Non-human animal rights: the categorical imperative of our time

 29th December, 2020

But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy1.

Plutarch . The Eating of Animal Flesh. Moralia, c. 100 AD

In 2008, tens of millions of Americans watched with horror and disbelief when they saw on their evening news an undercover video of cattle too sick to walk being kicked, shocked with electric prods, jabbed in the eye with a baton, and pushed around with a forklift, all so that they could be driven near enough to the kill box to be slaughtered and processed into meat. The video was taken at the Westland/Hallmark slaughterhouse, in Chino, California — a large, supposedly state-of-the-art operation and a major supplier to the National School Lunch Program, located not in a rural backwater but just thirty miles from the heart of Los Angeles2.

In this article — clearly a long read, by the standards of this website — I will be considering the subject of our treatment of non-humans as a serious political and moral discussion, one in which many people are reluctant, or at best embarrassed, to engage. Perhaps this is because, when they witness video footage of farmers bludgeoning cows with sledgehammers, throwing live baby chicks into grinders, or chopping off the tails of screaming sheep, they have only two options: agree that our relationship with non-human animals needs to be completely reset, and that this has moral, legal and practical consequences, or admit that they don’t care about these sentient beings. But they can never again claim ignorance, and bury their heads in the sand — as the food industry has been so successful in making them do — about the ham sandwiches, roast beef, fried chicken, and all those other items in their diet that they prefer not to think of as cruelly-slaughtered dead animals. The ability of otherwise intelligent and educated people to avoid confronting this issue is astonishing: people normally attentive to showing kindness and fairness turn a systematic blind eye to overwhelming and growing evidence that the non-human animals who share our destiny as living creatures, and a common ancestry, also share much, if not all, of our ability to have feelings and to experience pain and suffering, despite having followed a different evolutionary path to ours.

Don’t imagine for one second that the evidence in this article doesn’t somehow apply to your food. The animal agriculture industry spends millions on deceptive advertising to persuade consumers that farmed animals roam freely on bucolic pastures. That common fantasy has been conclusively disproved. Bear in mind the farm industry provides ingredients for a lot more than just meat: the list of animal-based products you consume is much wider than you think. The methods described below are also used to produce items labelled as organic or free-range, as well as many of the cheap ingredients used to manufacture food you don’t even think of as animal-based.

I have included graphic evidence in this article to underpin the observations made about the issue of factory farming. There is not much point in your reading the article if you do not watch the videos. It has taken huge courage by whistleblower employees, sickened by what they are paid to do, for the unquestionable, documentary evidence to be made available online by PETA, L214, the Humane Society, and countless other organisations dedicated to ending this moral outrage. If you read this article, I’m hoping that, like me, you’ll watch the videos, weigh the evidence honestly, and stop being in denial. I would expect it to produce in you feelings of anger and outrage, but also, I earnestly hope, a determination to do something about the practices described, practices so morally despicable that the compelling urgency of ending them trumps any other political issue confronting us today.

There are two parts to this rather long article. In the first part, after describing the modern factory farm and presenting selected evidence of the gross cruelty meted out to billions of farm animals in order to provide us with ever-cheaper meat, I will describe the philosophical and legal framework which legitimises dominion and ownership by man over non-humans, with the assertion that they feel little or no pain. In the second part, I will turn to the evidence — equally incontrovertible — that the farm animals we abuse share with us the ability to feel pain and pleasure and, more generally, to desire a better life. I will then suggest a philosophical framework, based on giving animals rights similar to those enjoyed by humans in Kant’s categorical imperative. Animals enjoy legal standing and a form of citizenship in the public policy system derived from the preceding philosophical discussion. I will conclude with some practical steps we can take to actually improve animals’ lives.

The Eternal Treblinka, otherwise known as the factory farm

In this, the first part of this article, I will show that over several decades, humans have massively replaced traditional farming with industrial food-production methods, and that this trend is accelerating. I will then document, species by species, the suffering this entails, on a massive and barbaric scale, for billions of helpless farm animals. Because public opinion is known to disapprove of these practices, the industry goes to extreme lengths to conceal them; while traditional philosophy and legal systems in all jurisdictions provide complete immunity for them, by maintaining the surreal fiction that non-human animals are objects incapable of feeling pain.

The emergence of the factory farm — and of ever-cheaper food

Spending on food — in proportion to income — has declined dramatically since 19603. Because of the overall rise in income, and the consistent shrinking of food prices adjusted for inflation, we actually have more disposable income than our grandparents did. Most people could readily pay more for food. Indeed, most consumers already pay more than necessary by buying specialised products or convenience foods.

The cost of this adjustment was entirely borne by animals, in the form of suffering unprecedented in both scale4 and intensity. Things like beef, leather goods, cashmere, which were out of the reach of ordinary working-class wallets sixty years ago, are now regarded as staple consumer items.

This footage is quite long, but if you want to understand what the factory farm I refer to in this article is, and why it poses such a huge moral problem, you should really watch it. Dominion uses drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture, questioning the morality and validity of humankind’s dominion over the animal kingdom. While mainly focusing on animals used for food, it also explores other ways animals are exploited and abused by humans, including clothing, entertainment and research. Produced by the Farm Transparency Project, and included here with permission.

This did not happen magically. Pigs, cattle, and chickens have been domesticated for food for thousands of years. In the first half of the last century, animals were typically still raised with access to the outdoors. Most of the work on the farm was done by human or animal labour. Although conditions like these still exist, the industrialisation of agriculture radically transformed how the vast majority of food is produced in many parts of the world. Over the twentieth century, agriculture underwent greater change than it had since it was first adopted some thirteen thousand years ago. Agriculture, which used to be a part of human society, has steadily become a de-humanised, industrial process. The reason for this was the quest for profit, driven by the goal of achieving ever-lower food prices5.

Criticism of these practices has been totally stifled by the fact that industrial agriculture, in developed and developing countries alike, operates in a regulatory environment that endorses and subsidises its methods6, and even actively assists in covering them up — while in developing countries it has a completely free rein to maximise profit at any non-human cost.

We will see below that the seemingly indefensible and paradoxical ability of large-scale industrial farms to commodify animals in the face of strong countervailing social forces stems in large part from our shared legal system’s embrace of a vision of human ascendancy that is deeply rooted in Western culture.

Animals can’t go to hell: billions of farm animals — mainly pigs, cattle, and chickens — are there already

Humans are easily outnumbered by our farm animals. The combined total of chickens (nineteen billion), cows (1.5 billion), sheep (one billion) and pigs (one billion) living at any one time is three times higher than the number of people, according to the Economist. Those figures, however, are dwarfed by the number of animals we eat. An estimated fifty billion chickens are slaughtered for food every year — a figure that excludes male chicks and unproductive hens killed in egg production. The number of larger livestock, particularly pigs (1.5 billion per annum), slaughtered is also growing, as the charts below bear witness.

The vast majority of animals abused by humans are farm animals. Whereas the number of animals used in research in the United States is, at about twenty-five million, roughly equal to the population of Texas, the number of birds and mammals killed for food each year — again, in the United States, alone — is around ten billion, or one and a half times the population of the world.

More and more people, eating more and more meat per capita

In the last fifty years the number of people on the planet has doubled. But the amount of meat we eat has tripled. Put more simply, the industry reduced prices by making animals suffer more than they did traditionally. Since the price elasticity of demand of meat is relatively high7, this fuelled demand up, resulting in a cycle of constantly-rising animal suffering, as more animals are used to meet this rising demand, and the industry introduces increasingly dehumanising methods to increase efficiency further.

Total number of livestock animals, …
Total number of livestock animals, measured as the number of live animals at a single point in any given year. Source: Our World in Data.

Since the amount of meat we eat per capita has also risen, the rise in population has been compounded by large numbers of people who traditionally ate little or no meat switching to an increasingly meat-based diet. Most of this growing demand has come from middle-income countries, and particularly from China, which has become the world’s biggest consumer of meat as its economy boomed8. Consumption of meat in Europe and North America, on the other hand, has stabilised, and even declined in recent years. India, despite rapidly catching up with China in terms of population, still consumes a tiny fraction of the world’s meat9.

Average per capita meat consumption broken …
Average per capita meat consumption broken down by specific meat types, measured in kilograms per person per year. Data is based on per capita food supply at the consumer level, but does not account for food waste at the consumer level. Source: Our World in Data.

Giving no intrinsic worth to farm animals means cheaper food and higher profits

For the industry, any trade-off is acceptable, providing it enables it to offer consumers ever-more inexpensive and readily available meat; beef now costs half of what it did in 197010. When asked how this spectacular reduction had been achieved, Patrick Boyle, the CEO of the American Meat Institute, with utter obliviousness to the moral turpitude of this trade-off, commented brazenly:

It has a lot to do with efficiencies — doing what we do even better and more efficiently; […] squeezing costs out of the process; adding value to the product. America in general is a tremendous food success story. […] We pay the lowest percentage of our per capita income on food than any country in the world. In the mid-1980s, it was about 12 percent. Today it’s below 9 percent. And meat, which is a large part of our diet in this country — meat and poultry — is less than 2 percent of our disposable income. That’s a great success story. We have high quality, reliable, abundant, and low-cost food in the United States. We’re very fortunate.

This system of animal-based wealth acquisition assigns worth to non-humans based only on their exchange value: unlike humans, who enjoy inherent value, which cannot be quantified, and protects them from commodification11, non-humans, being a commodity, possess no rights; they serve as a means to the ends of others rather than an end in themselves.

Treblinka: an apposite analogy

Charles Patterson aptly describes the origins of what he calls the Eternal Treblinka. In particular, very convincingly, Charles Patterson argued that cruelty to non-human animals feeds disregard for human dignity: once animal exploitation was industrialised and accepted as part of the natural order of things, it opened the door to similar ways of treating other human beings, thus paving the way for such atrocities as human slavery and the Holocaust.

The parallel between the factory farm and the Nazi extermination camps is undeniable, with the important caveat that non-humans are being killed, not members of our own species. The methods, however, and the systematic, absolute denial of dignity and of mercy, are the same. Produced by Mercy for Animals, and included here with permission.

I realise the reference to Treblinka is a loaded analogy to make, and I also feel very strongly there is no human equivalent to the Holocaust, an inexplicable monstrosity that is set apart from any other, and must, imperatively, remain so in our collective memory. I’m also aware of the hugely important difference between the Holocaust — the sadistic, gratuitous and purposeless quest to eliminate an entire group of people, solely on the basis of their membership of that particular group — and the transformation of non-humans into a commodity whose dignity and rights are entirely disregarded and who are subjected to wanton cruelty, in order to provide humans with food. Yet having made that important caveat, I believe that, in the context of what we do to other species, because of the scale of the annihilation, its ruthless, mechanistic nature, the wanton, effectively unchecked cruelty employed, the choice of carefully-concealed locations, hidden behind high walls and distant from any large conurbation, and, above all, the systematic denial of any intrinsical worth to the individuals sacrificed, there is a meaningful analogy, and it is therefore apposite:

The domestication of animals — the exploitation of goats, sheep, cattle, and other animals for their meat, milk, hides, and labor that began in the Near East about 11,000 years ago — changed human history. In earlier hunter-gatherer societies there had been some sense of kinship between humans and animals, reflected in totemism and myths which portrayed animals, or part-animal part-human creatures, as creators and progenitors of the human race. Mankind, however, crossed the Rubicon when Near Eastern herdsmen and farmers started castrating, hobbling, and branding captive animals to control their mobility, diet, growth, and reproductive lives. To distance themselves emotionally from the cruelty they inflicted, they adopted mechanisms of detachment, rationalization, denial, and euphemism, and in the process became a harder, more ruthless lot.

In 1917 Sigmund Freud12 put the issue in perspective when he wrote: In the course of his development towards culture man acquired a dominating position over his fellow-creatures in the animal kingdom. Not content with this supremacy, however, he began to place a gulf between his nature and theirs. He denied the possession of reason to them, and to himself he attributed an immortal soul, and made claims to a divine descent which permitted him to annihilate the bond of community between him and the animal kingdom13.

Charles Patterson . Animals, Slavery, and the Holocaust, 2002


Nearly 1.5 billion pigs are killed to feed the growing appetite for pork, bacon, ham and sausages – a number that has tripled in the last fifty years14.

Pig personality

Pigs are social animals with mental acuity comparable in many ways to primates15. They have a strong sense of their surroundings and form relationships with their offspring and other pigs. Mother pigs sing to their babies while nursing. Pigs are self-aware: the so-called mirror test, conducted with pigs by Professor Donald Broom at Cambridge University, revealed that pigs are able to use a mirror as a tool to find food that is not otherwise visible. This means that, unlike most other animals, pigs understand that mirrors are reflections, rather than windows. Piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called.

Studies have found that pigs can play — and enjoy — joystick-controlled video games and are capable of abstract representation. These scientists also found that they were able to distinguish between objects and to remember the distinctions years after they initially learned them16. They have exceptional memories: Suzanne Held at the University of Bristol found through her research that pigs are quite good at remembering where their food is stored. The pigs in her study were able to choose their food stashes from among eight different locations. They were also able to remember which stash had smaller treats, and when given the choice, they chose to go to the stash with larger treats17.

They are fastidiously clean, contrary to the reputation they have been given by humans: if given sufficient space, pigs will be careful not to excrete near where they sleep or eat. There are many recorded cases of a pig saving a human’s life18.

How pigs are abused

In much of the world it is common for pregnant sows to be kept in gestation crates (also known as sow stalls) for their entire sixteen-week gestation period. A gestation crate is a metal crate or cage, usually with a bare, slatted floor, which is so narrow that the sow cannot turn around and can only stand up and lie down with difficulty. Within a couple of weeks of giving birth, sows are inseminated again (often artificially) and begin their next pregnancy. A commercial sow will normally produce two litters per year with approximately ten to twelve piglets per litter. Her time as a breeder will last about three years, before she is sold for slaughter. In addition to tooth-clipping, most piglets have their tails docked to discourage tail biting. This procedure is painful and often causes long-term distress.

In most countries, nearly all male piglets are castrated. This is done to guard against boar taint, where chemicals present in pigs at puberty sometimes impart an odor and taste to their meat which many people do not like. There are no legal restrictions against pig castration in the United States. No pain relief — which would cost money and reduce profits — is provided. As you would expect, the United Kingdom and Ireland are running entire male herds, without any castration, but elsewhere, around 90 million piglets are castrated in the European Union each year19.

Pigs travel badly and are easily stressed by transport and pre-slaughter handling. They do not have sweat glands and are particularly susceptible to heat stress. Internationally, significant numbers of pigs die each year in transport and in lairage (holding pens) at slaughterhouses as a result of stress.

The facilities where factory-farmed pigs live are little more than concentration camps optimised for maximum output. Factory farmed piglets are born to mother pigs or sows in farrowing crates, which are typically metal structures with slatted flooring, which are so small the sows can hardly move20.

In natural settings, a sow will gather brush to create a comfortable environment before giving birth. But no such accommodations are made in the factory farm. Instead, the pigs are faced with cold, lifeless surroundings as their feces and urine slide into a pit just below21. These facilities have notoriously poor air quality and are known to seethe with ammonia, which can lead to the animals contracting ailments like respiratory disease, pneumonia, and swine influenza22. They are then given abundant drugs and antibiotics, in order to make them continue to grow. This, however, does nothing to address the original issue.

Industrial pigs are bred to produce large litters of fast-growing piglets23. The sows often grow to extreme sizes, which can be dangerous, because one false move can easily kill or injure a vulnerable newborn. Factory farms often wean piglets from their mothers at just two to four weeks of age24 and sometimes younger, much more abruptly than is natural, which is extremely traumatic for both the mother and her piglets. But in efforts of maximizing sow output, early weaning remains common practice so that the mother pig can re-breed as soon as possible and efficiency can be optimised. After the piglets are weaned, they are commonly moved to a nursery unit until they are about two months old. Pens in these facilities are typically quite small, and again composed of metal panels and slatted floors. Whereas in nature the pigs would likely still be under the protection of their mothers, here they must fend for themselves.

Piles of dead and rotting piglets are …
Piles of dead and rotting piglets are piled up behind a sow, who is wedged into a crate so tightly that she cannot move away from the mess at Smithfield-owned Circle Four Farm in Utah. Smithfield represents the worst form of animal abuse, brutalizing animals, exploiting workers, accelerating global warming, endangering public health, and threatening the people who expose them with decades in prison. Photo: Wayne Hsiung of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).

At no point in factory farmed pigs’ lives are they given access to an environment that provides the opportunity to root, chew, and forage, as they would instinctively wish. Over time, abnormal behaviours develop as the survivors attempt to cope. They may repetitively nose other pigs or parts of the pen, chew on their companions, or simply grow lethargic and refuse to move25. It is a tragedy that creatures of such complexity and intelligence endure such a deprived existence26.

A piglet that was ill and close to death …
A piglet that was ill and close to death at Smithfield recovers as she is cared for after being rescued. Photo: Wayne Hsiung of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).


Cattle were domesticated as long ago as the Neolithic age and have been kept as livestock ever since for their meat, milk, and hides.

Historically, there was no distinction between dairy cattle and beef cattle, with the same breeds used for both milk and meat. In the developed world today, however, farmers usually keep either beef or dairy cattle. Through generations of selection, dairy breeds such as the Holstein have been bred specifically to produce very high volumes of milk. Other breeds have been bred to maximise beef production27.

Cow personality

Cows, like many other non-humans, display a full range of personalities, including boldness, shyness, sociability, gregariousness, and being temperamental. Perhaps above all, cows have strong maternal bonds and are attentive, protective and loving parents. When allowed, a mother cow may nurse her calf for as long as three years. The mother-child bond continues after weaning; mothers and their children remain close to each other for life. There is also a sense of maternal community as other cows in the herd will help nurture calves if necessary. Cows help each other, learn from each other and make decisions based on compassion and altruism. Like humans, cows seek pleasure and love to play. When let outside after being cooped up for too long, cows run, prance and jump for joy:

Cows jumping for joy as they are released onto the grass. By World Animal Protection UK (included with permission).

Cows display the ability to rapidly learn different tasks, display long-term memory, extrapolate the location of a hidden moving object, discriminate complex stimuli, and discriminate humans from one another. Calves as well as adult cows show learned fear responses to humans who have previously handled them in a rough manner. Cows also display complex spatial memory and are able to discriminate among individual cows and recognise cow faces as different from the faces of other species28.

How cows are abused

All farm cattle suffer abuse. Contrary to an almost universal misconception, the treatment of dairy cattle is arguably even more cruel than the appalling conditions endured by cattle raised for meat.

Cows farmed for their meat

Cattle spend the first few months of their lives outside grazing on pasture. They are soon weaned abruptly from their mothers and shipped to industrial feedlots as they approach a year old. Once the cattle arrive in their new setting, they no longer get to graze on grass. The rest of their lives are spent crowded into spaces that host hundreds of other animals, with feed administered automatically and efficiently. The problems that come with these living conditions are numerous, including poor sanitation, unnatural diet, and lack of opportunity for exercise.

As with any crowded monoculture, disease spreads rapidly. Recognizing this risk and highly incentivised to keep their animals growing as much as possible, industrial food producers administer antibiotics to them on a massive scale. Drug supplementation is rising in the cattle industry29, which could indicate that animal sickness is too.

One possible cause of these issues is the act of actually feeding rendered beef back to cattle30, which may have led to the advent or exacerbation of mad cow disease. Regulatory measures have been taken to prevent such an outbreak from happening again, but that does not mean that current diets are acceptable. Chicken manure is one ingredient still allowed. Green grass is non-existent in these feedlots,with most cattle food being derived from from corn or soy, which is not their natural diet.

Around the age of fourteen to sixteen months — a cow’s normal life expectancy is about twenty years — the cattle are herded from their cramped feedlots to the slaughterhouse.

At the French Sobeval slaughterhouse, seven hundred calves — ninety per hour — are slaughtered daily, without being previously stunned. In some cases they are strung up while still living and will endure a prolonged agony before they finally die. The meat from this slaughterhouse — which exports to the United States — receives France’s official organic (bio) label and the hides are sold to luxury firms such as Chanel. The French authorities decided not to take action after the video was published, and it is still in operation31. This whistleblower video produced by L214 is in French: details are available on the L214 website

Dairy cows

There are approximately 250 million cows producing milk around the world, about ten million dairy cows in North America, 23 million in the European Union, and six million in Australia and New Zealand. Milk production is on the rise in Asia, including in countries not traditionally known for their milk consumption, such as China, which now has more than twelve million cows producing milk.

Over the last fifty years, dairy farming has become more intensive in order to increase the amount of milk produced by each cow. Milk production per cow has more than doubled in the past forty years. In the United States, the average dairy cow produces more than 7.5 gallons of milk per day. If she were producing just enough to feed her calf, her yield would be about one gallon of milk per day.

Like humans, cows only produce milk after they have given birth, and dairy cows must give birth to one calf per year in order to continue producing milk. Typically they are artificially inseminated within three months of giving birth. Given a natural and healthy life, cows can live for twenty years or more. High-yielding dairy cows will last for only a quarter of that time: they produce milk on average for less than three years, after which they are culled and their meat used for beef.

Calves are routinely separated from their mothers right after birth, and killed for veal. Cows—mammals with as strong a motherly instinct as human women—will desperately try to stay with their baby. Yet in order to be able to produce milk, they need to be regularly impregnated and give birth. This is one of the many hidden but monstrous consequences of our massive reliance on the dairy industry.

The majority of dairy cows in the United States are kept without access to pasture for most of their lives. This is known as zero grazing, and is practiced increasingly in large-scale operations in North America and parts of the United Kingdom. They are forced to live indoors, tethered by the neck in about forty per cent of cases, to keep them in place32. They also face repeated impregnation — which is necessary for them to produce milk — as well as short calving intervals. When they are allowed outdoors, space is extremely limited and bedding is not necessarily provided33. The indoor flooring is generally composed of concrete, a cost effective and relatively easy surface to clean. Cows, however, have a hard time on such hard, unforgiving ground, which becomes slippery when slicked with the urine of a multitude of other large animals.


There are more chickens in the world than any other bird. In fact, more than fifty billion chickens are reared annually as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs34. More than nine billion chickens, along with half a billion turkeys, are slaughtered for food in the United States each year. This number represents more than 95 per cent of the land animals killed for food in the country. Many people believe that chicken, especially the breast of the chicken, is healthier to eat than so-called red meat. This is main reason why chicken consumption has consequently risen dramatically over the last few decades, as more and more people make the switch from other meats.

Until the 1950s, even chickens raised for eventual slaughter were kept in traditional small coops of no more than sixty or so birds, with free access to the outdoors; they could nest, roost, and share space according to their natural behaviour. This, however, is no longer the case except for an extreme minority (less than two per cent) of the birds destined for farming, with maximisation of profit being the only benchmark governing production and, consequently, living conditions. Any regard for the welfare of the animals involved has become a luxury that reduces profits unless the extra costs can be passed on to the consumer (as with the much-publicised but less frequently seen free-range meat and egg farms). Because of this, chickens have been, arguably, the principal victims of the massive industrialisation underwent by the food industry in the second half of the twentieth century.

Chicken personality

This is especially morally deplorable because chickens are sociable, intelligent animals. Studies have shown that they are able to solve problems and, unlike young children, grasp the permanence of objects (they understand that objects taken from view continue to exist). Their natural behaviour includes living in stable groups of thirty or so that employ a social hierarchy (the origin of the term pecking order). The chickens in a given flock all know and recognise each other. Their communal activities include scratching and pecking for food, running around, taking dust baths, and resting. They crow and chirp in a range of some thirty meaningful vocalizations. Chickens also have a strong urge to nest, and, like most animal mothers, they nurture their young attentively and affectionately. A hen carefully tends her eggs in the nest, turning them up to five times an hour and clucking to them; remarkably, the unborn chicks chirp back to her and to one another. People who have had opportunities to become acquainted with chickens — for example, while growing up on farms or visiting farm-animal sanctuaries — often remark on how affectionate chickens can be and how they seem to have their own personalities35.

How chickens are abused

It is common practice in the industrial poultry industry in the United States and many other countries, especially with egg-layers, to de-beak the birds, whether farmed for meat or for their eggs, by use of a hot blade36, despite our having clear evidence of the beak’s sensitivity to pain37. The justification used for de-beaking is that it reduces cannibalism or excessive pecking, which of course would never occur in the first place if the birds lived in a proper environment where their normal, gregarious temperament to one another would be displayed.

Shortly after birth, both male and female chicks are commonly sexed or separated by sex, with the males invariably killed. The reason the egg industry kills most male chicks, of course, is because they can’t lay eggs, and chicks born into the meat industry are also graded and killed if they’re not considered likely to produce a profit for the company. Crushing, suffocating, and grinding chicks up alive are common industry practice in the United States. Another killing method documented at two large hatcheries in India is burning. Whistleblowers have testified that burned chicks tried to escape and hide In other instances, chicks are drowned: it takes up to thirty minutes for the chicks to die in this way. Other companies sell chicks to fish farms, where they are thrown directly into fish ponds to drown or be eaten alive.

Chickens farmed for their eggs

Laying hens are bred specifically for egg laying. In the United States, modern commercial hens produce a yield of approximately 275 eggs per year38. Chickens will naturally live for six or more years, but after just twelve months of laying, a modern hen’s productivity begins to decline. This is when most commercial laying hens are slaughtered in the European Union. In the United States, most hens are forcibly moulted (this is banned in the European Union). This means hens are put on starvation rations at this stage for a period of time before they then return to an improved cycle of egg laying. It was estimated that 75 per cent of all laying hens in the United States in 2003 were moulted.

While barren battery cages have been banned in the European Union since the beginning of 2012, more than three billion hens worldwide are still kept in battery cages. In the United States, 95 per cent of all eggs are produced using conventional battery cages. Barren battery cage eggs come from hens kept in small cages in which they are unable to express their natural behaviours. The cages are arranged in long, tiered rows, often back-to-back (hence the term battery). Multiple birds are kept within a single cage and each bird has access to space about the size of a sheet of paper. They are prevented from foraging for food, nesting, roosting, and dust-bathing. This causes extreme physical and psychological discomfort for the hens, and is clearly akin to a form of permanent, sadistic torture.

In the United States, barren battery cages remain legal in most states, and the majority of eggs are produced using battery cage systems. Although the battery cage was banned in the European Union, the use of so-called enriched cages remains legal there. The original enriched cages housed ten hens, but most recent systems in the European Unionare colony cages housing sixty to eighty hens. Colony cages are slightly less crowded (space per hen is approximately 20 percent larger than a letter-size piece of paper) and the hens have a small area in which they are able to move around. Nest boxes, litter, perch space, and claw-shortening devices must be provided. Yet these conditions can only be described as barbaric. Further cruelty results in the birds’ inability to retire in privacy to lay their eggs as they are wired to do. Try as they might to hide inside their tiny cages, it is a futile endeavor. The constant frustration and stress on the hens from this cruelty is immeasurable.

Cage free systems offer a slight improvement upon the remarkably low bar set by battery cages. But removing the battery cage in no way solves every issue. Cage free birds are able to walk, spread their wings, and lay their eggs in nests, but they are still kept indoors, under constant light, crowded in with thousands of other hens of the same fate. Including the word free in this description is quite ironic.

Chickens farmed for their meat

The birds raised for meat, called broilers by the industry, are the product of genetic manipulation that has drastically increased breast and thigh tissue (the most popular parts of the animal) and produced a very rapid growth rate that outstrips the development of their legs and organs. Broilers raised in this way are supposed to reach slaughter weight at just six or seven weeks of age, but the death toll is very high. The growth of abnormally heavy bodies causes crippling and painful skeletal deformities, and the overburdening of the birds’ underdeveloped cardiopulmonary systems often causes congestive heart failure before they are six weeks old. Some broiler chickens who do not succumb to these problems still die of thirst, because they are physically unable to even reach the water nozzles in their sheds.

A whistleblower enquiry in Germany: Animal Equality investigators documented immense suffering at that country’s two largest chicken meat producers.

Unlike egg-layers, chickens raised for meat are typically not confined to cages. Instead, they are kept in enormous confinement houses packed with thousands of birds.These are little more than hazy, windowless warehouses packed with birds, with a light layer of wood shavings on the floor covered in feathers and stinking waste, reverberating in a cacophony of high-pitched screeches and chirps. The floors are covered in filth and the air is unsuitable to breathe. It is not uncommon for humans who enter these facilities to wear respirators to protect their lungs from the noxious ammonia emitted by the incredible amount of waste.

Chickens suffer horrendously in these conditions. Damage is done to their eyes, respiratory systems, and skin, which can be burned and blistered as it comes in constant contact with putrid excrement over the course of their short lives39.

There are also some industrial poultry operations that market themselves as free range, but the legal standards for this label are obnoxiously low. In most cases, free range chickens live in the same horrendous conditions highlighted above, except for what is known as a pop hole available for birds to venture outside. A large proportion of the chickens, however, never make it out of that door, and even if they do, space is limited and grass and fresh forage are not required to be available there. It is thus quite manifest that the free range label represents a marketing ploy by the industry to boost its margins, without any serious consideration for improving animal living conditions.

The fiction that non-human animals are mere objects devoid of sentience is the product of a long history

The exchange value we have seen assigned to countless helpless farm animals in the name of cheap food and profit, with the resulting torture and degrading deaths, needs to justified, by the food industry, by convincing the law to exclude them from the moral community — and consumers to assent to this exclusion without demur. This is precisely what philosophers, scientists and politicians have been doing since Antiquity, up to the present day40, and the modern food industry has been spectacularly successful in ensuring that this scientific and moral aberration continues unchallenged: legally, animals are the exact equivalent of chattel slaves.

Aristotle and the Great Chain of Being

Historically, our Western culture and phil­osophy has persistently replied by the negative to the question: Should animals have moral standing? The Greeks, including Plato and especially Aristotle, based this claim on the criterion of rationality, positing that only rational beings count for anything morally; with only humans being rational, and non-human animals categorised as not rational, they conclude that animals should count for nothing morally, and can, indeed should be used as instruments to serve human interests41. For Aristotle, then, human beings are distinguished from non-human animals by the level of the mental life, not by the fact of it, making them the only political animals: in none but [man] is there intellect42 In his Politics, he spelled out an identical vision:

He then is by nature formed a slave who is qualified to become the chattel of another person, and on that account is so, and who has just reason enough to know that there is such a faculty, without being indued with the use of it; for other animals have no perception of reason, but are entirely guided by appetite, and indeed they vary very little in their use from each other; for the advantage which we receive, both from slaves and tame animals, arises from their bodily strength administering to our necessities43.

The resulting theory of the Great Chain of Being saw the world as populated by an infinity of beings arranged hierarchically according to their complexity and perfection, from the barely living to the fully sentient, with all forms of life were represented as existing for the sake of those forms higher in the chain. Aristotle’s claim in the Politics that nature made all animals for the sake of humans was destined to become his most influential statement on the subject44.

Aquinas and Hobbes: codification of the dominion theory

In the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas blended Aristotelianism with the principle, based on Holy Scripture, that man has dominion over non-human animals. In Question 96 of Part One of the Summa theologiae, he argued, on the basis of the grant by God to Adam in Genesis 26:145 of dominion over the rest of material creation, that there is a natural order to creation in which the more perfect makes use of the less perfect. He expressly quoted Aristotle to deduce that as humans sit at the pinnacle of material creation, it is natural to them to have dominion over the rest of it:

Sicut enim in generatione rerum intelligitur quidam ordo quo proceditur de imperfecto ad perfectum (nam materia est propter formam, et forma imperfectior propter perfectiorem), ita etiam est in usu rerum naturalium, nam imperfectiora cedunt in usum perfectorum; plantae enim utuntur terra ad sui nutrimentum, animalia vero plantis, et homines plantis et animalibus. Unde naturaliter homo dominatur animalibus. Et propter hoc philosophus dicit, in I Politic., quod venatio sylvestrium animalium est iusta et naturalis, quia per eam homo vindicat sibi quod est naturaliter suum. Secundo apparet hoc ex ordine divinae providentiae, quae semper inferiora per superiora gubernat. Unde, cum homo sit supra cetera animalia, utpote ad imaginem Dei factus, convenienter eius gubernationi alia animalia subduntur46.

Aquinas . Q. 96 Art. 1. Summa theologiae. Loeb, c. 100 AD (71)

Aquinas thus codified the dominion theory as affirming that human beings have dominion over the rest of material creation: animals are subject to our reason, while plants and inanimate objects are subject to our use.

Hobbes’s view was similar:

To make Covenants with bruit Beasts, is impossible; because not understanding our speech, they understand not, nor accept of any translation of Right; nor can translate any Right to another: and without mutuall acceptation, there is no Covenant47.

Descartes, Kant and Claude Bernard: non-humans as mechanical objets, unable to be hurt

Descartes, in Part 5 of his Discourse on Method, also asserted a mechanistic view of nature. But going even further than St. Thomas Aquinas, he categorically denied that animals should have any moral standing, asserting that all animals other than human beings are nothing more than soulless, divinely crafted machines, as mechanical as clocks, and unable to be hurt. It followed from this perspective that it was impossible that an animal could be morally either harmed or benefited48.

Kant is notoriously dismissive of rights for animals. He presents the categorical imperative as though it covers rational beings only, endorsing Aristotle and St. Thomas’s suggestion that it is reason that distinguishes us from non-human animals, defended a logocentric49 (rationality-centred) framework for our moral duty to non-human animals, and its anthropocentrism is a contingent result of its logocentrism, on the assumption that homo sapiens is the Earth’s only rational species. There is no room, within Kant’s ethics, for a category of being to which we owe moral obligations even though it is not itself autonomous or bound by moral obligations. He placed non-human animals clearly outside the scope of moral obligations50. For that reason, Kant believed that duties to animals are only indirect and derive from our to duty to respect and foster the ends of humanity (what he called the categorical imperative). Suppose, for example, you torture a dog. You have not, in Kant’s view, violated any obligations you owe to the dog. You have done the dog no wrong. A dog is not the sort of thing that can be wronged51.

Kant also refined St. Thomas Aquinas’s and Descartes’s distinction by focusing on the rationality he considered was reserved for self-conscious human beings. He asserted that humans, and only humans, should always be treated as ends in themselves and never as mere means, never as mere instru­mental resources. It followed for Kant that all other beings, includ­ing all non-human animals, could and should be used as mere means to serve the interest of the self­ conscious, rational humans, thus aligning Kant, in practice, with the Aristotelian and Cartesian positions. While the cruelty which Kant’s position permits is largely discredited in modern debate on animal rights, it remains influential on the topic of whether personhood should be extended to animals, as we shall see below.

Descartes’s mechanical vision remains influential, indeed arguably dominant, in one specific field: seventeenth-century France was the birthplace of modem physiology, and in that field, a Cartesian mechanical vision remains dominant in the pratical application most directly relevant to animal rights, vivisection. Claude Bernard continues to be cited by benchmark scientists wishing to provide a scientific justification of animal experimentation. Nobel Prize winner Sir Peter Medawar lauds Bernard for having offered, The wisest judgements on scientific method ever made by a working scientist52.

Our age’s categorical imperative: ending the moral turpitude of the factory farm

In this second part of this article, I will start by showing that scientific evidence proves that there are no ontological differences between humans and non-humans that justify the modern factory farm system, with its attenant denial to animals of any inherent value. I will then argue that only with the enactment of effective legal — in the sense of statutory — measures to assign animals the intrinsical worth that their physical, natural characteristics require can this systematic moral turpitude be ended.

The ontological evidence for moral consideration: animals are sentient beings

The observation that animals are sentient is different from saying they are merely alive. Sentience requires the ability to be conscious of pain and pleasure, frustration and satisfaction, joy and suffering, and fear of death. Recognising others as sentient is a fundamental step in our examination of what consideration we owe to non-human creatures: it changes our attitude towards them, providing grounds for establishing together a moral community.

Yet it can be proved scientifically that non-human animals are sentient. Indeed anyone who has lived in close proximity with them will know this instinctively. According to the U.S. National Research Council Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals, pain is experienced by many animal species, including mammals and possibly all vertebrates53. It is now known that even reptiles, amphibians and fish have the neuroanatomy necessary to perceive pain54. Yet veterinarians trained in the United States before 1989 were simply taught to ignore animal pain55.

There is strong evidence to reject the mechanistic theory

There is no reason to suppose that only a human-like central nervous system will give rise to consciousness56. Given the similarities of the nerve and brain structures and in behaviours of animals and humans, there is strong evidence to reject the mechanistic theory. Evolutionists empha­sise the survival value implicit in the capa­city to experience pleasure and pain57.

At its most basic level, the capacity for subjective experience appears to be present even in some non-vertebrates (insects58), and to be the product of evolution59.

What is animal consciousness, and which animals have it?

But what is animal consciousness60? We know that, in the absence of at least a centralised nervous system, consciousness will not arise in an animal61. We also know that beings who have experiences as a result of the evolutionary process can have both positive and negative experiences, which is sufficient for them also to deserve moral consideration62.

Yet our research into animal consciousness was until recently hindered by our inability to imagine that consciousness — and, more generally, non-human intelligence — could operate through different channels than it does in humans. Understanding how other species process information has proved challenging for human science. Yet research has shown, inter alia, that ravens can plan for the future, octopuses can create armor out of coconut shells, and orangutans talk about the past. Indeed some species have senses that humans cannot even understand: sharks, for instance, have an acute sensitivity to electrical currents, while several species, especially butterflies, can see or glow in ultraviolet light.

Factoring in the unknowability of other minds: the challenge of avoiding speciesism

Human science has given prominence to measures of intelligence such as the mirror-test, which a number of species, including fish, pass63. Yet a vision-based measure will not accurately measure the cognition level of species — such as pigs — that primarily rely on smell, not vision, for identification. Were we to submit humans to a smell-test, it is likely that we would fail it. There is something fundamentally unknowable about other minds, and this chasm increases as we move away from forms of consciousness and experience that resemble our own.

Thomas Nagel, in What Is It Like to be a Bat?64, sees consciousness not as something exclusively human, but as something shared by many, if not all, organisms. Yet he notes that each phenomenal experience had by a conscious being would have to have a physical property attributed to it, which is impossible to prove, owing to the subjectivity of conscious experience. He then uses the metaphor of bats65 to clarify the distinction between subjective and objective concepts: since there is a subjective character of conscious experience that is not captured by physical descriptions of the brain or by observable behaviours, Nagel questions the reductive materialist or physicalist account that denies the so called gap between mind and brain in the mind-body problem.

Building on the conclusions of his seminal, earlier work, The Possibility of Altruism, Nagel observes that if a (human) individual cannot embody a particular perspective, for instance, he cannot actually be anyone other than himself, then he will be unable to reach any understanding of being another. He will be incapable of knowing what it is like to be a bat, a dog, a cat, a horse, or even another person, and will only ever truly understand what it is like to be himself66.

Ou inability to understand the functioning of non-human minds has unquestionably hindered our ability to properly measure animal intelligence, especially in non-mammals. Recent work, however, has begun correcting this speciesist bias: the relationship between consciousness and a standard cerebral cortex, for instance, which is the prerogative of mammals, has been shown, as part of research conducted in recent years, to have a number of substitutes allowing other species to achieve equivalent levels of consciousness. Two studies conducted on birds in 202067 have shown that although birds lack a cerebral cortex, other sensory faculties explain the exceptionally high cognitive abilities displayed by, inter alia, parrots, blackbirds and owls.

At the age of two, Alex (1976-2007) was correctly answering questions meant for six-year-old humans. At the time of his death, he could identify fifty different objects and recognize quantities up to six; he could distinguish seven colors and five shapes, and understand the concepts of bigger, smaller, same, and different, and he was learning over and under.

The overwhelming confirmation that non-human animals have consciousness is also backed up by the physiological and evolutionary evidence

Animals are also similar to us physiologically: early vivisectors discovered that humans and non-humans are in many cases identical, organ for organ, and early neurological studies suggested that sensation is similar among many species68. Knowledge of our evolutionary relationship with other species provides a theoretical basis on which to ground this view: consciousness has adaptive value, and there is no reason to suppose that our species is the only one that has it69.

It is now clear from the above evidence that scientists now have ample, detailed, empirical facts to declare that non-human animals are conscious and should be treated as such: this was the purpose of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, in which three eminent neuroscientists concluded:

Non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates70.

Animals are capable of intentional behaviour, of being self-aware, and of having a personality

Conscious, sentient beings thus have a subjective experience of their own lives and of the world. They experience their lives from the inside. It has been scientifically demonstrated that many animals are capable of intentional behaviour and that such intentional behaviour necessitates some self-consciousness, at least an aware­ness of oneself as being distinct from other things in the environment, and also awareness of oneself as enduring through time, past, present, and future71. Psychologist David Premack has given serious consideration to the hypothesis that primates have the concept of causality and that they make inferences on the basis of this concept.

Anyone who has interacted with non-human animals for any length of time knows that, like humans, they have individual personalities72, characters73, even a sense of humour74. They can show both affection and empathy.

Do animals have desires and beliefs?

The obvious structural similarity between animals and humans makes the uselessness ascribed to their sensory faculties by the mechanistic thinkers patently absurd. And without real experience of pain, pleasure, and reproductive desire, the whole evolutionary process would become inexplicable.

Yet neo-Cartesian views about animal consciousness still persist: R. G. Frey, who concedes that animals are conscious but denies they can have desires and beliefs, essentially because no creature that lacks language can have beliefs, chooses to illustrate his proposition by an individual wishing to acquire a Gutenberg Bible, which he knows and believes to be of great value, something a non-human is not capable of doing75. My cat, admittedly, cannot be aware that she lacks a Gutenberg Bible. She can, however, believe that she has not received her evening meal and desire it, because desires can exist without beliefs that depend on the ability to think through sentences. Like pretty much any animal, my cat holds beliefs about things that she is capable of perceiving that completely escape the human mind, because she possesses, inter alia, a superior sense of smell, and a different sense of sight76. We can reasonably conclude from this that animals do have desires and beliefs, in a meaningful sense.

Consciousness vs. self-consciousness: Sir Roger Scruton’s repellent and failed attempt to reserve rights for humans, come what may

One criticism of Animal Rights Theory accepts that non-human animals are sentient, but denies that sentience or consciousness, even if they are congruent, are sufficient to entail the right to enjoy the protection afforded by inalienable rights.

An articulate proponent of this view is Sir Roger Scruton, whose views I have chosen to quote extensively in this article — despite finding them abhorrent and profoundly offensive — because I believe they need to be soundly and decisively rebutted:

We should be careful, therefore, to distinguish consciousness from self-consciousness. Human beings are aware of themselves and their own states of mind; they distinguish self from other and identify themselves in the first person. They knowingly refer to themselves as I, and are able to describe their own mental states for the benefit of others as well as themselves. This is what I mean by self-consciousness and it is a feature of our mental life which does not seem to be shared by the lower animals. […] The interesting fact is not that we should be tempted to ascribe self-consciouisness to some of the higher animals but that, whenever we do so, we are tempted to attribute to them rationality, linguistic or quasi-linguistic behaviour, humour, sympathy and even a moral sense77.

Each of Sir Roger’s arguments against non-humans being worthy of moral worth will be examined below, in succession.

Rights made dependent on capacity for reasoned moral argumentation

For most rationalists, the test of moral considerability is rational capacity. Sir Roger Scruton is no exception. According to him, such rights are owed only to persons, and personhood is more than selfhood:

The concept of the person, which we derive from Roman law, is fundamental to all our legal and moral thinking. It bears the meaning of Christian civilisation and of the ethic that has governed it, as well as the seeds of the Enlightenment vision which put Christianity in doubt. The masterly way in which this concept was lifted by Kant from the stream of social life and set upon a metaphysical pedestal should not distract us from its everyday employment as the concept through which human relations are brokered. Our relations to one another are not animal but personal and our rights and duties are those which only a person could have78.

What Sir Roger is attempting here is to raise the bar of personhood so that it requires, not just language or planning but the capacity to engage in reasoned moral argumentation and to commit to comply with the corresponding moral standards: he states that if animals possessed the selfconsciousness and autonomy of the moral being, then they would also have rights and duties79.

Scruton applies the categorical imperative of Kant, which we covered above, and which, in its second formulation, tells us that human beings are to be treated as ends and never as means only:

There is no doubt in my mind that animals do not form moral communities of the kind I have been describing. The concepts of right, duty, justice, personality, responsibility and so on have a sense for us largely because we deploy them in our negotiations and can invoke by their means the ground rules of social order which everyone, even our antagonist, must be seen to accept if they are to enjoy the protection of society80.

He concludes from this, as Kant did, that animals can only enjoy indirect rights.

The spurious claim that animals have interests, but not rights

While aware that his claim — that a moral community can only exist if founded on negotiation and consent81 — is contentious, he states that what is not disputed, however, is that only some interests are rights, and that rights are privileged over other interests. This alone is sufficient to undermine the usual case for animal rights, which rests purely on the undeniable claim that animals have interests82.

Sir Roger asserts that animals have no rights, but that we have charitable duties towards that arise when, and only when, an animal is deliberately made dependent on human beings for his individual welfare and well-being, as is the case for pets whom he regards as honorary members of the moral community83. And where no duty exists, he views our relationship with animals as governed by the virtue of sympathy, which we may extend to animals in degrees that will vary depending on their possession of intentionality; to his mind, this excludes what he deems to be lower forms of animal life, such as insects. Humane killing of farm animals, hunting and painful experiments that aim to improve human welfare are permitted84. He asserts, despite this being conclusively disproved by the research work we referred to above, that the moral stigma attached to suffering inflicted on animals is mitigated the fact that animals, while sharing our capacity for pain, do no share the anguish that it brings us85.

The argument from difficult cases: some cognitively complex animals meet Scruton’s test, while some humans do not

Scruton’s claim that only humans possess what he believes to be true rationality can, of course, be disputed, even, from a Kantian perspective, on Kant’s — and thus on Scruton’s — own terms. Firstly, it is not necessarily the case that only humans can have the relevant capacity. For a few neo-Kantians, some cognitively complex animals, like anthropoid apes86 or cetaceans, or even extraterrestrial beings might in fact have the relevant capacity for rational deliberation, and hence the special moral worth and status of human dignity. Even Kant thought that if they existed, angels were rational87; but they are surely not members of the human species, either in the Darwinian sense, or in the supernatural sense. It is a contingent fact, if a fact at all, that humans alone possess the capacity that grounds their moral worth. And conversely ,a vast number of humans do not meet Kant’s benchmark: for instance, those with serious and irreversible brain disorders ranging from anencephaly to persistent vegetative states88. The argument from difficult cases does not just preclude any idea of animal rights, but also any grounds for similarly protecting infants, the temporarily or permanently incapacitated or, indeed, future generations89. Sir Roger Scruton, who refers to difficult cases as congenital idiots that can never become members of his cherished moral community — is reduced to claiming:

Much more needs to be said about these difficult cases; for our purposes it is enough, however, to recognise that the difficulty arises not because we make no distinction between moral beings and animals, but precisely because we do make such a distinction, and on very good grounds. It is precisely this that lands us with such an intractable problem, when our instinctive reverence for human beings is thwarted by their inability to respond to it90.

Thus in restricting rights to humans, philosophers opposing animal rights have failed to identify a relevant property of humans (viz., the capacity for rational choice) that is either not possessed by non-human animals, or is possessed by them to lesser degrees. Since this capacity is also possessed in lesser degrees, or in some cases not at all, by humans, they need to fall back on, and identify, a property that is possessed equally by all humans without exception, and that provides plausible grounds for restricting rights to them. Otherwise, a hierarchy of species entitlements will leave open the possibility of a similar hierarchy of human entitlements91. Yet other than membership of the human species (together with the genetic characteristics that this automatically entails), it is impossible to develop a rational, consistent criterion for moral rights which will include all humans but exclude all animals. Should we discover that Neanderthals did not go extinct forty thousand years ago, what status would we accord the surviving members of that species?

Any attempt to make animal rights contingent on some condition purportedly found only in humans fails and is shown for what it is: speciesism

By now it will have become apparent that the attempt to make animal rights contingent on some other condition, whether it be the ability to carry out duties, or the meeting of any other condition met by all humans, and only by them, fails, and is in reality the last resource of those who have run out of arguments92. As Donaldson and Kymlicka note93 the recurrence, in Western culture, of people responding to the discovery of boundary-threatening abilities in non-human animals by contentious conceptualization of human-definitive powers (such as language) so as to keep the boundary in place.

The conclusion is inescapable. Animals are as much deserving of rights as human beings: anything else is speciesism94, a word originally coined by Peter Singer95.

It follows necessarily that:

  1. the pain of non-human sentient creatures — or animals — has genuine moral significance, and
  2. animals and some of their interests have independent moral standing.

Consequently, any moral obligation that would be generated in virtue of the above two claims — for example, a very general obligation not to cause unnecessary pain to animals — is an obligation owed to animals themselves and not owed only to other human persons.

Defining a moral philosophy that reflects the ontological evidence

Proof of sentience, however, is not the end of the story: the journey away from the mechanistic denial of Aristotle, Aquinas and Descartes, towards a moral system that reflects the fact that animals share much more with us than we were traditionally prepared to admit, has turned out to be complicated.

My preferred solution, outlined here, is a rebased, Kantian categorical imperative, which reinjects, as it were, the non-humans that Kant had expressly excluded into his categorical imperative. Before we can arrive at this, however, we need to cover a range of interpretations and schools of thought. Their proponents often appear more preoccupied with internal debate than with ending the misery they so ardently denounce, which is disconcerting: far from showing a united determination to achieve palpable relief for non-human animals, the Animal Rights movement is riddled with factional quarrels.

Yet these disagreements aren’t entirely theoretical: they also have practical policy consequences. For instance, for some utilitarian animal rights supporters, there may be nothing wrong with eating meat if the animals are killed painlessly. But painless killing is all but impossible to realise in practice. And crucially, the drive to produce ever-cheaper food will, if anything, make it increasingly rare. Since the number of consumers is large and growing, some form of factory farming will inevitably be introduced to accommodate supply to the demand. This means describing and comparing the possible approaches is necessary, so I will attempt to do so briefly.

This somewhat convoluted debate, for the sake of clarity, needs to be broken down into two different, but related sets of questions:

Direct or indirect duty?

In the ancient philosophical tradition, thinkers who recognise a duty to animals believe this duty to be only indirect. This idea, which goes back at least to the Greeks, is clearly stated, as we saw above, in Saint Thomas Aquinas:

Si qua vero in sacra Scriptura inveniantur prohibentia aliquid crudelitatis in animalia bruta committi, sicut de ave cum pullis non occidenda: hoc fit vel ad removendum hominis animum a crudelitate in homines exercenda, ne aliquis, exercendo crudelia circa bruta, ex hoc procedat ad homines; vel quia in temporale damnum hominis provenit animalibus illata laesio, sive inferentis sive alterius; vel propter aliquam significationem, sicut apostolus exponit illud de non alligando ore bovis triturantis96.

Aquinas . III, Chap. 112, 18. Summa contra gentiles

The idea of indirect duty is followed by Immanuel Kant97 and more recently by John Rawls, and still has some modern exponents of whom Roger Scruton is perhaps the most articulate. For these thinkers, our duties to shield animals from suffering arise only owing to the duties we have to the humans who own them or who might be otherwise inconvenienced by our actions. None of the original defenders of animal rights, not even the classical philosophers, attempted to base the obligations of humans to animals on philosophical foundations.

In the contemporary period, Animal Rights Theory has broken with that tradition, holding that there is a clear duty of humans toward animals and that this duty is direct: rules must protect non-humans from mistreatment on the basis of these animals’ own interests, taken in isolation, rather than those of humans.

Making matters more complicated, however, there are two mainstream positions in which the idea that animals are entitled to equal respect with humans is systematically and more or less comprehensively developed: one of these is that of Peter Singer, who is the leading exponent of utilitarianism as it applies to respect for animals; the second, of which perhaps the most prominent is Tom Regan, noting that there is a value called justice which exists independently of maximizing utility and which, in the view of this school of thought, trumps it, supports a rights-based approach to respect for animals.

Peter Singer and the utilitarians support a welfare-based approach, in which the objective is maximizing utility. Tom Regan favours a rights-based system in which non-humans enjoy a set of legally and morally-entrenched rights. They correspond, respectively, to the second (welfare) and third (rights-based) of the three philosophical schools of thought presented below.

Ecology, welfare, or rights?

We turn now to discussion of the precise type of moral rules system we want to extend to non-human animals. As we move away from objectification, three schools of thought have come to dominate this debate: the ecological approach, the welfarist view, and the rights-based position.

The ecological approach

The ecological approach — viewing non-human animals in the context of nature — can be relatively swiftly covered. It focuses on preserving the integrity of ecosystems, and thus in it, the moral situation of individual animals is pushed into the background. What matters is the sustainability of the whole system, not the lives or well-being of its individual non-human inhabitants. In other words, the rights of the individual animal may be sacrificed to benefit the system (through, for example, sustainable hunting or population management). And again, the makeup of what the system needs tends to be measured by human standards, interests, and prejudices98.

The ecological approach reflects the fact that the Animal Rights Movement I am presenting and defending in this article has been criticised from both directions: by those who believe only humans have moral standing and by those who consider all of nature to have moral status. Both of these positions discount any role for animal subjectivity. As pointed out by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, They effectively collapse the question of animals into the question of nature writ large, denying that animals, as subjects, need to be protected the way human subjects are, and not simply as components of nature99.

We find Roger Scruton — apparently fated to be this article’s doppelgänger — defending one version of the ecological approach, while in parallel, as we will see below, adopting what can be classified as an extremely limited welfarist position. He does this almost incidentally, in the context of his claim, which I discussed above, that humans, non-human sentient beings, and non-sentient forms of life do not have equivalent moral standing:

We should also note that nature is not, in general, kind to the animals. Animals in the wild have to work continuously to feed themselves, pass long days of hunger and discomfort, are in constant fear of predators and find comfort and safety only in those first few months of mammalian succour, shielded from the reality which soon will burst upon them. The lucky ones will die in the jaws of something larger than themselves — it takes only a few seconds for a lion to smother an antelope or for a terrier to decapitate a rat. Far less lucky are the predators themselves, whose death is a lingering and painful affair when old age, disease or injury removes their capacity to feed themselves. Less fortunate still are those who are killed by creatures smaller than themselves: by the worms which gnaw, the maggots which suck and the bacteria which inflame their helpless bodies. From all these calamities animals gain relief and protection when we decide to offer it. But this offer is not made without a motive and we should work to keep that motive alive. By eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather and furs, even by shooting and angling, we may, if circumstances are right, reinforce the desire to alleviate the unkindnesses of nature. And if it be said that we do so only to replace them with unkindnesses of our own, let it also be said that there is a moderation and control in human unkindness of which nature knows nothing100.

This approach seems at best grotesquely irrelevant, and at worst cynical and callous. We can thus safely lay the ecological approach to rest when used, as it is here, to justify remaining in denial about the moral issue posed by the animal farm industry. We will see below, however, when we look at how a world with rights for non-humans would be organised in practice, that our interaction with the environment is an important component of an entrenched, rights-based system where non-humans enjoy the status of citizens.

Welfarism: Bentham, Singer, and the Scruton counter-example

In the welfarist view, animal interests are acknowledged as morally significant, yet systematically subordinated to human interests. This is arguably the dominant view in Western societies today; it places moral limits on how we may use animals, but there is no question that we may use them.

The French enlightenment actually brings two examples of such concern: Rousseau laments the plight of animals in human hands; he condemns the eating of animal flesh as unnatural101. Diderot went further:

Si les animaux étaient d’un ordre à peu près égal au nôtre ; s’il y avait des moyens sûrs de communication entre eux et nous ; s’ils pouvaient nous transmettre évidemment leurs sentiments et leurs pensées, et connaître les nôtres avec la même évidence : en un mot s’ils pouvaient voter dans une assemblée générale, il faudrait les y appeler ; et la cause du droit naturel ne se plaiderait plus par-devant l’humanité, mais par-devant l’animalité. Mais les animaux sont séparés de nous par des barrières invariables et éternelles ; et il s’agit ici d’un ordre de connaissances et d’idées particulières à l’espèce humaine, qui émanent de sa dignité et qui la constituent102.

Diderot, Denis, and Jean Le Rond D’ Alembert . Droit naturel. Encyclopédie Ou Dictionnaire Raisonné Des Sciences, Des Arts Et Des Métiers, 1765

Julian Franklin remarks that Diderot assumes that animals, if they do not fit the conditions of moral agency, may be simply left out, and the obligations of morality confined to human beings. He fails to consider that there is something speciesist about that solution. He cannot and does not deny that animals have some sort of moral status. He should, therefore, have said that if animals cannot be included in the general will, there is something fundamentally wrong with that conception103.


The philosopher Jeremy Bentham was the first to challenge the dominant view of animals as objects, at about the same time as the mounting debate about the morality of slavery:

The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French 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 are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose they were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer104?

In this passage Bentham points to the capacity for suffering as the vital characteristic that gives a being the right to equal consideration. The question for him was not whether animals reason, nor whether they can talk or use language, but whether they can they suffer and experience pleasure. The capacity for suffering — or more strictly, for suffering and/or enjoyment or happiness — is not just another characteristic like the capacity for language or higher mathematics. It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. […] The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is, however, not only necessary, but also sufficient for us to say that a being has interests — at an absolute minimum, an interest in not suffering. A mouse, for example, does have an interest in not being kicked along the road, because it will suffer if it is105.

Peter Singer

Contemporary animal rights theory emerged in direct reaction to the post-war industrialisation of the farming industry, with its attenant barbarity, unprecedented in both scale and cruelty. Its initial proponent was Peter Singer, whose breakthrough work Animal Liberation106 adopted an explicitly Benthamite approach that there was no reason not to apply the utilitarian principle to other animals, arguing that the boundary between human and animal is completely arbitrary. His approach was thus an empirical one, based on the claim that animals themselves should count towards measuring the overall good in the same way as humans107.

Scruton: an extreme proponent of indirect duty

Sir Roger Scruton, in his book Animal Rights and Wrongs[109], prones the exclusion of animals from the moral realm — because they cannot give reasons for their actions — and from the status of personhood. Most of the animals which graze in our fields are there because we eat them. […] It seems to me, therefore, that it is not just permissible, but positively right, to eat these animals whose comforts depend upon our doing so108 Sir Roger claims that some livestock animals have arguably better lives, and deaths, than many humans. He claims with a straight face — apparently unaware of the evidence presented in the first part of this article, or more likely preferring to bury his head in the sand about it — that these animals are often well cared for and are despatched in ways in which human beings, if they are rational, must surely envy109

He asserts — a claim also soundly quashed by the discussion of the subject in this article — that the case mounted by Peter Singer and Tom Regan, is unworthy of philosophical conclusion, because their single-minded emphasis on the features which humans share with other animals–notably, on the capacity for suffering–causes them to overlook the distinction between moral beings (to whom their argument is addressed) and the rest of nature. Since traditional morality is based on this distinction, it cannot be revised by arguments which so blithely ignore it110. For him, it is morally permissible to eat them, to hunt them, to keep them as pets, to wear their skins and even to use them in experiments. The real question is not whether we should do those things but when and how. His extravagant claims, ultimately, are presented as based on supernatural grounds:

So long as people were sure of their status as the highest order of creation, made in God’s image, blessed with an immortal soul and destined for judgement and eternity, they had no difficulty in rationalising the difference between themselves and other animals or in justifying standards of treatment for the latter which, if applied to the former, would have been criminal or worse111.

Scruton borrows from the Aristotelian hierarchy of mental levels, making a distinction between animals capable of intention, such as higher mammals who learn from experience, and have an understanding of reality which motivates their behaviour and those that do not, such as the moth that flies into the candle flame, not out of stupidity or heroism, but because this is what happens when it perceives the light112. He deduces from the fact that the emotions felt by non-human animals, are, so he believes, limited by the thoughts that they can think113.

Scruton makes a further distinction for the benefit of pets, categorised as the more sociable animals for whom we feel a deep sense of kinship, whom we make honorary members of the human community114.

Scruton’s argument based on indirect obligation, exemplified by love of pets, is especially flawed: Jan Narveson115 holds a similar belief that an indirect obligation to animals can be established through the interests that humans have in them. I do not want my pet, my child, or my mentally impaired aunt to be injured, and so I oppose injuring anyone in that class; I oppose infanticide of deformed children since I might have been born deformed. This is patently absurd: not everybody cares about pets, children, and aunts and, at this stage of life, none of us can become the victims of infanticide.

Moving away from utilitarianism: the rights-based approach

The Benthamite view of animal rights, of course, sits somewhat uncomfortably with Bentham’s own famous rejection of natural rights as nonsense and natural and imprescriptable rights as nonsense upon stilts116

This is not to hold that care — in the sense of compassion — is of no use in furthering animal rights. The law is often hard, and with respect to animals notoriously so. But compassion can also be erratic and destructive unless it is guided by rational considerations. Authors such as Franklin, who reject utilitarianism and prefer a rights-based approach, believe the ultimate criterion for reform must therefore be the moral imperative117.

In the wider field of contemporary moral philosophy, the leading figures have been moving away from utilitarianism for some time: a fundamental presupposition of their moral theories is the requirement that everyone’s interests are given equal consideration118.

Rawls: the reluctant speciesist

One of the central tenets of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, was his belief that utilitarianism was unable to account for the wrongdoing of sacrificing individuals for the good of others. This was true of experiments on individuals in the interests of medical progress, and also of discrimination against racial or sexual minorities to appease the prejudices of others.

Rawls distinguishes between distributional equality and entitlement to equal respect. The latter concept — which Rawls calls fundamental — asserts each individual’s right to equal concern and respect119 when it comes to the formation and administration of governing political institutions. It’s a natural right: people possess it simply because they are human.

On the exclusion of animals, Rawls is neither as dogmatic nor as harsh as Kant. He only evokes the issue briefly, and his treatment of it is ambiguous at best, when he refers to

[…] the principles of justice which require that equal basic rights be assigned to all persons. Presumably this excludes animals; they have some protection certainly but their status is not that of human beings. But this outcome is still unexplained. We have yet to consider what sorts of beings are owed the guarantees of justice. […]

The answer seems to be that it is precisely the moral persons who are entitled to equal justice. Moral persons are distinguished by two features: first they are capable of having (and are assumed to have) a conception of their good (as expressed by a rational plan of life); and second they are capable of having (and are assumed to acquire) a sense of justice, a normally effective desire to apply and to act on the principles of justice. We use the characterization of the persons in the original position to single out the kind of beings to whom the principles chosen apply120.

Kant’s restriction of equality to humans, which Rawls does not directly challenge, presupposes that animals are things, with the necessary consequence that duties towards them can only ever be indirect. Rawls is clearly bothered by this, and his embarrassment results in a muddled and half-hearted attempt to imply some sort of unspecified, implicit duty to animals. Yet if there are duties to animals outside of the agreement about justice, which is thus to acknowledge that they have moral standing nonetheless, the failure to include them in the original position would be inconsistent. According to Franklin, this may explain why Rawls makes no mention of natural duties, to animals or to mentally-retarded humans whom he also excludes from his justice-based rights system, in his later works Political Liberalism, The Law of Peoples, and Justice as Fairness121.

But there is a difference between a rock and a dog that philosophy cannot simply pass over122. That is the issue for which rights-based Animal Rights Theory set out to provide a framework from the 1980s onwards.

Regan: the leading proponent of contemporary Animal Rights Theory

Some of the positions defended by philosophers, like Sir Roger Scruton, posing as welfarists, legitimately make one wonder whether animal welfarism has become nothing more than the most modern form of hegemonic speciesism, lending legitimacy to animal exploitation by posing as its opposite. Rights-based moral systems aim to break away from this path.

In 1983, Tom Regan published his important work The Case for Animal Rights123. This was the first systematic statement of a distinctly rights-based approach to animals. Rejecting Singer’s utilitarianism, Regan argued that many sorts of non-human animals possess moral rights, because they possess what he referred to as inherent value. For this reason, he argued, we are morally compelled to treat them in ways that respect this value. Inherent value for Regan is an objective property, and whether or not an individual possesses it does not in any way depend on whether he, she, or it is valued by others. For Regan, all mammals of a year or more in age have an inherent prima facie right to life and liberty.

Inherent value, crucially, goes beyond any quantification of pleasure or pain: it is a necessary consequence of the subjectivity of animals as sentient creatures124.

Regan’s work is ground-breaking in providing a basis for rejecting the premises of indirect duty to animals, in favour of direct duty: he shows that excluding animals from direct obligation, and yet somehow managing to give them some sort of moral standing, is arbitrary rather than rationally grounded125. Moreover, non-human animals may not be moral agents, but they have rights nonetheless as moral patients: Although they cannot do injustice, they can suffer it126.

Building on Rawls’s justice theory, Regan posits that animals and the disabled — both excluded by Rawls — can also be victims of injustice and must be included in Rawls’s original position. To accomplish this, the entities who participate must not know what species they belong to from behind the veil of ignorance. Such a policy would guarantee respect for each being’s moral worth: policy choices resulting in a decent existence for zebras would mean, among other policies, eliminating lions, while a decent existence for lions would require making zebras more available; not knowing whether you will be zebra or lion while you are still behind the veil of ignorance forces you to make policy choices, even as a potential non-human. And the overall result, not surprisingly, favours the adoption of veganism for humans, since in such a system, no animal, human or non-human, should be treated as an instrument by humans127. This is because, crucially, Regan’s adaptation of the veil of ignorance, does not require us to say that it is unjust for one non-human animal to eat another. The rule of justice is binding only on normal human beings, and only they, as moral agents, can do injustice to each other, and also to animals as moral patients128.

Regan rejects the idea that direct duty is necessarily owed to all living creatures129 and refrains from entering into controversy over the exact perimeter of those to whom such duties are owed: he includes, as a matter of certainty, normal mammalians, aged one or more, since they are most like human beings who have passed the stage of infancy130. His position in this is debatable. As Franklin points out, We do wrong, I believe, if we go out of our way to crush an innocuous beetle that happens to cross our path. Indeed, if that beetle were drowning in a pool of water near us, and we were able to reach it with a branch or pole, we would do wrong not to give it assistance131.

In Contractarianism and Animal Rights132 and, more recently, Animal Rights: Moral Theory and Practice133, Mark Rowlands also argues that John Rawls’s theory of justice can be used to justify the claim that non-human animals possess moral rights.

Mark Rowlands defends a Rawlsian argument for animal rights, according to which animals have rights because we would assign them rights when deciding on the principles of morality from behind a veil of ignorance. Rowlands’s argument depends on a non-standard interpretation of the veil of ignorance, according to which we cannot know whether we are human or non-human on the other side of the veil. Rowlands claims that his interpretation of the veil is more consistent with a core commitment of Rawlsian justice — the intuitive equality principle — than either Rawls or his critics realise.

Including non-humans in the categorical imperative: correcting Kant’s speciesism

The obvious weak point in the post-1980s rights-based theories is their lack of an objective benchmark. Curiously, the most robust one that has been provided is actually Kantian: one possible path, extensively researched by Julian Franklin, aims at including animals in a robust, rights-based moral system, arrived at by rebasing Kantian ethics.

It runs like this: if sentience is required for being accorded dignity, then humans are only a subset of the sentient creatures that deserve not to be treated as means. Kant’s categorical imperative is then rebased, as it were, on this premise. The rights we believe we owe to borderline moral patients, which saves infants, mentally-challenged humans and others from being used for food or medical experiments, should thus be extended to animals. This point, essentially, posits that life is something more than a receptacle for good or ill, that it is in itself valuable. Kant, according to this view, made a mistake: he confused subjects of the categorical imperative, which are and must be rational beings, with the objects to which the categorical imperative applies134.

Again, as Julian Franklin points out, while Kant most emphatically did not believe that respect for animals is a necessary consequence of the categorical imperative. Animals are not autonomous or self-conscious in Kant’s sense, and so cannot be considered moral agents. For Kant, moral obligations and moral rights apply to agents alone. […] Kant’s categorical imperative cannot be construed as denying animals the status of moral patients, for if that is done, Kant’s moral theory collapses into incoherence. This is not to deny that the categorical imperative is a firm foundation for rational morality. Properly interpreted, Kant’s idea of moral law turns out, surprisingly enough, to be the most powerful of all arguments for the rights of all sentient beings135..

Franklin also stresses that the exclusion of animals from direct moral consideration cannot be justified by any argument of the sort used by Kant136. Thus, If the scope of rights appears to be confined to rational beings, it is only because of Kant’s (and perhaps our) implicit speciesism137.

And Franklin notes: where […] the representation of animal interests is included in the original position, the outcome is essentially the same as in the revised version of the second form of the categorical imperative offered earlier138.

Non-humans as moral patients

Crucial to the debate over the extension of rights, as opposed to mere welfare, to non-humans is the distinction, made by Tom Regan139 between moral agents and moral patients: only moral agents, or persons, can function as the bearers of moral responsibilities; but it is not the case that only moral agents can function as their objects. As contemporary philosophy uses the term, a moral patient is something that can function as the object of the moral responsibilities of moral agents: something towards which moral attitudes such as moral concern, respect, or care can be directed.

Moral patients are things towards which moral agents can have moral responsibilities. On this definition, all moral agents are also moral patients, but moral patients need not be moral agents, or capable of moral agency. We generally think of other adult human beings as moral agents, even though some adult human beings lack the effective capacity for moral agency, for instance, persons in comas. On the other hand, although animals cannot ever be moral agents, because they cannot be held responsible for following rules, they must be considered moral patients because they can suffer unjustified harm from moral agents140.

Political philosophy, however, has no purpose or meaning if its theoretical concepts are not reflected in the institutional framework of the community that professes it. Animal citizenship, which I am advocating here, is a recent concept that proposes addressing the ongoing moral urgency identified in the previous part of this article, by defining a framework for animal rights that reflects the reality of interaction between humans and non-humans

When American slaves were enfranchised in 1865, they went without transition from being chattel goods to being fully-fledged citizens. While it took a century for them to enjoy that status unfettered, no one questioned that their freedom was a path to automatic citizenship.

Mapping a similar path — a way of expressing our kinship with animals — means to affirm that non-human animals should be recognised as persons141: for non-human slaves this is as ethically robust, indeed inescapable once the reality their personhood has been scientifically and ontologically established beyond any reasonable doubt, as it was for human ones.

Non-human animals should no longer be able to be bought and sold as property

The parallel with human slavery also means that the issue of the legal standing of animals cannot be evaded, and that their status as chattel property is inconsistent with their right to personhood. Julian Franklin, on this subject, convincingly quotes Gary Francione, who — unusually for an animal rights theorist — approaches the issue from a legal perspective:

[…] so long as animals continue to be regarded by the law as property all the rules against unnecessary pain will be construed by the courts in favor of the property owner and against the interest of the animals. They will always be treated as research animals, food animals, etc. If this somewhat overstates the case, it nonetheless correctly states the tendency. In Francione’s effective way of putting it, animals are not taken by the law to be sensitive entities whose deepest interest, no different from our own, is to avoid suffering. They are always regarded as means to human ends142.

In fact, Francione points out, the primary effect of these measures is to make the public feel better about animal exploitation, which actually may result in a net increase of animal suffering through increased use143.

As we move away from the notion that animals are our chattel slaves, accepting instead that they are sentient individuals endowed with natural rights, the question arises necessarily of determining how those rights are to be enforced when they are violated144.

The notion of animals rights and of animal citizenship therefore inescapably entails that non-human animals should have the capacity to be a party in legal proceedings. They will share that capacity with other entities unable to represent themselves in person: human minors and individuals with disabilities, but also corporations.

This is important because, as David Cassuto points out, the impulse to increase protections for non-human animals is offset by institutionally privileged categories of behaviour that commidify non-humans and strip them of legal defenses. The resulting lattice of laws purports to safeguard animals while instead sanctioning and enabling the practices from which they require protection145.

In October 2020, the Supreme Court of New York heard arguments in a case involving an elephant, Happy, imprisoned for forty years at the Bronx Zoo. In a previous finding, a judge in a lower court powerfully supported arguments by the Nonhuman Rights Project, which had brought the case: The arguments advanced by the NhRP are extremely persuasive for transferring Happy from her solitary, lonely one-acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo, to an elephant sanctuary. The judge then called attention to the Bronx Zoo’s imprisonment a century ago of a man kidnapped from an African pygmy tribe and put on display in the Zoo’s Primate House. The Bronx Zoo did not publicly apologise for this wrong until July of this year when it pledged to never look away whenever and wherever injustice occurs146.

Non-humans as citizens in a geographically-identifiable community

As we have seen, critics of animal rights theory have been unable to produce convincing arguments for a unique moral selfhood of human beings. Yet animal rights theories, whether based on ecological considerations, on improving welfare, or on establishing rights, have achieved almost no real progress towards ending Eternal Treblinka. Animal citizenship aims — in accordance with the key purpose of justice, which is the protection of vulnerable individuals, at achieving effective protection of animal rights — but not at the removal of all forms of subordination.

Many people instinctively believe that animal rights refers to basic rights to life and liberty, and not to political or citizenship privileges, such as the right to vote. They understandably feel that latter does not — and cannot — apply to animals, because they lack the capacity to understand human political concepts and conflicts. In their book Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights (2011)147, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka lay out what may be the most well-developed defense yet for extending the title of political animal to all beings in possession of subjective selfhood. Most animal advocates have more or less actively tried to separate moral from political issues and have focused on the former as the key to animal liberation. Donaldson and Kymlicka take the opposite approach. In fact, they argue — in my view very convincingly — that animal advocates ignore the political realm at their own and the animals’ peril. If non-human rights cannot be anchored firmly in our understanding of politics, they believe, the animal issue will never gain the traction needed to achieve real change148.

Donaldson and Kymlicka present a two-tiered model of ethical responsibilities. Firstly, there are the inviolable, universal, negative basic rights to which all creatures who qualify for selfhood should, as we have seen, be entitled. Secondly, there are the positive and relational obligations that arise from our specific relations of geographical proximity and historical coexistence, and these rights may vary from context to context. This is because interaction between species is not likely to go away even if we succeed in abolishing factory farming and animal experimentation.

Donaldson and Kymlicka point out that citizenship was never only about the ability to vote or directly participate in decision making. It also includes:

It has been argued against this that the notion that non-human animals have an inviolable claim to life and liberty, and that they should be regarded as citizens, a category reserved, ever since Aristotle defined the concept, for humans, has a foothold only in marginal academic and activist circles149. That does not seem to me to be a very robust objection: every breakthrough towards the extension of wider rights to categories that had previously been denied them (slaves, women, in particular, and other categories that had been denied effective or full exercise of their citizenship), began as movements that only attracted marginal interest. On the contrary, as Donaldson and Kymlicka point out in their reply150 to these and other objections, our existing political framework, with its emphasis on liberal democracy and on the role of sovereign states as the ultimate authority in enforcing the law, provides the ideal framework for advancing such a moral agenda.

A legal landscape in which animals would enjoy citizenship would allocate protections based on the requirements of the various beings that form the moral community. This could mean, for example, that since farm animals are sentient and have the capacity to suffer, they should not be subjected to the grotesque and inhumane conditions of the factory farm. It may not necessarily mean, however, that an agricultural system wherein farm animals live comfortably protected from disease and predators is necessarily unacceptable. This issue can and should form the basis for reasoned debate.

The issues that arise in connection with the notion of animal citizenship are plentiful and complex, yet clear solutions can be imagined for all of them. Within a particular habitat, animals bear very different relations to one another. They can be predator/prey, competitors for scarce resources, or parasite/ host. They can also have relations of cooperation or symbiosis or have no direct impact on one another. They have evolved capacities for navigating their unique conditions, as well as social knowledge, skills, and competence that are embedded in their intraspecies, interspecies, and ecological relations. Beyond this, many animals have an interest in autonomy or self-determination — the right to be authors of their own lives, to take risks, and to make choices as they see fit rather than having their lives paternalistically managed by humans. Human interactions with wild animals have so far consistently ignored these important interests. Recognizing sovereignty would correct this injustice151.

Franklin believes that concern for the well-being of animals becomes mandatory only when they become participants in a scheme of cooperation instituted by humans, and that we cannot sensibly mediate between predator and prey or adjust a given species to an alteration in its food supply152. Just because we do not currently know how to intervene in nature to end predation does not mean that we could not devote research and resources to solving these challenges and to create [the circumstances of justice] if we can. Many theorists believe that we should indeed be devoting resources and brainpower to the predation problem.

Some animals may also be considered as participants with humans in a cooperative enterprise. With modern technology this class continually shrinks. But one could say that cows participate in milk production; that cats, dogs, and horses serve as pets153; and that primates sometimes take part in learning and speech experiments. Under present conditions much of this participation is in the form of brutal exploitation154. The Apopo rats I mention in my list of causes you can get involved in at the end of this article are one counter-example, in which animals are treated as sentient beings, and both animals and humans visibly and undeniably gain from interaction.

Practical steps: minuscule advances, and the weight of the meat paradox

Almost nothing of what is outlined above to improve the lives of non-human animal has been put into practice. Reviewing what little progress has already been made, however, provides a useful perspective for moving forward.

Concern for animals has always existed

Concern about animal welfare is not a new phenomenon: the fundamental yearning for decency and justice that is present in every one of us means we instinctively refuse to accept as morally normal mistreatment such as I have illustrated in the first part of this article. Such concerns, indeed, go back a very long way: some of the ancient rules for slaughtering animals for kosher meat were originally intended to reduce pain to the animal. Many religions, including Native American religions, Hinduism, and the Australian Aboriginal tradition, have held particular animals to be sacred, and have devised particular rules about whether and how such animals were to be used for food or service155. And of course in Christianity, abstention from meat is traditionally regarded as a virtue156, and all creatures are said in Holy Scripture to have been vegan in the Garden of Eden, their diet having only changed at the Fall157.

In 1800 the most renowned abolitionist of the period, William Wilberforce, supported a bill to abolish bull- and bearbaiting, which was defeated in the House of Commons. In 1809 Baron Erskine, former lord chancellor of England, who had long been troubled by cruelty to animals, introduced a bill to prohibit cruelty to all domestic animals. In 1822 a bill to prevent cruel and improper treatment of Cattle was introduced in the House of Commons, sponsored by Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton and championed by Irish member of Parliament Richard Martin. The version enacted in 1822, known as Martin’s Act, made it a crime to treat a handful of domesticated animals — cattle, oxen, horses, and sheep — cruelly or to inflict unnecessary suffering upon them. It did not, however, protect the general welfare of even these animals, much less give them legal rights, and the worst punishment available for any breach was a modest fine158. The British Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established in 1824159.

Recent advances have been minuscule, uncoordinated and half-hearted

The contemporary period, however, offers little by way of genuine progress, demonstrating that advances in our philosophical and scientific understanding of non-human animals have not resulted in any significant improvement in their situation.

In Switzerland, the battery cage system of producing eggs described above became illegal at the end of 1991. Instead of cramming their hens into small wire cages too small for the birds to spread their wings, Swiss egg producers moved the birds to sheds where they could scratch on a floor covered with straw or other organic material and lay their eggs in a sheltered, soft-floored nesting box.

Further steps followed, especially in the United Kingdom and also, though to a lesser extent, in the European Union. Intensively raised veal calves, deliberately kept anemic, deprived of straw for bedding, and confined in individual crates so narrow that they cannot even turn around are among the most miserable of all farm animals. That system of keeping calves was banned in Britain in 1987, and is now banned throughout the European Union. Matters have also improved for the pig industry’s breeder sows. Confining pregnant sows in individual crates was banned in the United Kingdom in 1998, and has also been prohibited in Continental Europe since 2013, except during the first four weeks of the sow’s pregnancy.

When European countries was debating and legislating these changes, however, there initially seemed no prospect of any similar laws getting through the United States Congress, or indeed anywhere else in the United States.

The first sign of change was a 2002 initiative by animal welfare groups that put a proposition on the ballot in Florida to ban crates for pregnant sows. Florida is far from the most progressive state in the country for animal welfare issues, but the proposal passed with a clear majority. Four years later, the same issue came up in Arizona, where a ban on veal crates was added to the proposal as well. Again, the voters approved the measure by a solid margin160.

Similar advances, while minuscule when set against the enormous scale of the cruelty involved, took the form of agreements by the two largest producers of veal in the United States, promising to get rid of veal crates within two to three years, while the largest pig producers in the United States and Canada announced that they would, over the next ten years, phase out sow crates.

The farm industry, however, has extensively used its influence and lobbying power, especially in farming states, to block any such advances, and has been very successful in doing so: Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, vetoed a bill that called for restrictive pig cages to be banned in the state in 2014, in a move seen by many as a gauge of his presidential ambitions. In France, the foie gras industry funds scientific publications to help defend its practice of force-feeding birds. In Brussels, the Copa-Cogeca lobby group, is conducting a similar battle to stop reform of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, with its subsidy system that has hugely benefited the farm industry.

As Peter Singer points out, whenever progress is made, it is achieved only though pressure from consumers:

Explaining this move, the United States, producer, Smithfield, mentioned the views of its customers, of whom McDonald’s is among the largest. McDonald’s, which welcomed the decision, had for many years been in discussion with animal activists about reducing the suffering of the animals from which its products come. Other big pork producers soon followed. In 2007, Oregon became the first state to legislate to ban sow crates rather than have the issue put to a popular vote, and the following year, Colorado legislated to ban both sow and veal crates. After decades of resisting criticism of individual crates for veal calves, the American Veal Association resolved to recommend that its members convert to more welfare-friendly group housing by 2017. Many notable United States chefs, food retailers, and caterers are likewise moving away from the worst forms of animal confinement161.

In 2008, a breakthrough of a more significant nature occurred, opening hopes that the consequences of animal sentience will gradually be recognised: the Spanish national parliament adopted resolutions urging the government to grant orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas some statutory rights previously afforded only to humans. The resolutions also called for banning the use of apes in performances, harmful research, and trading as well as in other practices that involve profiting from the animals. Although zoos would still be allowed to hold apes, they would be required to provide them with optimal living conditions. This moved away from the welfare-based approach that motivated previous attempts to improve animal living conditions, marking the beginning of a new movement aiming explicitly or implicitly extending citizenship rights to animals.

Despite these welfarist advances in a few jurisdictions, there are more animals suffering at the hands of humans now than ever before

Yet, while animal rights have slightly progressed in a few developed countries, formal animal welfare legislation remains largely absent in many others, including, paradoxically, some of the largest animal producing nations of the world (such as Brazil, India, and China)162. Indeed, it is probably still true that there are more animals suffering at the hands of humans now than ever before. That is because there are more affluent people in the world than ever before, and satisfying their demand for meat has meant a vast expansion of factory farming, especially in China163.

Worldwide laws regarding the formal …
Worldwide laws regarding the formal recognition of nonhuman animal sentience and suffering. Source: Canuckguy, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, the historical achievements detailed above of the animals rights movement have been dwarfed by the onslaught of industrial farming, increased meat consumption, and intensified exploitation of animals — a trend that shows no sign of weakening. Thus they have so far done no more than more than chip away at the edges of the speciesist system. Moreoever, in the real world the notion that non-human animals have an inviolable claim to life and liberty has a foothold only in marginal academic and activist circles.

The reason why we don’t put our money where our mouth is: the meat paradox or knowledge cognition gap

Despite the overwhelming scientifically-backed confirmation that animals have the ability, like us, to have feelings — in other words, that they are sentient — and that animal sentience is close to ours in certain animals, especially mammals, humans are often reluctant to acknowledge that this requires them to change the way they interact with them: they have difficulty in translating evidence into practice. Hence the attempt by scientists to quantify and understand the discrepancies between what is known and what is done, otherwise known as the knowledge translation gap164.

Scientists studying animal behaviour likewise attempt to measure and understand why what we now know about animal cognition and emotion has not yet been translated into an evolution in human attitudes and practices165. As Francione points out, we cannot really know much about human sensory experience, and so cannot enjoy the life of a dog, a bird, a bat, or a dolphin. Consequently, we cannot appreciate the subtleties of smell, sight, sound, and touch that these animals can apparently appreciate166.

The work of Thomas Nagel, mentioned earlier in conjunction with animal consciousness, also illustrates the meat paradox. From an impersonal standpoint the knowledge that another human were drowning should be enough to make one want merely to do something about it, even supposing that one did not know who it were. In The Possibility of Altruism167, Nagel states that it is the practical information we gather from any given situation, in conjunction with generally accepted ends, such as survival and the elimination of pain, which requires altruistic behaviour. Failure to be moved by reasons derived in this way implies dissociation from oneself viewed as a person among others, amounting to practical solipsism168.

These theoretical observations have dramatic pratical consequences. One recent example of how current policy is still massively impacted by the knowledge translation gap is the Federal Animal Welfare Act, which explicitly excludes rats and mice from the kingdom Animalia169.

Most meat consumers have no idea of the morally appalling cost at which the food they consume is brought to their plates

More prosaically, the farm industry ensures that consumers are kept unaware of the moral cost of animal-based food they purchase, indeed sometimes concealing that some foodstuffs contain animal-sourced ingredients in the first place. This was vividly summarised by Michael Pollan in 2002 in the New York Times, when he decided to buy, with a view to subsequently eating him, a young veal at the height of the mad cow disease crisis:

Staring at No. 534, I could picture the white lines of the butcher’s chart dissecting his black hide: rump roast, flank steak, standing rib, brisket. One way of looking at No. 534 – the industrial way – was as an efficient machine for turning feed corn into beef. Every day between now and his slaughter date in June, No. 534 will convert 32 pounds of feed (25 of them corn) into another three and a half pounds of flesh. Poky is indeed a factory, transforming cheap raw materials into a less-cheap finished product, as fast as bovinely possible.

Yet the factory metaphor obscures as much as it reveals about the creature that stood before me. For this steer was not a machine in a factory but an animal in a web of relationships that link him to certain other animals, plants and microbes, as well as to the earth. And one of those other animals is us.

Pollan, Michael . Power Steer. The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2002

This brought home to him the brutal reality lurking behind the processed meat made available to us on supermarket shelves, which the food industry goes to extraordinary trouble, including resorting to outright deception, to conceal from consumers:

Meat-eating has always been a messy business, shadowed by the shame of killing and, since Upton Sinclair’s writing of The Jungle, by questions about what we’re really eating when we eat meat. Forgetting, or willed ignorance, is the preferred strategy of many beef eaters, a strategy abetted by the industry. (What grocery-store item is more silent about its origins than a shrink-wrapped steak?) Yet I recently began to feel that ignorance was no longer tenable. If I was going to continue to eat red meat, then I owed it to myself, as well as to the animals, to take more responsibility for the invisible but crucial transaction between ourselves and the animals we eat. I’d try to own it, in other words170.

There are indications that consumers in industrialised nations are willing to pay more for products that feature higher degrees of animal welfare. In a survey taken in 1995, 67 per cent of United Kingdom consumers surveyed indicated that they had purchased free range eggs or chickens in the previous year, which suggests that given a choice, consumers are, in some instances, willing to pay the extra expense of food produced with techniques that are perceived to be more friendly to animals. A survey of British consumers as early as the 1990s found that consumers would be willing to pay 6-30 per cent more for eggs, if such an increase were the result of a ban on battery cages (towers of small cages used to house individual hens) for hens. A 1996 survey of United States college students found that students were willing to pay 18 per cent over market price for free range eggs and willing to pay taxes of about $8.00 per person to fund practices that they believe will improve conditions for veal calves and hens171.

The obstacle to change is in part economic inertia; producers resist change because buyers expect low prices. Deployment of public subsidies and gradual change could avoid these short-term effects, although protection is needed against imports from countries with even lower welfare consideration and environmental standards. From the perspective of doing what is appropriate for animal welfare and the environment, there is a growing realisation that free-market competition should no longer be the sole determinant of food prices. Animal scientists can serve the long-term interests of animal agriculture by combining efforts to do the right thing for the welfare of animals with more traditional goals, such as increasing production efficiency172.

Likewise, there is evidence of public support for individual farmers (as opposed to firms) being compensated for the economic externalities (higher costs) arising out of more stringent animal welfare regulations. A survey conducted at the end of 2004173 found that the public believed that the top priority for the European Union, in terms of its agricultural policy, should be to ensure a stable income for farmers . This belief is further evidenced by the firm support the European public gives to the idea of compensating farmers for high production costs that may arise from improving animal welfare conditions.

Resetting our interaction with non-humans

Public advocacy, covered above, is a compelling duty for any animal rights activist. Yet how we translate our determination to improve the lives of non-human dwellers on this planet must obviously be at the core of our action. Whether, and how, to adopt a vegan lifestyle, inevitably, will be the foremost consideration in one’s mind. Yet there are also many smaller — in the sense that they are less onerous to put in place — steps which, if they get enough traction, can massively improve animal welfare.


This article, emphatically, is not about veganism. I see it as a plea to put an end to what I count as our age’s blackest moral turpitude. I will therefore not enter here into an extensive discussion of whether a vegetarian diet is healthier than a diet that includes animal flesh. Industrialisation changed our diet considerably, increasing the amount of calories consumed from animal-based products, sugars, fats and fresh fruit and vegetables, and decreasing that of cereals and carbohydrates. Thus common-sense, as well as a good deal of evidence suggests that it is, but from the ethical perspective I have chosen, it is sufficient that a vegan can expect to be at least as healthy as one who eats meat, which, from my personal experience, I have definitely found to be the case — since I adopted a completely vegan diet (especially since giving up dairy products) my weight, fat ratio, energy and more generally all my vital statistics have improved considerably, without any ill effects — and, which, more importantly, is backed up by serious scientific evidence. Yet for the purposes on which I have chosen to focus in this article, so long as we can live without inflicting miserable lives on animals, then surely that is what we ought to do

Adopting a vegan lifestyle is not just …
Adopting a vegan lifestyle is not just about food. Workers in this Vietnamese farm took the crocodiles into an adjacent room and cut off their skin—a process that takes fifteen to twenty minutes per animal. footage shows that one crocodile continued to move after being skinned. Source: PETA · Reproduced with permission.

Neither do I intend to deal extensively here with the positive impact veganism has for the environment. I believe the evidence for this to be robust174 and I also happen to regard preservation of the environment as a vitally important issue for our species at the present time. But I also feel strongly that mixing these two objectives — arguably equally crucial — is counterproductive. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that the animal rights movement is, far more than environmentalism, at its core a moral issue. It is amply justified, as we have seen, by moral considerations, and if anything it is weakened by making its validity contingent on facts and arguments of a different nature.

It follows from this that there are a number of things that veganism is not:

Small and easy things you can do for animals

Not one of your acts of kindness, whether big or small, will ever be wasted. I’m sharing here a very mixed list of charitable organisations and ethical businesses that I support personally. I’m conscious that it is somewhat random, but I can vouch for the quality of the work of every single one of the structures listed here. If you have suggestions for additions to this list, please feel free to contact me.

Apopo mine-sweeping rat: they are used to …
Apopo mine-sweeping rat: they are used to detonate landmines, but are too light to set off the landmines and not a single rat has ever died in a minefield. Source: Apopo · Reproduced with permission.
Eggs laid by free-ranging hens that are well cared-for after they retire. in 2021, they will switch to a new [procedure](, developed by German company Seleggt, which allows the male-chicks’ eggs to be removed long before they hatch, meaning they no longer need to be killed
[Save the Duck](
Very warm, down-free jackets filled with sustainable, recycled materials. They supplied a vegan jacket to [Kuntal Joisher](, the vegan Indian mountaineer, which he used to climb Mount Everest.
PETA brings together a wide range of individuals from all over the world united by the revulsion they feel for animal rights abuses. They do not shy from controversy, nor from attention-drawing stints, but I admire the for this. This is a struggle in which ruthlessness, which is in abundant supply on the other side, is definitely needed.
A French nonprofit focusing on campaigns to name and shame farm industry animal rights violators. Their [videos]( were the eye-opener that set me on the path towards veganism. I cannot recommend them enough, although their site is entirely in French.
[Direct Action Everywhere](

It is hard to give sufficient praise to Direct Action Everywhere, a global grassroots network of animal rights activists. They have very bravely taken on Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the world, slaughtering one fourth of all the pigs killed for food in the United States, which was responsible for the abuse of pigs documented above. One of their investigations culminated in the groundbreaking, new mini-documentary, Unseen .

This Belgian nonprofit’s scent detection animals, nicknamed HeroRATs and HeroDOGs, help to rid the world of landmines and tuberculosis. Their rats are extremely well cared for, receiving an excellent diet, regular exercise, stimulation and enrichment, and loving attention from expert handlers. If a rat decides to stop work, or if his (or her) performance has declined, or he is suffering from age related health problems, he is retired to his home cage. He then continues to receive his usual healthy diet, is regularly taken out to play and exercise, and continues to receive his weekly health checks until he eventually dies of old age.
Sheep Inc.
One can imagine ethical conditions under which humans can benefit from the use of sheep wool175. Each sheep fleece used by Sheep Inc. is hand-selected from New Zealand farms that have the highest animal welfare and biodiversity standards worldwide.
Compassion in World Farming
The world’s leading farm animal welfare organisation. Founded fifty years ago by a British farmer, after he became concerned at the disconnect between modern agriculture and animal welfare. It has become an influential global movement, and its views today are sought and valued by policy makers.
Soi Dog Foundation
The Asian dog meat trade is one of the biggest animal welfare concerns in the world. Soi Dog Foundation, established in 2003 in Phuket, acts to provide help and care for stray cats and dogs: spaying and neutering, rescue, vaccination, medical care, sheltering and adoption. Thanks to them, the Phuket stray population is now officially under control, proving that human dedication, love and commitment can solve these problems.
The Orangutan Project
This Australian charity conducts and sponsors projects on the ground that help protect orangutans and their forest homes. It funds orangutan rescue teams in Sumatra and Borneo that are highly trained and skilled at relocating animals in danger. Orangutans are extremely closely related to humans, having 97 per cent of their DNA in common with us. Extinction in the wild is likely in the next ten years for Sumatran orangutans, and soon after for Bornean orangutans. Both of these two species are classified as Critically Endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Four Paws
Founded in 1988, Four Paws advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. Today, it has offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Hungary, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam. It operates sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries.
The Nonhuman Rights Project
The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organisation in the United States dedicated solely to securing rights for non-human animals. They work to achieve this through litigation, legislation underpinned by advocacy, and education. They came into prominence in 2020 as a result of the legal breakthrough they achieved on behalf of their client, the elephant Happy. More information about them is available in their annual report for 2020.

When I belatedly found out about the reality of the modern factory farm, I immediately realised that not acting on this knowledge would be morally despicable, indeed unconscionable. I firmly believe this is the paramount moral, and thus political issue of our time, its paramountcy made all the more compelling by the fact that the non-humans who are its victims cannot themselves make an organised protest against the treatment they receive (though they can and do protest to the best of their abilities individually).

I believe in happy endings, and wanted to conclude this article, which I realise makes very difficult reading, on a positive note. Please remember above all that, although we had to cover the subject from a philosophical and legal perspective, this article is not about philosophy: philosophy is useless if it doesn’t make a difference to individuals’ lives. Just as a few, scattered Jews managed to escape being slaughtered like cattle at Treblinka, so a few farm animals, impelled, like us, by their desire to survive, manage to escape. Brianna, featured in the video below, was one of the lucky ones, thanks to courageous humans who intervened to save her, with the baby she was carrying and who was being sent to death with her. Whenever you act on your indignation, in any of the practical ways I have suggested, or any others you can find, you will save lives, and also become a better person.

On her way to the slaughterhouse, this pregnant cow, Brianna, managed the impossible: she escaped slaughter and saved her baby’s life. Source: Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue · reproduced with permission.

Humans who eat pieces of slaughtered non-humans every day find it hard to believe that they are doing wrong; or else they find it hard to imagine what else they could eat, and this makes persuasion especially difficult: as Peter Singer points out, how many Southern slaveholders were persuaded by the arguments used by the Northern abolitionists, and accepted by nearly all of us today? Some, but not many176.

We cannot escape the fact that we are all interested parties in this moral struggle.

Selected bibliography

  1. Cited in Franklin, Julian H. Animal rights and moral philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, p. 6 ↩︎

  2. After pleading guilty to charges of animal cruelty, Daniel Ugarte Navarro, the pen manager shown giving sick cows electric shocks in the face, beating them, and using a forklift to move them, said that he had done nothing wrong and was just doing his job. It’s an excuse we have heard before, but not without a grain of uncomfortable truth. Despicable as Ugarte’s actions were, there is something more fundamentally wrong with the ethics, and the law, governing how we treat animals. If people want to eat sentient creatures and there is competition to provide meat at the lowest possible price, then the system will reward those who meet this demand. Westland/Hallmark in 2008 voluntarily recalled 143 million pounds of its beef after video evidence from the Humane Society showed two of its workers forcing downer cattle down a slaughter line at the company’s Chino plant. This gives an idea of the number of cows that suffered the treatment you see on this video. Westland Meat supplies meat for school lunches in 36 states at more than 100,000 schools and child care facilities through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Program. The meat is also used in other federal programs that supply food to the poor and elderly. Federal law requires humane treatment of cattle and most other animals in the slaughtering process. Well, sort of. The Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act, 7 U.S.C. 1901-1906 does require humane methods of slaughter and says livestock should be rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut. The regulations allow the use of [e]lectric prods, canvas slappers, or other implements […] to drive animals to slaughter if used as little as possible in order to minimise excitement and injury. 9 CFR §313.2(b) It’s not clear what other implements include. Probably not a forklift. The regulations do ban the use of objects to drive animals to slaughter that an inspector believes would cause injury or unnecessary pain to the animals. […] Hopefully, the USDA or FSIS employs relatively sensitive inspectors because it is up to them to determine if a particular object used is causing injury or unnecessary pain. Like the blade of a forklift or water sprayed up a cow’s nose. Downed animals are not to be dragged and should be moved only in equipment suitable for such purposes. It is not clear what equipment would be suitable. The regulations don’t say these downed or non-ambulatory animals can’t be pushed or shoved. There is nothing in the regulations about not using electric prods or other implements on these poor downed animals. Or spraying water up their noses. And could Hallmark have thought using a forklift to shove downed cows to slaughter was equipment suitable for such purpose? (Source: Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics For Our Treatment Of Animals. 1st ed. 1975, Harper Collins. Preface to 4th ed., 2009, p. 12).

    For just as in the generation of things we perceive a certain order of procession of the perfect from the imperfect (thus matter is for the sake of form; and the imperfect form, for the sake of the perfect), so also is there order in the use of natural things; thus the imperfect are for the use of the perfect; as the plants make use of the earth for their nourishment, and animals make use of plants, and man makes use of both plants and animals. Therefore it is in keeping with the order of nature, that man should be master over animals. Hence the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 5) that the hunting of wild animals is just and natural, because man thereby exercises a natural right. Second, this is proved by the order of Divine Providence which always governs inferior things by the superior. Wherefore, as man, being made to the image of God, is above other animals, these are rightly subject to his government. (Aquinas, Summa theologiae. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition, 1920. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd.) ↩︎

  3. According to a chart published by the United States, Department of Agriculture, the average share of per capita income spent on food fell from 17.5 per cent in 1960 to 9.6 per cent in 2007. (It has since risen slightly, reaching 9.9 per cent in 2013.) And while the French and the Japanese spend about double what is spend on food in the United States — 14 per cent of all consumer expenditures each — food prices have been decreasing, relative to income, all over the world: see the full statistics here. ↩︎

  4. To illustrate this, in the United States, 84 per cent of the slaughter is controlled by only four companies in beef (Interview With Patrick Boyle, CEO of the American Meat Institute. [online] [Accessed 6 November 2020]) ↩︎

  5. Harrison, Ruth. Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming Industry. 1st ed., Vincent Stuart Publishers Ltd., 1964. ↩︎

  6. Cassuto, David N. Bred Meat: The Cultural Foundation of the Factory Farm. Derecho Animal. Forum of Animal Law Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, 2010, pp. 1–29, doi:10.5565/rev/da.210., pp. 59-60. ↩︎

  7. This is because meat used to be much more expensive, relative to average wages, until its price started to fall fifty years ago. As with all goods that are both regarded as desirable and scarce, a fall in its price triggers a relatively sharp rise in demand. ↩︎

  8. There were about 677.6 million pigs worldwide as of January 2020, meaning that China was home to more than half of the global pig population. Unsurprisingly, China is the leading pork producer worldwide, producing about 55 million metric tons of pork each year (Source: Statista, Number of Pigs Worldwide since 1990). ↩︎

  9. Figures: Our World in Data. ↩︎

  10. Interview With Patrick Boyle, CEO Of The American Meat Institute. [online] [Accessed 6 November 2020] 2015. ↩︎

  11. Cassuto, op.cit., p. 62. ↩︎

  12. Freud, Siegmund (1917). A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII (1917-1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, 135-144 ↩︎

  13. Patterson, Charles. Animals, Slavery, and the Holocaust. Logos, 2005.↩︎

  14. Source: Our World in Data. While some pigs are kept free-range and in backyards in many developing countries, at least half of the world’s pig meat is produced in intensive systems. Farmed Animals: Pigs. [online] [Accessed 23 November 2020]. ↩︎

  15. Pigs, which were originally native to Europe and parts of Asia, are believed to have been domesticated from wild boar as early as 9,000 years ago. ↩︎

  16. Angier, Natalie. Pigs Prove To Be Smart, If Not Vain. New York Times, 2021, Accessed 2 Jan 2021. ↩︎

  17. van Nieuwamerongen, SE, Mendl, M, Held, S, Soede, NM & Bolhuis, JE, 2017, Post-weaning social and cognitive performance of piglets raised pre-weaning either in a complex multi-suckling group housing system or in a conventional system with a crated sow. Animal Cognition, vol 20., pp. 907-921. ↩︎

  18. Pru, for instance, pulled her guardian out of a bog. Priscilla saved an 11-year-old boy from drowning. Then there’s LuLu, who squeezed through a doggie door and ran into the street to flag down a car when her guardian had a heart attack. ↩︎

  19. Public pressure has led to a voluntary declaration aimed at ending the surgical castration of pigs in the European Union by 2018. As a first step, beginning in 2012, signatories will ensure that prolonged pain relief is used for surgical castration of pigs. ↩︎

  20. Holden, Palmer J, and M. E Ensminger. Swine Science. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006, p. 396 ↩︎

  21. Holden, Palmer J, and M. E Ensminger, op. cit., pp. 377, 396. ↩︎

  22. Wathes, C. M. 2001. Aerial pollutants from weaner production. In: Varley, M. A. and Wiseman, J. (eds.), The Weaner Pig: Nutrition and Management (Wallingford, United Kingdom: CABI Publishing, pp. 259-71). ↩︎

  23. Holden, Palmer J, and M. E Ensminger, op. cit., p. 80 ↩︎

  24. Well-Being of Farm Animals: Challenges and Solutions (Ames, I.A.: Blackwell Publishing, p. 247). ↩︎

  25. Beattie, V.E. et al. An Investigation Of The Effect Of Environmental Enrichment And Space Allowance On The Behaviour And Production Of Growing Pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol 48, no. 3-4, 1996, pp. 151-158. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/0168-1591(96)01031-3. Accessed 3 Jan 2021. ↩︎

  26. The information about factory-farm conditions in this article were documented in detail by Evan Kiggen, a farmer who raises animals for food — a practice with which I disagree on principle — but strives to do so as humanely as possible (Kiggen, Evan. The True Cost of Cheap Food – Part 3: An Animal Welfare Perspective. Pasture Brothers, 19 June 2019.) ↩︎

  27. Farmed Animals: Cows [online] [Accessed 23 November 2020] ↩︎

  28. Marino, Lori, and Kristin Allen. The Psychology of Cows. Animal Behavior and Cognition 4, no. 4 (1 November 2017): 474–98.↩︎

  29. U.S. Food and Drugs Administration, 2016. 2015 Summary Report On Antimicrobials Sold Or Distributed For Use In Food-Producing Animals. ↩︎

  30. Yan, Yu. Are Cows Eating Dead Cows As Feed? | Fact Checking Project On The Film Fresh. Blogs.Commons.Georgetown.Edu, 2014, Accessed 5 Nov 2020. ↩︎

  31. Leaked emails subsequently proved that the French government knew about the abuses and that the French Agriculture Minister lied about this on television. ↩︎

  32. An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Cows in the Dairy Industry, op. cit.. ↩︎

  33. Tuyttens, Frank. The Importance of Straw for Pig and Cattle Welfare: A Review. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 92, Aug. 2005, pp. 261–82, doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2005.05.007.92. ↩︎

  34. Compassion in Word Farming. 2020. Farmed Animals: Chickens. [online] [Accessed 23 November 2020]. ↩︎

  35. Murray, L., n.d. Factory-Farmed Chickens: Their Difficult Lives And Deaths | Saving Earth | Encyclopedia Britannica. [online] Saving Earth. [Accessed 6 November 2020]. ↩︎

  36. Poultry Hub. n.d. Beak Trimming. [online][Accessed 5 November 2020]. ↩︎

  37. Breward, J., (1984). Cutaneous nociceptors in the chicken beak. Proceedings of the Journal of Physiology, London 346: 56 ↩︎

  38. Source: The True Cost of Cheap Food – Part 3: An Animal Welfare Perspective. [Accessed 5 November 2020]. ↩︎

  39. Source: The True Cost of Cheap Food – Part 3: An Animal Welfare Perspective. [Accessed 5 November 2020]. ↩︎

  40. Cassuto, op. cit., p. 69. ↩︎

  41. In contrast to Aristotle, Pythagoras, the central figure within animism, urged respect for animals, because he believed that humans and non-humans had the same kind of soul, one spirit that pervades the universe and makes us one with animals (Violin, Mary Anne. Pythagoras – The First Animal Rights Philosopher. Between The Species, no. Summer 1990, 1990, Accessed 6 Nov 2020.) The Pythagoreans (6th–4th century BCE) and the Neoplatonists (3rd–6th century CE) urged respect for animals’ interests, primarily because they believed in the transmigration of souls between human and animal bodies. ↩︎

  42. The Works of Aristotle: De Anima. Translated by J. A. Smith, M.A., LL.D. (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1931. Pp. 46. Price 10s. p. 659 ↩︎

  43. Aristotle, Politics: A Treatise on Government, Book One, Chapter 5 ↩︎

  44. Wise, S., 2016. Animal rights. In: Encyclopedia Britannica. ↩︎

  45. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26). ↩︎

  46.  ↩︎
  47. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan, Or, The Matter, Forme, & Power Of A Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall And Civill. 1st ed. London: Andrew Crooke, 1651. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011 pp. 68-69. ↩︎

  48. Descartes’s conclusion appears so bizarre and disproved by facts that many are surprised that he should have arrived at it. Yet it is merel the logica result of his more general reflections on consciousness (cogito, ergo sum)led him to conclude that the thinking mind and the external world were two completely separate realms of existence. Sensations and feelings, on this assumption, could have no place to exist other than in the thinking mind, and capacity to think depended on the ability to use language. ↩︎

  49. Wood, Allen W. Kant On Duties Regarding Nonrational Nature, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, Volume 72, Issue 1, 1 July 1998, pp. 189–210, ↩︎

  50. Birch, Jonathan. The Place of Animals in Kantian Ethics. Biology & Philosophy 35, no. 1 (24 December 2019): 8.↩︎

  51. Birch, op. cit.. ↩︎

  52. Medawar, P. B. Induction And Intuition In Scientific Thought. Methuen, 1969, pp. 1-2. ↩︎

  53. National Research Council (US) Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009. Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. ↩︎

  54. Posner, Lysa Pam, and Sathya K. Chinnadurai. Recognition And Treatment Of Pain In Reptiles, Amphibians, And Fish. Pain Management In Veterinary Practice, 2014, pp. 417-423. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, doi:10.1002/9781118999196.ch38. Accessed 30 Dec 2020. ↩︎

  55. Rollin, Bernard. The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain, and Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. xii, 117-118. ↩︎

  56. The Problem of Consciousness. Animal Ethics (blog), 24 March 2014. ↩︎

  57. In humans, as in other animals, the two kinds of emotion — positive and negative — have specific locations in the brain. Positive emotions are associated with the centres of reward and negative emotions with the centres of punishment (v. Olds, J., & Milner, P. (1954). Positive reinforcement produced by electrical stimulation of septal area and other regions of rat brain. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 47(6), 419–427.↩︎

  58. Benson, Emily. Don’t Worry, Bee Happy: Bees Found to Have Emotions and Moods. New Scientist. Accessed 8 November 2020. ↩︎

  59. Barron, Andrew B., and Colin Klein. What Insects Can Tell Us about the Origins of Consciousness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 18 (3 May 2016): 4900–4908.↩︎

  60. The word sentience is sometimes used instead of consciousness. Sentience refers to the ability to have positive and negative experiences caused by external affectations to our body or to sensations within our body. The difference in meaning between sentience and consciousness is slight. All sentient beings are conscious beings. Though a conscious being may not be sentient if, through some damage, he or she has become unable to receive any sensation of her body or the external world and can only have experiences of her own thoughts. ↩︎

  61. Non-centralised nervous systems do transmit information about damage in some part of the organism, but this information does not result in a conscious experience because there is no bodily structure in which a sufficiently large aggregate of nerve cells interact to process an experience, as opposed to merely transmitting the information. ↩︎

  62. While beings whose experiences were never either positive nor negative would be indifferent to their condition and continued existence, and thus would not need or deserve concern. (Griffin, D. R. (1981) The question of animal awareness: Evolutionary continuity of mental experience, New York: Rockefeller University Press. Cabanac, M.; Cabanac, A. J. & Paren, A. (2009) The emergence of consciousness in phylogeny, Behavioural Brain Research, 198, pp. 267-272. Grinde, B. (2013) The evolutionary rationale for consciousness, Biological Theory, 7, pp. 227-236. Ng, Y.-K. (1995) Towards welfare biology: Evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering, Biology and Philosophy, 10, pp. 255-285. Cited in The problem of consciousness. Animal Ethics. Retrieved 29 December 2020.) ↩︎

  63. Kohda, Masanori et al. If A Fish Can Pass The Mark Test, What Are The Implications For Consciousness And Self-Awareness Testing In Animals?. PLOS Biology, vol 17, no. 2, 2019, p. e3000021. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000021. Accessed 30 Dec 2020. ↩︎

  64. Nagel, Thomas.’What Is It Like to be a Bat?’. The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (October 1974): 435-50. ↩︎

  65. Bats are mammals, so they are assumed to have conscious experience. Nagel used bats for his argument because of their highly evolved and active use of a biological sensory apparatus that is significantly different from that of many other organisms. Bats use echolocation to navigate and perceive objects. While it is possible to imagine what it would be like to fly, navigate by sonar, hang upside down and eat insects like a bat, that is not the same as a bat’s perspective. Nagel claims that even if humans were able to metamorphose gradually into bats, their brains would not have been wired as a bat’s from birth; therefore, they would only be able to experience the life and behaviours of a bat, rather than the mindset. ↩︎

  66. Olympio, Laura d’. Ethics Explainer: What Is It like to Be a Bat? The Ethics Centre (blog), 15 April 2019. ↩︎

  67. Nieder, Andreas et al. A Neural Correlate Of Sensory Consciousness In A Corvid Bird. Science, vol 369, no. 6511, 2020, pp. 1626-1629., doi:10.1126/science.abb1447. Accessed 29 Dec 2020. Stacho, Martin et al. A cortex-like canonical circuit in the avian forebrain. Science, vol 369, no. 6511, 2020, doi:10.1126/science.abc5534. Accessed 29 Dec 2020. ↩︎

  68. James Turner. Reckoning with the beast: Animals, Pain, and Humanity in the Victorian Mind. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Note 1, p. 4. ↩︎

  69. Turner, op. cit.. Note 7, pp. 18-19. ↩︎

  70. Low, Philip et al. (2012) The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness Publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, England, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals. ↩︎

  71. Stephan, Achim. “Are Animals Capable of Concepts?” Erkenntnis (1975-), vol. 51, no. 1, 1999, pp. 79–92. JSTOR, Accessed 29 Dec. 2020. ↩︎

  72. Ogden, Lesley Evans. Do Animals Have Personality?. Bioscience, vol 62, no. 6, 2012, pp. 533-537. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.1525/bio.2012.62.6.4. Accessed 30 Dec 2020. ↩︎

  73. Koski, Sonja E. How to Measure Animal Personality and Why Does It Matter? Integrating the Psychological and Biological Approaches to Animal Personality. Ed. [Miho Inoue-Murayama, Shoji Kawamura, and Alexander Weiss]. Tokyo: Springer Japan, 2011. 115–136. Web. ↩︎

  74. Warren, Caleb, and A. Peter McGraw. Differentiating What Is Humorous From What Is Not.. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, vol 110, no. 3, 2016, pp. 407-430. American Psychological Association (APA), doi:10.1037/pspi0000041. Accessed 30 Dec 2020. ↩︎

  75. Frey, Raymond G. Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980, p. 88. ↩︎

  76. Franklin, op. cit., pp. 166-168. ↩︎

  77. Scruton, op. cit., p. 21. ↩︎

  78. Scruton, op. cit., p. 25. ↩︎

  79. Scruton, op. cit., p. 36. ↩︎

  80. Scruton, op. cit., p. 27. ↩︎

  81. Scruton, op. cit., p. 38. ↩︎

  82. Scruton, op. cit., note 11 to p. 27. ↩︎

  83. Scruton, op. cit., note 11 to p. 62. ↩︎

  84. Scruton, op. cit., note 11 to p. 86. ↩︎

  85. Scruton, op. cit., note 11 to p. 39. ↩︎

  86. Cavalieri, Paola, and Peter Singer. 1996. The Great Ape Project. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. ↩︎

  87. Atwell, John E. Kant’s Moral Model and Moral Universe. History of Philosophy Quarterly, vol. 3, no. 4, 1986, pp. 423–436. JSTOR, Accessed 30 Dec. 2020. ↩︎

  88. Meyer, Michel. The simple dignity of sentient life: speciesism and human dignity. Journal of social philosophy vol. 32,2 (2001): 115-26. doi:10.1111/0047-2786.00083 ↩︎

  89. Donaldson, Sue, and Kymlicka, Will. Zoopolis. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2011, note 10 p. 26. ↩︎

  90. Scruton, op. cit., note 11 to p. 44. ↩︎

  91. Vallentyne, Peter. Of Mice and Men: Equality and Animals. The Journal of Ethics 9, no. 3/4 (2005): 403–33.↩︎

  92. Singer, op. cit., p. 394. ↩︎

  93. Horigan, Stephen. 1988. Nature And Culture In Western Discourses. London: Routledge. Quoted in Donaldson & Kymlicka, op. cit., note 11 p. 27. ↩︎

  94. The word speciesism can originally be ascribed to Richard Ryder. It has become accepted in general use since the first edition of this book, and now appears in The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989) ↩︎

  95. Singer, op. cit., p.26. ↩︎

  96. Indeed, if any statements are found in Sacred Scripture prohibiting the commission of an act of cruelty against brute animals, for instance, that one should not kill a bird accompanied by her young (Deut. 22:6), this is said either to turn the mind of man away from cruelty which might be used on other men, lest a person through practicing cruelty on brutes might go on to do the same to men; or because an injurious act committed on animals may lead to a temporal loss for some man, either for the agent or for another man; or there may be another interpretation of the text, as the Apostle (1 Cor. 9:9) explains it, in terms of not muzzling the ox that treads the corn. (Deut. 25:4). (Text from the Hanover House edition (1955–57), updated by Joseph Kenny [].) See also Summa theologiae, I-II Art. 102 Art. 6 ad. 8. ↩︎

  97. But so far as animals are concerned we have no direct duties. Animals are not self-conscious and are there merely as a means to an end. (Kant, Duties to Animals and Spirits,. In Lectures on Ethics, edited by Peter Heath and J. B. Schneewind, translated by Peter Heath, 212–213. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. pp. 39–240. ) ↩︎

  98. Svärd, op. cit., p. 190. ↩︎

  99. Donaldson & Kymlicka, op. cit., p. 36. ↩︎

  100. Scruton, op. cit., p. 38. ↩︎

  101. Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Emile. Translated by Barbara Foxley. London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1982. pp. 118-120. ↩︎

  102. If animals were on a level more or less equal to ours; if there were reliable means of communication between them and us; if they could clearly transmit their thoughts and sentiments to us and recognise ours with the same clarity; in a word, if they could vote in a general assembly, they would have to be called to attend, and the case for natural right would no longer be put before humanity, but before animality. But animals are separated from us by unchangeable and eternal barriers; and we are concerned here with a set of findings and ideas which are peculiar to the human species and which emanate from and constitute its dignity. (Diderot, Denis. Droit Naturel, Encyclopédie, t.v. 115–116. Reprinted in The Political Writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau, by C. E. Vaughan, 429–433. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1962. pp. 431-432.) ↩︎

  103. Franklin, op. cit., pp. 102-103. ↩︎

  104. Bentham, Jeremy. Introduction To The Principles Of Morals And Legislation. 1st ed. 1789. ed. J.H Burns and H.L.A. Hart (The Athlone Press, 1970), pp. xliii, 343. Reprinted in paperback with new introduction by F. Rosen (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996), pp.cxii, 343. ↩︎

  105. Singer, P., op. cit., p. 43. ↩︎

  106. Singer, Peter. 1975. Animal Liberation. 1st ed. Harper Collins. ↩︎

  107. If the recommendations made in the following chapters are accepted, millions of animals will be spared considerable pain. (Singer, op. cit., p.20. ↩︎

  108. Scruton, op. cit., p. 81. ↩︎

  109. Scruton, op. cit., p. 81. ↩︎

  110. Scruton, op. cit., p. 8. ↩︎

  111. Scruton, op. cit., p. 10. ↩︎

  112. Scruton, op. cit., p. 16 ↩︎

  113. A bull may feel rage but not indignation or contempt. A lion may feel sexual urges but not erotic love. […] The wasp is not angry at the violation of its nest and its sting is not an act of revenge or punishment. (Scruton, op. cit., p. 16). ↩︎

  114. Scruton, op. cit., p. 16 ↩︎

  115. Narveson, Jan. Animal Rights. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 7, no. 1 (March 1987): 161–178. This article is a critical review essay of various articles and books by Regan and by Singer. ↩︎

  116. Jeremy Bentham, Rights, Representation, and Reform: Nonsense upon Stilts and Other Writings on the French Revolution, ed. P. Schofield, C. Pease-Watkin, and C. Blamires, Oxford, 2002 (The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham), pp. 317-401. ↩︎

  117. Franklin, op. cit., p. 123. ↩︎

  118. As examples of leading contemporary moral philosophers who incorporate a requirement of equal consideration of interests, see R.M. Hare, Freedom and Reason (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), and John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1972). For a brief account of the essential agreement on this issue between these and other positions, see R. M. Hare, Rules of War and Moral Reasoning, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (2) (1972). ↩︎

  119. The concept of equal concern and respect was further refined by Richard Dworkin (Dworkin, Ronald. 1977. Taking Rights Seriously. London: Duckworth.) ↩︎

  120. Rawls, op. cit., p. 505 ↩︎

  121. Franklin, op. cit., pp. 85-88 and Regan, op. cit., pp. 165ff. Franklin notes in particular that In Political Liberalism Rawls answers, in effect, that his theory does not deal with all of justice, to say nothing of general morality, but only with political justice. This entitles him, he claims, to avoid any comprehensive theory. ↩︎

  122. Franklin, op. cit., p. 41. ↩︎

  123. Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: The University of California Press 1984. Reprinted by Routledge (1988). ↩︎

  124. When these common harms are at issue, to affirm that we have a direct duty to moral agents not to harm them but deny this in the case of moral patients is to flout the requirement of formal justice or impartiality, requiring, as it does, that similar cases be treated dissimilarly. And that is to fall far short of making an ideal moral judgment. (Regan, op. cit., p. 89.) ↩︎

  125. Either the mistreatment of animals is wrong because it is inherently immoral, holds Regan, or such mistreatment has no necessary moral consequences for how we behave towards humans. There may be an emotional carryover from one to the other. A man who beats a dog is not likely to be a paragon of kindness to subordinates in his office. But the connection here is best explained as psychological rather than rational—it is a mental association, not a duty. Hence the idea of indirect duty to animals turns out to be fundamentally incoherent, and that dooms it as a solution to the problem of animals in moral theory. Duty to animals in the strict sense must follow from the basic principle directly. (Franklin, op. cit., p. 34). ↩︎

  126. Regan, op. cit., pp. 294-297. ↩︎

  127. Regan, op. cit., p. 171. ↩︎

  128. Franklin, op. cit., p. 92. ↩︎

  129. It is not clear why we have, or how we could be reasonable be said to have, direct duties to, say, individual blades of grass, potatoes, or cancer cells. Yet all are alive, and so all should be owed direct duties if all have inherent value (Regan, op. cit., p. 242). ↩︎

  130. Regan, op. cit., p. 243. ↩︎

  131. Franklin, op. cit., p. 42. ↩︎

  132. Rowlands, Mark. Contractarianism and Animal Rights. Journal of Applied Philosophy 14, no. 3 (1997): 235–47.↩︎

  133. Rowlands, Mark. Animal Rights: Moral Theory and Practice. 2nd rev. ed. Houndmills, Basingstoke ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. ↩︎

  134. Franklin, op. cit., p. 10. In Franklin’s rephrasing of the categorical imperative, it becomes Act in such a way that you always treat sentience, whether in yourself or in the self of any other, never simply as a means but also at the same time as an end. ↩︎

  135. Franklin, op. cit., p. 54. ↩︎

  136. Franklin, op. cit., pp. 63-66. ↩︎

  137. Franklin, op. cit., p. 66. ↩︎

  138. Franklin, op. cit., p. 92. ↩︎

  139. Regan, op. cit., p. 188. ↩︎

  140. If we postulate inherent value in the case of moral agents and recognise the need to view their possession of it as being equal, then we will be rationally obliged to do the same in the case of moral patients. All who have inherent value thus have it equally, whether they be moral agents or moral patients. […] Inherent value is thus a categorical concept. One either has it, or one does not. There are no in-betweens. Moreover, all those who have it, have it equally. It does not come in degrees (Regan, op. cit., pp. 240-241). ↩︎

  141. Francione, Gary L. 2008. Animals As Persons. New York: Columbia University Press. ↩︎

  142. Franklin, op. cit., p. 53, and v. also Francione, G. (2007). Reflections on Animals, Property, and the Law and Rain without Thunder. Law And Contemporary Problems, 70(1). Retrieved 26 December 2020, from↩︎

  143. Francione, op. cit., p. 11. In that sense, the status of non-humans as property is as flawed as that of human slaves before abolition, irrespective of whether this status is compatible with humane treatment. ↩︎

  144. Cassuto, David N. Legal Standing for Animals and Advocates 13 (n.d.): 27. ↩︎

  145. Cassuto, David N. Bred Meat: The Cultural Foundation of the Factory Farm. Derecho Animal. Forum of Animal Law Studies 1, no. 2 (1 May 2010): 1.↩︎

  146. Choplin, Lauren. The Latest in Happy’s Elephant Rights Case. Nonhuman Rights, 28 Sept. 2020,↩︎

  147. Donaldson, Sue, and Kymlicka, Will. Zoopolis, op. cit.. ↩︎

  148. Svärd. Animal National Liberation? Journal of Animal Ethics 3, no. 2 (2013): 188.↩︎

  149. Svärd, op. cit., p. 190. ↩︎

  150. Donaldson, Sue, and Will Kymlicka. A Reply to Svärd, Nurse, and Ryland. Journal of Animal Ethics, vol. 3, no. 2, 2013, pp. 208–219. JSTOR, Accessed 30 Dec. 2020. ↩︎

  151. Donaldson, Sue & Kymlicka, Will, op. cit.. ↩︎

  152. Franklin, op. cit., p. .94. ↩︎

  153. Domestic animals have a right to food, comfort, and friendship from their human companions. They also have a right to bodily integrity. Given the demands that these expectations place on humans, however, and the structure of society, it does not seem per se unreasonable to require that domestic animals be neutered or spayed. (Cassuto, op. cit., pp. 85-86). ↩︎

  154. Franklin, op. cit., p. 95. ↩︎

  155. Louis Caruana SJ, Different religions, different animal ethics?, Animal Frontiers, Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages 8–14,↩︎

  156. Quia enim huiusmodi magis conformantur humano corpori, plus delectant et magis conferunt ad humani corporis nutrimentum, et sic ex eorum comestione plus superfluit ut vertatur in materiam seminis, cuius multiplicatio est maximum incitamentum luxuriae. [We abstain from meat and animal products because, being most suited to our bodies, they are most delightful, and because they incline us most to lust.] (Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II Q. 147. Art. 8 co.) ↩︎

  157. We have very little information concerning the original diet of mankind and animals in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 1:29-30 implies clearly that both humans and animals were to eat only vegetation: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. St. Thomas Aquinas is of the opinion that Adam and Eve were vegan before the Fall: Dicendum quod homines in statu innocentiae non indigebant animalibus ad necessitatem corporalem, neque ad tegumentum, quia nudi erant, et non erubescebant, nullo instante inordinatae concupiscentiae motu; neque ad cibum, quia lignis Paradisi vescebantur; neque ad vehiculum, propter corporis robur. [In the state of innocence man would not have had any bodily need of animals—neither for clothing, since then they were naked and not ashamed, there being no inordinate motions of concupiscence—nor for food, since they fed on the trees of paradise—nor to carry him about, his body being strong enough for that purpose.] (Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I Q. 96 Art. 1 ad. 3.) Bizarrely, Aquinas claims, despite this going against the letter of Genesis 1:30, that that any non-human animals that were carnivorous after the Fall were so already in the state of Innocency: Dicendum quod quidam dicunt quod animalia quae nunc sunt ferocia et occidunt alia animalia, in statu illo fuissent mansueta non solum circa hominem, sed etiam circa alia animalia. Sed hoc est omnino irrationabile. Non enim per peccatum hominis natura animalium est mutata, ut quibus nunc naturale est comedere aliorum animalium carnes, tunc vixissent de herbis, sicut leones et falcones. [In the opinion of some, those animals which now are fierce and kill others, would, in that state, have been tame, not only in regard to man, but also in regard to other animals. But this is quite unreasonable. For the nature of animals was not changed by man’s sin, as if those whose nature now it is to devour the flesh of others, would then have lived on herbs, as the lion and falcon.] (Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I Q. 96 Art. 1 ad. 2.) ↩︎

  158. 1822: 3 George 4 c.71: An Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle ↩︎

  159. Mitchell, L., United States Department of Agriculture, 2001. Impact Of Consumer Demand For Animal Welfare On Global Trade. ↩︎

  160. Singer, op. cit., p. 18. ↩︎

  161. Singer,op. cit., p. 19. ↩︎

  162. Buller, H., Blokhuis, H., Jensen, P. and Keeling, L., 2018. Towards Farm Animal Welfare and Sustainability. Animals, [online] 8(6), p.81. ↩︎

  163. Peter Singer, op. cit., Third Edition (2015),p. 12. ↩︎

  164. Lang, Eddy S., Peter C. Wyer, and R. Brian Haynes. Knowledge Translation: Closing the Evidence-to-Practice Gap. Annals of Emergency Medicine 49, no. 3 (March 2007): 355–63.↩︎

  165. Bekoff, Mark. The Animals’ Agenda: An Interview About Animal Well-Being. Psychology Today, 25 March 2017. ↩︎

  166. Francione, op. cit., p. 219 ↩︎

  167. Nagel, Thomas. The Possibility of Altruism. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1970, 148 pp. ↩︎

  168. Benson, John. Review of Review of The Possibility of Altruism, by Thomas Nagel. The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-) 22, no. 86 (1972): 82–83.↩︎

  169. Bekoff, Mark. The Animal Welfare Act Claims Rats and Mice Are Not Animals. Psychology Today. Accessed 8 November 2020. ↩︎

  170. Pollan, M., 2002. Power Steer. New York Times, [online] [Accessed 5 November 2020]. ↩︎

  171. United States Department of Agriculture, 2001, op. cit. ↩︎

  172. Appleby, M. C. The Relationship between Food Prices and Animal Welfare. Journal of Animal Science 83, no. suppl_13 (1 June 2005): E9–12. ↩︎

  173. Europeans and the Common Agricultural Policy, Special Eurobarometer 221 (February 2005), p.11. ↩︎

  174. A 2018 paper (Springmann, Marco, H. Charles J. Godfray, Mike Rayner, and Peter Scarborough. Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Cobenefits of Dietary Change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113, no. 15 (12 April 2016): 4146–51. by Joseph Poore of Oxford University) proved to be a critical turning point for those who do not necessarily identify as ethically vegan, but are starting to incorporate a plant based diet into their lives. The research found that veganism would cut carbon emissions from food production in half, freeing up land for other uses. With almost 80% of the world’s farmland dedicated to rearing animals, figures suggest that a plant-based diet would cut the use of land for agriculture by 76%. Furthermore, the rearing of farm animals is a huge contributor to deforestation, curtailing the Earth’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide. With a quarter of global emissions coming from the food industry, half of which results from animal produce, avoiding meat and dairy constitutes one of the most effective ways to reduce one’s environmental impact. ↩︎

  175. Donaldson & Kymlicka, op.cit., p. 136. ↩︎

  176. Singer, P, op. cit., p. 30. ↩︎