Palmer, Ch 6

Past Harms and Special Obligations


1.      Previous chapter argued

         a.      Normally do not have relations with wild animals generate obligations to assist

         b.      Do have special obligations to assist/provide for domesticated animals

                   i.       Created to be vulnerable/depended

                   ii.      Place in situations where their only option is to depend (wholly/partially) on human support

2.      This chapter argues for

         a.      Special obligations to animals constitutively wild (e.g., coyotes) that have been harmed (and there is ongoing negative effects on their lives)

                   i.       Vulnerability enhanced and self-sufficiency compromised

                   ii.      Duty of reparation (or related special obligations)

         b.      Explores whether obligations to assist can be non-voluntarily acquired even if one is not directly responsible for the situation of the vulnerable animal

                   i.       Not harmed it

                   ii.      Not benefitted from harm to it

                   iii.     Not created it (directly/indirectly)

         c.      Shows how there can be different obligations to assist animals with similar capacities, in similar situations, if our relations to them relevantly different



4.      Nature of reparations

                   i.       If some have been unjustly made much worse off while others have unjustly harmed them or have benefitted from unjust harm, moral case for reparation

         b.      Backward looking

         c.      Recognition of past harm

         d.      Acceptance of responsibility or relation to past harm

         e.      Acknowledgment of moral imperative to repair or make good the harm

                   i.       Recognition of special obligation to those affected by harm (or their descendants)

                   ii.      If no reparation, then harm sits as a persistent debit in a moral ledger

5.      Who should make good (who should make the reparations)?

         a.      Perpetrators of the harm (causal accounts)

                   i.       Those who committed the injustice liable for reparations

                   ii.      Appeals to our sense of desert

                   iii.     Problems: Perpetrators are multiple, pass out of existence, be transformed so claims not legitimate

         b.      Beneficiary of harm (may or may not be perpetrators)

                   i.       Those who benefit from some injustice responsible for reparations

                   ii.      Beneficiaries are enjoying unjust gain

                   iii.     W/o good reason their interests advance

                   iv.     “Where perpetrators are plural or disappearing while beneficiaries easy to identify, best placed to bring about the benefit and do so at relatively low cost, makes pragmatic sense for them to be assigned responsibility to assist”

6.      Develop clear cut example of moral need for reparation by perps and beneficiary


7.      Pogge’s beneficiary argument for affluent individuals special obligations to assist the poor

         a.      Affluent benefit from arrangements that impoverish others

                   i.       Examples? (Cheap oil prices? Coffee plantations put others out of work? Native Americans? Illegal immigrants Discrimination against woman/blacks)

         b.      Authorize institutions that produce such arrangements

                   i.       By voting for them or paying taxes to them

                   ii.      Or buying things from them

         c.      Do not take compensating actions

         d.      Do not shield victims from effects of these global systems

         e.      Benefits could be refused (but instead individuals eagerly accept them)

         f.       Systems could be opposed and victims protected (individuals don’t act to do so)

         g.      Some moral responsibility for these harms falls on affluent individuals beneficiaries

                   i.       They have an obligation to try to improve the circumstances of those whose interests have been unfairly set back

8.      What constitutes reparation?

         a.      Formal apology for past actions

         b.      Land transfers

         c.      Worry that if non-perpetrating beneficiaries who now depend on land lose the land, new set of wrongful harm claims could be triggered in trying to resolve existing claims

                   i.       Avoid this



10.    Since animals can be wrongly harmed, reparations seems like it might apply to animals

         a.      Fits with her relational account of obligation

11.    Palmer believes we do have backward looking special obligations to assist animals we have harmed

         a.      Although weaker than comparable human claims to reparation

                   i.       Because of ways humans (but not animals) can be aware of nature of past unjust harms

12.    Two possible objections to reparation to animals

         a.      Must harmed party recognize reparations?

                   i.       Seems crazy that recognizing the moral need for reparation would create that moral requirement

         b.      If reparation involves a psychological understanding on part of those harmed that the some offered good is reparation

                   i.       Animals can’t have this

                   ii.      Humans, typically, can

                   iii.     These extra psychological benefits might make reasons for reparation in human cases stronger than animal cases

                   iv.     Still can forget word “reparation” and argue for a special obligation to the animal based on special relationship


13.    Harms need not be intended for reparations to be required

         a.      Issue is “what one should have known”

         b.      Have a duty of care

         c.      Human case

                   i.       Parking car quickly w/o looking near playground with tons of little kids

         d.      Animal case

                   i.       Wild areas are know to be frequented by sentient animals

                   ii.      Developing this area w/o trying to find out what animals are there and trying to protect/accommodate their vital interests (to some degree) is a breach of duty of care

         e.      Lack of intention to harm may weaken claim of assistance


14.    Two reasons why reparation not appropriate with agricultural animals

         a.      Non-identity problem

                   i.       We have created them in these harmful positions and so not clear the harm is making them worse off

                   ii.      Reparation is usually toward independently existing individuals

                   iii.     Made worse off by our harms

                   iv.     But ag animals would not exist w/o these harmful institutions (non-identity problem) and so it might be hard to claim made worse off by our harms

         b.      Harms to ag animals are ongoing

                   i.       In reparation cases harms have ended and negative effects linger and trying to make up

                   ii.      With ongoing harm, an argument to stop harming has priority over argument for reparation

                            (1)    Strange to argue for reparation of harm that is still being committed when could stop the harm



16.    How we have harmed coyotes

         a.      Displaced from habitat by large residential developments

         b.      Lost access to much hunting and denning areas

         c.      Can’t move elsewhere as other coyotes live there

         d.      Setback their serious experiential interests in ways not otherwise occurred; now much worse off

         e.      Ongoing setback of interests; Continue to suffer in present from past setbacks

         f.       Made them more vulnerable with new hazards

                   i.       Road danger increased

                   ii.      New residents trying to trap or shoot them

         g.      Compromised their ability to provide for themselves

                   i.       By building on their habitat, fewer prey animals, denning areas destroyed

         h.      Coyotes interest have been totally ignored in all this

17.    Obligations to assist coyotes: If consider coyotes interest with moral seriousness, these harms generate backward looking special obligations to assist

         a.      Like human cases where land taken from existing inhabitants and displacing them to places where harder to live

18.    Issues

         a.      Claims weaker than in human case

         b.      Identity of perpetrators

         c.      Disappearing perpetrators over time

         d.      Receding victims over time

         e.      Non-identity problems (explain)

         f.       Possibility of creating new offenses toward nonperpetrating beneficiaries

19.    Simplifies by dealing only with “same-generation” cases

         a.      Reparations to the very same coyotes who were displaced and their immediate offspring

         b.      Avoids receding victims and non-identity issues

20.    Questions

         a.      Who should assist coyotes?

         b.      What would count as doing so?

21.    Problems with focusing on perpetrators

         a.      Many different individuals involved, former land owners, developers, architects, construction workers

         b.      How track them down? Moved, gone out of business

22.    Problems with focusing on beneficiaries

         a.      Main ongoing beneficiaries are new residents

         b.      But if they suffer substantial losses from reparations, we might be creating new harms that required reparations

                   i.       Not if the losses were less than the benefits gained.....


23.    Focus instead on what kind of assistance is appropriate for coyotes?

         a.      What would really help them and begin to make good some of negative effects of ongoing harms

24.    Many dimension of human reparations not helpful/relevant in coyote case (so their claims weaker)

         a.      Could not benefit from an apology or memorialization

                   i.       They lack concept of justice, bear no grudges, seek no satisfaction from either perpetrators or beneficiaries

         b.      No reason (unlike in human case) to prefer reparation from perpetrators on account of satisfaction this would give to victims

         c.      Unless assume animals can have property rights, coyotes claims weaker than in human case where humans been deprived of their lands

25.    Since case weaker (“given the relatively weak nature of coyotes’ claims”), need not do obvious thing do in human case:

         a.      Restore coyotes to their land by removing buildings and rewilding

26.    Should provide practical benefits make their lives better/closer to how were before

         a.      Can’t relocate as they don’t do well

         b.      Make them less vulnerable and more self-sufficient where they are

27.    Given what coyotes need

         a.      Solves problem of who should help

         b.      Assisted by ongoing beneficiaries; those who live in housing developments built on former habitat

28.    Practical steps of “reparation”

         a.      Should not trap, hunt, cause suffering to coyotes

                   i.       A general duty all have not just residents

29.    Special duties of these residents to these coyotes because they are benefitting from past harm, ongoing vulnerability and constrained self-sufficiency

         a.      Don’t directly provide food as will harm in long run (provide habituation, increase dependence and heighten vulnerability)

         b.      Tolerate them and live along side them allowing coyotes to make best life they can in reduced circumstances

         c.      Benefits of land should be shared with animals who used to live there

                   i.       Messier land use (e.g.,? Leave wetlands if they need them for hunting, even if this increases mosquitoes)

                   ii.      Some restoration of coyote habitat

                            (1)    This is reparation proper

                   iii.     Fencing and traffic calming

                            (1)    Why is this not simply preventing new harms instead of reparation for past harms?

                   iv.     Increase irritation/inconvenience of humans

                            (1)    Monitor domestic animals

                            (2)    Teach children how to respond to coyote encounters

30.    Pragmatic reasons to ask residents to bear responsibility

         a.      “Where perpetrators are plural or disappearing while beneficiaries easy to identify, best placed to bring about the benefit and do so at relatively low cost, makes pragmatic sense for them to be assign responsibility to assist”

         b.      If special obligations were extremely costly, then original developers (if still exist) could be help responsible for “retrofitting” housing area for wild-animal habitat

                   i.       E.g., tunnels under the road for wildlife crossing



         a.      Sure I have obligations not to kill the coyotes, but I never signed up to assist them!


33.    Dumpster kittens/rats example

         a.      Owner breeds her pedigree cat and kittens have breed imperfections, won’t sell so put week old kittens in dumpster

         b.      Unrelated Peter passes by, should he assist kittens?

         c.      What if they were rats abandoned by their mother?

                   i.       Rats cloud the issue as

                            (1)    saving them might have bad consequences (rats infest someone’s house)

                            (2)    Affective relations to them strongly negative

34.    Different views give different answers

         a.      Capacity approaches (utilitarianism, capability approach) say rescue both

         b.      On negative rights view that claims only negative duties and never positive duties to assist – no obligation to rescue either

         c.      On rights view that requires moral agents to assist in prior rights infringement (and on her relational view–back story kittens/rats different)

                   i.       But to assist kittens not rats


35.    Questions addressed

         a.      How can individuals like Peter be related to harms committed by others?

         b.      Can people have special obligations to which no explicitly consented?

         c.      Some group responsibility Peter can’t help participate in?


36.    Broader responsibility for the kittens than simply the breeder

         a.      Breeder put them there, true, but breeder’s decision affected by institutional context

         b.      Breeder part of institution of domestication and pet ownership

                   i.       Deliberate human creation of breeds as companion animals

         c.      Kittens bred because they can be sold; people buy them, show them, produce the food to feed them

         d.      Responsibility for these kittens fate broader than individual breeder

         e.      Humans responsible for existence of kittens and current suffering and ongoing vulnerability

         f.       Similarly, consider the way in which meat eater’s are partially responsible for the suffering of a cow killed inhumanely in a slaughterhouse

37.    Peter knows that

         a.      Kittens victim of human’s unethical actions

         b.      Kittens are members of a breed/species from which humans derive benefits

                   i.       Possibly Peter himself benefitted from the breed

                   ii.      Gives Peter a weak moral reason to assist

         c.      Kittens created within a human directed institution that brings gains to people by making vulnerable animals

38.    Urban brown rats

         a.      Constitutively wild, living alongside humans despite deadly discouragement

         b.      Their populations have benefitted from humans, but humans not deliberately invited them in

         c.      These rats not harmed by any person

         d.      Don’t have deliberately created constitutive vulnerabilities

         e.      Peter has duty not to harm them but no duty to assist

                   i.       Permissible for him to assist, even supererogatory good


39.    Voluntarists: all special responsibilities must be based on consent or some other voluntary act

         a.      Some say that obligations (unlike duties) must be voluntarily assumed

         b.      Voluntarist:

                   i.       General duties (e.g., not to harm)

                   ii.      Relational special obligations for which consent needed

         c.      Palmer suggesting Peter has special obligations to assist kittens to which he never assented

40.    Versions of voluntarism

         a.      Need explicit consent (e.g., promise making)

         b.      Role voluntarism: Entering relationship roles means one has consented to obligations go along with those rules

                   i.       Parenthood: by voluntarily taking on role of parent one assumes obligations to care for child

                   ii.      Or breeding or owning a companion animal

         c.      Voluntary acceptance of benefits that come from a relationship enough to create special duties

                   i.       Friendship: If voluntarily accept benefits of friendship, one accepts relation of friendship and special obligations to the friend that go along

41.    Not clear how Peter nor residents of housing estates get special obligations in these ways

         a.      One can’t just discover that one has these constraints/obligations

         b.      Consent required to assume them

42.    Palmer will argue that Peter/residents get special obligation by voluntarily accepting benefits


43.    Critique of voluntarism:

44.    But also questions thesis of voluntarism: why accept that all special obligations must be voluntarily assumed?

         a.      Siblings and children have special obligations to sister/brothers and parents –but these relations are not voluntarily entered

         b.      Parents can’t voluntarily exit role/obligations

         c.      If burdensomeness of special obligations is the reason they must be assumed/consented to, notice that general duties not to harm can be burdensome and yet they are not voluntarily assumed


45.    Palmer’s argument that voluntary accepting benefits of pet ownership in Peter’s case can ground the special obligations to assist kittens

46.    Pet breeding and ownership deeply rooted human institution

         a.      50% of U.S. households kept mammal or bird

         b.      Those who own pets get benefits, including health benefits

         c.      Even those who don’t keep pets benefit from institution

                   i.       Less health care costs for society

                   ii.      Reduction in social tensions

                   iii.     Increased social support networks

                   iv.     Creation of many jobs

47.    Most humans at sometime in their lives benefitted form pet institution

48.    Bottom line: By accepting benefits of pet institution, actively perpetuating it in one’s life, not disassociating onself from it or protesting against it, one acquires some share in moral responsibility for it and individuals produced by it

         a.      Dumpster kittens extremely vulnerable, placed there by human abandoned her duty not to harm created by institution from which every pet owner has benefitted

         b.      If Peter is benefitting or has benefitted form pet ownership, he has acquire obligation to assist

         c.      Not true of assisting the baby rats

49.    What about pet-free Peter? Never owned pet, no support of pet institution

50.    Pet free Peter might have duty because

         a.      Gained some small personal benefit

         b.      Shared attitude: Peter contributes to a shared group attitude toward animals that makes such treatment possible

51.    Peter has gained some small social or economic benefit from pet institution

         a.      Generates a weak obligation to assist the kittens (perhaps to alert animal rescue organization)

52.    But Peter is not saddled with this obligation with no exit from it

         a.      The benefits are non-excludable so he can escape them

         b.      If he protested the institution of pet ownership, he would be released of these obligations

                   i.       Supported policies that reduced # of companion animals or contributed to groups (like PETA) that oppose institution in principle

                   ii.      Notice if Peter cares so much about animals that he objects to pet ownership institution, he is likely to want to help kittens (like PETA would argue obligation to assist)


53.    Palmer defends group obligations based on shared attitudes

54.    Group obligations are problematic for voluntarists because some in the group get saddled with responsibilities for things that they didn’t do but others in the group did

         a.      Responsibilities may be diminished but still present

         b.      And possibility of exit exists

55.    Held’s example of ethnic group hostility contributing to violence by some in the group against different ethnic group

         a.      Group A members think group B are inferior, stupid, criminal and have attitudes of denigration an hostility

         b.      These shared attitudes increase likelihood of harm to group B

         c.      All in group A responsible for climate of hostility and so share in responsibility (though unequally) for harms caused

         d.      Exit possible by disassociating oneself from attitudes of group and this reduces responsibility that flows from membership in a group

56.    Group responsibility based on shared attitudes leads to animal harms

         a.      Groups of humans create “attitudinal climate” were harm to animals likely to occur

         b.      Which attitudes?

                   i.       Animals can’t feel pain

                   ii.      Who cares about animal pain

                   iii.     Deliberate ignorance about animal pain

                   iv.     Human superiority and idea of animals as tools

                   v.      Humans are so much more important

                   vi.     Enjoyment of animal pain (bull fights, dog fights, enjoy predation)

57.    “This altitudinal climate creates situation where although only some are directly responsible for harm to individual animals, many others create the world in which harms institutionalized (meat industry), encouraged, or tolerated”

58.    Even though Peter did not dump kittens, he likely shares in attitudes toward animals which leads to production and discarding of unwanted pets

         a.      So he shares in moral responsibility of this group

         b.      Gives him a weak responsibility to assist dumped kittens

59.    If Peter does not share in this attitudinal climate and disassociated himself from it, protested, withdrawn and refused support, he does not share in the moral responsibility for harms the attitude supports

60.    Conclusion

         a.      Preexisting human caused harms can provide reasons to assist

         b.      Obligations can be generated by

                   i.       Causing the harm

                   ii.      Benefitting from the harm

                   iii.     Sharing in attitudes that indirectly contribute to harm


61.    Question: Duties to assist and reparations are quite different; reparations can be viewed as assistance, but very different from duties to assist where one is not responsible for the harm or for benefitting from it