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Humanities LibreTexts

3: In Defense of Animals- Some Moral Arguments

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  • This chapter will survey the most influential “theories of animal ethics,” i.e., general theories that attempt to explain the nature and extent of our moral obligations toward animals, which have been used to argue in defense of animals. As we will see, these theories are often extensions or developments of the moral theories that have been developed to explain how humans ought to treat other human beings. These thinkers often argue that the moral theory (or theories) that best explain the nature and extent of our moral obligations to human beings (especially vulnerable ones, such as babies, children, the mentally challenged, the elderly, and so on) have positive implications for many animals as well. Thus, they often argue that there are no relevant differences between the kinds of cases to justify protecting human beings but allowing serious harms to animals and, therefore, animals are due moral protections comparable to at least those given to comparably-conscious, aware, sentient human beings.

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