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Durham e-Theses
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Animals, moral risk and moral considerability

Tanner, Julia K. H. (2007) Animals, moral risk and moral considerability. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



I believe that accounts of the moral considerability of animals can be strengthened in an interesting and novel way if attention is paid to moral risk and epistemic responsibility. In this thesis I argue for a sentience-based account of moral considerability. The argument from marginal cases gives us a reason to prefer accounts of moral considerability that include animals; if we think marginal humans are morally considerable we must accept that animals are too. Moral uncertainty gives us another reason to include animals. When we are making moral decisions we ought to minimise the amount of moral risk we take. I call this the 'cautious approach '. We cannot know for certain which account of moral considerability is correct. Given that we are trying to do what is right we should avoid any course of action that may be wrong. I will argue that accounts of moral considerability that exclude animals are taking an unnecessary moral risk: animals might be morally considerable and if they are most of our current treatment of them is wrong. When assessing risk one of the things that needs to be taken into account are benefits and losses. I will argue that conceding animals moral status will benefit humans. I argue that we should favour a sentience-based account of moral consideration because it is the least risky and most epistemically responsible; this gives us extra reasons to prefer it. I outline respect utilitarianism, which makes provision for protecting individuals. On this account we ought to give the interests of sentient beings (at least all vertebrates) equal consideration. Animals' interests not to be eaten and/or used for testing are sufficiently weighty to dictate that most westerners ought to become vegan and testing on animals should stop.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2007
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:32

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