Animal Ethics (Harman & Belshaw)

PHIL 102, Spring 2018

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Main question discussed by Harman & Belshaw

  1. Many believe it is morally wrong to cause animals significant pain without important moral justification.
  2. Is it also wrong to painlessly kill them in the prime of life without important moral justification?

Do you agree with (1)? If so, why is that the case?

Yes it’s morally wrong to cause animals significant pain without important moral justification

yes, i agree. we have a duty to minimize pain when possible. that said, this would be limited to life forms that are capable of feeling pain.

It is morally wrong to to inflict pain on any being for no reason because an increase in pain would take away from any possible good which is usually the base of a good life

Yes, I do agree with the fact that it is morally wrong to cause animals significant pain without moral justification because just like human beings have the right to live, even animals have the right to life. I do not believe it is ethically right to kill innocent animals at the cost of human beings .

Yes, I do agree because every sentient being has the right to not suffer.

Yes, because why cause unneeded harm to those living among  us

Yeah, there is no justification for killing an animal for no purpose. There must always be a moral justification in the interests of our role as caretakers of this Earth.

Yes but take into account other considerations

We would agree that it is morally wrong to bring significant pain to animals without moral justification . The problem we have with this statement is that it is difficult to define “moral justification” is. (Does it apply to killing animals for food, recreation etc).

We agree that its wrong but see that some people depend on it for their livelyhood.

It is morally wrong to kill or inflict harm to anything without justification. However I believe it is nature to hunt food or kill in defense.

Assuming that animal can feel pain in the same way, it is morally wrong to cause them set pain. But it is arguable that certain animals maybe experience pain in different way, and this could change the argument.

No if the animal has a consciousness (like humans) 

Yes, as long as my hunger is a moral justification. Discussing this problem usually leads to another problem of world hunger. Would you kill animals for food for starving persons in undeveloped countries? Yes. It is the value of human life vs. animal life, and I’ll take human every time. 

Causing significant pain/unnecessary pain with no moral justification to support the reason to an animal in my opinion is never right. When animals are killed painlessly is where the line is drawn between people who advocate for animal rights and push to not consume as we do today versus feeding/supplying resources in the food chain to survive. Killing a pig can be justifiable, but killing exotic/endangered animals or torturing animals should not be justifiable.

Almost all farmers sell their cattle/chicken/etc strictly for the purpose of eating and making money. The moral aspect is outweighed by the economic factor.


How would you answer (2), and why? How does it relate to your view on (1)?

Yes it’s morally wrong to painlessly kill animals in the prime of life without important moral justification

Killing an animal even if it is painless is still morally wrong, especially since it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle without having to eat meat. I can agree that it is less bad but I believe that it is still fundamentally wrong.

I would argue that it is less wrong than 1), but still morally wrong, as we value life, and therefore the removal of life, especially in the prime of their life, is wrong.

Without a justified reason to kill i would say it is still wrong to kill them, even painlessly for no reason.

Yes, there must still be a justification, wanton killing is not acceptable.

No, it’s not morally wrong to painlessly kill animals in the prime of life without important moral justification

I would say that it is not wrong since animals kill each other all the time, we should have a reason for killing them such as food or hunting and not simply kill them for the sake of killing.

I think it is ok to kill animals as long as it is done in a painless manner. Causing animals significant pain is never right, if we are to kill them in a butcher setting or mass killing such as a slaughter house it should be done morally, in terms of being quick painless and sanitary.

Some possible things that could outweigh the possible wrong of painlessly killing animals in the prime of life

Definitely not correct to kill animals unless justified for survival needs.

Killing animals painlessly is usually morally justified, but the permissibility of this action should be taken on a case by case basis. For example, killing a cow for its meat is morally justifiable, however killing an elephant (even painlessly) for its tusks is not. It depends on whether the animal will provide us with enough benefits resulting from its death.

Yes, but I also feel bad about this one, but it is necessary for life. People could argue that it isn’t necessary for human life but there is no way everyone is converting to vegetarian in the near or distant future. I mean you could have a big, young, strong cow and end up killing it for some beef. You feel bad at first, but it’s your food and you need to eat it. Natural cycle of life.

It is not wrong UNLESS important moral justification includes food, clothing, or basic needs.

I think it is only wrong to kill animals if it hurts people to hurt animals. Some people may deeply feel distressed by animal deaths, and we should minimize the suffering of other people.

Other considerations

to benefit from animal death (eg eating meat, wearing leather) while being squeamish about personally killing an animal reflects a kind of moral cowardice, i think. IF killing animals is morally permissible, why such reluctance to do the act personally? i think this difference between how many people are willing to consume animals and how many people are willing to personally kill an animal reflects an intuition that killing is wrong, somehow. Maybe.

If anyone has watched the movie Avatar (the one with the blue aliens), there are these scenes when the female lead (I forget her name) has to kill animals, even if she doesn’t want to. I think she also teaches the main male lead how to kill animals as well. But, my point is, they do it in this really spiritual way that shows an intimate connection between the animal and the killer. It’s a giving and taking that is balanced and respectful. If killing animals with as least pain as possible can be interpreted and understood as to be done so with respect, I think it is morally permissible.