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Bioethical Problems: Animal Welfare, Animal Rights

Author(s): B. E. March
Source: BioScience, Vol. 34, No. 10 (Nov., 1984), pp. 615-620
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences
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Bioethical Problen1s:
Anin1al Welfare, Anin1al Rights
B. E. March
Scientists using experimental animals, agriculturalists involved in animal produc-
tion, and nonvegetarians find their activities under increasing challenge. Under-
standing the historic background of human attitudes toward other animals may
help those who find themselves confronted with the views of animal liberationists.
(Accepted for publication 1 August 1984)
certain that our ancestors ate meat as
long as 2,000,000 years ago. Two impor-
tant early hominid sites in Africa re-
vealed stone tools used to cut up animal
carcasses and break open bones (Bunn
1981; Potts and Shipman 1981). The rela-
tionship changed when people devised
tools that increased their hunting effi-
ciency and as they domesticated some
species. From that time no other animal
species has regularly killed and eaten
people. Humanity thenceforth perceived
itself as superior to all other beings,
having "dominion over the fish of the
sea, and over the fowl of the air, and
over the cattle, and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing that cree-
peth upon the earth" (Genesis 1: 26). At
this point there was no recorded ques-
tioning of how "dominion" might be
exercised-only the statement that hu-
mans were superior to and could control
other creatures. It has been suggested
that the advance of early hominids to the
top of the food chain was the first land-
mark in human ecological history
(McNeill 1980).
Philosophers, scientists, vegetarians,
livestock producers, sealers, and film
stars are debating the morality of human
use of animals for food and clothing, for
sport, as companions, and as experimen-
tal subjects in research. They are debat-
ing the entitlement of animals to rights
and human responsibility to assure those
rights. These are not new philosophical
problems. The present surge of concern
for animals by people belonging to a
largely urban society who have had little
association with animals is, however, a
curious phenomenon with diverse ori-
gins (see also Ritvo 1984, p. 626 this
A number of events in recent years
point to increasing human awareness of
our relationship to the other animals with
which we share the earth. Organizations
have formed with the objective of pro-
tecting endangered species. Trapping
wild animals and slaughtering seals for
their pelts have been much publicized.
Studies have been done of the conditions
under which domestic animals are reared
for food. Some countries have enacted
legislation regarding permissible prac-
tices for livestock and poultry industries.
Some associations of dog fanciers have
altered their show standards to allow
dogs belonging to breeds previously sub-
jected to ear cropping to be shown un-
cropped. Animal welfare organizations
have become more numerous and voice
much criticism of the use of animals as
experimental subjects in research. A
proliferation of vegetarian recipe books
and of vegetarian restaurants indicates
The author is with the Department of Poultry Sci-
ence, University of-British Columbia, Vancouver,
BC V6T 2A2. © 1984 American Institute of Biologi-
cal Sciences. All rights reserved.
November 1984
that considerable numbers of people are
eliminating meat from their diet. Books
about animals are common on bestseller
lists. In 1977 a symposium on animal
rights was held at Trinity College, Cam-
bridge. The attendants at that sympo-
sium signed a declaration against "spe-
ciesism" (Paterson and Ryder 1979, see
box, below).
This declaration was followed later the
same year by a "Universal Declaration
of the Rights of Animals'' at the third
international meeting on the rights of
animals in London, England (see box,
next page).
The phenomenon of increased interest
in and resultant concern for animals dur-
ing a period of history when relatively
few people have any association with
animals is intriguing. The question is
serious as well as intriguing, however,
because the concern that has developed
is an ethical one regarding animal rights
relative to human rights.
The first human relationships with oth-
er animals would, perforce, have been
those of both prey and predator. It seems
Aristotle, who observed and contem-
plated many subjects, wrote A History of
Animals in the 4th century B.c. (Cress-
A Declaration Against Speciesism
Inasmuch as we believe there is ample evidence that many other
species are capable of feeling, we condemn totally the infliction of suf-
fering upon our brother animals, and the curtailment of their enjoyment,
unless it be necessary for their own individual benefit.
We do not accept that a difference in species alone (any more than a
difference in race) can justify wanton exploitation or oppression in the
name of science or sport, or for food, commercial profit, or other human
We believe in the evolutionary and moral kinship of all animals, and
we declare our belief that all sentient creatures have rights to life, liber-
ty, and the quest for happiness.
We call for the protection of these rights.
well 1891). From his observations of
animals he described differences in be-
havior among species in terms of human
personality. Aristotle extended his com-
parative observations of people and oth-
er animals in The Politics as follows:
Nature, as we say, does nothing with-
out some purpose; and for the purpose of
making man a political animal she en-
dowed him alone among the animals
with the power of reasoned speech.
Speech is something different from
voice, which is possessed by other ani-
mals also and used by them to express
pain or for the natural powers
of some animals do indeed enable them
both to feel pleasure and pain and to
communicate these to each other.
Speech, on the other hand, serves to
indicate what is useful and what is harm-
ful, and so also what is right and what is
wrong. For the real difference between
man and other animals is that humans
alone have the perception of good and
evil, right and wrong, just and unjust.
And it is the sharing of a common view in
these matters that makes a household or
a city.
More than two millenia later the state-
ment of a modern philosopher-scientist,
Theodosius Dobzhansky (1964) is not
appreciably different from Aristotle's
conclusion: "Man's bodily structures do
not differentiate him strikingly from oth-
er living creatures; it is the psychic,
intellectual, or spiritual side of human
nature that is truly distinctive of man."
The capacity for conceptual thought
has made human communities unique
among animal societies. Animals of
many species congregate in societies of
different sizes-family groups, flocks,
herds, pods, and schools. These group-
ings confer an advantage to individuals
for protection, companionship, and re-
production and ultimately ensure the
perpetuation of the species. People, too,
associate in groups for all these benefits.
But human societies differ by an added
dimension-the communion and inter-
play of ideas within the societies and
their subsequent effects upon the societ-
ies' development.
Because Aristotle was a polymath, he
brought to bear upon his philosophical
writings the scientific knowledge of the
day. Since that time the principal disrup-
tions in philosophical thought have
Universal Declaration of the Rights of Animals
1. All animals are born with an equal claim on life and the same
rights to existence.
2. All animals are entitled to respect. Man as an animal species shall
not arrogate to himself the right to exterminate or inhumanely ex-
ploit other species. It is his duty to use his knowledge for the wel-
fare of animals. All animals have the right to the attention, care,
and protection of man.
3. No animals shall be ill-treated or be subject to cruel acts. If an ani-
mal has to be killed, this must be instantaneous and without
4. All wild animals have the right to liberty in their natural environ-
ment, whether land, air, or water, and should be allowed to procre-
ate. Deprivation of freedom, even for educational purposes, is an
infringement of this right.
5. Animals of species living traditionally in a human environment have
the right to live and grow at the rhythm and under the conditions of
life and freedom peculiar to their species. Any interference by man
with this rhythm or these conditions for purposes of gain is an in-
fringement of this right.
6. All companion animals have the right to complete their natural life
span. Abandonment of an animal is a cruel and degrading act.
7. All working animals are entitled to a reasonable limitation of the
duration and intensity of their work, to necessary nourishment, and
to rest.
8. Animal experimentation involving physical or psychological suffer-
ing is incompatible with the rights of animals, whether it be for sci-
entific, medical, commercial, or any other form of research. Re-
placement methods must be used and developed.
9. Where animals are used in the food industry they shall be reared,
transported, lairaged, and killed without the infliction of suffering.
10. No animal shall be exploited for the amusement of man. Exhibi-
tions and spectacles involving animals are incompatible with their
11. Any act involving the wanton killing of the animals is biocide, that
is, a crime against life.
12. Any act involving the mass killing of wild animals is genocide, that
is, a crime against the species. Pollution or destruction of the natu-
ral environment leads to genocide.
13. Dead animals shall be treated with respect. Scenes of violence in-
volving animals shall be banned from cinema and television, ex-
cept for human education.
14. Representatives of movements that defend animal rights should
have an effective voice at all levels of government. The rights of
animals, like human rights, should enjoy the protection of law.
stemmed from activities in the scientific
world that challenged humanity's view
of itself as the centre of the universe and
superior to all other forms of life. Most
of us have made the adjustment in per-
ception of our place on this planet and in
the universe, but not all. Some groups
persist in their beliefs that the earth is
flat and that humans were specially cre-
ated. For the most part these groups
remain on the fringe and do not seriously
impede the main course of society in
responding to scientific findings and al-
terations in philosophical thought.
Periodically, ideas have been ad-
vanced that; because they were persua-
sive or enunciated a position agreeable
to society, were generally accepted for
some time even though they subsequent-
ly came to be regarded as obstructing
society's "progress" or diverting it from
the main stream of progress. Such an
idea might remain a force in the mores of
society until society evolved to a point
BioScience Vol. 34 No. 10
where the idea could be superseded by a
different or contrary idea that could at-
tain acceptability only at that particular
time. The history of human slavery ex-
emplifies the rise and fall of such an idea
and the consequences to societal organi-
zation. Another such idea was the one
promulgated in the 17th century by some
philosophers, most notably Descartes.
Descartes believed that humans dif-
fered from the other material things in
the universe only in possessing a soul
(Sutcliffe 1968). He argued that, since
human beings are conscious and since
consciousness cannot have its origin in
matter, consciousness and the soul are
associated. Furthermore, since Christian
doctrine denies souls to animals, it fol-
lows that animals do not possess con-
sciousness. Accordingly, they were to be
considered as machines with no experi-
ence of pleasure or pain. This conclusion
presumably absolved humanity's need to
consider the feelings of animals. The
result was that, for the next two or three
hundred years, those who were able to
accept the philosophy comfortably, even
enthusiastically, committed all manner
of atrocities, from bear-baiting to dis-
secting live animals. Nevertheless, not
all philosophers agreed that animals do
not feel pain (Dean 1767, Hale 1662,
Primatt 1776). Among the general public,
too, there were undoubtedly many who
believed that animals could suffer and
that domestic animals were entitled to
compassionate husbandry.
During the 19th century, zoologists
began to study the responses of different
organisms to stimuli. When workers ob-
served reactions to stimuli, even in mi-
croorgranisms, a debate began on how to
distinguish mere excitability or irritabil-
ity from something that might warrant
description as psychological. Moebious
wrote in 1887 that psychological life be-
gins with living protoplasm and that the
highest aim of zoology should be to
demonstrate the psychical unity of all
animals. Binet (1888) similarly conclud-
ed that "every microorganism has a psy-
chic life, the complexity of which tran-
scends the limit of cellular irritability,
from the fact that every microorganism
possesses a faculty of selection; it
chooses its food, as it likewise chooses
the animal with which it copulates."
Richet, in a note in the 1888 Revue
Philosophique countered as follows:
"On the contrary, it seems to be well
established that complex organisms,
whether single-celled or many-celled,
have a psychology corresponding in
complexity to the degree of differentia-
November 1984
tion their organs have attained, while
simple beings-and they are simple only
if homogeneous-have a simple psychol-
ogy which is probably contained in the
laws of irritability only.' The English
scientist Romanes put forward yet an-
other theory that psychological proper-
ties appear at different stages of zoo-
logical development. According to
Romanes, lower-class organisms have
only protoplasmic movements and excit-
ability; memory first begins with the
echinoderms, the primary instincts with
the insect and spider larvae, and reason
finally commences with the higher
During the last decades, research on
animal communication developed, and
the idea of possible human communica-
tion with animals of other species as
advanced by Lilly (1975) has attracted
popular attention. Griffin (1975), writing
on the evolutionary continuity of mental
experience, has suggested that invest-
igation of communication behavior
has "more dangerous potential conse-
quences'' than nuclear physics in the
1930s or biochemistry today, with its
potential to produce some hazardous
new form of DNA.
As indicated earlier, not all philoso-
phers subscribed to the views of Des-
cartes and some others that people need
not concern themselves with how ani-
mals are treated. In England, Jeremy
Bentham was a notable exception. His is
the much-quoted comment regarding the
basis for ethical treatment of animals:
"The question is not Can they reason?
nor Can they talk: but Can they suffer?"
The first attempts in England to intro-
duce legislation to protect animals
against cruelty were made at the begin-
ning of the 19th century-and failed.
Bills introduced in 1800 and in 1821 to
prohibit bull-baiting and ill-treatment of
horses, respectively, failed to even re-
ceive serious consideration by Parlia-
ment. In 1822, however, cruelty to ani-
mals became an offense punishable by
Richard Martin, member of Parliament
who introduced the bill, and sympathiz-
ers to the cause, then formed the first
British animal welfare organization,
which later became the Royal Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In
North America, however, the Puritans of
Massachusetts Bay Colony had already
enacted in 1641 the first legislation to
protect animals against cruel treatment
(Leavitt 1970).
For a society that for some time had,
in accordance with Saint Thomas Aqui-
nas, unquestionably accepted that it did
not matter how people treated animals
"because God subjected all things to
man's power" and agreed with Kant that
animals are merely means to an end and
"that end is man," it is understandable
that any attempts to protect animals
against cruelty required legislation.
Against this background, the reaction
in 1859 to Darwin's Origin of Species
and the hostility to the subsequent publi-
cation in 1871 of The Descent of Man is
equally understandable. The hurdle of
adusting to the idea that animals are able
to suffer was one that could be jumped
without negating any basic tenet of
Christian faith; humans could still be
regarded as a special creation with do-
minion over all other creatures, even if
those other creatures had the capability
of feeling. Darwin's theory of evolution,
on the other hand, which included hu-
mans in its scheme, was not only a denial
of biblical teaching, but a shock to hu-
man self-esteem. Was this the end result
of scientific probing-to discover that
we are what we are only by some chance
or series of chances? The Victorians, or
most of them, were insulted.
More than a century has passed, and
for most of us who grew up with the
concept, evolution does not seem so
terrible a background. It may even be
perceived as a greater distinction to have
achieved not only our level of intelli-
gence but-even more unique in the ani-
mal kingdom-our level of conscious-
ness by means other than special
creation. In Dobzansky's words, "Man
is the sole product of evolution who has
achieved the knowledge that he came
into this universe out of animality by
means of evolution" (1964).
In addition to writing The Origin of
Species and The Descent of Man and
thus causing all the ensuing ruckus, Dar-
win can be credited with beginning the
science of animal behavior, or ethology,
with the publication of The Expression of
the Emotions in Man and Animals
(1897), the first important view of the
evolution of behavior. Nearly a century
later, Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen,
and Karl von Frisch were awarded the
Nobel Prize for Medicine for their dis-
coveries concerning the "organization
and elicitation of individual and social
behavior patterns."
Extrapolating observations on animals
to humans is hazardous and inevitably
stirs up controversy. Lorenz's book On
Aggression stimulated other writers to
research and write on the extent to
which animal behavior can be identified
in humans. Notable bestsellers include
the The Territorial Imperative by Robert
Ardrey, The Imperial Animal by Lionel
Tiger and Robin Fox, and The Naked
Ape by Desmond Morris. Marshall Sah-
lins, a social anthropologist, describes
these books as vulgar sociobiology
(1976). Vulgar sociobiology, according
to Sahlins, tries to explain human social
behavior as an expression of needs and
drives of the human organism-those
that become part of human nature in the
course of biological evolution.
Despite a reading public stimulated to
an interest in animals, the runaway suc-
cess of James Herriot's accounts of his
life as a practicing veterinarian in York-
shire (1975, 1976, 1978) could hardly
have been anticipated. Dr. Herriot
writes charmingly and with sympathy for
both his human and animal subjects, but
there is something more that pulls the
reader back to the Yorkshire dales when
each successive book appears-a per-
vading "oneness oflife," perhaps. When
city dwellers open one of Herriot's
books, they escape from the urban world
where people talk about ecology and the
environment but where many individuals
feel insignificant or alienated; they es-
cape to a countryside where all people
know their place, where animals, too,
have clearly defined places, and where
there is a well-understood and controlled
association between man and beast in
their shared environment.
So why is there now a surge of con-
cern for animals by a generation of peo-
ple who have largely lost contact with
domestic and wild animals and when, for
the first time, a considerable proportion
of the population in the western world
has grown up virtually unconscious of
the association of meat with living ani-
mals? In industrialized countries a high
percentage of people live in towns and
cities where, in most households, meat is
scarcely handled before being cooked.
Processed meat products are partially or
totally prepared for consumption, made
perhaps into rolls, loaves, or pies, bread-
ed, or dipped in batter so that the texture
and color of the raw meat is no longer
evident. People whose perception of
meat production has been limited to buy-
ing and handling meat products like
these can be very vulnerable to propa-
ganda designed to arouse revulsion. Au-
thors of books promoting vegetarianism
write vividly of their moments of conver-
sion in the hope of eliciting a similar
response in the reader. Witness this ac-
count by Alan Hooker in the introduc-
tion to his Vegetarian Gourmet Cookery
(1970): "There was a market where
chickens were killed for you as you
waited. One day I stood there waiting for
my chicken to be killed. Perhaps I was in
a relaxed and receptive state, for when
the chicken squawked for its life on
being caught something within me
screamed just as hard for my life. The
man handed me a wrapped-up dead
chicken which I took home and put into
the cooking pot. I served it on a platter,
this dead chicken; but for me the transi-
tion to the word 'meat' never took
At different times in history and within
different human societies, certain prac-
tices with respect to domestic animals
have been acceptable to the general pop-
ulation while others have not. There
have usually and understandably been
differences, too, in the attitudes of those
working closely with animals to the wel-
fare of those animals. For example, ani-
mals like dairy cows that are in close
association with their caretakers all their
lives may be better treated than cattle
raised for beef, since a dairy cow's "per-
sonality" can be perceived and recog-
nized during the long association. Hu-
man perception of animals reared or
maintained singly or in small numbers
also differs from the perception of ani-
mals in large flocks or herds.
Where animals are used for draft, still
another dimension is added. When horses
provided transportation for both people
and goods, the condition of horses and
how they were treated was apparent to
all, city and country dwellers alike. Be-
cause people vary in temperament, sen-
sitivity, and capability, some treated
their horses well and others treated
theirs badly. It was a "rougher" age than
ours; individual suffering among both
humans and beasts was quite visible, and
most people seemed inured to it. To
popularize the idea of treating horses
humanely, Anna Sewell in 1877 wrote
Black Beauty, a sentimental, anthropo-
morphic story of a horse. The book
portrays not only the plight of maltreated
horses but also the plight of the poor,
who were scarcely better off than the
horses they drove.
Over time, the visibility of animals and
the background against which animals
are visualized have changed. Some
changes appear in the ways animals are
portrayed in art. Western art presents a
great variety of animal scenes: the "no-
ble" wild animal, sometimes at bay;
dead carcasses of animals and birds
killed by the human hunter and "taste-
fully" arranged with a few fruits or vege-
tables (captioned "still life"); paintings
of nature red in tooth and claw; paintings
of all animals, including humans, living
together in peace but not doing anything;
domestic farm animals as vaguely orna-
mental aspects of the rural landscape;
and the 19th century painter's exaggera-
tion of the fine features of prize speci-
mens of English pigs, sheep, cattle, and
Most of the pictures we make today of
animals take advantage of modem pho-
tography. Wild animals of all species,
large and small, terrestrial, aquatic, and
aerial, from all parts of the world, are
captured on film in their natural habitats
in daylight and in darkness. Many maga-
zines publish beautiful animal photo-
graphs so that today's nonzoologists as
well as zoologists can appreciate the
diversity of animal appearance and be-
havior. Emulating the achievements of
the professional wildlife photographer
occupies much time for many amateurs,
who develop a curiosity and a respect for
their subjects. The animals that these
people see through their camera lenses
are, for the most part, living in the wild
or protected state. Much is made in the
wildlife-natural history magazines of en-
dangered species, and man is frequently
seen as the culprit. Strangely, part of the
"wildlife-protection" and "save-the-wil-
derness" communities are the outdoors
people who hunt and fish.
The publication of Wilson's Sociobio-
logy (1975) stirred up controversy be-
cause of Wilson's claim that the method-
ology and findings of sociobiology apply
to us. His later book, On Human Na-
ture, expands the theme of grounding the
human sciences in biological principles.
In 1977 a workshop was held in Berlin on
"Morality as a Biological Phenomenon"
(Stent 1978). The aim of the 25 partici-
pants was to "examine the limits of the
naturalistic approach to morality." It is
BioScience Vol. 34 No. 10
doubtful that any important conclusions
were reached. But old philosophical
problems were redebated by people from
a variety of disciplines against a back-
ground of modern scientific knowledge.
B. A. 0. Williams of Cambridge Univer-
sity summarized the workshop conclu-
sions. He observed that because of the
prestige given to science, a pseudosci-
ence has arisen that is a form of supersti-
tious belief; this pseudoscience is coun-
terbalanced by "antitechnological and
antimanipulative alarm" induced by fear
offormless future progress.
The use of animals as experimental
subjects in scientific research and to test
the safety of chemical substances, syn-
thetic and natural, is the target of many
animal welfare groups. It is deplorable
that there are people who, either because
of lack of imagination or because of
some sadistic tendency, will subject ani-
mals to unnecessarily painful or frighten-
ing procedures. The objectives of animal
welfare groups to control these people
are laudable. But the view that using
animals as experimental subjects is in
itself morally wrong-because the proce-
dures exploit animals and represent spe-
ciesism-is another matter. Writings
against vivisection, as research employ-
ing animals is unfortunately termed, de-
scribe physiologists as "men of science,
deaf to screams and blind to blood."
There is also serious misunderstanding
of what is meant by scientific objectivity.
The animalliberationists, and even some
of those people belonging to animal wel-
fare organizations with moderate views,
mistakenly believe that scientific objec-
tivity in animal research demands a lack
of compassion for experimental animals.
They are surprised to be told that, unless
scientists are observant and sensitive to
even the slightest abnormalities in their
subjects' behavior, they are not likely to
be successful animal biologists.
The use of animals in research has
become common. That educators wished
to use animals in classroom demonstra-
tions was predictable. It is sad, however,
that the message given to school children
has often been that animal subjects can
be used as tools without responsibility or
consideration for their welfare-"any-
thing goes" in the name of science. Un-
fortunately, not all animal research and
demonstration at the university level can
escape the same criticism.
The reaction against animals in re-
search may well be rooted in a fear of an
unknown future, unpredictable because
we do not know how new scientific
knowledge may be used to change the
November 1984
world. This fear of the unknown and
distrust of our ability to control the appli-
cation of scientific discovery, rather than
concern for animal welfare, is probably
one basis for action against animal
Considering what has been learned
about humans and other animals has
brought some people to conclude that
since humans and the different animal
organisms are all part of an evolutionary
continuum, humans should not assign
rights to themselves that they do not
extend to other creatures. If it does not
assign the same rights to other animals,
humanity must, according to Singer, be
accused of speciesism. Singer's argu-
ment (1975) is that if we acknowledge
racism is bad, we must conclude that
speciesism is also bad. And, just when
speciesism has been catching on as a
buzz-word, another, diametrically op-
posed phenomenon has also arisen-re-
plays of the Tennessee-Scopes trial.
Although some people are comfort-
able, or even proud, that they evolved as
something special, others are not so
comfortable, or maybe do not feel cer-
tain about being special. They want it to
be taken on faith that they are special.
Just to be sure, they want this special
status taught in the schools. Many peo-
ple find themselves bewildered and
frightened by our social situation, by our
individual and collective deeds against
our fellows, and by our seeming inability
to bring our intellectual capabilities to
bear upon these problems. Some escape
the problems of the human estate by
transferring their concern to animal wel-
fare. Some escape responsibility for cop-
ing with our problems by espousing a
faith that shifts the responsibility for
what we are, or what we have become,
to a creator.
The question of how different humans
are from other animals has generated all
manner of philosophical debate. Today's
animalliberationist-vegetarian claims that
because differences among animal species
in behavior, consciousness, communica-
tion, and intelligence are not distinct,
people should assign the same rights to
other animals as they wish for them-
selves. Numerous writings on this phi-
losophy have appeared in recent years.
Yet the liberationists do acknowledge
that, when it comes to arranging matters
among the animals of different species,
natural prey-predator relationships in the
wild cause some management problems.
Wild carnivores cannot adopt a vegetari-
an diet, and for some species, animal
meat is a nutritional necessity.
The current controversy regarding our
responsibility to animals pertains not to
the capability of animals for suffering but
to the question of animals' rights. With
the enunciation of this question, we have
moved from a solvable problem of com-
parative physiology to a matter of philos-
ophy and ethics. The question has
evolved from one that could be viewed
with reasonable objectivity to one that
requires an evaluation of human respon-
sibility in assigning rights to animals.
The question involves deciding whether
rights are inherent, or accorded by us. In
either case humans must define the
rights as well as develop and institute the
means by which they are assured. These
responsibilities and rights are human
concepts, without expression or counter-
part in nonhuman societies. They have
to be enunciated and exercised by hu-
mans without the possibility of confer-
ence between human and animal. Re-
sponsibilities and rights are defined
differently by different human societies.
Those societies that have changed most
over time have altered their definitions
of responsibilities and rights with respect
to the human members of society as well
as to animals. These changes will inev-
itably continue and will be dictated by
some balance between pragmatism and
We pride ourselves on being the only
animals with feelings of right and wrong.
Herbert Spencer (1892), however, ad-
vanced the doctrine that human moral
sense is nothing but "the experiences of
utility organized and consolidated
throughout past generations.'' A century
later, the topic is still under debate, with
an additional hundred years of scientific
research for consideration. Dawkins
(1976) writes that "we are survival ma-
chines, robot animals blind by being pro-
grammed to preserve the selfish mole-
cules known as genes." Singer (1975)
veers from proselytizing on behalf of
animal rights and vegetarianism, with
arguments based on morality and ethics,
to considering improvements in the effi-
ciency of food production that might
result if animals were eliminated from
the food chain.
So we continue to ponder and debate
our humanness. We are conscious, as
never before, of our power to control the
future of animals of all species, and that
power frightens us. Part of our fear is
that, in exercising our human mental
capacity for control, we diminish the
moral and ethical components of our
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