is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month
from 7.30 to 9.30pm
in the The Bull
in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics
. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line
? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!
Animals & Us
We rear and kill animals for their meat and other products; we kill when they compete with us for food and habitat resources; we kill them for spreading disease or simply for irritating us; we keep them as pets; we train them to work for us and entertain us; we hunt them for sport as well as for food; we study them in their own right; and we experiment on them in order to improve human life. Animals obviously play a big part in human society and we exploit them for a wide range of purposes. Animal Rights campaigners argue that in treating animals as mere objects for satisfying human need we are no better than the racists who use to justify slavery by arguing that there was a fundamental moral difference between the black and white races. Aristotle even argued that there were some people who were 'natural slaves'. Are they right? Are those of use who eat meat and wear leather guilty of 'speciesism'?
General introductions to animal rights
- Wikipedia on Animal Rights
- Animals and Ethics
- A good survey of the various theories from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- The Moral Status of Animals (pdf)
- From The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP)
Arguments in favour of animal rights
- Ethics and the Vegan Way of Life
- A debate over the ethical bases of veganism.
- Is Animal Liberation an Environmental Ethic? (pdf)
- Environmentalists argue that eating meat is wrong because animal farming causes more damage to the environment than agrarian farming.
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
- This is the website of one of the principal animal welfare pressure groups. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which they claim the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. They also work on a variety of other issues including the cruel killing of animals. There is some gruesome footage of the live skinning of fur animals in China which might put you off wearing fur for life.
Arguments against animal rights
- Should We Breach The Species Barrier and Grant Rights to Apes? (pdf)
- A dialogue between the writer Kenan Malik and the animal aights philosopher, Peter Singer, as to whether the great apes should be granted rights under human law.
- You Won't Find Chimps Having This Debate (pdf)
- A debate between Kenan Malik and Richard Ryder.
- Thou shalt not kill - not even animals? (pdf)
- Professor Richard Sorabji in a Gresham College lecture argues that while we need to take the interests of animals seriously, none of the animal rightists succeed in their arguments. Rather than focussing on a single issue, an animal's ability to suffer, there are a whole cluster of considerations that we need to take into account – not least our natural loyalty and care for our own kind – similar to our care for our own family. Although animal rightists would condemn this as 'speciesism' akin to racism and sexism.
Some thought experiments
These thought experiments come from ulian Baggini's book The Pig Who Wants to be Eaten.
- Eating Tiddles
- Imagine that your pet cat has died in a road accident and that your mother, seeking not to be wasteful, has served it up as a tasty meal? The idea horrifies us because of a taboo against treating pets as food?
- Free Percy
- Polly the parrot is claiming that he has been treated as a slave and that under the European Convention on Human Rights he should be granted his freedom. What is so daft about this claim?
- Pain's remains
- Imagine a drug that allows a patient to experience pain but prevents them from remembering and therefore anticipating it. Would that change our attitude towards pain? Aninmals, while suffering pain, do not anticipate or remember it in the same way we do. So should we regard their pain less seriously than our own?
- The Pig that wants to be eaten
- What if we could create animals that had no interest in their own survival, simply because they had as little awareness as a carrot? How could it be wrong to deprive them of an existence they never knew they had? Or what if the animal actually wanted to be eaten, such as the bovine imagined by Douglas Adams in 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe'?