Animal Rights Without Liberation

Animal Rights Without Liberation: Applied Ethics and Human Obligations

Alasdair Cochrane
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  • Book Info
    Animal Rights Without Liberation
    Book Description:

    Alasdair Cochrane introduces an entirely new theory of animal rights grounded in their interests as sentient beings. He then applies this theory to different and underexplored policy areas, such as genetic engineering, pet-keeping, indigenous hunting, and religious slaughter. In contrast to other proponents of animal rights, Cochrane claims that because most sentient animals are not autonomous agents, they have no intrinsic interest in liberty. As such, he argues that our obligations to animals lie in ending practices that cause their suffering and death and do not require the liberation of animals.

    Cochrane's "interest-based rights approach" weighs the interests of animals to determine which is sufficient to impose strict duties on humans. In so doing, Cochrane acknowledges that sentient animals have a clear and discernable right not to be made to suffer and not to be killed, but he argues that they do not have a prima facie right to liberty. Because most animals possess no interest in leading freely chosen lives, humans have no moral obligation to liberate them. Moving beyond theory to the practical aspects of applied ethics, this pragmatic volume provides much-needed perspective on the realities and responsibilities of the human-animal relationship.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50443-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. One Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The question of what we owe to nonhuman animals is rightfully considered an important and serious question for academics and policy makers alike. Animal ethics is a well-established topic of inquiry in academia, drawing the attention of scholars from disciplines as diverse as philosophy, political science, sociology, anthropology, and zoology. Animal protection is also a settled policy goal of most contemporary societies, with increasingly stringent animal welfare laws being passed in countries on every continent. But although the question of what we owe to animals is considered important and serious, that does not mean there is any agreement concerning the...

  5. Two Animals, Interests, and Rights
    (pp. 19-50)

    This book argues that while sentient animals can and do possess certain moral rights, we are under no obligation to liberate them. So while sentient animals have particular interests that impose strict duties on us in a whole variety of contexts, those duties do not include having to refrain from using, keeping, and owning them. Separating animal rights from animal liberation in this way will strike some readers as odd. After all, as was seen in the previous chapter, there is a widely held assumption within animal ethics that a theory of animal rights must also be a theory of...

  6. Three Animal Experimentation
    (pp. 51-78)

    So far the book has argued that political communities have certain obligations to sentient nonhuman animals, and that these obligations can be delineated using an interest-based rights approach. The first context in which this framework will be applied is the most politically heated: animal experimentation. To examine this issue, it is necessary to briefly outline what I mean by animal experimentation. After all, animals are experimented on across the globe for a vast number of aims and goals. To simplify, it is helpful to distinguish between two different types of animal experimentation: therapeutic and nontherapeutic.¹ The former is often also...

  7. Four Animal Agriculture
    (pp. 79-102)

    Of all of our uses of animals in modern societies, experimentation generates the fiercest debate. However, it does not involve the greatest numbers. While 2.9 million animals were used in scientific experiments in the UK in 2005,¹ around 913.6 million farm animals were slaughtered there in the same year.² Moreover, on a global scale, the numbers of animals being slaughtered and consumed is rising at a remarkable rate. Between 1961 and 2007 the global per capita consumption of meat more than doubled, and it is expected to double again by 2050.³ While the volume of farm animals slaughtered every year...

  8. Five Animals and Genetic Engineering
    (pp. 103-127)

    Genetic engineering refers to the range of technologies in which living organisms are created via genetic manipulation. The process involves inserting foreign DNA molecules into an embryo in order to alter the genetic makeup of that embryo, and thus the resulting animal. Such genetic manipulation takes places so that engineers can create individuals with, or without, specific genetic traits. While human beings have been using selective breeding to produce animals with desirable traits ever since animals were first domesticated, recent scientific advances in genetic engineering have permitted much more rapid and radical results. For example, just some of the animals...

  9. Six Animal Entertainment
    (pp. 128-154)

    The previous three chapters claimed that sentient animals possess prima facie moral rights not to be killed and not to be subjected to pain. Given that the infliction of pain and death are routine elements of animal experimentation, modern industrial farming techniques, and much genetic engineering, the implications of the theory for these practices were reasonably clear. This chapter, however, examines a more complex use of animals: their use in our entertainment. This use includes such practices as pet keeping, displaying animals in zoos, keeping them in safari parks, making them perform in circuses, and using animals in sport. I...

  10. Seven Animals and the Environment
    (pp. 155-180)

    The previous four chapters have outlined our obligations to animals in four different contexts: experimentation, agriculture, genetic engineering, and entertainment. Without doubt, then, the main focus of the book so far has been what we owe to domestic animals, rather than animals existing in the wild. But that is not to say that the consideration of wild animals has been excluded altogether. For example, chapter 4 argued that establishing an animal right not to be raised and killed for human consumption does not imply that prey animals in the wild have a right not be killed by predator animals. The...

  11. Eight Animals and Cultural Practices
    (pp. 181-202)

    This book has argued that animals have prima facie moral rights not to be killed and not to be made to suffer. These rights are prima facie because in some contexts, other considerations—such as competing interests or the burdens imposed by the putative duty—will count against the establishment of either right. Given that circumstances and competing interests are so important to the grounding of these animal rights, it is crucial to look at one last controversial context in which animals are used: cultural practices.

    Some cultural groups have claimed that they should be allowed to continue with their...

  12. Nine Conclusion
    (pp. 203-210)

    The aim of this book has been to decouple animal rights from animal liberation. That is, its aim has been to challenge the widely held assumption in animal ethics that a theory of animal rights must necessarily be a theory that demands that all use, ownership, and exploitation of animals be abolished. As was discussed in the introduction, this assumption derives from an unfortunate entrenched dichotomy in animal ethics: a dichotomy that pits a Singer-influenced animal welfarism against a Regan-influenced animal rights position. Recall that theories of animal rights emerged in the main as a response to Peter Singer’s hugely...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-228)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-240)
  15. Index
    (pp. 241-246)