Animal Welfare and Pluralism. A political (and Liberal) Solution to the Issue of the Treatment of Animals

WP-LPF 4/14

WP-LPF 2014
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


People disagree widely over the moral status of animals and the treatment we owe to them. Such a disagreement rests both on diverse factual understanding of empirical data concerning animals and on the moral responses to these facts. Against this background, the aim of this paper is to provide a principled political solution to the issue of what treatment animals are owed in a context of disagreement concerning their moral status. To address such a pluralistic scenario I employ a two-stage justification inspired by Rawls’s discussion of overlapping consensus in Political Liberalism. I outline six main views on the moral status of animals and argue that there is only one position on animal treatment capable of winning the principled support of these views and passing the test of freestandingness. Such a position requires that animal suffering be minimized in interactions with human beings as much as is reasonably possible, but allows the use of animals for fundamental human interests. I argue that such a position should not be regarded merely as a compromise, because it is the one most compatible with the current state of reasonable disagreement on the moral status of animals and should be publicly supported.