A gorilla sitting along in a Savannah setting.

Nonhuman Animal Ethics 10(4)

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Volume 10, Number 4 (December 2013)
Guest Editors: Rob Irvine, Chris Degeling, and Ian Kerridge


“As Flies to Wanton Boys”: Dilemmas and Dodging in the Field of Nonhuman Animal Ethics

Michael A. Ashby and Leigh E. Rich

Recent Developments

Who Makes the Decisions, Especially When It Concerns Minors?

Thaddeus Mason Pope and Bernadette Richards

Special Issue

Bioethics and Nonhuman Animals

Rob Irvine, Chris Degeling, and Ian Kerridge

Animal Abolitionism Meets Moral Abolitionism

Joel Marks
The use of other animals for human purposes is as contentious an issue as one is likely to find in ethics. And this is so not only because there are both passionate defenders and opponents of such use, but also because even among the latter there are adamant and diametric differences about the bases of their opposition. In both disputes, the approach taken tends to be that of applied ethics, by which a position on the issue is derived from a fundamental moral commitment. This commitment in turn depends on normative ethics, which investigates the various moral theories for the best fit to our moral intuitions. Thus it is that the use of animals in biomedical research is typically defended by appeal to a utilitarian theory, which legitimates harm to some for the greater good of others; while the opposition condemns that use either by appeal to the same theory, but disagreeing about the actual efficacy of animal experimentation, or by appeal to an alternative theory, such as the right of all sentient beings not to be exploited. Unfortunately, the normative issue seems likely never to be resolved, hence leaving the applied issue in limbo. The present essay seeks to circumvent this impasse by dispensing altogether with any moral claim or argument, thereby cutting the Gordian knot of animal ethics with a meta-ethical sword. The alternative schema defended is simply to advance relevant considerations, whereupon “there is nothing left but to feel.” In a word, motivation replaces justification.

Skepticism, Empathy, and Animal Suffering

Elisa Aaltola
The suffering of nonhuman animals has become a noted factor in deciding public policy and legislative change. Yet, despite this growing concern, skepticism toward such suffering is still surprisingly common. This paper analyzes the merits of the skeptical approach, both in its moderate and extreme forms. In the first part it is claimed that the type of criterion for verification concerning the mental states of other animals posed by skepticism is overly (and, in the case of extreme skepticism, illogically) demanding. Resting on Wittgenstein and Husserl, it is argued that skepticism relies on a misguided epistemology and, thus, that key questions posed by it face the risk of absurdity. In the second part of the paper it is suggested that, instead of skepticism, empathy together with intersubjectivity be adopted. Edith Stein’s take on empathy, along with contemporary findings, are explored, and the claim is made that it is only via these two methods of understanding that the suffering of nonhuman animals can be perceived.

The Dying Animal

Jessica Pierce
The study of animal death is poised to blossom into an exciting new interdisciplinary field—and one with profound relevance for bioethics. Areas of interest include the biology and evolution of death-related behavior in nonhuman animals, as well as human social, psychological, cultural, and moral attitudes toward and practices related to animal death. In this paper, I offer a brief overview of what we know about death-related behavior in animals. I will then sketch some of the bioethical implications of this emerging field of research.

Our Love for Animals

Roger Scruton
Love does not necessarily benefit its object, and cost-free love may damage both object and subject. Our love of animals mobilises several distinct human concerns and should not be considered always as a virtue or always as a benefit to the animals themselves. We need to place this love in its full psychological, cultural, and moral context in order to assess what form it ought to take if animals are to benefit from it.

Public Health Ethics and a Status for Pets as Person-Things

Melanie Rock and Chris Degeling
Within the field of medical ethics, discussions related to public health have mainly concentrated on issues that are closely tied to research and practice involving technologies and professional services, including vaccination, screening, and insurance coverage. Broader determinants of population health have received less attention, although this situation is rapidly changing. Against this backdrop, our specific contribution to the literature on ethics and law vis-à-vis promoting population health is to open up the ubiquitous presence of pets within cities and towns for further discussion. An expanding body of research suggests that pet animals are deeply relevant to people’s health (negatively and positively). Pet bylaws adopted by town and city councils have largely escaped notice, yet they are meaningful to consider in relation to everyday practices, social norms, and cultural values, and thus in relation to population health. Nevertheless, not least because they pivot on defining pets as private property belonging to individual people, pet bylaws raise emotionally charged ethical issues that have yet to be tackled in any of the health research on pet ownership. The literature in moral philosophy on animals is vast, and we do not claim to advance this field here. Rather, we pragmatically seek to reconcile philosophical objections to pet ownership with both animal welfare and public health. In doing so, we foreground theorizations of personhood and property from sociocultural anthropology.

Vulnerable Subjects? The Case of Nonhuman Animals in Experimentation

Jane Johnson
The concept of vulnerability is deployed in bioethics to, amongst other things, identify and remedy harms to participants in research, yet although nonhuman animals in experimentation seem intuitively to be vulnerable, this concept and its attendant protections are rarely applied to research animals. I want to argue, however, that this concept is applicable to nonhuman animals and that a new taxonomy of vulnerability developed in the context of human bioethics can be applied to research animals. This taxonomy does useful explanatory work, helping to pinpoint the limitations of the 3Rs/welfare approach currently adopted in the context of animal experimentation. On this account, the 3Rs/welfare approach fails to deliver for nonhuman animals in experimentation because it effectively addresses only one element of their vulnerability (inherent) and paradoxically through the institution of Animal Ethics Committees intended to protect experimental animals in fact generates new vulnerabilities that exacerbate their already precarious situation.

Animals on Drugs: Understanding the Role of Pharmaceutical Companies in the Animal-Industrial Complex

Richard Twine
In this paper I revisit previous critiques that I have made of much, though by no means all, bioethical discourse. These pertain to faithfulness to dualistic ontology, a taken-for-granted normative anthropocentrism, and the exclusion of a consideration of how political economy shapes the conditions for bioethical discourse (Twine 2005, 2007, 2010). Part of my argument around bioethical dualist ontology is to critique the assumption of a division between the “medical” (human) and “agricultural” (nonhuman) and to show various ways in which they are interrelated. I deepen this analysis with a focus on transnational pharmaceutical companies, with specific attention to their role in enhancing agricultural production through animal drug administration. I employ the topical case of antibiotics in order to speak to current debates in not only the interdisciplinary field of bioethics but also that of animal studies. More generally, the animal-industrial complex (Twine 2012) is underlined as a highly relevant bioethical object that deserves more conceptual and empirical attention.


The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments

Jan Deckers

The Good Doctor: What Patients Want

Deborah Oyer

The Intouchables

Katrina A. Bramstedt


Katrina A. Bramstedt

Case Studies

Compassionate Conservation and the Ethics of Species Research and Preservation: Hamsters, Black-Footed Ferrets, and a Response to Rob Irvine

Marc Bekoff

Many Hurdles for the Translation of Species Preservation Research

Nancy Sturman

Multiple Criteria and Trade-Offs in Environmental Ethics

Sahotra Sarkar

Bad Conservation Research Is Unethical Conservation Research

David M. Frank

Animal Ethics Committee Guidelines and Shark Research

Denise Russell