Is currency devaluation ethical

Core questions of the ethical discussion

III. Core questions of the ethical discussion


The moral status of animals and humans

The answer to the question of whether animal experiments are ethically justifiable does not result from the fact that they are useful, perhaps even life-saving, for many people (for example for consumers or patients). Rather, it must be asked whether and to what extent the human benefit justifies animal suffering and death. That depends crucially on the moral status of animals compared to humans.

Different theories give different answers to the question of what the moral status of a living being depends on and which living beings accordingly have a different moral status. Status differences can be suspected both within the human species (for example between an embryo in an early stage of development and an adult human) and - as is important for the present context - with regard to different species.

The discussion about the moral status of animals is presented in the following on the basis of three pointed positions and the objections they provoke: (1) Animals do not have a genuine moral status and are therefore not worth protecting for their own sake, (2) all living beings, who are equally capable of suffering and are able to develop interests (be it humans or animals) have a comparable moral status and (3), as a "middle" position: animals have a genuine moral status, which, however, is subordinate to the moral status of humans is.


1. Animals do not have a genuine moral status: they are not worth protecting for their own sake

The view that people have a special moral status or that people are the only living beings with a morally binding intrinsic value has different historical roots (see module anthropocentrism: historical roots).

If humans are the only living beings that "count in moral terms", then they are not obliged to be considerate towards animals: their use or damage does not violate any ethical principles. Even within the framework of such a radically anthropocentric, that is, one focused on humans, perspective, obligations can be established with regard to animals. These duties do not exist towards the animals themselves (because they have no moral intrinsic value), but are indirect or derived duties, i.e. duties that humans have in relation to animals, but which are based on duties of the Having people against themselves or against those around them.

Immanuel Kant, for example, provided a justification for the prohibition of cruelty to animals without recourse to their own moral status in the context of his ethics. Kant's argument can be found in a chapter of the "Metaphysics of Morals" (§§ 16-18). Kant does not justify the prohibition of animal cruelty with the fact that the person who tortures animals does them injustice, but with the fact that the animal torturer weakens himself in his ability to act morally. In this way he is violating a duty that he has towards himself. Cruelty to animals also affects the ability to empathize with other (including human) suffering. Since this ability is "very useful" for the coexistence of people in a community, whoever puts it willfully at risk is violating a duty towards his fellow human beings. Such arguments against cruelty to animals are referred to as brutal arguments (see the raw arguments module) or as educational arguments.

The view that the raw and cruel treatment of animals is not wrong per se, but only indirectly through the consequences for one's own moral personality and the coexistence of people, was criticized early on, for example by Arthur Schopenhauer. At present, numerous authors consider it more plausible to assume that damage to sentient living beings is morally questionable as such and in relation to them themselves. With this in mind, they argue that the appropriate treatment of animals is a matter of justice, not mercy. There can only be justice towards animals, however, if animals have a genuine moral status, i.e. a morally binding intrinsic value.


2. Animals have their own moral status

2.1 Animals and humans have a comparable moral status

More recently, theoretical models have emerged according to which the moral status of humans and animals capable of feeling or interested are identical. The two approaches, which can be described as the animal interest position and animal rights position, currently dominate the discussion about the appropriate treatment of animals.

2.1.1 Animal interests position

Peter Singer (see module Peter Singer) makes the moral status of living beings dependent on their ability to have interests (for example in life support and freedom from pain). All living beings who have the same interests have the same moral status. From this point of view, there are two consequences: an appreciation of the moral status of animals capable of interest and a depreciation of the moral status of human beings who are not or less capable of interest. Research on human embryos, for example, no longer posed an ethical problem (since embryos are not yet interested in freedom from pain or life support), while painful experiments on mice would be a serious moral evil.

In his book "Animal Liberation" ("Die Befreiung der Tiere"), Singer coined the attitude that living beings interested in a pain-free existence, such as humans and mice, have such a different "value" that one can be used for the benefit of the other. ) the term speciesism (see module speciesism). For Singer, speciesism is a form of discrimination, just like racism and sexism: without there being any morally relevant reason, one group of living beings is disadvantaged by another. Speciesism is a kind of group egoism of humanity directed against non-human beings.

What does this mean for animal testing? Singer does not advocate an absolute ban on animal testing (in contrast to the advocates of animal rights). But neither is he in favor of an absolute ban on human experiments. Because of their self- and future-consciousness, (most) people, according to Singer, have a greater interest in not being abused as a research object than animals. For humans, due to their focus on the future, their own continued life (see module life support and avoidance of pain) is of much greater importance than for animals. Because of these broader human interests, according to Singer, to a certain extent the use of animals in biomedical experiments is more justified than the use of people. Experiments on people who, due to a lack of cognitive and emotional abilities, have a comparable limited capacity for interest, such as higher animals (e.g. infants or the severely mentally handicapped), are, according to Singer, morally equivalent to certain animal experiments.
Singer's position is pathocentric, that is, he calls for the moral equality of all sentient beings. But whether animals are sentient at all and, if so, to what extent has long been a matter of dispute. In modern times, the thesis was widespread that animals were both unable to think and feel (see module animal consciousness).

2.1.2 Animal Rights

According to the "position of rights" as it is called by Tom Regan, its founder, the essential quality that a living being must have in order for it to be the bearer of rights is the "being the subject of a life". Every living being that has an individual well-being has an intrinsic value (inherent value) and is therefore not just a means for other purposes. So far the animal interests position (see above) and animal rights position are similar.
With the demand for animal rights (see module animal rights), however, more far-reaching consequences are intended than with the demand that animal interests as well as human interests are taken into account. The position of rights asserts against the animal interest position that all living beings that are the subject of a life should be protected by individual rights. The question at issue is whether the concept of rights as it exists in relation to humans can and should be extended to parts of the animal world. If animals, like humans, had individual moral rights, animal experiments would also be excluded if they promised an outstanding benefit - just as (compulsory) experiments on humans are unacceptable under all circumstances, regardless of the benefit to the general public. Correspondingly, representatives of a position of the rights generally reject animal experiments, as well as the consumption of meat.

The following objection is occasionally raised against the position of rights: Rights as such only exist through their mutual recognition (which animals are not capable of). But why should animals have rights if they lack the understanding of their meaning and the ability to act on them? Animal rights activists use the "borderline argument" against this objection: even human beings do not have to be morally capable and rational in order to be bearers of rights (such as infants, the severely mentally handicapped or coma patients). In these cases, the protection of rights is ensured by a lawyer.
A kind of minimum requirement of the representatives of the animal rights position and the animal interest position is the demand for human rights for great apes (see module human rights for great apes). Tests on primates are generally viewed as particularly ethically problematic if they could lead to an increase in the mental abilities (see module Transplantation of Nerve Cells) in the test animals. Special precautionary measures are therefore required in this case.

2.1.3 compassion for animals

As the best-known representative of the ethics of compassion, Arthur Schopenhauer, in contrast to representatives of the animal interests and animal rights position, refrains from being assigned a moral status. By doing without, compassionate ethicists try to circumvent assumptions about generally shared values, such as human dignity, as these are intended to establish moral status, but at the same time cannot (can) be accepted by everyone.

Similar to Singer, for Schopenhauer the circle of members of a moral community worthy of protection arises from those beings who are capable of suffering. Through his compassion (see module compassion) for other beings, people recognize the need for protection of their counterparts and the obligation to protect them from suffering. Animals are also considered capable of suffering, but Schopenhauer estimates their need for protection less than humans, since a being's ability to suffer is dependent on its intelligence and therefore humans, as the most intelligent beings, have the highest quality of suffering.

Accordingly, meat consumption and livestock husbandry are legitimate as long as painless death is guaranteed and consumption is vital and, in the second case, the use of the animals is not excessive. Schopenhauer rejects animal experiments that cause suffering in animals. Analogous to the justification of meat consumption, however, it allows animal experiments if they are almost painless and essential for human survival.

Based on Arthur Schopenhauer, Ursula Wolf develops the approach of generalized compassion as an extension of the ethic of compassion. This is characterized by the fact that, apart from values ​​and assignments of status, it tries to justify rights and obligations to avoid suffering. Schopenhauer had renounced the establishment of rights and obligations; for him the basic rules of ethics are derived from compassion. Wolf, on the other hand, derives protective obligations from compassion towards all those who are susceptible to suffering, but these are exclusively aimed at people, since only they have the necessary reflective skills for moral action. Compared to Regan's animal rights position, Wolf's duties are based on compassion, while Regan's rights and duties are based on the inherent worth of beings.

Members of the moral community are those who have the ability to suffer (see the ability to suffer module). It is important to note here the higher protection dimension of those beings who have at least a basic level of self-confidence. Overall, Wolf refuses to distinguish between the status of humans and animals in that she does not consider the empirical justifications (see module Empirical Justifications) to be valid and basically considers all beings capable of suffering to be equally worthy of protection.

When asked about the legitimacy of animal experiments, Wolf takes the following point of view: The superiority of humans based on empirical facts, such as a supposedly higher ability to suffer due to their intelligence, is rejected by Wolf as morally irrelevant, they do not justify a downgrading of status and therefore also no animal experiments, in which animals suffer.

Approaches of the ethic of compassion, like the representatives of the animal rights position, are often accused that moral consideration only makes sense towards those beings who are themselves capable of moral consideration, so that, due to their abilities, only people should be included in the circle of those directly worthy of protection. Wolf replies here that the special ability of humans to act morally should also be exercised towards animals, precisely because humans have the ability to do so.

2.1.4 Biocentrism

According to biocentrism, all living beings, that is, not only those capable of feeling and interested, are morally relevant or worthy of protection for their own sake. The unrestricted protection of all life (the life of animals and plants, but also of bacteria and other unicellular organisms) seems impossible. This may be the reason why, against the background of biocentrism, hardly any clear and radical measures are required. The best-known representative of a biocentric position is Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer himself did not categorically reject animal experiments, but wanted to call for a more gentle treatment of animals (and plants).

Between the two extreme positions, animals have no genuine moral status (see 1.) or the moral status of animals and humans is the same (see 2.1.), A middle position can be identified.

2.2 The moral status of animals is subordinate to the moral status of humans

The theory that animals have their own moral status and that there are therefore direct moral obligations towards them, but that their moral status is in principle subordinate to the moral status of humans, is sometimes referred to as the double-standard theory. The term double standard is intended to express that although there are duties towards both humans and animals, the respective duties are different. Although the double standard is in some ways difficult to justify (it does not escape the charge of speciesism, for example, see above), this model corresponds to the everyday understanding of an appropriate relationship between humans and animals as far as possible. According to this, animals would be worth protecting for their own sake, but their interests (freedom from pain, life support, etc.) would be of secondary importance if they were to compete with human interests. Overall, this would result in the obligation to show consideration for animals at least if this would not harm serious human interests. At the same time, their use in scientific research (and also in the food industry) would be viewed as altogether ethically justifiable.
The philosopher Jürgen Habermas (see module Jürgen Habermas) has made a suggestion as to what the justification for such a position could look like. He grants animals a genuine moral status, which, however, depends on the degree of social interaction that animals enter into with us. This seems to reflect well the moral intuition that human behavior is morally relevant, especially towards highly developed mammals.

The Animal Welfare Act, especially the obligation to provide evidence of the indispensability and ethical justifiability of animal experiments, is more or less committed to this understanding.