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 them back to health

                   i.       Horror and disgust at neglect and suffering

                   ii.      Morally wrong

3.      Laissez-faire intuition (LFI) = No duties to assist wild animals

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

         b.      No duties to assist wild animals

         c.      Possible variations of LFI

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

                   ii.      Or morally impermissible?

4.      Same capacity, same treatment intuition

         a.      Animals with similar capacities should be treated similarly

         b.      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”)

5.      Same capacity, same treatment idea conflicts with LFI

         a.      Palmer rejects pragmatic attempts to resolve the conflict

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

6.      Palmer’s views

         a.      Book mainly about assisting animals

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

                   i.       A relational, contextual approach

                   ii.      Not compatible with “same capacity, same treatment view” 

         c.      **Palmer embraces “No Contact LFI

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

                   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 into the human animal “contact zone”--where human actions have affected animals’ lives negatively

7.      Distinction wild and domesticated animal

         a.      Wild animal: Those animals 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



9.      Summary:

         a.      Animals (some) have ability to feel pain

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

                   i.       Hence have intentional states (mental states about things)

         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 but Palmer does not rely on such sophisticated capacities

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

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

         f.       Palmer’s argument for moral status limited to mammals and birds (not denying other animals have moral status as well, just not arguing they do)


10.    Moral status (=moral considerability=direct moral concern) vs indirect moral concern

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

         b.      Example?

11.    Moral status vs rights

         a.      Can have moral status w/o having rights

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

         c.      Example?

                   i.       Fetus?

                   ii.      Examples of obligation not based on rights

12.    Moral considerability/status vs moral significance

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

         b.      Something can be morally considerable but have low moral significance: Example?



14.    Two senses of pain

         a.      One: A sensation

         b.      Two: 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 say the still feel pain but no longer mind it

         d.      Could have hurting w/o pain sensation

15.    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 is “to ask one question too many”

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

16.    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

17.    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 is central to pain in humans,

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

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

         d.      Pain responses modified by pain killers

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

18.    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

19.    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

20.    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



22.    Aversive states are ones a being tries to avoid (this is goal directed behavior)

         a.      Examples of aversive states (in addition to pain) that animals possess

                   i.       Desire/frustration of desire

                   ii.      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.      E.g., Pipping plovers who feign injury to keep potential predators away from nest

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

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

25.    Animals have “intentional states”: Minds directed to objects; can be in states of “aboutness” w/ respect to the world

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

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

         b.      Need not require language or conceptual ability

27.    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.      E.g., work on free range chickens that determines what part of bird houses birds like or dislike

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

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


29.    Palmer’s conservative view of animals capacities:

         a.      Animals can feel pain, desire frustration and fear, but does not argue for more

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



32.    Animals ability to feel pain/pleasure, frustration and satisfaction of desires, and fear show they have well being and interests

33.    Well-being: 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


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

         a.      Well being, interests of an animal must be experienced to count/matter morally

         b.      If an animal has a capacity that is not fulfilled, but it doesn’t experience this as a loss, then it is not a compromise of its well being

35.    Objective account of well being

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

         b.      Examples:

                   i.       Things can be good or bad for a tree, e.g., flourishing, whether or not it experiences anything

                   ii.      Vitamins can be good for me whether or not I experience their benefitting me

36.    Objection to objective accounts:

         a.      How relate (1) Something being good for a creature and (2) that creature is morally considerable?

         b.      Why should we care about that good?

         c.      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.

                   ii.      Since they care about their own good, so should we?



38.    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

39.    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

40.    Contractarianism: Normative force of moral norms comes from consent, contract, agreement

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

         b.      Rational ability to consent/contract is necessary

41.    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

42.    Animal-inclusive versions of contractarianism

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

43.    Animal exclusive contractarianism has problem with marginal case (=MC) argument:

         a.      Requiring agreement to a contract for moral considerability will either leave out some humans (severely retarded) or bring in some animals (sophisticated animals)

44.    Does having potential matter?

         a.      But some humans don’t have potential to contract

         b.      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

                   i.       Potential president of U.S. is not on that account Commander in Chief



46.    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 in animal well being

                                      (a)    Harms?

47.    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

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

         a.      So (with Parfit) we do not harm future generations by failing to move our society toward a more sustainable path.


49.    Assistance

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


50.    Painless killing

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

         b.      Discussed in chapt 7

Questions on Palmer Introduction and Ch 1: Animal Capacities and Moral Status

1.         Using concrete examples, explain the laissez-fair intuition (=LFI) that Palmer discusses and distinguish between various forms of it.

2.         What is the “same capacity, same treatment intuition” and does it conflict with LFI? Why or why not?

3.         Explain the difference between a capacity oriented approach to animal ethics and a relational approach. Which does Palmer embrace?

4.         Describe Palmer’s “No Contact LFI” (it has three components) and evaluate from your own perspective.

5.         *Explain in some detail why Palmer does or does not think we have obligations to assist thousands of drowning wildebeest? Explain why she does or does not think we have obligations to (feed) the horses on our farm? If there is a difference between her judgments in these two cases, explain the difference she sees. If there is no difference, explain the similarity she sees between these two cases

6.         How does Palmer draw the distinction between wild and domesticated animals?

7.         *Which animals does Palmer argue are morally considerable? Does she deny that other animals also are morally considerable?

8.         Distinguish between moral status and (1) indirect moral concern, (2) rights, (3) moral significance

9.         What are three different types of considerations that support the idea that some animals feel pain.

10.       What is an “aversive state”? What are three examples of aversive states that Palmer thinks some animals have.

11.       How are goal directed behaviors different from reflexive, fixed patterned responses?

12.       What is an intentional state?

13.       Identify the limited set of animal capacities that Palmer argues for. What more might we attribute to animals that Palmer does not argue for (nor deny).

14.       What is the difference between Palmer’s subjective experiential account of well being and an objective account of animal well being?

15.       Why does Palmer think that the good of a being that does not experience that good is not morally relevant?

16.       What is a contractarian account of moral considerabililty? What are some different versions of this doctrine? What are some of the problems with contractarian accounts in terms of their views of animals and morality?

17.       According to Palmer, does potential to attain a (moral) status give one the rights that go with that status?

18.       Discuss Palmer’s account of “harm?” Is a tree falling on a deer a harm? Why or why not?