When we think about animal ethics and the guidelines on which our treatment towards non-humans is based, there are five theories of obligation we can point to: The No Status Theory, Indirect Obligation Theory, Equal Status View, Equal Consideration Theory and Split Level Theory. A brief consideration of each theory has led me to conclude that the Equal Consideration Theory is the most logical. It states that as sentient beings animals are as morally considerable as humans. Developed by Jeremy Bentham as an off-shoot of utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number), it is a more practical theory than the ideological Equal Status View. It aims to avoid hypocrisy, in the form of specisim, by making sentience the sole criterion for moral consideration, as opposed to rational self-consciousness. Theories where rational self-consciousness and the ability to plan and take part in ones future are the criteria for moral consideration come into criticism when you look at the favouring of humans who don't meet this criteria (severely mentally handicapped) as opposed to animals. This arbitrary favouring has been labelled as speciesism by Peter Singer who has added to Bentham's previous work on the theory.
If we were to apply this theory to our society, the implications of change appear drastic and impractical but are not entirely unrealistic. If we were to treat animals according to ECT it would mean an end to animal testing for cosmetics, arbitrary experiments with no real benefit, animal skins collected for fashion and factory farming.
The four main principles of the ECT are the principle of equality, the rejection of specieism, the principle of utility, and the relevance of self-consciousness.
The principle of equality states that ever ...
|Please login to view the full paper