Moral status of animals
Which animals deserve moral consideration?
The idea that non-human animals have significant moral status is comparatively modern. It owes much to the work of philosopher Peter Singer and his 1975 book 'Animal Liberation'.
Animal lovers would say that all animals deserve moral consideration.
This doesn't help resolve cases where the moral interests of different animals are in conflict.
Philosophers have made valiant attempts to offer a systematic answer to this question. But all their attempts are subjective and have a human bias:
- they involve human values in the way they approach the subject
- they involve human value judgements in applying them to particular cases
A moral classification of animals
The approach below is what philosophers call consequentialist. It does not argue that animals have rights. Although this line of thinking is both useful and persuasive it does lead to one rather unpleasant conclusion.
Organisms can be arranged in a moral hierarchy in which the lowest group deserves no moral consideration at all, and the top group deserves more moral consideration than the second group.
- Sentient organisms that are aware of their own existence and would prefer to continue to exist
- Sentient organisms that are not self-aware and don't have any idea of continuing to exist in the future
- Inanimate objects and insentient organisms