Mark Sagoff
"Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce"

Sagoff's argument for why Animal Activists can't be Environmentalists and vice-versa:


Differences between Animal Activists and Environmentalists

Animal Activists
Animal equality and animal rights Ecological integrity
Singer/Regan Leopold
Humanitarian ethics of concern for animal suffering and death

Ecological ethics/environmental ethic: Respect for and admiration for functioning of natural systems

Moral standing only for the higher animals such as vertebrates Moral standing for animals, plants, ecosystems, species, natural processes, nature, Earth herself

Individualism (happiness and welfare of individual animals-e.g., this California Condor)

Holism (nonindividuals like populations, species and ecosystems are what is important)
Anti-hunting Pro-hunting (if helps prevent degraded ecosystems)
Focus on domestic animals Focus on wild animals
Cows and grizzly bears are equal Cows and grizzly bears are not equal
Plentiful species like deer (as important as endangered species) Endangered species like red wolves (are more important)
Animal suffering and death an evil Animal suffering and death not an evil as a fundamental part of a valuable nature
Predation is a bad thing? Oppose predator restoration? Predation is good; we need to reintroduce predators
Favor contraceptive care for wild animals? Oppose contraceptive care as would undermine nature's integrity and independence


Study questions on Sagoff’s Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce
1. State and explain Mark Sagoff's criticism of animal activists (such as Peter Singer and Tom Regan).
2. Is Sagoff right that an animal liberationist can't be an environmentalist and vice-versa? Why does he claim this? State and evaluate his argument for this position.
3. Discuss some of the potential differences between animal activists and environmentalists (and mention specific groups that fall into each camp).
4. What does Sagoff mean when he says that Mother Nature makes Frank Purdue look like a saint? Is he right about this? Why or why not?
5. How should an animal activist (e.g., one who believes in animal rights or that animal suffering is equally important to human suffering of the same extent) respond to the suggestion that we reintroduce predators to control ungulate populations? Can an animal activist positively value predation?
6. Does it make sense for a utilitarian like Singer to oppose human inflicted suffering of animals but not naturally occurring suffering of animals?
7. Explain and evaluate the following responses that an animal activist might give to Mark Sagoff's criticisms: (1) Animals have only negative rights (not to be interfered with) but no positive rights (to assistance); (2) Only moral agents can violate rights, and because nature is not a moral agent, when nature causes harm to animals, no rights are being violated. Humans only have a duty to prevent rights violations. Thus animal activists only opposed human caused suffering and killing.