beings: in other words, the rights relevant to human animals as sentient individualsIt seems that the category of ‘the sentients’ (latterly ‘painients’) (Ryder 2000) makes sense - and has ethical import.  Thus, notions of basic rights that address issues such as bodily integrity and physical security are rights expressing important interests (Reeve 1996: 434) that many animals other than human apparently share with human beings.  Regan (1983; 2001) argues, moving away from ‘mere sentience’, that nonhuman animals have a life of their own that appear to be important to them, quite apart from their instrumental and/or sentimental utility to humans. 

          Nonhuman animals are in the world and they are aware of it.  What happens to many nonhuman animals evidently matters to them, Regan asserts.  They seemingly bring a unified psychological presence to the world.  Like human beings, then, many nonhuman animals are somebodies, not somethings.  For Regan, then, such factors mean that at least some non-humans must ethically be treated under similar moral principles as those applied (allegedly) to all humans.  The logic must be extended beyond the species barrier: in important senses, this is all the philosophy of animal rights stands for.  This is the limited extent of animal rights.  That it may concentrate on fundamental basic rights appears to be one of the strengths of the animal rights position.  Further clarity of the animal rights case, indeed clarity of the extremely limited (if far-reaching) claims-making of animal rights advocates, involves acknowledging the position of theorists such as Francione and Regan who stress the rather obvious point that no rights theorist advocates voting rights for nonhumans; nor their right to state education – or, indeed, their rights to ballet lessons.[16]

          In Defending Animal Rights, Regan (2001) does correctly acknowledge that ethical theory is often about the moral limits on human freedom.  There is no implied misanthropy here, however, and obviously no intended denigration of humanity, since standard explorations of human rights have always been as much about what humans should not morally do, as they have been concerned with positive rights and so-called freedoms.  As Bauman’s work suggests (1990; 1993), ‘freedom’ is something of a myth, sociologically speaking, in the first place.  Therefore, acknowledging how rights (human -v- human rights) can ‘clash’ - especially in cases where one person’s rights are diminished or dramatically constrained in order to uphold another person’s rights - is not the same as grounding a theory to intentionally ‘do down’ any particular group.  Usually, of course, moral theory is often concerned with the details of what harms should not be inflicted on one rights bearing human being by another rightholding human.  The extensionist trait in animal rights philosophy simply questions the relevance of species limitation in such ethical formulations, and asks whether the traditional grounds for denying many animals other than human important rights are sufficiently coherent and morally sound.

          Francione’s position is close to Regan’s, although some claim he sets out the case for animal rights more clearly and in a less complicated fashion (for example, Hall 2000 claims this).  In fact, Francione argues that the single right nonhumans particularly require humans to respect is the right not to be classified and treated as items of human property (1996b).  Following philosopher Henry Shue’s position set out in the 1980 book Basic Rights, Francione encourages his audience to clearly differentiate basic from non-basic rights.  In essence, Francione suggests that basic rights are all that are necessary for - and perhaps all that are due to - nonhuman animals.  At any rate, such rights, the most valuable being the basic right to physical security, were they respected, would prevent the current instrumental and sentimental exploitation of nonhumans. 

Perhaps this formulation may be regarded as somewhat analogous to a Marxian ‘base-superstructure’ model, with basic rights regarded as an initial and essential foundational base that is required to be fixed and solidly protected before other, subsequent and applicable, rights can be fully enjoyed.  Once humans have ‘their basic animal rights’ respected, they therefore have a dependable ethical basis to consider, claim, or have claimed for them, further rights.  Rights, indeed, such as those to ballet lessons.[17]

To briefly recap, when animal advocates present their case, they will often inquire as to just what special qualities humans have which other sentient animals do not have - and, if nonhumans can be seen to lack some particular human characteristics, what do these differences actually amount to in terms of ethical standing?  It would be quite rare to meet or read the animal advocate who will absolutely deny the existence of species differences, having yet to widely discuss Elstein’s perspective.  Species differences, moreover, which frequently effect the moral treatment of the individual concerned (Regan 1983; Degrazia 1996; Wise 2000).  Because rights philosophy tends to acknowledge that various rights can come into conflict with each other, there should also be little fear that human populations may find themselves - utterly without redress - overwhelmed by plagues of damage-wreaking non-human animals.  This is a common suggestion and an apparent genuine anxiety among anti-animal rightists.  The philosophy of animal rights, and the general grassroots discourse of many animal activists, does not tend to amount to any serious claim that humans are never allowed to defend their interests against the activity of other rightholders.  Clearly, since rights can come into conflict with one another, some such conflicts will involve human and nonhuman animals: one need only to think of reports of stray dogs or foxes tipping over rubbish bins or, far more seriously perhaps, elephants entering tribal villages. 

However, if such conflicts of interests are strictly seen as conflicts arising among at least basic rightholders, and if attempts are made to resolve them on that fundamental basis, then this ‘arrangement’ generally seems to suit most animal rights activists and thinkers.[18]  The fact that human beings, as moral agents rather than moral patients, are generally understood as the only beings able to understand ethics as socially constructed, and thus humans alone must resolve conflicts arising from rights bearing, does not critically weaken the animal rights position.  What modern animal rightists demand to know the most is how defensible is it to maintain a strict moral boundary simply on the basis of species difference. 

Moral Theory: Finished Product,
or Refusal to Jump the Remaining Fence(s)?

Before delving into prehistory to search for the roots of so-called ‘human exceptionality’ claims, a short initial examination of the current moral status of nonhuman animals is in order at this point.  Effectively this again means placing the focus of attention on the widespread dominance of animal welfare ideology within orthodox thinking about human-nonhuman relations.

          The centrality of animal welfarism in assessments of these relations, and also in philosophical discourse about the moral status of nonhumans, can be seen reflected in Midgley’s remarks about acknowledging discernible species differences.  Midgley (1983: 98) claims that one never needs to know what ‘race’ someone belongs to in order to decide ‘good treatment’.[19]  On the other hand, she asserts that knowledge of species is absolutely necessary to decide such treatment.  Thus, in the case of species care and well-being, precise details are required, because the individual concerned ‘might be a hyena or a hippopotamus, a shark, an eagle, an armadillo, a python or a queen bee’ (ibid.: 99).  What seems significant here is that an animal advocate would likely accept Midgley’s initial point; and may imagine circumstances in which attempts are made to provide ‘good treatment’ on the basis of species ‘requirements’ based on needs arising from, for example, an accident or injury to a particular individual.  However, when Midgley talks about this treatment of other animals it is in the context of animals held captive in a zoo. 

          Animal welfare ideology is apparently so paradigmatic that even a philosopher who advocates the betterment of the moral status of animals uses an example that reflects, rather than critically questions, the property status of other animals.  Her point is infused with animal welfarism, which might be recognised as something of an ‘ethical half-way house’ in terms of establishing the moral status of nonhuman animals.  Clearly, then, any genuine nonhuman rights theory requires something of a ‘moving on’ from animal welfarism: in terms of human attitudes to other animals, rightists such as Francione and Regan may claim that matters have tended to falter or ‘stall’ in the moral orthodoxy of animal welfarism.

          However, it may be acknowledged that animal welfarism can represent a substantial advance in terms of the human treatment of nonhuman animals.  The many chroniclers of the emergence of animal welfarism testify to its benefits in terms of animal wellbeing (Kean [1998] is a good recent example).  Other commentators, such as Scruton (2000), generally accept that welfare measures are necessary to offer some protection to nonhuman animals, while adopting the impassioned view that measures beyond traditional welfarism, such as either ‘animal liberation’ or ‘animal rights’ positions, represents dangerous ‘steps too far’.  Animal welfarism, ideologically and legislatively, encourages a view, backed up by years of legislation, which stipulates that animals have some moral worth and a welfare that requires protection, expressed in numerous pieces of legislation in the name of animal welfare.  At the same time, animal welfarism ultimately accepts and expresses the legitimacy of the human use of other animals as food, clothing, and laboratory tools or so-called scientific biomedical ‘models’. 

Many nonhuman advocates adopt a cynical posture and assert that those who support the human use of nonhumans, for all their learned discourse on metaphysics, the roots of morality, and the philosophical understanding of ‘moral being’, are largely driven by their taste buds and/or ‘sporting’ preferences.[20]  Garner’s (1993) perspective shows how animal welfarism sits, roughly speaking, at the broad central point of the main positions taken with regard to the moral status of other animals.  It may be assumed that explaining how societies makes frequent claims to care for nonhumans while simultaneously exploiting them in organised and systematic fashions is not at all straightforward, and Garner’s ‘continuum of recognition’ attempts to assist in this matter. 
          Garner (ibid.: 9) is quick to note that how most modern humans think about - and the way they treat – nonhuman animals relies a good deal on how moral philosophers and other influential thinkers have talked about them throughout the ages.  As said, some of the details of moral thought about nonhumans will feature in the next chapter (and see Ruesch 1979; Midgley 1983; Clark 1984; Wynne-Tyson 1985; Wieber & Wieber 2000; Regan 2001, for accounts of what Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Voltaire, Descartes, Paine, Bentham, Montaigne, Salt, Tolstoy, Socrates, Seneca, et al, have said about human-nonhuman relations).  However, for now, some generalised points continue to be helpful.  For example, Garner notes that philosophers in all ages have been ‘burdened’ in their thoughts about other animals because there has rarely been any agreement as to animals’ ‘capacities’,[21] and their capacities and abilities are frequently considered crucial in making informed judgements about moral status.  In other words, there would be far less argument about the treatment of other animals if there was an agreement that they actually were Descartes’ ‘mere unconscious machines’ (Garner 1993: 9).  While many discernible species differences exist, they fail to successfully place numerous types of nonhumans into totally ‘senseless’ categories.  Therefore, since the evidence suggests that many nonhumans are sentient individuals, the ethical picture of them is duly altered. 

          If only these things were easy to decide upon, Garner states.  If only ethologists (defined by Garner as students of animal behaviour in the animals’ natural settings) could agree with each other, then it may be possible to establish firm moral grounds regarding the status of nonhuman animals.  However, he observes that, in practice, ethological agreement is rarely forthcoming.  Therefore, debates about ‘animal capacities’ - and therefore their moral standing - remain inconclusive (ibid.: 10).  This frustrating inconclusiveness - among other factors - has resulted in the construction of three distinct moral categories in which animals other than human have been placed over time.  These are:

          1.  No moral status;
          2.  Some moral status;
          3.  Equal moral status to human beings. 

Garner argues that status 1. and 3. appear to be the least difficult to deal with, in that ‘mere machine status’ (Position 1.) would suggest that nonhuman animals could be used in any way and with absolutely no moral qualms, while Position 3. suggests that they should be accorded the ‘same moral weight’ as humans (ibid). 

For Garner, then, the ‘extreme’ positions 1. and 3., would represent the least moral disturbance, if nonhuman animals were actually positioned in one or the other: ‘If animals were mere machines, or they have relevant capabilities on par with humans, there does not appear to be any problem’ (ibid). 

However, since nonhumans are presently placed between these two poles, and this is often characterised as largely or wholly unproblematic, they are located in what Garner regards as an ethical ‘grey area’.  Although he suggests that the central position is the problem area, he goes on to name it ‘the moral orthodoxy’ in his continuum of recognition.  The continuum is itself employed in an assessment of human-nonhuman relations from the perspective of advocates of all three positions.  Broadly, the three formulations amount to these claims:

1.     Completely lacking moral status.

2.     Moral orthodoxy - some moral status but inferior to humans.

                   (a)  Sentient but lacking significant interests.
(b)     An interest in not suffering but can be overridden to promote the greater good of humans who are autonomous agents (the conventional view held by many philosophers).

          3.  Challenge to the moral orthodoxy.[1]

Position 3. need not be emphasised at this point: animal rights and animal liberation challenges to the moral orthodoxy relevant to human-nonhuman relations is encountered in detail in Part Two, and Position 1., most often associated with Descartes,[2] is now so rarely articulated that Garner feels he ‘can dispense with this position fairly quickly’ (ibid.: 11).[3]  For now, therefore, the present analysis remains in Garner’s ‘grey area’ of Position 2., which, despite its apparent potentiality to create internal problems has developed to become the conventional lens by which societies traditionally understand human-nonhuman relations, and is understood by Midgley (1983) in terms of different degrees of ‘moral dismissal’.

Absolute and Relative Dismissers.

Why Garner’s Position 2. enjoys its favoured and near-universal status is dramatically illustrated in Midgley’s (1983) work.  She calls Garner’s Position 1., ‘absolute dismissal’ and his Position 2., ‘relative dismissal’.  The latter, once again, means that most animals are afforded some moral worth but not as much as human beings who may therefore use them as means for their own ends.  Midgley sets readers a ‘test’ by which, she argues, they can decide whether they are absolute or relative dismissers of other animals’ interests.  This ‘test’ is based on a consideration of the following passage from a book by ‘white hunter’, R. Gordon Cummings:

The elephant stood broadside to me, at upwards of one hundred yards, and his attention at the moment was occupied with the dogs... I fired at his shoulder, and secured him with a single shot. The ball caught him high on the shoulder-blade, rendering him instantly dead lame; and before the echo of the bullet could reach my ear, I plainly saw the elephant was mine... I resolved to devote a short time to the contemplation of this noble elephant before laying him low; accordingly, having off-saddled the horses beneath a shady tree, which was to be my quarters for the night and the ensuing day, I quickly kindled a fire and put on the kettle, and in a few minutes my coffee was prepared. There I sat in my forest home, coolly sipping my coffee, with one of the finest elephants in Africa awaiting my pleasure beside a neighbouring tree. It was indeed a striking scene; and as I gazed upon the stupendous veteran of the forest, I thought of the red deer which I loved to follow in my native land, and felt that, though fate had driven me to follow a more daring and arduous avocation in a distant land, it was a good exchange that I had made, for I was now chief over boundless forests, which yielded unspeakably more noble and exciting sport. Having admired the elephant for a considerable time, I resolved to make experiments for vulnerable spots... [He bungles this again and again; eventually, after even he had become a little worried, he succeeds in wounding the elephant fatally.] Large tears now trickled from his eyes, which he slowly shut and opened, his colossal frame quivered convulsively, and, falling on his side, he expired (Cummings, quoted in Midgley 183: 14-15, comments by Midgley). 

Midgley suggests that an absolute dismisser would feel that there was nothing particularly amiss about Cummings’ behaviour toward the elephant in question, ‘and could not be whatever further refinements he might have added, so long as they damaged nobody but the elephant’ (ibid.: 15).[4] 

          It is very unlikely that any of the very few people who get to read this thesis will fully approve of Cummings’ attitudes or behaviour toward what he clearly regarded as ‘his’ elephant.  However, it is not necessary to adopt anything like an ‘animal rights’ stance to display this disapproval.  The question is, on what - if not rights thinking - would unease, or even downright unequivocal disapproval, be based?  For example, it may be possible to think about the Cummings case in terms of Kantian direct and indirect duty views.  Indirect views might posit that Cummings’ actions were utterly reprehensible, not due to what he did to the elephant victim, but because of what he did, or may have done, to himself, and/or to those around him who witnessed the event.  This view would make the most sense if the elephant in question was someone other than Cummings’ ‘pet elephant’ (however unlikely that may be).  Such a person would, presumably, be extremely upset by the death of ‘their pet’ and would, moreover, have an additional ‘property reason’ to want the elephant’s continued existence: this person may be planning on selling this item of disposable legal property, for example.  In what might be seen as a weaker formulation, Kant (and later Rawls 1971; Narveson 1977, also see Regan 2001: 9-13) recognised only humans as moral agents - however, that being the case, moral agents should attempt not to engage in behaviour which might infringe the moral sensibilities of others (Garner 1993: 12).  So, whilst it may be held that he had no duties at all to the elephant directly, it may be said that Cummings’ actions degraded himself as a human being and, moreover, it might be thought that his arrogant attitude and subsequent boasting may upset someone else:

Taking this sort of view, an absolute dismisser might condemn Cummings for self-deception, damage to his own moral potentialities and perhaps bad taste [‘awaiting my pleasure’ etc.], but still say that he did so without conceding that it mattered at all what was done to the elephant (Midgley 1983: 16).[5]

If nothing else, indirect duty views serve to emphasise the somewhat ‘fuzzy’ moral position into which nonhumans are often placed.  While most philosophers continue to articulate reasons to suppose a wide moral division between human and other animals, it is hard to imagine that Cummins’ actions and attitude would create much, if any, disapprobation were it directed against, say, a chair.  This is perhaps another indication as to why animal welfarism is apparently so ‘naturally’ central to social thoughts about human-nonhuman relations: it seemingly ‘caters’ for - or is at least directed toward - the welfare of the items of ‘sentient property’ under its purview.

          Midgley (ibid.: 16-18), in agreement with Garner, continues with a suggestion that the absolute dismissal position is now very rarely held and (very much like the concept of absolute or subsistence poverty in early sociological research) she says that the absolute position has been fairly hard to maintain in practice.  For present purposes, these matters need not take up a great deal more time.  It may be accepted, following both Midgley and Garner, that a strictly-held absolute dismissal position toward other animals is now relatively rare, if not entirely absent from claims-making relevant to human-nonhuman relations.  If it is indeed fairly safe to conclude that the absolute position is currently a minority one (just like the animal rights position: Garner’s Position 3) then most people can be justifiably situated somewhere between the poles of absolute dismissal and ‘animal rights’ views.  What remains central is a widespread and complex and, in some ‘animal rights’ discourse, a questionable perspective - Garner’s moral orthodoxy; or what would commonly be regarded in ordinary language as ‘animal welfare’ positions.  It is indeed sociologically interesting and worth re-emphasising that this ‘fuzzy’ and ‘half-way house’ position nevertheless remains presented and social constructed as the most appropriate way of looking at human-nonhuman relations.  Effectively, the widespread moral orthodoxy recognises - and reflects in law - the sentiency of nonhuman animals while simultaneously suggesting that nonhuman life can be instrumentally and sentimentally used as human resources. 

          Michael Leahy (1991) offers a conventional definition of animal welfare when he asserts that welfarism says that animals should be ‘treated humanely’.  Does this mean that the species barrier does not represent such a ‘vast gulf’ after all?  Leahy immediately proceeds to the standard ideological qualification that this injunction toward ‘being humane’ does not, in fact, mean that humans are morally prevented from killing nonhumans for their own reasons.  Neither does animal welfare buzz-words, ‘humane treatment’, mean that nonhuman animals cannot be experimented on, hunted, raced or ‘petted’.  According to Leahy, these are ‘legal’ and ‘defensible’ actions (quoted in Guither 1998: 19).  Within the logic of ‘animal welfarism’, and in a sense despite its very name, humans come first and animals come second; even if all have some interests that should be protected.  However, due to this fundamental hierarchical structure, animal interests can be ‘sacrificed’[6] for human ones (and Francoine [1998] says they always will be) if, by doing so, humans gain something important enough. 

          Finally, and by way of a summary of the moral orthodoxy, Regan says this:

The welfare of nonhuman animals is important, but that is not the only thing that is important.  Human interests and preferences also are important, frequently more important than the interests and preferences of other animals.  For example, researchers have serious professional and humanitarian interests in the utilisation of rodents and other animals used in research.  These people are and should be supportive of animal welfare.  There is no argument here...

There is no question that when animals in laboratories are ‘sacrificed’, we shorten their lives.  But ending the lives of animals is not contrary to supporting animal welfare.  If animals used in research have fared well, all things considered, up to the point when they are utilised, and if they are killed as humanely as possible, then we do nothing wrong when we kill them.

Moreover, it is important to realise that a commitment to animal welfare is consistent with striving to improve the overall condition of those individuals who have a welfare, both humans and other animals, even if this means decreasing the welfare of some individuals.  Such circumstances often arise, especially in biomedical research.  This is regrettable, certainly, and everything should be done to make the lives of these animals as good as practicable.  In the end, however, to diminish the welfare of some animals is a price we must be willing to pay for making the world better, for both humans and others (2001: 34).           

[1]  Degrazia (1995) poses the following questions based on something of a similar formulation:
                ‘1.  Does the treatment of animals raise ethical issues at all?
                                2.  If not, why not?
                                                3.  If so, do animals’ interests matter in their own right?
                                                                4.  If not, why not?  How should we treat them, and why?
5.  If so, should the interests of animals be given moral weight equal to that given to relevantly similar human interests?
                                                                                                6.  If not, why not?  How much consideration should                                                                                                                 animals’ interests be given, and why?
7.  If so, what does such equal consideration amount                 to?’
[2]  Regan (2001: 3) notes that Descartes is reported to not be so ‘absolute’ as he is often painted, in the sense that it is claimed that he reportedly ‘treated his dog humanely’ - not that this means much anyway, no doubt turkey-king Bernard Matthews, vivisector Colin Blakemore and everyone who reads this thesis ‘treats ‘their’ dogs humanely’.  However, it is often claimed that the ‘followers’ of Descartes were the real believers in the notion that ‘animals are machines’.  Regan (ibid.: 130) outlines their view: ‘Burn, drown, starve, or slice open an animal without the benefit of anaesthetic, and the result is always and everywhere the same: the animal is not aware of anything’.
[3]   However, the ‘no moral problem’ position does still exist.  Neurosurgeon Robert J. White is said to hold this view according to medical historian Hans Ruesch (1979), and Tom Regan reports that as late as 1990 White declared that ‘animal usage is not a moral or ethical issue and elevating the problem of animal rights to such a plane is a disservice to medical research and the farm and dairy industry’ (White, cited in Regan 2001: 1).  Regan also notes that in the 1960’s opponents of the US Animal Welfare Act sometimes alleged from this position that supporters of the act were suffering from ‘zoophil-psychosis’ (love-of-animals psychosis).
[4]   David Degrazia (1996: 40-1) repeats Midgley’s test, calling it instead a ‘thought-experiment’, and using a passage from Dostoevski’s Crime and Punishment in which the character Mikolka, along with a group of young men, beat a mare to death with whips, wooden staves and an iron bar because she was unable to pull an overloaded cart.
[5]   ‘Do butchers commit more murders? (Than other persons who have knives around?)’.  This citation from Robert Nozick’s 1974 book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, is used by Degrazia (1996: 42) to suggest that ‘indirect views do not hold up under careful scrutiny’.  Indirect duty views effectively represent a contradiction of the ‘vast gulf’ thesis which, theoretically, prevents the ‘moral spillover’ implied:  ‘Why should there be such spillover?’, asks Nozick (in ibid.). ‘If it is, in itself, perfectly all right to do anything at all to animals for any reason whatsoever, then provided a person realises the clear line between animals and persons and keeps it in mind as he acts, why should killing animals tend to brutalise him and make him more likely to harm or kill persons?’  Degrazia would also pose this question about Cummings’ behaviour: What if Cummings were the only one abusing the elephant and were the last person on Earth - or were himself about to die and predictably would not come into contact with other humans - does that make his abuse of the elephant acceptable? 
[6]   Animal advocates have long been interested in the meanings associated with this word.  Although straightforwardly ‘sacrifice’ means ‘the practice or an act of killing an animal or person’ (Concise Oxford  Dictionary, 10th ed., 1999) it also means ‘the act of giving up something of value for the sake of something that is of greater value or importance’.  This second meaning implies a voluntary agreement to sacrifice oneself for the good of others and may explain why animal experiment reports speak of ‘sacrificing animals’ rather than ‘killing’ them.

[1]   See  This document reveals Ernst Mayr’s prominence in the field, and it also briefly addresses the question, ‘Are species real?’
[2]  ‘I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does not essentially differ from the term variety’ (Darwin, 1859, 52).

[3]   Other things being equal.
[4]   One of the first - if not the first - challenge to the legal person-thing dualism occurred in May 1977 when Kenneth Le Vasseur who had assisted in the imprisonment of bottle-nosed dolphins at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology decided to free two of them.  He tried to suggest in his ‘choice of two evils’ defence that he was justified in his actions because the law allows acts which prevent consequences of greater evil.  The problem for the defence rested on the fact that this law applied only to humans acting for themselves or for ‘another’.  The judge rejected this line because ‘another’ implied ‘another person’, and that ruled out, the judge determined, nonhuman dolphins (case cited in Midgley 1985: 52-3).
[5]   However, this distinction is not entirely accurate in terms of legal usage for, as Midgley notes (1985: 53), corporations are often declared ‘legal persons’ for the purposes of suing - or when they are being sued.
[6]  On the 20th of May 1998, a letter was published in the North Wales Chronicle suggesting that ‘boundary maintenance’ as described by Thomas is seemingly as important as ever.  In a missive to the newspaper entitled, Separating Out the Animals from the Humans, a Mrs. Mills bemoaned the passing of the traditional convention by which nonhuman animals were said to be ‘in foal’, ‘in calf’, ‘in pup’, ‘in kitten’, ‘in pig’ and so on.  Now expectant nonhuman mothers are described as being ‘pregnant’, complains Mrs Mills, which, she argued, downgrades ‘the wonderful role of human motherhood’.  As shown in the present thesis, one objection sometimes raised against animal rights views is based on the notion that promoting animal rights must somehow necessarily ‘denigrate’ the rights of human beings.  This notion appears to be part of Mills’ perspective in relation to thoughts about human status.  I rang Mrs. Mills on the grounds that she had presumably felt inspired or driven to put pen to paper and write to a local newspaper about the matter.  I explained my interest in her view in relation to this thesis and asked her what had prompted her eagerness to make her point in print.  She told me she didn’t really know why but believed that it was necessary that such a statement be made publicly.
[7]   Anti-vivisectionists have for many years based much of their ‘scientific validity’ critique of animal experimentation precisely on the apparent inability to overcome species differences problems in the experimental laboratory.
[8]   From chapter 17 of his Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789).
[9]   This places pain, or the capacity to suffer, as the central concern.  This is in line with Ryder (1983; 2000) and Singer (1985), but not Regan (1983; 1985; 2001) who uses a formulation of inherent value and being a ‘subject-of-a-life’ as the basis of rightholding.
[10]   The French reference is due to their recent abolition of human slavery in ‘their’ colonies.
[11]   In animal advocacy, Singer’s utilitarian animal liberation position can be contrasted with Regan’s deontological animal rights perspective.  In general, deontological positions regard the fact of duty as fundamental for the understanding of moral thought.  Deontology is not involved in a utilitarian calculation of general goodness.
[12]   On the 7th July, 2001 edition of BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, Clare Fox of the Marxist-inspired ‘Institute of Ideas’ attacked the premise of animal rights because she thought it denigrated the idea of hard-fought-for human rights.  For Fox, a significant characteristic of rightsholding is that they have to be fought for by those who want them.  Since nonhuman animals do not appear to do this, she believes they cannot have them!  A few contributors to animal rights email networks have suggested that animals have sometimes taken direct action to secure their own rights, for example, when an animal has killed his or her ‘keeper’ in a zoo, or when farmers have been attacked or crushed by farmed animals.
[13]  In a paper entitled, ‘The Animal Rights Position’, Regan writes: ‘It is true…that women do not exist to serve men, blacks to serve whites, the poor to serve the rich, or the weak to serve the strong.  The philosophy of animal rights not only accepts these truths, it insists upon and justifies them.  But this philosophy goes further.  By insisting upon and justifying the independent rights of other animals, it gives scientifically informed and morally impartial reasons for denying that these animals exist to serve us’.
[14]  Although the assertion is actually incorrect, one of Groves’ (1995: 448) animal rights respondents claimed one reason for favouring Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights was because: ‘In some 480 pages [Regan] goes through the arguments of the ethics that deal with some of the rights philosophy.  I think in the first 100 pages he doesn’t even mention the word animal’.
[15]   This formulation of ethical concern has drawn criticism from feminist and environmental philosophers who are not particularly disposed to regard (especially male and ‘male-minded’) human beings as some ‘core’ or central concern of moral inquiry (see Jamieson 1990; Donovan 1993; Benton 1998; Regan 2001: chap 3). 
[16]   Although I say this emphasis is obvious, it should be noted that countermovement representatives and ‘pro-use’ spokespersons often try to misrepresent the animal rights case by claiming animal rights advocates want such rights for nonhuman animals.  For example, on 12 May 2002, I took part in a BBC Radio 5 Live programme about animal rights and animal welfare in which the spokesperson for ‘Seriously Ill for Medical Research’, Vicky Cowell, stated that animal rights campaigners wanted nonhuman animals to have the right to vote in elections.  (The organisation ‘Seriously Ill for Medical Research’ has its own countermovement known as ‘Seriously Ill Against Vivisection’ who oppose animal experimentation on scientific and moral grounds).
[17]   The director of the national animal rights organisation, Animal Aid, implies this formulation by suggesting that, say, horses and dogs have ‘the right to be exercised’.  Obviously, basic rights that secure bodily integrity precede such notions.  I am dubious of this construction, and imagine that Francione would severely criticise it, since its logic seems set in an acceptance of the master status of animals as human property.  I foresee that such a topic would prompt much debate on animal rights email networks since many will argue that the animal rights movement has to be ‘realistic’ and acknowledge that the human control of nonhuman animals is likely to continue in the immediate future at least and, therefore, animal rights theory needs to be discussed with that reality in mind.
[18]   This is one way by which Gary Francione talks about the difficult issue of abortion, seeing that part of the problem may result from the fact that one rights-holder may be thought to be within the body of another.  See www.
[19]   Although there are medical conditions that are affected by racial, and biological sex, characteristics.
[20]   Perhaps Scruton (2000: xi) reveals as much with this conclusion to the preface in the third edition of his Animal Rights and Wrongs: ‘I am indebted... to Puck, who used to guard the gate, to George, Sam and Rollo, who lived in the stables, to the nameless carp in the pond across the field, to the cows next door and to Herbie, who has now been eaten’.  [Compare Scuton’s language here (‘Puck, who...’, etc.) with a passage a few pages on about nonhumans he does not know as named individuals: ‘Moreover, the horse’s desire is goal-directed.  It will choose different routes and strategies depending on its assessment of where it is, of how determined is its rider to resist it and of what obstacles bar its way’ (ibid.: 14)].
[21]   Steven Wise (2000: 119-21) notes that it has always been a problem judging the ‘capacities’ of others.  Likewise, he notes that he cannot even prove to others that he is conscious.  If he were to claim that so-and-so lacks consciousness, he says they would not be able to prove him wrong.

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