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Reading: Albert Schweitzer. “The Ethics of Reverence for Life” Schweitzer, Reverence for Life link; Francione, Gary. Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or Your Dog? Temple University Press: 2000 (in course reader); Steiner, Gary. Descartes, Christianity, and Contemporary Speciesism.” In A Communion of Subjects, pp. 117-131 (in course reader) Reading: short selections on the concept of “environmental fascism”, by Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights (in course reader) http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/89793317/Lecture6part1.mp3 http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/89793317/Lecture6part2.mp3

Lecture notes for Feb. 14, 2013 The Environment and Animal Rights: towards a reconciliation of ethical holism and ethical individualism by Paul York, for Animal Rights Philosophy course, Animal Rights Academy


About the lecture notes: the notes range widely into different topics, so they may seem a times a bit tangential at times, but all the topics covered have some bearing, directly or indirectly, on the problem of “environmental fascism” and the philosophical debate between ethical holism and ethical individualism. These are terms that I will explain below. One more point: this lecture merely introduces the problem, and discusses ways of thinking about it, but I do not pretend to have offered any final solution to it. Some of the ideas may resonate with you, while others may not. Ultimately, the reader must use his or her own best judgement for determining the truth. Please email if you have questions or comments. Thank you! For further reading on this, view my blog on Environment and Animals at this link


The Land Ethic Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac (1948), describes the now famous “land ethic” philosophy, which has since been identified with the environmental philosophy termed eco-holism, or sometimes called “ethical holism.” Holism, which focuses on the ecological whole (be it ecosystem or Earth) may be distinguished from ethical individualism, which be anthropocentric (human-centered) in focus, or can take a non-human centered focus, as in the case of animal rights ethics. The major proponent of ethical holism, and Leopold’s most noted interpreter, is the moral philosopher J. Baird Callicott. Leopold’s thoughts have also been very influential in the development of what eventually became known as the ‘deep ecology’ type of environmental philosophy, first formally articulated by seminal environmental philosopher Arnie Naess. [1] What does the philosophy of eco-holism or ethical holism say? Leopold outlines the need for a relationship between human beings and the natural world other than the industrial model of endless exploitation. The nonhuman community (or “biotic community”) includes non human entities such as soils, waters, plants, and animals, collectively termed “the land.” He finds intrinsic value in the ecosystem as a whole, in contrast to traditional ethics, which located intrinsic value in individuals. We can already note that animals are subsumed under “land” and are not regarded as individuals with rights, in Leopold’s model. This is an important point because it essentially negates any possibility of their intrinsic value as individuals; their entire worth is relegated to their value within the whole, which Tom Regan suggests could allow for violation of their individual rights in some cases. We will look at that point in a moment. The general thrust of Leopold’s ethic is that human beings need to recognize their place in the environmental community and take responsibility for protecting and caring for it (i.e. be good managers, or in Christian discourse, “good stewards” of the land, or good conservationists). This ethic is popular with conservationists concerned with biodiversity and the mass extinction of species. Conservationists, we can note, are not typically concerned with the rights of individual animals; they are more concerned with protecting biodiversity, which is characteristic of a holistic worldview. An animal is not valued for himself or herself, but only as a member of a group; thus a polar bear or whale’s life has far more value than a cow’s life or a dog’s, for instance, since there are over one billion cows and hundreds of millions of dogs, but relatively few polar bears and whales. The biotic community The heart of the land ethic is concern for the “biotic community.” This community, of which humans are a part, is made up of predators, omnivores, herbivores, plants, birds and rodents, insects, and soil, in that order. The order is based on transfer of energy, originally from the sun, with the base of the “biotic pyramid” (the soil) up through to the predator, at the top of the pyramid. Humans, as omnivores, are not at the top, but second from the top, in terms of our place in the energy pyramid. All elements revert back to soil. There is no moral hierarchy; the pyramid shape refers only to the transfer of energy. [2] The “biotic community” is part of a self-regulating system. Industrial civilization – and in particular industrial agriculture – distorts the natural order, according to eco-holism. The highest moral dictum (or highest good) for Leopold is this famous dictum: “A thing is right when it preserves the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community, and is wrong when it does not.” What is environmental fascism? Tom Regan in The Case for Animal Rights (1984), referring to Leopold’s dictum, famously states: “it is difficult to see how the notion of the rights of the individual could find a home within a view that, emotive connotations to one side, might be fairly dubbed ‘environmental fascism’.” This, as it turns out, has been the single most important challenge to eco-holism, generating many responses and counter-responses. This criticism encapsulates a fundamental divergence between two important worldviews; the consequences of non-human animals are profound, as we shall see. Recall that Leopold says that the highest good is the integrity of the biotic system. If individuals endanger that integrity, they are considerable expendable. Their rights don’t matter. A dedicated eco-holist – and there have been many — say that animals have no rights to speak of, and that the very concept of rights is a human concept that does not apply to non-human animals. This way of thinking, coupled with speciesism and protection of human property rights, is used by wildlife “managers” to justify killing thousands of animals every day. Marc Bekoff in the Animal Manifesto chronicles the incredible killing spree that U.S. Wildlife Services engage in, in the name of environmental integrity.Between 2004 and 2007, by their own account, they killed over 8 million animals. No wonder Regan calls it “environmental fascism”! The idea of rights is predicated on ethical individualism, which emphasizes the importance of the individual being, who (theoretically) can be human or non-human. The two perspectives – ethical holism and ethical individualism – therefore seem to be at odds. Moral inconsistency In the case of “culling” (a rather bland euphemism for killing), the land ethic is inconsistent because it does not include the human animal in its scope. An anthropocentric land ethic is used to justify killing animals, but to be entirely morally consistent it would have to advocate for killing humans as well, since of all the species ours is the most destructive to the biotic community. However, the wildlife manager’s ethic is morally inconsistent, favouring humans and rendering non-human expendable. The other way to be morally consistent is to not kill at all, which is the position favoured by ethical vegans. Farming and hunting How does the family farm fit into this picture? Or hunting? Leopold, Wendell Berry, are Brewster Kneen are three farmer-philosophers who seem to construct a normative vision for humanity, one that regards animals not as persons, but instrumentally as food. As noted in Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma (and the film based on it, Food Inc.) the small farm is juxtaposed to the factory farm, and the former seen as extension of nature. It is okay to eat animals as long as they were “humanely” raised and slaughtered, in this normative vision. In the case of hunting, we could note a fad called the so-called Palaeolithic Diet, or Paul Sheperd’s eco-philosophy (which champions hunting), as examples of the same sort of normative vision of nature, in which animals are viewed as food, superimposed on what are really highly anthropocentric behaviours. This is a highly constructed worldview that is in fact predicated on notions of human superiority. Would Michael Pollan or Shepard be so enthusiastic about hunting if they were the prey and the predator a Palaeolithic-era sabre-toothed tiger (once a powerful predator of humans until humans hunted them to extinction)? There appears to be a claim that nature has inherent (not instrumental) value, but is there in fact a “creeping anthropocentrism” built into this perspective which justifies continued instrumental use of animals by humans. As noted above, small-scale animal agriculture and hunting are legitimized, even though both are enabled by technologies that early humans could not have possessed (e.g. diesel powered tractors, steel plows and other farming tools, high-powered rifles, sophisticated bows and steels knives). This also seems morally inconsistent. The last man standing ethic, and population control Returning to environmental fascism, we can also think of the “last man standing” ethic described by Richard Heinberg in his book on peak oil (titled Powerdown). This is one of many possible responses to finite resource depletion and growing human populations. It describes a survival of the fittest attitude. Or one may think of the white supremacists who argue for population control according to racial lines; modern white supremacists refer to finite resource depletion to make their argument. How is this really any different than the argument for deer culling, except for the species in question. As the animal ethicists have pointed out, bias for one’s own race or species, is not a morally defensible argument. Human beings, being (in Leopold’s words) “a plain member and citizen” of the biotic community, are vastly overpopulated, so if the highest good is the health of the land (or the Earth), what about culling humans? Population control Are China’s population control efforts “fascist” as some claim? This is certainly debatable, and depends on whether you regard reproduction as a human right or not, but less ambiguous in terms of its moral callousness is the calculated indifference of world leaders to the threats of climate change. Already, we can point to the deaths of over five million human beings per year due to drought and climate change related events. Republican climate change denial is a good example of complete moral disregard for others, essentially condemning them to death for the sake of perpetuating an unjust and unsustainable economic and political status quo. Even the far more benign emphasis on “adaptation” rather than mitigation efforts by governments, rather than challenging the current unsustainable economic status quo, is a sign of this indifference. One could argue that this turning of our collective backs on the victims of climate change, leaving them to die, is an example of environmental fascism. Complicating the issue of population control is the fact that the real issue is not human numbers as much as per capita emissions and pollution levels, which are much higher in the west / industrial north, even though per capita there is less overall population growth than the global south. There is also at greater risk of premature death from drought and flooding due to climate change. These injustices are often termed “climate injustice” and “climate racism.” By 2030 CE 100 million are predicted to have died from climate change. Predicted “water wars” are another implication. A fascist ethic (that “might makes right”) seems to prevail in these scenarios, and helps describe the unfolding of what has been called “water wars” and “wars over scarce resources.” Structurally at least, this is no different than deer culling, except that human beings are the victims. Regan’s criticism of environmental fascism applies not only to culling non-human animals on a local scale, as we see in these examples, but also globally vis-à-vis climate change. The Earth as a whole is like the government protected park and the humans, like the deer or elephants, are deemed too numerous. Rather than mitigating climate change governments and corporations have taken a rather cynical stance on the issue of climate change, choosing to abandon millions (and potentially billions) of humans to suffering and death rather than change the system causing this apocalyptic scenario. [3] All that having been said, ending the discussion here is very problematic because it is all too easily used by right-wing ideologues to dismiss environmentalism (as “eco-fascism”). This has been done several times now by Fox News and others. It is important for us to salvage the land ethic and eco-holism from this criticism, because, despite its problems, it is still a valuable ethic for addressing the environmental crisis. A rights-based philosophy needs to address the environmental crisis in some way, because the well-being of individuals in incompatible without a healthy environment. Why is environmentalism important? Environmentalism is an important worldview from any rational perspective – even the most self-interested – because it is about protecting the conditions that make life on Earth possible. Environmental concern is vital for the continuation of life on Earth, and so (it seems) is the kind of concern for others that informs rights language. So how do we reconcile these apparently opposed worldviews? The fate of the world seems to hinge on the widespread adoption of an ethic that reconciles environmental concern, animal rights and human rights! Environmental fascism is unacceptable, and so is focus just on rights without regard for the environment. Callicott’s defense of Leopold’s land ethic First, let us look at the response to Regan’s famous criticism. Leopold’s principal defender is the philosopher J. Baird Callicott. He is a moral philosopher who champions an evolutionary-ecological worldview, one that recognizes the beauty and grandeur of nature. Callicott wants to reconcile the land ethic with the right of others to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, in reply to Regan et al. The phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is of course taken from the American Bill of Rights, and thus represents a particular expression of rights language. Callicott says that that the land ethic does not replace consideration for individuals, but assumes it already. The land ethic is an “accretion” to existing normative human-to-human ethics, adding a new sphere of concern: the land, which is not meant to replace concern for individuals, but to expand upon it. According to the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy, Callicott “under the pressure from the charge of ecofascism and misanthropy … revised his position and now maintains that the biotic community (indeed, any community to which we belong) as well as its individual members (indeed, any individual who shares with us membership in some common community) all have intrinsic value.” Furthermore, although accused of “moral monism” (i.e. having just one ethical perspective), Callicott maintains that he is in fact a moral pluralist (i.e. having more than one ethical perspective). He maintains that a concern for the basic rights of individual human beings is not incompatible with the land ethic. He sees these concerns as complementary, not contradictory, provided the interests of the individuals are held in check by limitations on rights. Callicott concedes that our traditional obligations to others, to respect their right to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” of human beings may trump our obligation to the biotic community, but prefers to argue that they can be thought of as compatible. The limitations on rights argument makes this possible. Does his defense work? We will examine this. Luxury and necessary emissions In defense of Callicott’s argument regarding the limitations that need to be put on human activities, we can cite The Ethics of Climate Change, a great introductory book on climate ethics, by James Garvey. In it he distinques between “luxury emissions” and “necessary emissions.” Although his concern is greenhouse gas emission, this disctinction is also applicable to the idea of limitations on rights for the sake of the common good, or what is often called “the commons.” In other words, it is not a human right to consume as much as I want; there need to be limits placed upon individual activities, in consideration of others. This does not negate positive rights, but it curtails them, in consideration of the needs of others and the limited resource base we all must share. Having rights does not mean the right to own a Hummer or eat meat. Rights entail responsibilities to others. This point is especially crucial at this stage in human history, given the concurrence of environmental catastrophes caused by overconsumption in the midst of scarce resources such as water, oil, wood, and arable land. As we have already seen animals are denied negative rights under the pretext of environmental concern. [4] We gave the example of deer culling. The problem is caused by the fact that human beings have encroached on wilderness areas, overrunning them and developing them, and killing the natural predators of the deer. Creative solutions other than killing them do exist: relocating animals, enlarging wildlife areas, and most importantly for this discussion, the need to stop deforestation and further development of wilderness habitats. Humans can learn to responsibly limit their luxury (unnecessary) consumption, in consideration of the basic rights of animals to live, and they can come up with creative ways of protecting the negative rights of non-human animals, rather than killing them. Some animal, such as deer and raccoon, are what the authors of Zoopolis (discussed earlier in this course) term “liminal animals.” An argument in that book seems to be that human residents of urban areas need to take into account the basic needs of non-human animals, rather than violating their basic rights. Callicott comes across as weak on animal rights, but strong on the idea of human responsibilities, to balance human rights. Therefore, it is probably unfair to say that his philosophy supports environmental fascism against humanity; but what about animals? Although he does not advocate for animal rights, per se, Callicott does recognize the value of endangered species. He writes that “we have a much stronger obligation to save endangered species from extinction than we have to raise the Dow Jones Industrial Average.” It’s worth noting here that like many environmentalists and conservationists he appears to value non-humans as members of species and not as individuals, as persons in their own right. The responses to Callicott’s reply by rights ethicists They charge that Callicott provides no “second order principles” to adjudicate competing interests. So the question remains: how do we determine which interests are to be given precedence? A conservationism that does not recognize the negative rights of animals, and calls for culling, in order to conserve parklands or adjacent farmer’s fields, runs into the same problem that Regan initially identified. Who should decide who lives or dies? All too often, human interests prevail over non-human animal interests, and as Gary Francione notes, trivial human interests prevail over non-trivial non-human animal interests. His critics say that Callicott’s defense (moral pluralism) is therefore a “paper tiger” (without force). In reply to this he says that we do not have to adjudicate competing interests if everyone eliminates luxuries and makes do with necessities. And what is the number one unnecessary luxury item? Everyone should know this! Meat-eating. In defense of Callicott, his emphasis on limitations points in the direction of individual moral responsibility, and thus environmental vegetarianism, such as that practiced by IPCC chair Rajendra Pacahuri. As noted before Callicott says he is a moral pluralist, but the truth is that he is more of a moral relativist – meaning that he allows for multiple ethical systems, but still believes the land ethic and eco-holism (predicated on the evolutionary-ecological worldview originating with Darwin) is the best one. Perhaps this where the charge of moral monism comes from? As an aside we can note another author Tim Leduc, in his book Climate Culture Change, argues for multiple ways of knowing, based on the fact that the Inuit position on climate change the environment adds an important layer of understanding that climate science does not. Callicott believes that the evolutionary-ecological perspective is the most plausible worldview because it is based on science and therefore falsifiable. That question aside, what’s interesting here, for our purposes, is the way in which Callicott interprets the evolutionary-ecological perspective. He interprets it in a way that (as Regan noted) seems to exclude moral consideration of individual animals. Another interpretation of it, advanced by philosopher James Rachels, based on the work of cognitive and behavioural ethology (e.g. Marc Bekoff and others) can be used to support individualism. In other words, the evolutionary-ecological perspective can have more than one interpretation, more than one emphasis. Darwinism, as it turns out can be used to support both ethical individualism and ethical holism. Eco-holism does not seem to acknowledge this. A note about individuals We may recall Tom Regan’s theory of “subjects of a life” which says that beings that possess certain characteristic, such as sentience, the ability to think, emotions, and who value their own lives (even when no one else does) must be counted by moral subjects, worthy of moral consideration, possessing basic rights, and not to be used instrumentally. Does nature have inherent value, or should it be viewed instrumentally, as serving the “telos” (ancient Greek for “end” or purpose) of individuals? This is not easy to answer. Entire volumes have been dedicated to trying to answer this question, and we will not answer it today. However, the general thrust of this lecture is to argue that we can still respect the rights of individuals without at the same time devaluing the natural world, or viewing it instrumentally. Ethical individualism and ethical holism can be understood as mutually compatible, complementary philosophies, not as mutually opposed, or contradictory. How? It is possible to arrive at this conclusion if we allow for what is called “moral pluralism”, which is the idea that there can be more than one true worldview and system of ethics arising from it, as Leduc’s and Rachels’ works (cited earlier) attest. Leduc, as we saw, says that traditional non-scientific worldviews that express ethical concerns regarding climate change can complement and add to our scientific knowledge of it, and Rachels shows how evolutionary theory can be used to argue for ethical individualism. Both works, in this broader context, can be used to argue for moral pluralism. Individuals create value It is also important to note that when we are speaking of values, it is individuals that confer value, including aesthetic value, which as we have noted above, in Leopold’s Golden Rule, is enshrined in the idea of the “beauty” of the biotic community. This is an important point that makes recognition of the individual indispensable for the land ethic, even though on its face the land ethic seems not have any room for individual rights. We may recall the classic thought experiment, “if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” This thought experiment asks us to consider whether sounds exist if there is no one to hear them. In the same, does beauty exist if there is no one to experience it? This brings to mind two ideas called “the weak anthropric principle” and “the noosphere.” Both ideas are advanced by Thomas Berry in his books The Dream of the Earth, and The New Story. They respectively say that the universe exists in such a way as to create the conditions whereby individual consciousness can evolve, and that through this consciousness the universe has consciousness of itself. We, as parts of the universe, are conscious of it. In other words, individuals are not unimportant. [5] The point is that without individuals, who possess aesthetic and moral faculties, one cannot speak meaningfully of “integrity” and “beauty” (as the land ethic does), to begin with. Non-human nature can certainly exist without such individuals, as it did on Earth for more than a billion years, in the form of rudimentary life, but without any animals to apprehend the world around them, there was no consciousness of it and no valuation could be given to any part of it. When Thomas Berry calls human beings “the consciousness of the universe” he is referring to human beings primarily, but it is reasonable to concluded, based on all the evidence at hand (available through ethology) that any sentient individual, human or otherwise, performs the same function. Other animals are also “the consciousness of the universe.” There is yet another way in which we can think of individuals: in terms of their basic rights. The idea of rights is almost certainly a social construction, but as the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas showed, the foundation of ethics (and consequently rights, one could argue) is the deep connection between two individuals – a connection that exists a priori (or prior to experience). Kantian ethics tried to establish something very similar; Kant speaks of the categorical imperative as based on “pure practical reason a priori” – which is a rather oblique reference to his theory of “pure reason” in The Critique of Pure Reason and “practical reason” in The Critique of Practical Reason. “Pure practical reason” refers to an ability to make moral choices and recognize good and bad that we are born with, although it requires development as grow up, just as we are born with the ability to recognize certain mathematical truths without having been trained to do so. Those who can reason are called “ends” and “law-givers” by Kant, and he counts them as moral subjects. For these reasons, those who promote the idea of rights speak of them as inalienable and universal. Their expression is culturally constructed, but their foundation, existing a priori, is universal in all persons in all times, and transcends culture and history. Of course, a Foucault scholar might argue that nothing exists outside of history; clearly this is a point of debate beyond the scope of these notes; suffice it say, that it is a debate, and not an issue upon which there is a final determination. The idea of human rights is based, in large part, on the work of a few Enlightenment philosophers, including Kant, and animal rights flows from human rights theory, so it is not unimportant to make note of these things. Most notably, Regan’s thought is very much part of the Enlightenment project, and as we have seen with Julian Franklin’s interpretation of Kant, non-human animals, by virtue of being sentient, can also be thought of us as moral subjects as well.


So far we have reviewed the idea of environmental fascism, intellectual debates the idea generated, the concepts of moral pluralism, relativism, and monism, and the concept of limitations on rights. This latter argument is the view that moral agents have responsibilities to all moral patients to limit consumption and emission in such a way as to avoid the conditions that would lead to a conflict of interests between the basic rights of individuals and the biotic community. Ethical individualism is often (but not always) associated with the idea of rights. However, the idea of rights is contested. What are the arguments against rights? Arguments against rights It is no accident that some environmental thinkers eschew rights of any kind (both human and animal types). “Rights language” is increasingly under attack. The most common arguments are that rights are: 1) Rights are socially and historically constructed and therefore invalid, originating with the Enlightenment (called “Enlightenment faith in progress through technology” by Lawrence Schmidt). This criticism of rights is often predicated on moral and cultural relativism, and the rejection of the possibility of a universal ethics. Morality is to be established by cultures, not universally, according to this view. L. Schmidt has called it “morality as a cultural product.” Rights make the claim of universality; therefore they are invalid, from this perspective. A good example is the shark-fin debate: the cultural relativist would say that the morality of shark-finning must be determined through Chinese culture, and the universalist would say that it is an issue that transcends culture. 2) A rejection of “liberal individualism”, conflating it with the “homo economicus” model of human behaviour (the idea that “rational economic man” must maximize his utility without consideration for the rights of others). This refers to the idea that individualism and human rights in particular contributes to the formation of societies patterned after a so-called “western” model, usurping other cultures and ways of knowing. The concept of rights ignores complex relations (e.g. the land ethic, deep ecology, systems theory, or some other version of holism, or ignores traditional cultures, which have lived more harmoniously with nature, animals, and one another for millennia). The emphasis on rights is really about the unlimited accumulation of utility for the individual, flagrantly ignoring the needs of others, against the common good. Having stated, in brief summary, the two arguments against rights, what are the defenses against these positions? Response to # 1, cultural relativism and the historicizing of ethics: holism is also socially constructed, so to argue that a viewpoint is constructed does not necessarily invalidate it. The question is not whether the view is constructed, perhaps, but whether it is the best one. The other way of replying is to say that in fact the kernel of rights is not constructed but in fact exists”a priori” (as noted above) – which is Kant’s argument in defense of his conception of ethics, upon which rights discourse in subsequent centuries was based. Whether or not “rights” themselves are construct, we can certainly acknowledge that rights language is constructed. However, it is also based on a basic biological fact: that there are individuals in nature, and cooperation and altruism does exist between individuals, and this cannot be reduced merely to self-interest. The weak anthropric principle, coupled with the idea of the noosphere, certainly points to the fact that individuals matter in some fundamental way, even within a holistic worldview. Are they to be granted negative and positive rights on that basis? Well, certainly that is debatable, but we can give a less ambiguous answer to the question if we turn to pragmatism at this point: rights are practically necessary because without them our society would resort to even greater violence, and animal rights are necessary because human beings, through technology, have so affected the lives of animals that we have a moral responsibility to them that our distant ancestors did not share. Response to # 2, the argument against liberal individualism: The argument against liberal individualism ignores the relational nature of rights, if properly understood: rights are not just about egoism and amassing utility for the “rational economic man.” This is a severe distortion of the idea of rights, based on the confusion between luxury and necessary emission made earlier, whereby the desire to live unsustainably, without regard for others, is considered a “right.” A proper understanding of the idea of rights is predicated on concern for the rights of others in consideration of finite resources. In other words, rights must be thought of as universalizable, especially in the current historical context of multiple ecological crises. All the forms of Kant’s categorical imperative have embedded with them a basic consideration for others, so properly speaking it is impossible to confuse human or animal rights discourse, if properly understood, with the short-sighted and narrow-minded economic model of limitless growth and accumulation. A further environmental criticism of animal rights John R. Livingston in Rogue Primate: An Exploration of Human Domestication (1994) argues against the idea of animal rights. He says that rights do not exist in nature, only in human civilization, and that to suggest that animals (who are part of nature) should have rights is to impose human values on nature. He views the imposition of rights on animals as an imperialist exercise. He apparently does not view killing them as wrong. How convenient Livingstone’s argument is! It allows us to kill them and ignore their rights by saying that this is okay as long as it is done naturally (whatever that is). What this argument fails to see is that 1) animals are individuals, and not merely to be lumped in with nature, and to be considered expendable in the same way that, for example, plucking a plant might be; 2) the separation between human and nonhuman worlds is not so absolute as Livingstone makes it out to be; in fact, we affect all animals, both wild and domestic (and liminal) and thus have a responsibility to them. We already have an effect on them due to the fact that we are the technologically dominant species on Earth; for this reason it is incumbent on us include them within the sphere of moral consideration.


Further responses to the land ethic problem I will briefly discuss two additional responses to the problem of environment fascism raised by Regan. The first –“moral pluralism” – is articulated by Don Marietta. We saw this phrase earlier in Callicott’s reply, where he claimed he was a moral pluralism, but was probably more of a moral relativist, or someone who believe there are many valid ethical positions, but favours one above all others. The view he favoured above others was eco-holism, based on a particular evolutionary-ecological worldview, but as we saw that worldview can also support ethical individualism, if we acknowledge the moral implications of Darwinism. Moral pluralism acknowledges the possibility of multiple and complementary interpretations. The interests of the individual beings (individualism) and the interests of the natural system (holism) could be seen as consistent, and not incompatible, provided that individuals do not over-populate and provided that they do not consume more than they need. This applies both to humans and non-human animals. No one can reasonably dispute that human beings have the ability to act as moral agents, to engage in moral decision-making. The argument for ethical veganism is that because we have this ability, and because we do not require eating animals to subsist and be healthy, we ought not to eat or otherwise exploit them. We can certain restrain ourselves from over-consumption and over-population, if we so choose. We can also control and limit the population of domestic and liminal animals. Moreover, we can act in an ecologically responsible manner by limiting our encroachment on natural lands, the habitats of wild animals, in consideration of their rights to life, space, freedom, and resources. Indirect holism and greenwash Another response to the Regan-Callicott debate worth nothing is the idea of “indirect holism”, advanced by Jon Moline. He says that holism ought to be viewed as a guiding principle, not as a direct duty. The land ethic dictum referred to earlier is meant to guide, not command, in other words. In response to Moline, one may be tempted to ask: if it is a guiding principle, not a direct duty, does it have any weight? What, for example, is to stop it from becoming greenwash? We see this in the example of the hunters and wildlife managers who “cull” deer and other animals and say that it is in the name of the environment. This seems rather disingenuous of them, since the real reason very often seems to be the desire to kill and to protect human property rights and human interests. “Indirect holism” seems to be a way for anthropocentrism to influence and corrupt the land ethic, in other words. However, Moline may be correct in saying that the land ethic dictum is not a direct duty, one that ought to be observed blindly in all circumstances, because clearly – as with all philosophy – it must be interpreted contextually. In that sense, Moline is correct.


[At this point in the lecture I switched to a much less structured free-flowing discourse on issues that pertain to the themes explored above. What follows may be regarded as a series of short meditations on the theme of animal rights and the environment, to stimulate and focus the listener’s concern along these lines.] Broadly speaking, there are two points of intersection between three major types of ethical concern: animal rights, environmental concern, and concern for humanity. 1) The environmental costs of industrial livestock operations (also known as factory farming). The details of why it is harmful can be found in the 2006 United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” and in the works of scholar Anthony Weiss, among others For the sake brevity, we may note that the costs include global warming, water consumption, water pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss. Reducing animals to the status of objects to be eaten, and mass producing and eating animals on an industrial scale, leading to the increase of meat consumption per capita in recent years (referred to by Weis as the “meatification” of society), is contributing to conditions that threaten the possibility of continued life on this planet. The is very clearly an animal rights issue, although it is also framed as an animal welfare issue, and one may be opposed to factory farming for environmental reasons while still opting to reduce animals to the status of food, in violation of their rights. 2) The mass extinction of species, also known as the Earth’s sixth great extinction event. There are roughly 8.7 million species on Earth right now, and the extinction rate has been accelerated by man-made causes by several hundred times. About 150 to 200 species vanish every day. It is estimated that 80 per cent of all species could be gone by 2100. This is largely due to climate change, deforestation and habitat loss (e.g. loss of coral reefs, Amazon rain forest), invader species (e.g. the cane toad, zebra mussel), toxins and pollutions (e.g. extinction of frogs and salamanders is due largely to this and to deforestation), and hunting and “harvesting” of endangered species (e.g. rhinos, shark). Perhaps the most noted advocate for the preservation of biodiversity, E.O. Wilson, says that “future generations will never forgive us for having forsaken biodiversity”, since it is irreplaceable. While not strictly an animal rights issue, it concerns trillions of animals, and may be thought of in terms of indirect rights for animals, through the value we place on them via their status as members of biodiverse and endangered species. Eventually, if climate change continues unabated, all animals will all be gone (including us) in the worst case scenario, termed by James Hansen, the “Venus Syndrome” (the total eradication of life on Earth). Do we have a responsibility to mitigate that now, and if so how? First, let us quickly note that there are five humanistic (or human-centred or anthropocentric) reasons to be concerned with factory farming and the mass extinction of species: (i) Human health – the principally, the prevention of diseases linked to meat consumption. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has documented this at length. (ii) global human health – the prevention of pandemic diseases borne in factory farms. Dr. Michael Gregor has documented this at length. (iii) Environmental concerns that profoundly affect humanity — global warming and water consumption and pollution, principally. The “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report (2006) referred to earlier documents this at length. (iv) The mass extinction of species can have an adverse effects on humanity insofar as our survival is tied to the survival of other species, based on the complex relationships between species, often likened to a house of card. The work of E.O. Wilson and many other biologists document this at length. (v) And finally, what Marc Bekfoff terms our “compassion footprint” – the idea that by increasing our compassion for animals we are also increasing our capacity to be compassionate for humanity, which is similar to Kant’s argument for the indirect rights of animals, or Tolstoy’s dictum that cruelty to animals is linked to war. In other words, if we harm animals and are insensitive to them, we are more likely to harm other human beings. I bring up these points in order to show that human interests and the interests of non-human animals cannot be easily separated, as is so often done. This is important because most of the social and political movements for climate justice, food justice, water justice, human rights, etc. draw inspiration from an anthropocentric model of environmentalism, not from deep ecology or the land ethic. The most politically dominant model of environmental concern in the world today is based on the protection of human (and only) human interests. A clear example of this is concern for the loss of fish in the oceans due to commercial fishing. Whenever this example is brought up, the interests of the fish are never mentioned; it is only the interests of the fishermen and fishing communities that are raised. Returning to the theme moral pluralism, we can add anthropocentric environmentalism to ethical holism and ethical individualism as potentially complementary worldviews. In fact anthropocentric environmentalism may be viewed as a microcosm of the reconciliation of the other two worldviews, because concern for humanity can be predicated on concern for individual human rights, and on a more holistic concern for humanity as a whole. And while the interests of humans and non-humans are often opposed (as the example of commercial fishing illustrates) they need not necessarily be thought of this way. It is really only the presence of industrialization and unsustainable consumerism that has led to a vast reduction of finite resources (both renewable and non-renewable), pitting the interests of humans against other humans, and humans against non-humans. An ethic of limitations and what economist Herman Daly calls “sustainable sufficiency”, if adhered to, would mitigate and prevent the dire conditions that have led to this global conflict of interests, to begin with. The idea that animal and human interests are consistent with the health of the life systems of Earth may help to bring human-centered environmental justice and pro-animal movements together, politically. This is very important to achieve, in order to strengthen the movement against the type of position that supports factory farming and deforestation and threatens to destroy life on Earth – a position called “the cosmology of domination” and “faith in progress through technology.” This position, dedicated to endless economic growth, despite finite resources and growing human populations, is right now politically dominant, adhered to by corporations and governments. It relies on what has been termed “faith in technology” in order to continue. This industrial-technological worldview regards animals at objects to be used for industrial production, to generate profit. How we look at them literally determines the fate of life on Earth, because of climate change (caused by ILOs) and the mass extinction (which is like a house of cards). Assuming that the technological fixes will not work (which is a fair assumption), and that human beings won’t change their behaviour, we are not far from the collapse of civilization, and beyond that the end of all life on Earth. This has been termed James Hansen’s Venus Syndrome. The Venus Syndrome According to climate scientist James Hansen, if our species burns all the fossil fuels at the current rate [and continue with factory farming] “runaway conditions” will occur. If “the planet gets too warm, the water vapor feedback can cause a runaway greenhouse effect. The ocean boils into the atmosphere and life is extinguished.” He adds: “There may have been times in the Earth’s history when CO2 was as high as 4000 ppm without causing a runaway greenhouse effect. But the solar irradiance was less at that time. What is different about the human-made forcing is the rapidity at which we are increasing it, on the time scale of a century or a few centuries. It does not provide enough time for negative feedbacks, such as changes in the weathering rate, to be a major factor. There is also a danger that humans could cause the release of methane hydrates, perhaps more rapidly than in some of the cases in the geologic record. In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse effect. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale (a.k.a. oil shale), I think it is a dead certainty. “ Hansen likens this to the famous myth of the Devil’s bargain with Faust, in which the latter sold his soul for temporary wealth. The implication is that the fossil fuel companies have done just that. Regarding the end of life on Earth, caused by fossil fuel use, Hansen writes, “That would be the ultimate Faustian bargain. Mephistopheles would carry off shrieking not only the robber barons, but, unfortunately and permanently, all life on the planet.” Although Hansen does not mention factory farming, we are not remiss in applying his remarks regarding fossil fuel production to factory farms and meat-consumption, as well, because meat consumption (like fossil fuel use) is quite unnecessary. It is what Garvey would term a “luxury emission.” Those who promote it and profit from it have, like the fossil fuel CEOs, entered into the ultimate Faustian bargain. Of course we are not so much concerned with their souls as with the fact that by selling them (so to speak) they have bargained away all life on Earth in the process, much like a gambler who wagers lives that are not his to put at risk. Future generations, as well as current victims of climate change, and all the non-human victims have not had any say in any of this. Cosmologies and ethics The animal rights perspective, frequently ignored in an anthropocentric societies (and almost all human societies meet this description) is critically important for the preservation of life on Earth. Those who are truly concerned with global environmental destruction ought to draw from it in order to augment and strengthen their arguments. Seminal environmental thinker Thomas Berry argues that how we look at the world, the cosmology we adopt, determines how we conduct ourselves. According to Berry, the “story” we tell ourselves determines our decision making. He distinguishes between biocentric and anthropocentric worldviews (though he does not address the conflict between holism and individualism and tends to be more of a holistic thinker). Berry says “the universe is not a collection of objects; it is a communion of subjects.” Does this include animals? Berry says it does, in his forward to the anthology titled A Communion of Subjects (scholarly essays on religion and animals), but does not go so far as to endorse animal rights. We can note that one’s worldview and ethics determine who lives and who dies. Worldviews determine ethics, and ethics determine actions and relations with others, so it is important to talk about them. Viewing animals instrumentally has contributed to climate change, and is also at the root of the Cartesian objectification of nature and other human beings (Kant’s indirect rights argument writ large). A truly basic question to ask is how we choose to see animals: are they food, or are they fellow Earthlings with the same basic rights? Or are they something else? Is there a middle ground on this question? For example, they are often considered food in subsistence cultures, but that does not meant they should be regarded as such in industrial cultures. If you are an animal or a victim of climate change, your very life could hang on this question. One way of looking at animals as food, and not as persons, is famously advanced by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Inc. We could term this view “the grassfed beef / free-range chicken ethic” or perhaps “the Michael Pollan ethic.” Popular environmental authors who advocate this sort of view include, but are not limited to George Monbiot, Wendell Berry, Wayne Roberts, Michael Pollan, David Suzuki, and Derrick Jensen. The problems with this view are multiple: 1) it is still not as environmentally sustainable as a vegan diet, even one which relies on industrial agriculture, and certainly not one that relies on local non-industrially produced plants; 2) ethically it is still inhumane and violates animal rights, since there is no such thing as “humane slaughter”, one could argue; 3) the grassfed beef / free-range egg market is unregulated, which means that factory farmed animals are marketed as such (according to Worldwatch Institute). Defining sustainability How do we define sustainability? Should it not be inclusive and egalitarian, or is it acceptable to achieve sustainability through violating the basic rights of others? I would like to propose a definition of sustainability that includes consideration of the rights of both human and non-human animals. We can certainly achieve a fascist ideal of sustainability by eradicating all human life, or killing all pets, but this seems to defeat the purpose of doing so, if sustainability is an ideal that exists in order to achieve acceptable levels of consumption by individuals. The very notion of sustainability is conceived as a way of guiding and adjudicating the use of finite resources by individuals and societies. It is a never fully realizable ideal, but it is nonetheless an important idea for the sake of future generations, animals, the poor, etc. Justice and limitations on rights must be incorporated into the model of sustainability. There seems to be a contradiction in the non-universalizable definition of sustainability, if as we have said the point of creating this ethic in the first place is to protect the living beings of Earth. Recall the logic of the U.S. presence in Vietnam: “we had to destroy the town in order to save it.” Similarly, hunters say they are entitled to destroy animals as part of a natural order? Are non-human animals not part of the natural order? To “cull” animals in the name of the environment seems morally self-contradicting and hypocritical if we are not willing to first look at our own ecological footprints (which most hunters are not willing to do). And as noted above, if we are to be morally consistent in the application of “culling” as a solution to environmental destruction, we would have to start by killing ourselves first; however, that would entail a violation of human rights, so it is unacceptable. So, why is violating animal rights any different? Surely it is possible to achieve the necessary balance that is needed to maintain ecosystems by reducing our consumption and pollution levels, and in the case of animals, re-locating them. Killing human and non-human animals is not necessary to achieve sustainability. The naturalistic fallacy A further question: is it “natural” to eat animals? Why is “natural” assumed to be correct? And what is “natural” anyway? Is the concept socially constructed, and if so, can it be deconstructed? There are three possible responses here: 1) The statement that meat-eating is not natural, for which there is a great deal of physiological and archeological evidence. First, we can note that human beings, while technically omnivores, are the only ape (in the great ape family, which includes orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos) to consume large amounts of meat. The human body, as it turns out, is poorly adapted to eating meat. On the spectrum of omnivorism, we are very close to herbivores, and far away from carnivores. The fact that human beings can be healthy vegans testifies to all of this. 2) The statement that meat-eating may be natural but that natural is not necessarily good. Recall that animal ethicists invoke rape and murder as examples of “natural” behaviours we ought not to engage in. Also, recall Hume’s dictum that “is does not equal ought.” Saying that we are omnivores does not equal the dictum: “we should eat animals.” 3) That “natural” is something made up to justify exploitation (e.g. the Palaeolithic diet). When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and others like him kill animals for food they do so in the name of a primitivist and naturalistic ethos in order to justify an ethically problematic practice: the taking of another sentient being’s life. This ethos, I would submit, is no different than other socially constructed forms of hierarchical thinking deemed “natural” by proponents, including forms of sexism and racism deemed to be “natural” by their proponents. The classic example that comes to mind is Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being, which creates a hierarchy starting with God and angels, then moving downward to man, animals, and plants at the bottom. The implications are clearly anthropocentric and self-serving. The Paleo food pyramid that prescribes a lot of meat-eating is quite similar to this, insofar as both pyramids are constructed to serve human collective self-interest over non-human nature. The responsibility of human beings Are we really entitled to control animal populations through “culling” when we cannot control human populations, and when we are the cause of ecosystem failure and the mass extinction to begin with? Should we “cull” human populations then? Clearly that is out of the question, and for the same reason, so too should culling animals be out of the question, morally unacceptable. As we saw this ethic is applied inconsistently, to serve human interests at the expense of non-human interests. Rachels and other animal ethicists argue that we need to recognize that we are animals of a type (Darwin) and there are moral implications arising from this fact: it does not give us license to kill them as though it were “natural” to do so. Given that both ethical holism and ethical individualism are socially constructed, perhaps we ought to favour the construction that is most just, which means bringing them together into a new construction – a version of what Berry terms “the new story.” A reconciliation of worldview is necessary because those who favour the environment over rights risk becoming moral monsters and those who favour rights over the environment forget that without the environment individuals cannot exist; they are not pragmatic, and nor do they recognize the value of the biocentric worldview – which it can be argued is our biological legacy. Solutions, all which can be enabled or greatly advanced through greater consideration for animals: • Stop breeding animals; put those that exist in farm sanctuaries • Stop eating animals; eat plant-based whole foods (preferably local over industrial) • Stop deforestation and end extraction industries; recycle and create green jobs instead • Stop commercial fishing; allow the oceans to regain health and biodiversity • Control our own population growth, ethically (e.g. education), not forcibly • Reduce per capita consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and waste, especially in industrial nations • Greatly mitigate greenhouse gas emission and water consumption, especially in terms of fossil fuel use and meat-eating All of the above solutions require a sizeable portion of humanity to change its way of thinking. Many have already done so. One way to change our worldviews significantly is to exercise radical concern for animals – both wild and domestic – enlarging our compassion footprint (so to speak). There is merit in going in this direction even if it is not enough all the problems. As we saw with the indirect rights / compassion footprint argument, changing our worldview to include concern for animals shift the locus of concern away from narcissism to compassion, which is necessary at this time in history if we are to safeguard the conditions that make life possible. To pragmatically advance the goals of environmental anthropocentricsm and ethical holism, the complementary ethic of animal rights should be given greater consideration. Recognizing individuals is practical. The best way to protect rights is through clean environment, best way to protect environment is through recognition of rights of non-human animals (i.e. not eating them, protecting their habitats). As moral decision makers we can always seek to reduce our ecological impact. The principle of ahimsa is important. In David Sztybel’s interpretation of it, it means “best care” which is the “most good and least bad” that can be achieved through our choices and actions. As noted above, we need to define sustainability in a way that is inclusive, against both racism and speciesism, and other forms of discrimination. Social and environmental justice should be guiding principles informing environmental concern and climate change mitigation efforts. Why should environmentalism be inclusive? One way to think about it is that we are all Earthlings, and no one Earthling has the right to destroy the life of any other unnecessarily. We are not predators, and can live without killing other animals, and therefore ought to do so, not only in consideration of their rights, but also in consideration of humanity as a whole (for the humanistic reasons given earlier). The moral quandary of consumption and rights Over-consumption is clearly a bad thing, but what about consumption at all? Does it not infringe on the natural world and biodiversity? This particular view that has led to misanthropism. Would the natural world be better off without us? It is certainly easy to find evidence to support this view. But what about human rights? Deep ecology and ethical holism find intrinsic worth in non-human nature and ecological wholes, while the “rights position” finds intrinsic value in individuals and also in the idea of an ethical community composed of individuals, but not the ecosystem or Earth or nature as a whole. Perhaps these two ideals can be reconciled provided we see that the rights of individuals requires their existence, and their existence requires respect for the natural world upon which their existence is dependant. Can this ideal be achieved? Yes, if there is a limitation on the positive rights of individuals, in consideration of the negative rights of all others, so that the right to water (for example) does not exceed necessity and diminish access to water enough to live on the part of others. Kant says that seeking happiness is not a bad thing, as long as it does not infringe on the moral law. The moral law, if we recall, simply says that we need to be considerate of all others, to “universalize the maxims of our actions.” This ethic leaves room for rational beings to exist, but with limitations that they (ideally) impose on themselves, out of a sense of moral duty to others. This corresponds with the ideal of “sustainable sufficiency”, as defined by economist Herman Daly; the idea simply means that we can take as much as we need, but not more. A holistic understanding of the natural world, and efforts to preserve it, can aid us in protecting individual rights, provided that we understand positive rights as consistent with a strong conservation ethic, and limitations on consumption, for the good of all (often termed the common good).


Addendum After delivering the above lecture, I realized that another very important point — one which in a way tied things together — was the critique of the popular view that individual actions don’t matter. For instance, ethicist James Garvey (The Ethics of Climate Change) or popular writer Derrick Jensen, or climate blogger Ian Angus will say it doesn’t matter what we as individuals do and that what is needed is structural change. They juxtapose the two sorts of change, but a better position is to say that both individual change (e.g. ethical consumerism, and more particularly environmental veganism) AND structural change (e.g. ending subsidies to factory farms and fossil fuels, creating green jobs, creating renewable energy, funding local food initiatives, taxing carbon emissions, etc.) are needed. It is interesting that many environmental groups and thinkers not only neglect the rights of individual animals, but also dismiss the responsibilities of individual consumers as irrelevant (and in particular the responsibility to not consume animals). And this lack of emphasis on both individual rights and individual responsibilities undermines the moral force of their arguments. A much stronger moral argument is one that is inclusive of non-human interests and stresses personal moral responsibility — or as Gandhi famously said “be the change you want to see in the world.” Interestingly, there is a strong parallel between human rights concerns, embedded in the discourse on environmental racism, and animal rights concern. Additionally, Paul Waldau argues for expanding the definition of environmental justice to include non-human animals, as well as racialized and marginalized human groups. In another essay I have argued that Regan’s concept of environmental fascism applies quite well to marginalized human groups whose communities and health are endangered by nuclear power plants, geo-engineering schemes, and carbon sequestration. Of course, ecosystems and local flora and fauna (i.e. animals) are also endangered as well. The utilitarian argument that these local communities should be put at risk for the sake of the greater good is predicated on both faith in technology to solve these problems and allegiance to an unsustainable economic status quo, rather than arguing that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions voluntarily through reduced consumption. The solution to the whole problem, as stated in the lecture, is reduced per capital consumption. In other words, it is not necessary to oppose animal to human or environmental interests (as though we can say that the three are separate to begin with) if there is a widely adopted ethic of voluntary reduction of consumption by our species and sustainability is understood as incorporating justice concerns.



Endnotes [1] Deep ecology is often distinguished from the more human-centric “social ecology”, advanced by Murray Bookchin. The historical debate between deep ecology and social ecology is beyond the scope of this lecture, but suffice it say that Leopold’s land ethic informs it. [2] As an aside, I wish to note there that because the energy pyramid of the biotic community is often pictured with carnivores on top and plants and soil on the bottom, but since there is no moral hierarchy implied by the diagram, it could as easily be pictured on its side or upside down! It is interesting to note that in hierarchical models of reality, the top is always pictured as superior and the bottom inferior. Carol Adams, in one of her essays, notes that mapping hierarchies typically uses the imagery of “up and down” in this way. Theoretically, the biotic pyramid is not hierarchical, but as with the theory of evolution, there is a strong human tendency to think of it that way: Darwin himself was against hierarchicalism being superimposed on evolution, saying there is “no higher or lower” among species, but his interpreters ignored this and superimposed a very anthropocentric way of thinking onto evolution, creating what is now known as “evolutionism” or the idea that species evolve from lower to higher and that “higher” species (notably humans) are entitled to dominate lower species, accordingly. [3] Another form of environmental racism, according to some commentators, is the displacement of indigenous peoples from traditional lands. For example, indigenous peoples were asked to leave the area that is now Temagami provincial and federal parklands (in Ontario), in order that these areas would remain pristine wilderness. Governments are now allowing mining and logging development in that area; had indigenous people remained they might have stood in the way of such development, as has happened elsewhere in Canada. As it is, there is very little opposition to the development, currently .The rights of the indigenous people to stay on that land was brushed aside for the sake of preserving the land. Was it justified? This is just one small example of alleged environmental racism. They are many others. For our purposes, it simply worth noting that both human and non-humans’ rights can be violated in the name of wilderness conservation. [4] The United Nations recognizes three types of human rights: negative rights, positive rights, and community rights. Negative rights are the same for human and non-humans animals. They refer to the right not to be harmed or killed. Positive rights refer the right to certain amenities, such as clean water, housing, education, etc., and in the case of non-human animals, things such as space (territory, habitat). Community rights are rights that accrue to a group, and it is reasonable to suppose that a particular group of sharks should be entitled to community rights to the same degree that a human ethnic or religious groups should. [5] Nature needs individuals. Individuals confer value. Without them would there be anyone to value nature? Berry talks about human beings as the “consciousness of the universe.” Individuals are part of the natural order. There is a legitimate place for us — not only us (human beings) but all sentient beings who confer value — who are “subjects of a life.” Kant’s third Critique spells this out in a rather convoluted way: he describes how nature is something that we exist within and are part of, but it is also something that we perceive in a particular way, a way that has a purpose, which is to serve an end (telos) or purpose. For Kant that end is the creation of the ethical society, but speaking biocentrically (with Thomas Berry) we can interpret it to mean “the communion of subjects” – including non-human animals, as well as humanity. Non-human animals straddle the fence between non-human nature and human-like consciousness, but we know they value their own lives and are sentient, and that is certainly sufficient to argue that they are aware of the world and their place in it, and therefore are part of the noosphere. This idea ties into the Kantian philosophy of non-consequentialism: a thing is good, regardless of consequences or final outcomes, because of the good will that motivates the action. Thus non-violent protest and “bearing witness” to the needless suffering of others, even if it does not manage to stop that suffering, has great moral merit regardless, because it is motivated by the good will. Ethical veganism has moral merit even if it does not stop climate change or the needless deaths of 60 billion farm animals per year and 2 trillion fish per year (mostly by-catch). In the lecture I made this point, and David Sztybel added a relevant point to mine: ethical veganism does in fact have good consequences, even if they are not felt globally. We do in fact save anywhere from 90 to 900 lives per year according to various estimates (the number varies depending on whether or not one ate fish or not, I am guessing). For those lives our choices are of ultimate importance, as the famous story of the starfish proves: saving one starfish does not save all the starfish – it does not save the whole world — but it means the whole world for that one starfish whose life is saved.

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