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Granting that Objectivism does not support the concept of "animal rights", a legal distinction, is there an argument to be made (in the application of Objectivist ethics) that animal welfare is a value to a rationally self interested man? Are pets a value? What about animals in the wild? Is there a different response for certain animals of negative value to humans, such as the house fly or mosquito? What about a harmful yet beautiful animal such as a shark?

asked Jul 31 '12 at 13:25

la_phil's gravatar image

la_phil ♦
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edited Jul 31 '12 at 15:13

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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You might be interested in what Dr. Diana Hsieh had to say in this Philosophy In Action podcast about animal rights and animal cruelty (hang in to the end for the cruelty/morality focus :^).

(Jul 31 '12 at 15:32) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Also please see (hear) Dr. Hsieh's treatment of the next question in that same Philosophy in Action podcast -- this time the focus is treating animals humanely and the moral implications.

(Jul 31 '12 at 15:40) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Finally, Dr. Hsieh takes on the question directly in this podcast Q&A: Abuse of Animals

(Jul 31 '12 at 15:42) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

The speaker provides some decent arguments regarding why it is reasonable to treat animals humanely, but the fundamental problems are not addressed.

Is there ever a situation where animal suffering at the hands of a rational human or enterprise (say the meat industry) is just too great? -- say extreme animal suffering for the purpose of a marginal increase in profit or because it's just a bit less work than it would be to treat the animal much better? No moral relevance according to Objectivism? In fact it is moral to act in self interest even if far more suffering is involved?

(Jul 31 '12 at 20:04) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

(I also need to mention that the speaker is completely incorrect in stating that a healthy diet requires some animal products. The primary dietetic association in the US states otherwise. I'm referring to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics -- formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.)

(Jul 31 '12 at 20:08) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

I am immoral if I attempt to forcibly stop my neighbor from beating his docile dog with a baseball bat in his front yard. Not only have I trespassed on his land, I have used force against another human being, and so nobody's rights are violated except his rights. Ultimately, I'm the criminal?

(Jul 31 '12 at 20:11) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

What is a fundamental problem which hasn't been addressed?

(Aug 01 '12 at 08:55) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I think my examples represent the fundamental problems for animal welfare pretty clearly. (That's what I meant.)

(Aug 01 '12 at 13:23) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

I can't even figure out what examples you're talking about.

You mean the hypothetical neighbor who, for no reason, beats his dog with a baseball bat in his front yard, and which the law does not sanction you using force to stop? This is a fundamental problem?

In what way is it a fundamental problem? Aren't you begging the question?

(Aug 01 '12 at 14:56) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Would it be better if I drop the word 'fundamental' and simply state that Objectivism is a disaster for animals, resulting in enormous unnecessary suffering? In too many cases, the moral thing to do, according to Objectivism, will lead to far more animal suffering.

(Aug 01 '12 at 20:50) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

Does Michael Vick become a good example of a moral man? Sure he tortured dogs, but he did so with purpose -- in the interest of making them better fighting dogs, which would increase his profit in the dog-fighting world. That's rational self-interest in an Objectivist world. If I'm missing something with this example and with my other two examples above (from yesterday) let me know.

(Aug 01 '12 at 20:54) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

I think saying that Objectivism is a disaster for animals would be anthropomorphism.

As for Michael Vick, the consensus among people who call themselves Objectivists seems to be that what he did was immoral.

(Aug 01 '12 at 23:06) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"As for Michael Vick, the consensus among people who call themselves Objectivists seems to be that what he did was immoral." How so? Please explain clearly why Michael Vick's actions were immoral, based on the principles of Objectivism. I explained why they were moral, based on the principles of Objectivism.

(Aug 01 '12 at 23:48) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

I don't know exactly what Michael Vick did, nor, more importantly, why he did it, so I can't answer that question.

But I definitely take issue with your assertion that the principles of Objectivism are that anything which increases one's profit is therefore moral. Objectivism explicitly rejects such pragmatism.

(Aug 02 '12 at 00:01) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If one's business is dog-fighting, and abusing or even torturing dogs will make them very fierce fighters, is such treatment moral if it makes the business more successful?

(Aug 02 '12 at 11:49) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

Orb85750, morality is about the fundamental principles of pursuing life on earth, not about optimizing business per se. Often, optimizing business is nicely correlated with pursuing life, but not always -- like when someone is in the business of forcing helpless animals into mortal combat with one another for "entertainment". That's less of an example of productiveness than it is an example of a f*cked up psychology that should make any civilized person think about how quickly and completely they could distance themselves and civilized society from such a business and its customers.

(Aug 02 '12 at 12:19) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

All types of animal fighting enterprises would be unacceptable by what Objectivist principles?

Could you also answer my other questions/examples above? If you don't like the neighbor with a baseball bat in his front yard example, let me give you a real life example -- one that I have read about too many times in the news (...continued...)

(Aug 02 '12 at 12:30) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

Real life example: "Human beings" intentionally dragging dogs behind their trucks, usually until the dog is dead. I can't get inside the mind of such a person, but it would be immoral of me to stop the person by force, correct? (since he is not violating anyone's rights)

(Aug 02 '12 at 12:32) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

Just because it's immoral for a man to cut off his arm (or jump off a bridge) does not make it moral for you to use force to stop him. Objectivism do not condone the use of force to enforce morality. It only condone the use of retaliatory force to prevent/punish the initiation of force.

As badly as I may feel psychologically in the event that I am exposed to someone dragging a dog behind their truck, I do not have the right to use force to stop him. I may offer up money to buy the dog or to find some other way to persuade the man to stop.

(Aug 02 '12 at 19:07) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

Keep in mind that a vegan will probably have the same psychological pain if he walks through a slaughter house.

In Objectivism, your psychological pain do not grant you the right to use psychical force against another.

(Aug 02 '12 at 19:08) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

I must state that Objectivist morality is about whether the actions are helpful or harmful to the man, not the animal.

A psychologically healthy man will feel compassion when he observes an animal that is suffering. Only a psychologically unhealthy man finds pleasure in such suffering. Torturing for pleasure only reinforces whatever misunderstanding of reality that the man currently has and that is what makes it immoral.

(Aug 03 '12 at 00:27) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image
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Animal welfare is of value to a man inasmuch as the animal's welfare improves the man's life.

Eating diseased beef is not a value to a man, so making sure that the cows are healthy before they are slaughtered and packed for distribution and human consumption is valuable.

Pets are valuable because they feel good to hug and to take care of, and a good pet clearly appreciates being taken care of.

Animals in the wild are potential threats, nuisances, or sources of food. Capturing them, killing them, or eating them is sometimes of value to people.

Animals in the wild can also be fun to watch, so one might not want to kill them if they don't represent a threat or nuisance and you have other sources of food. Sharks might fall under this category, if you don't spend much time swimming in the water with them, but if your life involves a lot of swimming, you might wish to kill sharks.

Mosquitoes are a threat, so it's good to kill them.

Animal welfare as such, independent of human welfare which depends on it (or on its absence) has no value.

Any value of any animal life derives from the value of some human life.

answered Aug 12 '12 at 16:14

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦
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edited Aug 12 '12 at 16:18

Animal welfare is of value to a man inasmuch as the animal's welfare improves the man's life. And I think an Objectivist could also argue that animal suffering is of value to a man inasmuch as the animal's suffering improves the man's life. Is that correct? (for example, intensive confinement of farm animals vs. a more natural, but less efficient setting, for economic reasons).

(Aug 12 '12 at 23:38) orb85750 orb85750's gravatar image

I agree. Yes.

(Aug 13 '12 at 11:39) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

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Asked: Jul 31 '12 at 13:25

Seen: 2,528 times

Last updated: Aug 13 '12 at 11:39