Clare Palmer, Animal Ethics in Context

Introduction and Ch 1

Animal Capacities and Moral Status



2.      Wildebeest drowning/horse neglect example

         a.      10,000 wildebeest died trying to cross Kenya’s Mara river; 2000 one afternoon as tourists and camera crews watched in awe and photographed and did not assist

                   i.       No attempt to rescue or drive herds toward safer crossing places

                   ii.      No claims of guilty of animal neglect

                   iii.     Morally required (or permissible) to leave wildebeest to their fate?

         b.      114 horses (on a farm destined for slaughter) dehydrated, starving, infested with worms, 32 found dead, RSPCA spent millions nursing back to health;

                   i.       Horror and disgust at neglect and suffering

                   ii.      Morally wrong

3.      Laissez-faire intuition (LFI)

         a.      While we should care for an assist domesticated animals, we should just leave wild animals living in the wild alone

         b.      We just do not have duties to assist wild animals

         c.      Possible variations

                   i.       Not morally required, but morally acceptable and desirable?

                   ii.      Or morally impermissible?

4.      Same capacity, same treatment intuition

         a.      Conflicts with idea that animals with similar capacities should be treated similarly

                   i.       If something is owed to one being on grounds of its capacities, then it is owed to all beings that possess similar capacities (a “universalizing move”)

         b.      “Simple reconciliations–e.g., human intervention always ineffective or duty to assist always outweighed by other more pressing moral concerns–unsatisfactory”

5.      Palmer’s views

         a.      Book mainly about assisting animals

         b.      Relational, contextual approach

         c.      Human relations to animals relevant to what we owe them

         d.      No Contact LFI

                   i.       Prima facie duty not to harm any animal (can be outweighed)

                   ii.      Normally no requirement to assist wild living wild animals, though usually permitted to do so

                   iii.     Often required to assist domesticated animals and other animals that fall in to the human animal “contact zone” where human actions have affected animals’ lives negatively

6.      Distinction wild and domesticated animal

         a.      Wild animal: outside human control in terms of breeding and living in a fairly wild place (like wildebeest)

         b.      Domesticated animal, one over which humans do have control in terms of breeding



8.      Summary:

         a.      Animals have ability to feel pain

         b.      Undergo other positive and aversive experiences (desires, frustration, fear)

         c.      So have an “experiential well being”

         d.      Experiential well being is sufficient for moral status

         e.      Gives a modest account of animal capacities

                   i.       Chimps/cetaceans may have very highly developed mental abilities, does not rely on such sophisticated capacities

                   ii.      While plausible that fish and reptiles are able to feel pain, won’t discuss them

                            (1)    There possession of relevant capacities is much more uncertain that in mammals and birds

         f.       Animals she argues have moral status limited to mammals and birds


9.      Moral status (=moral considerability) vs indirect moral concern

         a.      Indirect moral concern: though object of concern is animal, the ground of the concern would be humans

10.    Moral status vs rights

         a.      Can have moral status w/o having rights

         b.      Rights a particular high level form of ethical/political status

11.    Moral considerability vs moral significance

         a.      Counting morally at all vs how much one counts, comparative weight



13.    Two senses of pain

         a.      A sensation

         b.      Affective-cognitive-behavioral state (attitudinal state of “hurting”)

         c.      Could have pain sensation w/o it hurting

                   i.       Reported by lobotomized patients

                   ii.      Patients taking morphine may say the still feel pain but no longer mind it

         d.      Could have hurting w/o pain

14.    Common sense argument for animal pain

         a.      Dog hit by car, back leg crushed, lying in road writhing and yelping, dilated eyes, breath labored and quick

         b.      To ask if it is in pain “to ask one question too many”

         c.      Can’t doubt it; must not understand term pain

15.    Behavior arguments (not proof, but makes likely mammals/birds feel pain consciously)

         a.      Pain guarding (damaged area protected, e.g, from touch)

                   i.       Insects that lack sophisticated nervous systems continue to use damaged parts and do not pain guard

         b.      Adaptive responses (learning behavior) to avoid negative stimuli

                   i.       But rats with cut spinal cords (so no pain) still have leg responses to negative stimuli and ability to learn from them

16.    Physiological arguments

         a.      Similarities between brains and nervous systems of humans and particularly mammals

         b.      Many animals have nociceptors (type of nerve endings) the stimulation of which central to pain in humans,

         c.      They are connected to central nervous systems (not in birds)

         d.      Have natural pain killers in their bodies (opiods)

         e.      Pain responses modified by pain killers

                   i.       Rats with arthritis self-administered painkillers they avoided if health

17.    Skeptics remain

         a.      In humans neocortext plays part in pain sensation and most mammals (except some primates) have little neocortex

         b.      Perhaps they feel pain w/o minding it

18.    Evolutionary arguments

         a.      Conscious pain may be evolutionary adaptive

         b.      Pain evolved--since unpleasant, it keeps us away from sources of injury and damage and this improves fitness

         c.      Pain useful in humans and we evolved from same evolutionary process from common ancestors, likely pain evolved in other animals

         d.      Quite surprising if human psychology were completely unique in animal kingdom

19.    Palmer thinks balance of evidence strongly indicates that pain matters to mammals and birds

         a.      They experience pain sensations aversively, if unreflectively

         b.      It is an unpleasant experiential state that animals will make strenuous attempts to escape from



21.    Aversive states are ones a being tries to avoid

22.    Examples:

         a.      Desire frustration

         b.      Fear

23.    Different from non-goal directed behaviors

         a.      Reflexive (stimulus-response) behaviors

                   i.       Herring gull chicks peck when see red spot on bill of parent and parent regurgitates food

         b.      Fixed-action-patterned responses, innate and stereotypical

                   i.       Once stimulate, continue to completion w/o alteration

                   ii.      Nesting goose rolls an object (egg or not) back to the nest

         c.      Preprogrammed sequences

                   i.       Rigid, invariant, inflexible and unresponsive to changing circumstances

24.    Need to attribute goal directed, teleological explanations to account for some behaviors of birds and mammals

         a.      Pipping plovers who feign injury to keep potential predators away from nest

25.    Flexible, responsive behavior like this best accounted for by imputing desires to the plovers

         a.      Need not be “fully flexible, cognitive, conscious purposeful behavior on par with humans”

26.    Have “intentional states”; minds directed to objects; can be in states of “aboutness” w/ respect t the world

27.    Animals occupying a normative middle ground between mere stimulus response system and fully, context free abilities

28.    Have practical, context-oriented beliefs, desires, goals they act to bring about

         a.      Need not require language or conceptual ability


29.    Preventing animals from carrying out kinds of behavior satisfying desires is experienced aversively

         a.      Having unpleasant feelings at prolonged failure to attain a goal

         b.      Frustrated in their desire to carry on behaviors important to their species

         c.      Become stressed (die, get sick, physiological changes, levels of hormones indicate this)

         d.      Work on free range chickens that determines what part of bird houses birds like or dislike

30.    In addition to desire frustration, fear also likely experienced by birds and mammals

         a.      Vocalization and trembling, physiological evidence (sweating, frequent urination, diarrhea, raised heart rate, evolutionarily adaptative)


31.    Palmer’s conservative view of animals capacities: Animals can feel pain, desire frustration and fear, but does not argue for more

32.    Others argue animals are self-aware, self-conscious, have theory of mind (can “mind read”–as practice deception)



34.    Animals ability to feel pain/pleasure, frustration and satisfaction of desires, fear give it a well being and interests

35.    Something has a ‘well being’ if things can go better or worse for it

         a.      Things go worse for animals when feel pain, frustration and fear

36.    Palmer adopts a subjective, experientially account of animal well being

37.    Objective account of well being:

         a.      Some things contribute to well being whether or not they are experienced or desired

         b.      E.g., things can be good or bad for a tree, e.g., flourishing, whether or not it experiences anything

         c.      Objection to objective accounts:

                   i.       How relate something is good for a being and that creature is morally considerable?

                   ii.      Why should we care about that good?

                   iii.     We need a reason for thinking that the good of this being ought to be promoted

         d.      Palmer claims that subjective experiences more obviously provide grounds for moral considerability

                   i.       Not clear why.


38.    Having an interest vs taking an interest

         a.      1st is something that contributes to well being

         b.      Latter may or may not involve well being and could be contrary to it

         c.      If an animal has an interest in something, it must contribute to the animals experiential well-being



40.    Pain/pleasure matters (are morally considerable)

         a.      Self-evident pain is evil, because no one can seriously doubt it in own case

         b.      And the having pleasure and pain mean one is morally considerable

41.    Traditional contractarianism rejects that pain gives moral considerability

         a.      Traditional (animal-exclusive) contractarianism rejects this view of moral considerability and require rationality and ability to contract

         b.      Normative force of moral norms comes from consent, contract, agreement

         c.      Those who make the contract (moral agents) are those taken into account morally (moral patients)

         d.      Rational ability to consent/contract is necessary

42.    Some contractarian deny that contracting creates the whole of morality and allows animals moral considerability in some other subservient way

         a.      Carl Cohen; only contractors have rights, but animal pain lets them count to a lesser extent

43.    Animal-inclusive versions of contractarianism

         a.      Animals directly included in the moral contract as moral patients and trustees for the animals are proposed

44.    Animal exclusive contractarianism has problem with marginal case argument: Will either leave out some humans or bring in some animals

45.    Replies to MC argument

         a.      Potentiality matters

                   i.       But some humans don’t have potential

                   ii.      We do not generally accept that individuals who have the potential to obtain a particular status already have the rights that go with that status

                            (1)    Potential president of U.S. is not on that account Commander in Chief



47.    A harm

         a.      An action carried out by a moral agent

         b.      Distinguished from hurt/misfortune

                   i.       Tree falling on a deer

         c.      It must be a wrong

                   i.       Why? Doesn’t the executioner harm the convict?

         d.      Questions

                   i.       Must harms be intended?

                   ii.      Negligence a harm?

                   iii.     Interest setbacks foreseen but unintended

                            (1)    E.g., effects of human induced climate change on animal well being

                                      (a)     Harms?

48.    A harm to an animal sets back experienced interest over time

         a.      Medical treatment that causes short term pain but long term experiential benefit is not a harm

49.    For a harm, animal must be made worse off on account of the action than it would have been had agent not acted

         a.      Falls prey to Parfit’s non-identity problem


50.    Assistance

         a.      An action carried out by moral agent that promotes an animal's experiential interests over time and makes animal experientially better off than it would have been had agent not acted


51.    Painless killing

         a.      Would seem not to set back experiential interests, just means no further experiences

         b.      Discussed in chapt 7