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Humanities LibreTexts

7.3: Ends and Means

  • Page ID
    31108
  • Like many uses of animals, using animals in rodeos, circuses, zoos, racing, in hunting, etc. are often justified by appealing to various “ends” or “products” of the use. For these kinds of arguments (for both these issues, as well as when this kind of argument is used to defend eating animals, or experimenting on them, and so on), here are some questions to ask:

    • Is this a morally justified end, i.e., some worthy goal?
      • E.g., zoos might be justified by the claim that they are supposed to result in greater respect for animals, arguably a laudable goal. Rodeos might be justified by the claim that they produce entertainment for people, surely a more controversial goal. Some hunters might claim that the goal of hunting is to bring about the human pleasures resulting from killing animals, arguably a goal that could not be morally justified.
    • Is this use of animals an effective, or the most effective, means toward that goal?
      • E.g., with zoos, scientific research might show that zoo attendance results in no greater respect for animals, and perhaps increased disrespect for animals. Thus, perhaps zoos are not an effective means toward that end. Regarding hunting, yes, killing animals is indeed the most effective means to getting the pleasures that people claim to get from killing animals (but perhaps video games could have similar results?).
    • Or are there other, better, ways to achieve this goal?
      • E.g., regarding zoos, surely there are better ways to teach respect for animals. Regarding rodeos, there are other ways to produce entertainment for humans and, arguably, ways that don’t produce harm for animals (or humans) surely are morally better than those that depend on harm.
    • Finally, what exactly are the best reasons to think that using animals for such an end is morally justified, especially in cases where animals are harmed greatly (and we would never dream of using human beings for such a purpose)? Are these reasons any good, i.e., sound arguments for the conclusion that this activity is morally permissible? And what exactly are the best reasons to think that using animals for such an end is morally unjustified, especially in cases where animals are harmed greatly (and we would never dream of using human beings for such a purpose)?

    These sorts of questions above are applicable to all questions about animal use.

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