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Utilitarianism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights Author(s): Tom Regan Source: Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Summer, 1980), pp. 305-324 Published by: Blackwell Publishing Stable URL: . Accessed: 15/08/2011 22:25
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Utilitarianism, Vegetarianism, and AnimalRights

is Philosophy notoriousforits disagreements. Give two philosophers the same premisesand we are not surprised thattheydisagreeoverthe conclusion theythinkfollowsfromthem. Give them the same conclusion and we expect them to disagree about the correctpremises. My remarksin this essay fall mainly in this latter category.Peter Singer and I both agree that we have a moral obligationto be vegetarians.This is our commonconclusion.We do not agree concerning whywe have this obligation.Important differences exist betweenus regarding premisesfromwhichthisconclusionshouldbe derived.' the My positionimplies boththat (a) the idea of animal rightsis intelligible2and also that (b) the view that certain animals have certain rightsmust play a role in adequately grounding the obligationto be
i. These differences broughtout most clearly in our respectivereplies to an are essay critical of our views by Michael Fox. See his "Animal Liberation: A Critique," Ethics, January 1978. See Singer's "The Parable of the Fox and the Unliberated Animals," and my "Fox's Critique of Animal Liberation," in the same issue. In this regard compare the firstchapter of Singer's Animal Liberation (New York: Random House, 1975) and my "The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism," Canadian Journalof Philosophy,October 1975. I discuss some of the differences between us at greaterlength in my "Animal Rights,Human Wrongs," a convocation address presentedat MuhlenbergCollege, Allentown,PA, in March 1979, and published in the Summer I980 issue of EnvironmentalEthics. of 2. On the intelligibility this idea see, for example, Joel Feinberg, "The Rights of Animals and Future Generations" in William Blackstone, ed., Philosophy and EnvironmentalCrisis (Athens: University Georgia Press, 1974); Tom of Regan, "Feinberg on What Sorts of Beings Can Have Rights,"Southern Journal of Philosophy, Winter 1976, and "McCloskey on Why Animals Cannot Have Rights," Philosophical Quarterly,Fall 1976.

? I980 by PrincetonUniversityPress Philosophy & Public Affairs9, no. 4
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it perhapsbears emphasizing."we dice which Singer. Arguably. he mightaccept the view that the idea of he animal rightsis at least logicallycoherent. at least. of the Nor is thisright onlyrightSingermentions.306 & Philosophy Public Affairs vegetarian.for his part. It was reprintedin Animal Rights and Human Obligano." in Animals. pacity-namely."5 least some animals are suffisimilarto humans in "all relevant respects". To begin I shall note that Singer. tions. thus.even if to it shouldturnout to be an incorrect. Readersfamiliarwithsomeof Singer'searlierwritings might forbe essay given for thinking otherwise. 1971). interpretation say that Singer thinksthatcertainbeingshave the rightto equal consideration inof terestsbecause of theirnature-because.For example.3 Here. later. ed.followingRichard Ryder. Stanley and Roslind Godlovitchand John Harris (London: Gollancz.4 must"allow thatbeingswhichare similar(to humans) in all relevant At respectshave a similarrightto life. 21.however. have one could be interpreted thinking as to naturalright:the right equal consideration theirinterests.the capacityfor"suffering and/orenjoyment"-asthe basis for No mentionis made of utilitarian the rightto equal consideration. that is. it On considerations.I shall have more to say about my positionin the second sectionof this essay." Singerthencomments: as In this passage Bentham points to the capacity for suffering that gives a being the rightto equal considthe vital characteristic eration. as a matterof theirnature. non-humananimals) reason? nor Can theytalk? but." he quotes Bentham'sfamous passage: "the questionis not. would not be an unnatural. 4. mightaccept (a). "Experiments on Animals. thatsome animals.To avoid the prejucalls "speciesism. Richard Ryder. 5 (Summer 1974). in his well-known "All Animals Are least some ciently 3.p. "All Animals Are Equal" originallyappeared in Philosophical Exchange i. Tom Regan and Peter Singer (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. 1976). or Singer theyhave the capacityto suffer to enjoy or both. . ed. Animal Liberation.Can theysuffer?. See also his Victims of Science (London: Davis-Poytner) I975. 5. Can they(that is. Men and Morals. the contrary.Clearly. does not accept (b).Singerpointsto a particularcathe capacityfor suffering as he says a few lines or.

" p. certainnaturalrights-inthiscase. Natural thoughthisinterpretation appears. and anything thatis expressedby talkingof such a right could equally well be expressedby the assertionthat animals' inwiththe like interests terestsoughtto be givenequal consideration of I thatI did allow of humans. to who the real culprit mightbe. Singerhas since stated clearlythatit fails to capturehis considered position. I have littleto say about rights because rightsare not important to my argument.Butif we ask whatthosereto spectsare in virtue whichthehumans and animals in questionhave of an equal claim to theright life. As then. the naturalrightto life.I plead not guilty. regret the conceptof a rightto intrudeinto my workso unnecessarily at if this point. make I littleuse of the word"rights" AnimalLiberation.not only were 6. to he His previousreferences "animal rights. My basic moral position (as my emphasis on pleasure and pain and my quoting Benthammighthave led [readers]to suspect) is utilitarian.307 Utilitarianism.Singerimplies. in very and I could easily have dispensedwithit altogether. is upon to the idea of extending rights animals.which I do have quite a lot to say about. Singerwritesas follows: that I have littleto say about the nature of Why is it surprising It wouldonlybe surprising one who assumes thatmycase to rights? foranimal liberation based upon rightsand. in particular. 122. as all or at least mosthumans do.." thinks.. (With the benefit hindsight. thinkthat the onlyright I I ever attribute animals is the "right" equal consideration to to of interests.In responseto a recentcritic'scomplaintthat he has littleto say about the nature of rights.whichfurther supportsinterpreting Singeras believingthatat least some animals have.6 This passage leaves littleroomfordoubt as to what Singerthinks. and AnimalRights animalshave a right life. Vegetarianism. But thisis not myposition at all.My argumentis based on the principleof equality. ..) To the charge of having embroiledthe animal liberationdebate in theissue of animals'rights.theseare thenaturalcapacitiesofthe to beings in question. "The Parable of the Fox and the Unliberated Animals. it would have avoided misunderstanding I had not made thisconcessionto popularmoralrhetoric.

"in D. "On FactoryFarming. Natural Rights (London: Allen & Unwin.p. "maybe leftto the stump-orator party-journalist or but whichshouldbe discredited all seriouswriting"). Relevant passages are included in Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Granted is not uncommonforthosemounting it the box for some cause or otherto gladlyinvoke the idea of rights.However.unnatural environments. I82.somethinghe now " notknow. G. the testimony Ritchieand Singerto the contrary.I believethisis true some of thetime. I894). theoretical.Ritchie goes on to observe. grantedalso thatthis appeal is part of the stock-in-trade the moral of rhetorician. Perhaps thisis so. Men and immediateinterest lies in paving the way forrationalacceptanceof thispossibility. Perhaps appeals to "therightsof animals"_ must bear thediagnosisSingergivesofhis own earlierefforts. See also her essay. Ritchie.In particular. believethisis truein thecase of arguI ing well forthe obligation be vegetarian.that to chickens are raised in incredibly crowded.shornof appeals to therights animals.are unable 7. Ritchie'swords. I Anyonewritingon the topic of the treatment animals must acof an knowledge enormousdebtto Singer. Singerfails of to justify obligation be vegetarianor to treatanimals in a more the to humane manner." in Animals. of despite thereremains the possibility thatwe are drivento invoketheidea of rights for serious-minded. non-rhetorical reasons. I964). See Ruth Harrison.Animal Machines (London: Vincent Stuart. thatveal calves are intentionally raised on an anemic diet.8 of All us by now know.I shall return this topic to to in the second section.or at least have had the opportunity findout. 8. rhetorical "a device. well as as workof RuthHarrison." "concessionto popularmoralrhetoric" a rather than a reasonedappeal.Because of his work. D.308 & Philosophy Public Affairs unnecessaryforhis utilitarian position.7 in Nevertheless.theywere lamentable. . I But I do not thinkso."forgaining a pointwithout the troubleof provingit"-(a "device"which. This I proposeto do by arguingthat. G.the gruesomedetailsof factory thepioneering a farmingare finding place withinthe public consciousness.

we This is not to say that the interest have in eating lished writings. ." in Animal Rights and Human Obligations."All Animals Are Equal. in his words. Mostof themgo to a greatdeal of trouble prewheresuch foodis prerestaurants" pare tastyfoodor to find"thebest on thatwe have a moralobligation stopeatingmeat.It is just to say thatit is unclear. can argue thatwe have a moral obligationto stop supportingthe practice of raising animals intensively(this practice is P. none of thesepractices(of raisinganimals inmore than our pleasures of taste. 155. as I have said.I do not know or to how anyone pretending the slightestsensitivity powers of emor pathycan lookon thesepracticeswithbenignindifference approval.thatourinterest eatingtasty is.and each of us has a moral obligationto the cease supporting practice.First.are being in raised intensively increasingnumbers. And maybe theydo. food is as importantan interestas we (or animals) have in tasty avoidingpain or death. and AnimalRights are to move enough even to clean themselves.our tensively)cater foranything practiceof rearingand killingotheranimals in orderto eat themis of interests a clear instance of the sacrificeof the most important must stop this practice." to Second-(and now granting Singerhis assumptionthat our inin terest eatingpleasant tastingfoodis trivial)-itis unclear how.9 I wonderabout this. other beings in order to satisfy trivial interests of our own ." that"ourpleasuresof taste"are "trivial persons. do not regard the know. thatotheranimals. includingpigs and cattle. Page citations in the textreferto this version. as a he utilitarian.and thatSingfood in to er has givenno argument show.I wonderon what groundsSingerjudges Most of the people I interests. become his Here is thewayhe brings case to itsmoraldestination: vegetarians. utilitarianout growing ofhis professed In any event.309 Utilitarianism. thatstandsin need of rather But thattheydo. . Singer. keptin the dark most of theirlives. to ism. Since. Singermightsay thatpeople who place so much importance the taste of food have a warped sense of values. we . Personally. Vegetarianism. if theydo.Singer'sposition. is something which will not be found in any of Singer'spubelaborate argument."trivial. includingmany quite thoughtful to in situation thisway.

what are the consequences of p. laying aside moneyfor theirchildren's educationor theirown we shouldexpectfroma utilitarian.(a) What is the purposeof p?. and ship the meat or eggs or otheranimal products to whichSingermight(and does.the producers growth of stimulants and otherchemicals (for example. to judged to be highly the of What I have in mind here is this. I do not knowexactlyhow manypeople are involved it.3IO & Philosophy Public Affairs henceforth symbolizedas p) because of some statementabout the purposeof far as I understand utilitarianism-or that.thosedesignedto ward offor to controldisease). The animal industry big busis iness. as in the case of eggs frombatteryand theextension hens) takemoralexception. which Now. package. first and mostobviously. of or dependents theseemployees employers.There are. and veterinarpersonnel ians whose lives revolvearound the success or failureof the animal Also considerall the membersof the familieswho are the industry. must be relevant determining morality p. go well beyondpleasures of taste and are far fromtrivial. It is.directin lyor indirectly. will dwell of on Singer'scharacterization p's purpose. includingfeed producersand retailers.These as people have a stake in the animal industry rudimentary and imor portantas having a job. and how do theycompare to the value of the consequences thatwould resultif alternatives p were adopted and supto ported?Thus. it does not followeitherthat this is a utilitarian objectionone might raise againstp-it is not. thoughthepurposeof p might corFor be rectly describedas thatof cateringto our (trivial) pleasures of taste. (b) All thingsconsidered. from a utilitarianpoint of view.cage manufacturers and designers. certainly numbermusteasilyrunintothemany but the tens of thousands. when a distinctively utilitarian it objectionis fothcoming. answer an to (b). not. What do these peo- ."he gives us an answerto (a). His characterization also leaves out much which. but thereare many othersbesides. The difference betweenthe two questionsand theirrespective answersis not unimportant. The questiontheutilitarian mustansweris not. those who butcher. when Singerobjectsto p on the groundthatit does not "caterforanything more than our pleasures of taste. those who actuallyraise and sell the animals. feedinga family. theinterests thesepersonshave in "business-as-usual." raisinganimals intensivein ly.

For a discussion of both views see Onora O'Neill.judged on of is here and pointsto theenormity the utilitarian of vegetarianssometimes do.must seriouslybe investigated by It any utilitarian. In the particularcase of the morality of raisinganimals intensively. intenforeveryone all quences if sive rearingmethodswere abandoned and we all (or most of us) beio." in Tom Regan. Peter Singer.10 Thoughthe issues involvedare enormously complicatedand cannot receive anythingapproachingeven a modest airing on this occasion.those whose of qualityof lifepresently bound up in it. a utilitaris As ian. and AnimalRights ple do about a job. For example. Affluence and Morality." PsychologyToday. considered. that grains not used to feed intensively raised animals could be used to feed the starving masses of humanity..mustinsiston the relevanceof theirinterests as of well as the relevanceof the interests otherpersonswho are not directly involved the practicebut who mightbe adverselyaffected in by its suddenor gradualcessation. "Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor. "The Moral Perplexities of Famine Relief.desirable. September 1974.the shortand long term of economicimplications a suddenor gradualtransition vegetarianto ism. 1979). is not enoughto pointout. Singer. eds. Matters of Life and Death (New York: Random House. relevant task thatconfronts on anyone who would restvegetarianism utilitarianism. 1977).The debate between Singer and Garrett Hardin over the desirability famine relief.I believe. Both are reprintedin W.if we or theysee theerror theiror our ways and become vegeit tarians?Certainly is no defenseof an immoralpracticeto plead that some people profit a utilitarian.. Aiken and H. are a utilitarian. no.3"1 Utilitarianism. Vegetarianism. Singer. we would not cease to condemnit merely because we were apprizedthat plantation ownersfoundit beneficial. by large numbersof persons. 3 (Spring 1972).a utilitarian musthave the hard data to show that this possibility at least probable and. cannot say that the interests those humans involvedin this practice. See Hardin." Philosophy & Public Affairsi. But Singer. a means of supporting or themselves theirdependof ents. one thingis certain: It is not obviously truethat the conseaffected wouldbe better. . In the case of slavery. "Famine.for example. is judged on utilitariangrounds. cannot just appeal to our moral intuitions assume that our intuitions or can be givena utilitarian basis. LaFollette. ed. World Hunger and Moral Obligation (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

basis forthe obligationto be vegetarian?I do not believe so. important interest. The problemwith the is equalityof interests principle thatit does not tell us what we ought to do. if a human's interest in avoidingpain is a non-trivial. sometimeshe writesas thoughit applies to treatment.For what we would have to be shown. he understands involves as I have argued in the above. I propose to call this "the equality of interestsprinciple.even a "fellowtraveler" like myselfwill fail to findthe necessarycalculationsin Singer'swork. For thepresentI shall considerhow thisprinciple is thought him to applyto interests.or a defenderof his position. in additionto this principle. no matter whose interests theyare.3I2 & Philosophy Public Affairs came (all at once or gradually) vegetarians.thelike interest a non-human of animal also is (and oughtto be considered) non-trivial important.Withoutthem. then. shall considerthe I latteralternative below. Thus. is thatthe consequencesof all or mostpersonsadoptinga vegetarian . acceptanceof a principle equality. of Sometimes writesas though he thisprinciple applies to interests. this principlestates that equal interestsare (and ought to be considered) equal in value.giventhisprinciple.a utilitarian-based vegetarianism cannot command our rational assent. are still some distance we fromthe obligationto be vegetarian.and what Singerfails to show. Even the most sympatheticreader." p."Abstractly. are Singer. are we we also suppliedwiththe principleof utility. All that it tells us is that thisis something must do. and thatthe interests all affectof ed partiesare to be takeninto account.Some nice calculations are necessaryto show this.can be expectedto protestat thispointby notingthatutilitarianism. by At one point Singerexplains the principleof equality as follows: "The interests every of being affected an action are to be takeninto by account and giventhe same weightas the like interests any other of being" ("All Animals Are Equal. once we have taken the interests all affected of partiesinto account and counted equal interests equally.Thereis some unclarity of concerning how we should interpret Singer'sunderstanding this principle. and Suppose this principleis accepted and is conjoined with the prinHave we thenbeen givena utilitarian ciple of utility.Theysimply notthere. I52). If.

on utilitarian are ing seems possible. a basis forthe arresembling utilitarian Singerfails to give anything for gument moralconsistency. treatanimals in certainways as it is to treat humans in comparable ways.3I3 Utilitarianism. on utilitarian to grounds. are by thatequal interests would be wrongto treat humans in the ways described(here he merelyappeals to our settledconviction thatit wouldbe wrongto do this) and. whereas quences of treatingthe animals in this way are optimific .That would have to be the since. I56) Singerargues thatwe would not allow to be done to human imbecileswhatwe allow to be done to moreintelligent. for so faras I understand issues. forexample. let alone. considered.But This view of Singer'sis not without utilitarian his basis forvegetarianism howdoes it strengthen avowedly of for or.whereaswe of do allow themto be conductedon primates.merelyto assume that the treatmustbe violatedbythedifferential principle equalityofinterests mentof the humans and animals in question. Singer. In orderforthisargument moral the to basis formorehumane treatment consistency providea utilitarian of animals.however.thatit would be wrong at all. again on utilitariangrounds. we are guilty a gross formof prejudice ("speciesism"): we are grosslyinconsistent fromthe moralpointof treat animals in certain ways.that it would be just as wrong to treatthemin these ways as it would be to treathumans." p. first. The interestsof animals raised intensively of counted as equal to the interests human imbecileswho mightbe but the conseraised as a food source under similarcircumstances. and AnimalRights than if we did not.we would not allow trivial. on utilitariangrounds. considerablemoral weight.does not show.Thus. Singerwouldhave to show thatit would be just as wrong. Nor will it do. to painfulexperiments be conductedupon these humans. Vegetarianism. on utilitariangrounds. as a defense of Singer. followgrounds. second.moregenerally. moreself-conscious animals. That is all way of lifewould be better.a priori. that.not assumed. In short. not shownmerely insisting A defenderof Singermightobject that I have overlookedan imOn portantargument. morehumane treatment animals? Not at all."All Animals Are Equal. a numberof occasions (for example. shown.

More fromraisingimbecilesintensively thoseresulting of generally.whatcounts grounds is whateverthe apas equal treatment far fromclear. This principlehas an advantage over the equalityof in interests principle. forexample.Certainly suggestthat Singerthinksthat it means) that beings with equal interestsoughtto be treatedidentically.therefore. even grantingthat we imbecilichumans in the ways animals would not approveof treating and even assumingthatthehumans and animals are routinely treated."is a prescription how we humans" ("All AnimalsAreEqual. shouldtreat It is possible. Not to thinkit just as .3I4 Philosophy Public Affairs & would not be.however. This prinfroma certaindegreeof vagueness. additionto arguingthatequalityapsometimes writesas if equalityapplies to treatalso plies to interests. thus: beings with equal interestsought to be mightbe formulated it applies to humans. in themselves have an equal interest avoidingpain or death.forexample.we find of ciple of equality. that. So. Singeralso recognizesanotherprincipleof equality. it does basis forvegetarianism notfollowthatwe have been givena utilitarian of If or thecause ofmorehumane treatment animals generally. that. mustconcludethathe has failed to groundthe to obligation be vegetarianon suffers ciple. bythe priniciple equalitySingermeans what I have called the equalityof of we interests principle." p. does not tellus how to determine to it cannotbe interpreted mean (and I do notmean to ment.what I this principle Abstractly shall call the equalityof treatment principle.Singer. in As mentioned earlier. dissimilartreatment beings with equal interestsmight well have greatlyvaryingconsequences. him at one pointsayingthattheprinment. thatit does professto tell us how we oughtto act: we oughtto treatbeings withequal interests additionto the equalityof interests principle.thenwe mustalso thinkit just as wrongto inflict unnecessarypain on non-humananiin mals who have an equal interest avoidingit. myemphasis). it criteria are.Still.we oughtto give dancing lessons to pigs if we give them to little girls on the thatpigs and littlegirlsbothenjoydancing. what constitutes it equal that. I 52.I think is fairto say thatSingerwouldagreeto propriate that thefollowing-namely. if we thinkit wrongto inflict unnecessary in pain on humans whohave an interest avoidingit. Nevertheless.

Supposethattheequalityof treatment case forthe obligationto be vegetarian. the it appears possiblethat someone mightaffirm principleof utility without principle and. a priori. believewe must conclude thathe fails to understand providethisprinciplewithsuch a basis. thenthe equalityof treatment of entailedbythe principle utility. can be justified an appeal to utility.To put the point differently. and Animal Rights in wrong thecase of animals as in thecase of humans.if I understand principle. is at least conceivablethatsystematic could be optimific. The principlefollowsfromthe principleof utility. at the same time. Utilitarianism.How. if the ciple strengthens basis? If I at all. printhatthe equalityof treatment Possiblyit will be thought (2) in ciple followsfromutility two ways: (a) the equalityprinciplefollows logicallyfrom (is logicallyentailed by) the principleof utility. does Singerprovidethis principlewitha utilitarian I him correctly. of violationsof the principle equalityof treatment If thisis so.denytheequalityof treatment someone himself. good overnonpossiblebalance of non-moral bringabout the greatest equalbeingswithequal interests whether treating moralevil.would be a breach of the equalityof treatment prinMyquestionnow is this. logically . shall examine each alternative its turn. alternative. goal is an open questhe utilitarian ly wouldbe conduciveto realizing it tion. thenit cannotplausiblybe maintainedthatthe two principles are identical. equalityof treatment by is principle presupposed theprinciple (3) The equalityof treatment in of utility. when supplied withcertainfactual prem(b) the equalityprinciple.a priori. (2) of is of treatment principle identicalwiththeprinciple utility. As by ises. forthefirst to maintainthattheequality it mustagain be said thatit is implausible Certainly is of treatment principle entailedby the principleof utility.( i ) The equality Abstractly.In otherwords. contradicting thereby mightmaintainthatwe oughtto act so as to bringabout the greatest evil and maintain good overnon-moral possiblebalance of non-moral that to realize thisobjectiveit may be necessaryto treatsome beings principleis not unequally.3I5 Vegetarianism. Singer.If thisis so. thereappear to be threepossibilities. I It is implausibleto maintain that the equality of treatment (i) directsus to Utility is principle identicalwiththe principleof utility.

of thenit mustbe arguedfor. Singerwouldfirst have to show (at least) thatpracticeswhichviolatethis principlealso violate the principleof utility.we oughtto treatbeingswithequal is interests equallybecause. then.Possiblythis could be shown. violatethe equalityof treatment we principle.By merely noting thattheway we allow animals to be treated violatestheequalityof treatment principle. In doingthis. alluded to earlier. How.than those that would resultif we treatedthem differently-for example. I do not know. There are occasions. on utilitarianlines. what I to wantto emphasizeis that. mighthe argue. despite certain appearances to the contrary. if theywere not raised intensively.Singerthinks.ifhe is to givethecase foranimal liberation utilia tarianbasis.if I am right.3T6 & Philosophy Public Affairs The second argument theequalityof treatment for principle following from utilityis that the utilitarianobjective is assisted if this principle accepted. it is certainly open to a utilitarian argue in this way. against treating animals as theyare treated?The questionis enormously complicated. And thisis as much as to say that. I have already alluded to its difficulty earlier. thisis precisely whathe mustshow.whereSingerarguesthatwe are morally inconsistent when we allow thingsto be done to animals thatwe would not allow to be done to less developedhumans. However.when I mentionedthe animal industry. I understand if him correctly.judged on his published . What Singerwould have to show. Indeed.Singer has notevenbegunto showthis. in orderforthisfinding strengthen allegedlyutilitarian to his basis for vegetarianism and animal liberation generally.whether the equalityof treatment does followfromtheprinciple principle of in utility. assumingthatit does. Singerfails to give us any argument opposingthistreatment animals on distinctively for of utilitariangrounds.On thisview.I believe.all considered. as a matter fact. since one thereby begs the questionat issue-namely. However. I believe. No such argumentis forthcoming from Singer.theconsequences of treatinganimals as they are at presentbeing treatedare that . the sense of "follows from" underdiscussion. of Now.if thisis how theequalityof treatment principle is supposedto followfromtheprinciple utility.thisis optimific.Andyet. is not adequate merelyto assume that It thisis so.

for different treating to justify are in example. of the than utility-namely. another. moral principleand thatthisprinciplepresupposes onlyfundamental thatof equalityof different morefundamental and principle. If it were. principlepresupposedby utilitarianNor is the equalityof treatment ism.More conbased ethic. principle equalityof treatment. it is by means of thispretruethatutility makes its ensuppositionthat the principleof equalityof treatment And since equalityentersin this. thisdoes notfollowlogicallygivena utilitarian spicuously. is not entailedby and is not of treatment it by shown by Singerto be justified the principleof utility. What groundsthereare for principle presupposesthe equalityof treatment that utility thinking and the equality betweenthisprinciple the turnon ignoring difference presupposesthe It of interests principle. Singer's use of the equality of treatment basis afterall. and Animal Rights a movement basis of thiskind. has a utilitarian principle I do not believe this argumentholds. Like interests moreimportant must presupposeeven to get offthe ground. idirects as utilitarians.more fundamentalprinciple And that. 'treatment. he writings. withthat would be inconsistent utilitarianism. utilitarianism something prinSuppose this is true.a logitheory.of the equalityof treatment its theory. is as follows. Utilitarianism. have likeimportance value-and thatthe partiesare to be takeninto account. A's interests That is have like importance.again. tranceintoutilitarian cally respectable way. then.If Singer actually is to give a The upshot of this .thoughthe equality is principle not identicalto. ciple? Nothingfollowsconcerning statuswithinutilitarian it Certainly does not followthat we ought to treatbeings with equal interestsequally just because they have equal interests. vegetarianism. than B's. remains presupposesequality.Thus.therewould be another. that equal principle.thoughA's and B's have a like interest C. So. this attemptto defend Singer's utilitarianbasis for and for animal liberationgenerally.317 Vegetarianism. just won't do. to attempt principle equalityofinterests on beingsdifferently the groundsthat.What. is arguablethatutilitarianism that principlebeing. equalityof interests or are interests equal-that is. fails to givethisliberation (3) In defenseof Singerone mightsay that.Thus. so far as I understand is of One cannothold boththattheprinciple utility theone and theory. the of all affected interests not us.

mostespeciallyofextending this principleto's the animal's rightsthat are being violated. a word.thedilemma sivelyutilitarian In I thinkSingermustface is this: ifhe is a utilitarian. factremains.but he could do this onlyby payinga certainprice: givingup his beliefin an exclubasis forvegetarianism. up Thus.if Singerwere to insistthat. Singermustshow thatacceptingit and extending its scope to the treatment animals would bringabout better of resultsthan are now obtainedby treating animals as though are not they coveredby this principle.whateverthe consequences of treating animals differently. on utilitarian grounds.Possiblythe to of appeal to therights animals is not a "concessionto popularrhetoric" afterall. devil take the the consequences. in effect. in to justify this principle Now.thelong-term for economicimplication of Westernsociety's giving meat eating. one For one can hardlyargue as a utilitarian and say. if the preceding sound. apart from considerations about long-term consequences.if he restshis case forvegetarianism theargument has on he actuallygiven.then.he fails to give a utilitarian is justificationof theequalityoftreatment principle. thatdid not turnout. example. thenhe mustgive a radically different argumentthan the one he has actually given. . concerning.thenhe cannot continueto believethathe has givena utilitarian basis forthe moralobligation be vegetarian. supportof vegetarianism. the thattreating themas theyare treatednow is a clear violationof theirrightsand so ought to be stopped-werehe to insist on this. Of course. That it may not be is what I hope to explain in the next section.thenhe would have a decidedlydifferent argument. In particular. Singercould dispense withthe need to investigate systematically the probableconsequencesof changingour eatinghabits.afterall.3I8 & Philosophy Public Affairs utilitarian basis forvegetarianism. whereas. and thus he fails to give a utilitarian basis forhis objectionsagainst meat eating. is possiblethatthis can be shown. must argue in a quite different he way.But to It show it would require enormous amounts of complicatedempirical data. to be a he in utilitarian. equalityof treatment the principlemust be given a solidutilitarian justification before can be justified usingit. So.Singergivesus no such data.

319 Utilitarianism. theoretically. the question that divides Singer and me is not this is wrongbut how.I shall normallyreferto these practices as treatment T. do notthink I thatpersons to not alreadycommitted utilitarianism be would. And if we asked how thischange in themorality thepractices of had come to pass.that. to use themin painful. what is far fromcertain. thatit is was due to a change in thevalue of the consequencesof the practices.) So. it might.althoughthese once were wrong. in the future.) Like Singer. Vegetarianism.even if thisshouldhappen to be truenow.We would have to say that using in the G's in painful. had not been optimific It was because practiceswhichpreviously had become so.on reflection. thereis no guaranteethatit will continueto be so in the future. as a matterof convenience. as utilitarians.had ceased to gourmet be so. I resistsuch a changein moraljudgment. of subjecting groupG to treatment T is not optimific. wrongness whether its can most adequatelybe grounded. willing theirjudgment about the wrongnessof the practices in to change question merely on the grounds that these practices had become whereaspreviously optimific theywerenot. menseverely tally enfeebled humans.we as wouldhave no rationalchoicebutto changeourmindaboutthewrongness of the treatment question. and AnimalRights II My argument the of beginsby considering situation thoseunfortunate humans to whom Singerdraws our attention-namely.Thus.then. (For convenience's sake I shall normally referto these humans as groupG. if the treatment of group G T should. The point that needs emphasis is that. what we wouldhave to say. Now.if we acas cepted the principleof utility our sole fundamentalprinciple. I thinkthose who are not to would want to know a good deal alreadycommitted utilitarianism .become optimific.trivial researchortoraise themintensively a "gourmet" as foodsource(again. giventhecondition theworldat present. suppose we were to concede.trivialresearch or raising them intensively a as food source.I shall assume that thoughtful people would agree thatit is wrongto treatthe humans in questionin certainways-forexample.

" Canadian Journalof Philosophy. .or what Jan Narvesoncalls "rationalegoism. a lot of human beings would ratherhave done withgroupG's. including the right to have others respect their sentimentalinterests. Ethical egoism.11 The argumentjust sketched. Narveson argues. 12.But even concedingthat G's are the object interests other (rational) human beings.320 & Philosophy Public Affairs morethan just how much thevalue of the consequenceshad changed withthe passage of timeand circumstances.March 1977.because theyare rational. if our judgmentthat we oughtnot to T subject groupG to treatment were foundedon rationalegoism. highly speculative. But if thoughtful people would not change theirjudgmenton utilitarian groundsalone. relatives. March '977. that the practicesare not now or ever will be optimific. that is. orphanedhumans mightcome to be regardedas kin to verminor worse. thereis. then the grounds forthinking wrongnow to treatthehumans in questionin the ways it in questionare not adequatelyilluminatedby the principleof utility. I think. it would appear.'2 Narveson's claims about the sentimentalinterestsof people at the presenttimeare. rationalhumans mightall cease to have such an interest. are that.Howevermuch we might wish to deny or conceal it. For some firstinklings of this line of argument. something else involvedover and above and distinct fromhow good or bad are the consequences. Even granting.I believe. and if utilitarianism requiresthattheyshould change theirjudgmentin the face of these imagined changes in consequences. "Animal Rights. and severely mentallyenfeebled.The groundsunderpinT ning our objectionto treatment of groupG. Thus.see my "Narveson on Rational Egoism and the Rights of Animals.there of of the sentimental is no guaranteethattheywill continueto be so in thefuture. spells troublefor theories otherthan utilitarianism.thoughG's are not rationaland thushave no rightsthemselves. The general point argued forhere and in what followshas become clearer to me throughconversationswith Dale Jamieson. theynevertheless the object of the sentimental are interests other of human beings who.we should be preparedto say that it would become morallypermissible to or even morallyobligatory treatthemin these ways if the future i i. includingthose conventionally "closest"to them -for example." Canadian Journal of Philosophy."runs into have rights. Perhaps. Jan Narveson.

The problemis.freebebecause doing so will eventually ings.13 oughtnot to maltreat severelymentallyenfeebledhumans. For a defense of Kant against their line of criticism. Louis Infield (New York: Harper & Row." Philosophy. and AnimalRights sentimental interestsof rational egoists happened to change as described. human beings. Immanuel Kant.October I976." in Lectures on Ethics. of My objection to my (conjectural) interpretation Kant is this. nevermerelyas means. Relevant portions are reprintedin Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Kant could hold. as a contween (say) moronicand non-moronic I3. lead us to maltreatrational. that treating the humans in questionin certainways Even granting now leads to the sortof futureKant supposes-(one wherethe perpeor trators treatthemselves otherrationalfreebeingsas meremeans)In thereis no reason whythismustcontinueto be so in thefuture.I am not certainwhat his positionwould be. severelymentallyenfeebledhumans are not rational and so. I963). the rationalfree beings mightdraw a verysharp line indeed befuture.could Kant consistently place on how we may treatthem? I conjecturethat his positioncould be of We analogous to his positionon the treatment animals.32I Utilitarianism. trans.October I974. Rather. theyalso lack free will. What constraints. See also Alexander Broadie and Elizabeth Pybus. see my "Exploring the Idea of Animal Rights"in Animal Rights: A Symposium (London: Centaur Press. "Our Duties to Animals and Spirits. then.whichleads me again to the positionthat something otherthan and distinct fromtheinterests rationalhuman beingsunderliesour of thatit wouldbe wrongto subjectGroupG to treatment judgment T. "Kant's Treatmentof Animals. Similar remarksapply to Kant's position.we owe it to ourselves. Vegetarianism.I believe. I978)." Philosophy. For a critique of Kant's views on the wrongness of cruelty to animals. We owe nothingto these humans themselves. .I do not believe that thoughtful people not already committed the positionof rationalegoismwould be preparedto say to this. on we know. given of Kant'sviewson freewill (or myunderstanding his views).and. His theory. see my "Broadie and Pybus on Kant.places constraints how one rationalbeingmay treathimselfor herselfas well as otherrationalbeings: we are always to treat rationalfreebeings as ends. thoughthis is conjectural.and to otherrationalfreebeings thatwe do not do those thingswhichin the future will lead us to treatrationalfreebeings as meremeans.However.

or because theyprovidea sortof "warm-up" the reallyseriousmoral for game playedbetweenrationalfreebeings. The Right and the Good (Oxford: The Clarendon Press. For a certainty thereis much in the precedingthatis leftup in the would cease to be so in the future. D. From a psychological point of view it does not seem implausibleto suggestthat. we do not thinkof them merelyas a practicinggroundforvirtue.This leads me once theory for again to conjecturethat there is somethingelse that underliesour present judgmentthatit is wrongto subjectgroupG to treatment T. 49. I930).or sentimental interest.322 & Philosophy Public Affairs sequence of this distinction. find that I am ineluctablydrawn to the idea that I morons(even) have certainrights. theymighthave radicallydifferent attitudes and feelingsabout membersof the two classes. rightsare postulatedeven in the case if of moronsthatwe can givea sufficiently theoretical firm basis forour conviction thatit is wrongto treatthemin the ways in question. Once more.there would cease to be a strong widespreadtendency(assuming it exists or at present) thatleads thosewho treatmoronsas meremeans to treat themselves otherrationalfreebeingsas meremeans also.not out of niceness." ."W. p. However. if the futureheld the consequences we have imagined.14 because treating or them thusis optimific-rather. or if this actuallywereto come to pass. It is only. if I ask myselfhow to avoid this difficulty. See Ross' analogous observation: "If we think we ought to behave in a certain way to animals. I though. Ross. owe it to themnot to treatthemin certain we ways because theythemselves have a moral rightnot to be treatedin theseways. Ross' groundsfordenyingrightsto animals are subjected to a critical review in my "Exploring the Idea of Animal Rights.then we should be preparedto alter our judgmentaccordingly:thoughit is wrongnow to treatthemthus. It is not only utilitarianism. do not think anyonenot alreadycommitted a Kantian-type to would alterthe judgment thesereasons. that must face the kind of I difficultyhave been tracing.I think. therefore. it is out of considerationprimarilyfor theirfeelings that we thinkwe ought to behave so.I have not shown thathuman moronsdo have any I4. For example.But now.if people drew a sharp enough distinction betweenwhat theybelieved about and felttowardmoronicand non-moronic human beings. thatwe owe it to themnot to treat themin certainways. and if the groundsforjudgingit wrongto treatmoronsin the ways in questionwere Kantian.

Singer subjects my views to a careful critical examination in his "Animals i6. assumingthat theycan or do have some." in Tom Regan. that theybelong to the species homo sapiens. Matters of Life and Death (New York: Random House. I have explored some of the relevant problems in my "An Examination and Defense of One Argument Concerning Animal Rights. if theydo. I take up this question in my "The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism.1o There are many complicatedquestionsthat wouldhave to be considered each of these (and other) cases.insisting) thatthereis much in the precedingthatis leftunsaid.15 I Moreover. will it do to argue I5. However. as I think. that is to mark moral boundariesin a way which invitescomparisonsto racism and sexism.. our search forthe in most adequate theory account forour settledmoral convictions to we are drivento postulatethatmorons (even) have certainrights. have not ventured any analysis of what rightsare (Are theyvalid claims? Entitlements? Powers?). Vegetarianism. I canin not explorethem here. I have not endeavoredto argueforor againsttheview thattheyhave a right life. the relevance of what has been said to the questionof animal rightscan now be brought into sharperfocus. again.I am not even sure how I mighttry. nor have I advanced anything approachinga completeaccount of the range of rightsmoronscan or do have. For if. can givea sufficiently theoretical firm in basis fortheconviction question. For example. Singer.however. because theyare autonomous or veryintelligent. theyare not. Nor can it be argued that moronshave the rightstheydo." pp. and Animal Rights rights. to or to pursue happiness. I980). firm I have not shownthis. Nor. ed. which accounts for this.323 Utilitarianism. and the Value of Life. Summer I979. (2) that this convictionis true." Inquiry.willhave to come at somelaterdate.I thatit cannotbe thefactthattheyare believe. that ( i ) it is onlyif theyhave rightsthatwe actuallyis true-namely. if it comes. See also my "Exploringthe Idea of Animal Rights. if theyhave them." .has arguedpersuasively human beings. rather.while conceding (or. 205ff. That effort. wouldhave to showthatevery To I alternative theory fails to give this convictiona sufficiently basis. reit mains to be asked what thereis about them that could serve as the groundsor basis of the rightstheyhave. show this.To do this I would have to show that what I believe is true.and (3) that the adequacy of theoriesdepends on theirabilityto illuminateand account for such convictions.

be sure.Singer'smentionof "thecapacityto experience pain and/or enjoyment. "Fox's Critique of Animal Liberation." .I thinkI can tell the difference betweenreasoning and rhetoric.we are drivento postulating morons(even) have certainrights. it. (2) we would not (and should not) in change thisjudgment thewaysutilitarianism. none of it is right. On this point see my reply to Fox. I examine this controversy length in my "An Examination and Defense of One ArgumentConcerningAnimal Rights.18 Take. or to humans generally. I29ff. if I am correct thinking that (i) it is wrongto treathuman moronsin the ways in question. thefuture happened to change in the ways described on earlier.but if we search roundforthe most promising candidates. then I thinkthe case for animal rightsis it were. thenwe seem to be inconsistent bestifwe withhold ascribing any rightswhateverin the case of those animals who have the capacityin question. ThoughI might confused notbecause be in my reasoning." pp.if thereis some basis fortheirhavingrights. But even if this must be because my argumentsare unsound. at thereare no arguments all.What thisis.I do notmean to suggestthatit is a simplematter to say what the groundsare forattributing rightsto human morons. from What I do mean to suggestis that Far the strongest arguments describing how it is thathuman moronshave rightswill rationally compel us to ascribe similarrightsto many aniin mals. (3) if.many animals will satisfy the groundsin question. at i8. must thatforms aboutthecapacitiesof themoronsthemselves be something to the groundsof theirhavingthem.If all thisis correct. I7." That seems to me to be a verystrong candidate for grounding rightsin the case of human morons.17Rather. in our search for the most adequate moral theory that human which to groundthis belief.betweenthemand manyotheranimals. is controversial. forexample.and (4) if the groundsunderlying theirpossessing the rightstheypossess are common grounds.what we findis thatmany.324 & Philosophy Public Affairs are thattheybelongto a specieswhosemembers normally rationaland it thelike. egoismor Kantianism if wouldrequire.But if at thatis so.

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