Unfortunately for ethical egoism, the claim that we will all be better off if every one of us does what is in his or her own interest is incorrect. This is shown by what are known as "prisoner's dilemma" situations, which are playing an increasingly important role in discussions of ethical theory... At least on the collective level, therefore, egoism is self-defeating - a conclusion well brought out by Parfit in his aforementioned Reasons and Persons.
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...the nervous systems of other animals were not artificially constructed - as a robot might be artificially constructed - to mimic the pain behavior of humans. A capacity to feel pain obviously enhances a species' prospects of survival...it is surely unreasonable to suppose that nervous systems that are virtually identical physiologically, have a common origin and a common evolutionary function, and result in similar forms of behavior in similar circumstances should actually operate in an entirely different manner on the level of subjective feelings.
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For most humans, especially for those in modern urban and suburban communities, the most direct form of contact with nonhuman animals is at meal time: we eat them.... The use and abuse of animals raised for food far exceeds, in sheer numbers of animals affected, any other kind of mistreatment.
The statement "I am in pain" may be one piece of evidence for the conclusion that the speaker is in pain, but it is not the only possible evidence, and since people sometimes tell lies, not even the best possible evidence. Even if there were stronger grounds for refusing to attribute pain to those who do not have language, the consequences of this refusal might lead us to reject the conclusion. Human infants and young children are unable to use language. Are we to deny that a year-old child can suffer?
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It may be thought justifiable to require tests on animals of potentially life-saving drugs, but the same kinds of tests are used for products like cosmetics, food coloring, and floor polishes. Should thousands of animals suffer so that a new kind of lipstick or floor wax can be put on the market? Don't we already have an excess of most of these products? Who benefits from their introduction, except the companies that hope to profit from them?
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Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all. Decisions about sex may involve considerations about honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car. (In fact, the moral issues raised by driving a car, both from an environmental and from a safety point of view, are much more serious than those raised by sex.)
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Whereas the property-owning middle class could win freedom for themselves on the basis of rights to property--thus excluding others from the freedom they gain--the property-less working class possess nothing but their title as human beings. Thus they can liberate themselves only by liberating all humanity.
People may hope that the meat they buy came from an animal who died without pain, but they do not really want to know about it. Yet those who, by their purchases, require animals to be killed do not deserve to be shielded from this or any other aspect of the production of the meat they buy.
One thing is certain: you will find plenty of worthwhile things to do. You will not be bored, or lack fulfillment in your life. Most important of all, you will know that you have not lived and died for nothing, because you will have become part of the great tradition of those who have responded to the amount of pain and suffering in the universe by trying to make the world a better place.
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While it is absurd to blame Marx for something he did not foresee and certainly would have condemned if he had foreseen it, the distanced between Marx's predicted communist society and the form taken by 'communism' in the twentieth century may in the end be traceable to Marx's misconception of the flexibility of human nature.
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No society has succeeded in abolishing the distinction between ruler and ruled... to be a ruler gives one special status and, usually, special privileges. During the Communist era, important officials in the Soviet Union had access to special shops selling delicacies unavailable to ordinary citizens; before China allowed capitalist enterprises in its economy, travelling by car was a luxury limited to tourists and those high in the party hierarchy Throughout the 'communist' nations, the abolition of the old ruling class was followed by the rise of a new class of party bosses and well-placed bureaucrats, whose behaviour and life-style came more and more to resemble that of their much-denounced predecessors. In the end, nobody believed in the system any more. That, couple with its inability to match the productivity of the less bureaucratically controlled, more egoistically driven capitalist economies, led to its downfall.
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In the past 20 years alone, it adds up to more death than were caused by all the civil and international wars adn government repression of the entire twentieth century, the century of Hitler and Stalin. How much would we give to prevent those horrors? Yet how little are we doing to prevent today's even larger toll and all the misery that it involves? I believe that if you read this book to the end, and look honestly and carefully at our situation, assessing both the facts and the ethical arguments, you will agree that we must act.
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At least ten times as many people died from preventable, poverty-related diseases on September 11, 2011, as died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that black day. The terrorist attacks led to trillions of dollars being spent on the 'war on terrorism' and on security measures that have inconvenienced every air traveller since then. The deaths caused by poverty were ignored. So whereas very few people have died from terrorism since September 11, 2001, approximately 30, 000 people died from poverty-related causes on September 12, 2001, and on every day between then and now, and will die tomorrow. Even when we consider larger events like the Asian tsunami of 2004, which killed approximately 230, 000 people, or the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed up to 200, 000, we are still talking about numbers that represent just one week's toll for preventable, poverty-related deaths - and that happens fifty-two weeks in every year.
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It is easy to take a stand about a remote issue, but speciesists, like racists, reveal their true nature when the issue comes nearer home. To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada, while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, or the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
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To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, and the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
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As far as food is concerned, the great extravagance is not caviar or truffles, but beef, pork and poultry. Some 38 percent of the world's grain crop is now fed to animals, as well as large quantities of soybeans. There are three times as many domestic animals on this planet as there are human beings. The combined weight of the world's 1.28 billion cattle alone exceeds that of the human population. While we look darkly at the number of babies being born in poorer parts of the world, we ignore the over-population of farm animals, to which we ourselves contribute... [t]hat, however, is only part of the damage done by the animals we deliberately breed. The energy intensive factory farming methods of the industrialised nations are responsible for the consumption of huge amounts of fossil fuels. Chemical fertilizers, used to grow the feed crops for cattle in feedlots and pigs and chickens kept indoors in sheds, produce nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas. Then there is the loss of forests. Everywhere, forest-dwellers, both human and non-human, can be pushed out. Since 1960, 25 percent of the forests of Central America have been cleared for cattle. Once cleared, the poor soils will support grazing for a few years; then the graziers must move on. Shrub takes over the abandoned pasture, but the forest does not return. When the forests are cleared so the cattle can graze, billions of tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Finally, the world's cattle are thought to produce about 20 percent of the methane released into the atmosphere, and methane traps twenty-five times as much heat from the sun as carbon dioxide. Factory farm manure also produces methane because, unlike manured dropped naturally in the fields, it dies not decompose in the presence of oxygen. All of this amounts to a compelling reason... for a plant based diet.
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Evolution has no moral direction. An evolutionary understanding of human nature can explain the differing intuitions we have when we are faced with an individual rather than with a mass of people, or with people close to us rather than with those far away, but it does not justify those feelings.
Terrorism has made our world an integrated community in a new and frightening way. Not merely the activities of our neighbors, but those of the inhabitants of the most remote mountain valleys of the farthest-flung countries of our planet, have become our business. We need to extend the reach of the criminal law there and to have the means to bring terrorists to justice without declaring war on an entire country in order to do it. For this we need a sound global system of criminal justice, so justice does not become the victim of national differences of opinion. We also need, though it will be far more difficult to achieve, a sense that we really are one community, that we are people who recognize not only the force of prohibitions against killing each other but also the pull of obligations to assist one another. This may not stop religious fanatics from carrying out suicide missions, but it will help to isolate them and reduce their support.
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In an earlier stage of our development most human groups held to a tribal ethic. Members of the tribe were protected, but people of other tribes could be robbed or killed as one pleased. Gradually the circle of protection expanded, but as recently as 150 years ago we did not include blacks. So African human beings could be captured, shipped to America, and sold. In Australia white settlers regarded Aborigines as a pest and hunted them down, much as kangaroos are hunted down today. Just as we have progressed beyond the blatantly racist ethic of the era of slavery and colonialism, so we must now progress beyond the speciesist ethic of the era of factory farming, of the use of animals as mere research tools, of whaling, seal hunting, kangaroo slaughter, and the destruction of wilderness. We must take the final step in expanding the circle of ethics. -
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Whatever the reason, for most of the present century, the literature and publicity of the old established [animal welfare] groups made a significant contribution to the prevailing attitude that dogs and cats and wild animals need protection, but other animals do not. Thus people came to think of "animal welfare" as something for kindly ladies who are dotty about cats, and not as a cause founded on basic principles of justice and morality.
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Sometimes we know the best thing to do, but fail to do it. New year's resolutions are often like that. We make resolutions because we know it would be better for us to lose weight, or get fit, or spend more time with our children. The problem is that a resolution is generally easier to break than it is to keep.
The belief that the animals exist because God created them - and that he created them so we can better meet our needs - is contrary to our scientific understanding of evolution and, of course, to the fossil record, which shows the existence of non-human primates and other animals millions of years before there were any human beings at all.
...the proposed air force and army experiments were designed so that many animals would suffer and die without any certainty that this suffering and death would save a single human life or benefit humans in any way at all; but the same can be said of millions of their experiments performed each year in the United States alone.
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The animal liberation movement is saying that where animals and humans have similar interests - we might take the interest in avoiding physical pain as an example, for it is an interest that humans clearly share with other animals - those interests are to be counted equally, with no automatic discount just because one of the beings is not human.
Pain and suffering are in themselves bad and should be prevented or minimized, irrespective of the race, sex, or species of the being that suffers. How bad a pain is depends on how intense it is and how long it lasts, but pain of the same intensity and duration are equally bad, whether felt by humans or animals.
Suppose I grant that pigs and dogs are self-aware to some degree, and do have thoughts about things in the future. That would provide some reason for thinking it intrinsically wrong to kill them - not absolutely wrong, but perhaps quite a serious wrong. Still, there are other animals - chickens maybe, or fish - who can feel pain but don't have any self-awareness or capacity for thinking about the future. For those animals, you haven't given me any reason why painless killing would be wrong, if other animals take their place and lead an equally good life.
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The only justifiable stopping place for for the expansion of altruism is the point at which all whose welfare can be affected by our actions are included within the circle of altruism. This means that all beings with the capacity to feel pleasure or pain should be included; we can improve their welfare by increasing their pleasures and diminishing their pains.
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...chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans are thinking, self-aware beings, capable of planning ahead, who form lasting social bonds with others and have a rich social and emotional life. The great apes are therefore an ideal case for showing the arbitrariness of the species boundary. If we think that all human beings, irrespective of age or mental capacity, have some basic rights, how can we deny that the great apes, who surpass some humans in their capacities, also have these rights?
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Habits of thought lead us to brush aside descriptions of cruelty to animals as emotional, for "animal-lovers only"; or if not that, then anyway the problem is so trivial in comparison to the problems of human beings that no sensible person could give it time and attention. This too is a prejudice - for how can one know that a problem is trivial until one has taken the time to examine its extent?
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It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road...A stone has no interests because it cannot suffer. 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 is.
Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Sexists violate the principle of equality by favoring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is identical in each case.
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So far as this argument is concerned nonhuman animals and infants and retarded humans are in the same category; and if we use this argument to justify experiments on nonhuman animals we have to ask ourselves whether we are also prepared to allow experiments on human infants and retarded adults; and if we make a distinction between animals and these humans, on what basis can we do it, other than a bare-faced - and morally indefensible - preference for members of our own species?
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Sometimes animals may suffer more because of their more limited understanding. If, for instance, we are taking prisoners in wartime we can explain to them that although they must submit to capture, search, and confinement, they will not otherwise be harmed and will be set free at the conclusion of hostilities. If we capture wild animals, however, we cannot explain that we are not threatening their lives. A wild animal cannot distinguish an attempt to overpower and confine from an attempt to kill; the one causes as much terror as the other.
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People tend to care about dogs because they generally have more experience with dogs as companions; but other animals are as capable of suffering as dogs are. Few people feel sympathy for rats. Yet rats are intelligent animals, and there can be no doubt that rats are capable of suffering and do suffer from countless painful experiments performed on them. If the army were to stop experiments on dogs and switch to rats instead, we should not be any less concerned.
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There has been opposition to experimenting on animals for a long time. This opposition has made little headway because experimenters, backed by commercial firms that profit by supplying laboratory animals and equipment, have been able to convince legislators and the public that opposition comes from uninformed fanatics who consider the interests of animals more important than the interests of human beings.
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As for cages themselves, an ordinary citizen who kept dogs in similar conditions for their entire lives would risk prosecution for cruelty. A pig producer who keeps an animal of comparable intelligence in this manner, however, is more likely to be rewarded with a tax concession or, in some countries, a direct government subsidy.
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If zoos are like arks, then rare animals are like passengers on a voyage of the damned, never to find a port that will let them dock or a land in which they can live in peace. The real solution, of course, is to preserve the wild nature that created these animals and has the power to sustain them. But if it is really true that we are inevitably moving towards a world in which mountain gorillas can survive only in zoos, then we must ask whether it is really better for them to live in artificial environments of our design than not to be born at all.
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The most callous, stupid things were done just because regulations required them...It was not until 1983, for example, that U.S. federal agencies stated that substances known to be caustic irritants such as lye, ammonia, and oven cleaners, did not need to be tested on the eyes of conscious rabbits.
Forests and meat animals compete for the same land. The prodigious appetite of the affluent nations for meat means that agribusiness can pay more than those who want to preserve or restore the forest. We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet "" for the sake of hamburgers
I would not question the sincerity of vegetarians who take little interest in Animal Liberation because they give priority to other causes; but when nonvegetarians say that "human problems come first" I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.
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Becoming a vegetarian is not merely a symbolic gesture. Nor is it an attempt to isolate oneself from the ugly realities of the world, to keep oneself pure and so without responsibility for the cruelty and carnage all around. Becoming a vegetarian is a highly practical and effective step one can take toward ending both the killing of nonhuman animals and the infliction of suffering on them.
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If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering - insofar as rough comparisons can be made - of any other being. So the limit of sentience is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin color?
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With the eventual acceptance of Darwin's theory we reach a modern understanding of nature, one which has since then changed in detail rather than in fundamentals. Only those who prefer religious faith to beliefs based on reasoning and evidence can still maintain that the human species is the special darling of the entire universe, or that other animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to kill them.
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If animals are no longer quite outside the moral sphere, they are still in a special section near the outer rim. Their interests are allowed to count only when they do not clash with human interests. If there is a clash - even a clash between a lifetime of suffering for a nonhuman animal and the gastronomic preference of a human being - the interests of the nonhuman are disregarded. The moral attitudes of the past are too deeply embedded in our thought and our practices to be upset by a mere change in our knowledge of ourselves and of other animals.
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It is an indication of the extent to which people are now isolated from the animals they eat that children brought up on storybooks that lead them to think of a farm as a place where animals wander around freely in idyllic conditions might be able to live out their entire lives without ever being forced to revise this rosy image.
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The newspapers do little better. Their coverage of nonhuman animals is dominated by "human interest" events like the birth of a baby gorilla at the zoo, or by threats to endangered species; but developments in farming techniques that deprive millions of animals of freedom of movement go unreported.
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Even people who are aware that the traditional family farm has been taken over by big business interests, and that some questionable experiments go on in laboratories, cling to a vague belief that conditions cannot be too bad, or else the government or the animal welfare societies would have done something about it.
No consideration at all is given to the interests of the "pests" - the very word "pest" seems to exclude any concern for the animals themselves. But the classification "pest" is our own, and a rabbit that is a pest is as capable of suffering, and as deserving of consideration, as a white rabbit who is a beloved companion animal.