(4) “Animals are morally less important than humans…”

Objection (4): Moral Inequality

“Animals are morally less important than humans because (a) they lack special value or dignity; (b) they are less intelligent; (c) they are not members of our species; (d) we don’t have meaningful relationships with them. Therefore, we may use them.”

This position clearly implies a less radical moral difference than the one presented in the last objection (3). It may therefore be termed “moderate anthropocentrism”. According to this view, animals do count morally, i.e. they are to be considered in their own right. However, they are morally less important than human beings. And because they are less important, we are entitled to make use of them as means to satisfy our ends – albeit within certain limits. This basically boils down to the classic animal welfare position (see section “Animal Rights”).

There are a number of different arguments which are usually presented to support the claim of moral inequality, all of which will be addressed in turn in what follows.

However, all of them are united by the same fallacious reasoning: certain characteristics or relationships imply a fundamental moral difference between humans and animals (with animals assigned a lower moral status); and this difference, in turn, is relevant in general (not just in dilemmatic situations) and thus justifies the instrumentalisation of animals.


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