American Military University - EVSP508: Environmental Ethics

Week 2 Forum Topic: Animal Rights & Non-Western Views
The Assignment
In Week 2 we continue to look at the "big picture" of environmental ethics by considering animal rights and nonwestern views. These issues are intertwined and the conversations between the philosophers in each discipline can often get heated. As you think about animal rights, think about the arguments for preserving nature and how animal rights both support and complicate these notions. For your original forum thread this week, focus on one of the following questions. Your original post should be well developed and supported by academic, graduate level research. Be sure to properly cite all reference resources used to develop your arguments, to include course assigned readings and outside research as appropriate. Follow APA style for all assignments throughout this course. 1. The reading by Lily De Silva states that Buddha pronounced "Cittena niyata loko," meaning that "the world is led by the mind." In her conclusion, she also states "Buddhism teaches that mind is the forerunner of all things, mind is supreme." Assuming that these statements are a fundamental truth, how do they both explain our present environmental crisis and also provide the solution? Please address the issue first, from De Silva's perspective, then provide a critique from your point of view. - -or - 2. Animal ethic beliefs range from Kant's belief that we owe animals no moral obligations to Tom Regan's belief that animals have the same intrinsic values as humans and advocates total abolition of the use of animals in agriculture, science, hunting, etc. Which of the writings on animal rights do you believe provide the best argument for the moral status, and resulting ethical obligations to animals? Support your critique.

My forum posting for #2
The chapter 2 essays on animal rights range from Immanuel Kant‟s ethic of there being no moral obligation for humans towards animals; through Peter Singer‟s utilitarian middle-road ethic, which proposes that moral values should be based on sentience, the ability to experience enjoyment and suffering; to Tom Regan‟s strictly inherent values argument that humanity must take an absolute moral stand against animal use/abuse in all forms. (2011). While I most closely identify with Regan‟s ethic, I also reject it for being absurdly impossible to implement. The other ethics appeal to me for their greater practicality; however, I quite frankly also find them lacking. They don‟t incorporate the ideal of an overarching theme of harmony and mutually beneficial coexistence between humans and nature that, in order to achieve continuing sustainability of life on earth, I feel must be appreciatively translated into societal policies and practices. On a basic, almost spiritual level I can identify – or at least empathize with Regan, based on this, my interpretation of his central argument: All lives are intrinsically valuable, and it‟s impossible and wrong to assign an amount or measure of such intrinsic value to the life of any individual animal or to the lives of an individual species. Anyone who accepts that intrinsic value perspective as fact must therefore, to avoid being grossly hypocritical, conclude that all lives are to be valued as pricelessly equal. However, I feel that Regan‟s stand is – on both a practical and a philosophical level – too strictly extreme. On the practical level, billions of people from many different cultures have been using animals for centuries, in one, more than one, or all of the ways that Regan aims to somehow end at some unknown point in time. Now I fully appreciate that such an argument will quickly be countered by those who would say that citing the impracticality of an ethic‟s implementation does not make the ethic incorrect or illogical. In many ways I agree. Still, there‟s a subtle point that I‟m trying to communicate, one which I assert obscurely shows that the ethic actually is illogical because of its impracticality.

In trying to flush out and put sensible form to my assertion, I must move to discussing my philosophical difficulties with the ethic. I think Regan‟s unbending position ignores the basic “yin and yang” of things. I use that “yin and yang” term in a very simple, layman way, not as if I‟m a Taoist philosopher, or a practitioner of Zen yoga or the martial art form, Tajiquan, and have developed a deep understanding of the concept. While scrounging around to find a quotable definition of yin and yang that works for my use of the term here, the best one I could find very unfortunately comes from the internet site that I think is the bane of all college professors: Wikipedia. In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang... is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. In relationships within nature, and in the relationships between humanity and nature – more specifically for this discussion, between humanity and all other species, especially sentient ones – there should be a natural harmony of existence. Within nature, that harmony is just there. Predator and prey, representing polar opposite and contrary forces in many ways, are interconnected and interdependent and they give rise to each other in turn (i.e. the prey gives sustenance to the predator, while the predator culls the weak and sick for sustainable perpetuation of the prey‟s species) . For us humans that harmony of existence can only be advanced by our deep and abiding appreciation of it, whereby we vigilantly and persistently strive to be respectful, even reverential, towards all Nature, including sentient animals, wild or domesticated. The more that such reverential respect is honestly practiced, in terms of agriculture and sustenance, scientific and medical research, sport hunting, textile production, energy creation, etcetera, the more harmoniously, healthfully, and likely will all life on earth be sustained. To me, Regan‟s (and Buddhism‟s) extremist requirement that all animals be untouched by humans moves humanity and nature out of yin and yang harmony with each other. Therefore, if it ever becomes possible to abolish all animal use activities, doing so will counterintuitively create disharmony and eventually lead to negative consequences for species‟ health and sustainability. The other animal rights ethical beliefs that we are discussing either carry an implied recognition of the need for harmony within nature and between humanity and nature, or do not prevent such harmony from taking place. Therefore, I must, in the end, express greater agreement with them than with Regan. However, I‟m still conflicted. Both of the utilitarian theories, especially Kant‟s strict “no moral obligation to animals” theory, speak of humans using nature, and animals in nature, for humans. (2011) I assert that discussions about animal rights should first and foremost seek to change the argument, from one about the existence or nonexistence of animal rights to one about how humans will achieve harmonious and interdependent coexistence with nature. So my position on the rights of animals and their value compared to humans agrees with that of Regan on a basic intuitive level but breaks away from him upon consideration of his extremist call for abolition of all uses of (i.e. interactions with) animals; and my position that humans need to assign high value to animals, in the form of reverence/respect, conflicts with the more practical but hierarchical utilitarian ethics of Kant and Singer. I think my viewpoint on animal ethics best aligns with environmental pragmatism, since I am most concerned with getting the message out that rather than debate the existence and extent of rights/value for animals, we need to appreciate that the way humans are currently treating animals and nature is disharmonious, and consequently destructive to all forms of life. Per Palmer: But as Light and Katz argue “pragmatists cannot tolerate theoretical delays to the contribution that philosophy may make to environmental questions.” Environmental pragmatism, then, is concerned to develop strategies by which environmental ethics can contribute to the resolution of practical environmental problems. (2011) I conclude by first turning to Prince Charles of Wales‟s eloquent words for the concept of harmonious interdependence between the human and natural worlds: Studying the properties of harmony and understanding more clearly how it works at all levels of creation reveals a crucial, timeless principle: that no one part can grow well and true without it relating to – and being in

accordance with – the well-being of the whole. We need to remind ourselves of this vital „eternal law‟ again and again, it seems to me, so as to „re-mind‟ the world, using it as the gauge we apply to all we do. (2010) Secondly, I ask you to click on the URL,, to go to a YouTube clip from the documentary film, Food, Inc. In the clip, Joel Salatin, the owner of Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia, shows and talks about how his farm has been engaging in environmental pragmatism by practicing as Prince Charles (amongst others) has preached. Here I transcribe a few of Salatin‟s striking observations about the disharmonious modern day industrial food system: The industrial food system gradually became so noisy, smelly, not a person-friendly place, that the people who operate those plants don‟t want anybody to go there because then people would see the ugly truth. When that occurred, then we lost all the integrity and all the accountability in the food system. If we put glass walls on all the mega-processing facilities we would have a different food system in this country. We have allowed ourselves to become so disconnected and ignorant about something that is as intimate as the food that we eat.(2008) Mark Cave Kant, I. (2011). Rational beings alone have moral worth. In L. P. Pojman & P. Pojman (Eds.), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (6th ed., pp. 60-70). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Inc. (Section 1 originally translated and published 1873; section 2 originally translated and published 1963). Singer, P. (2011). A utilitarian defense of animal liberation. In L. P. Pojman & P. Pojman (Eds.), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (6th ed., pp. 71-80). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Inc. (Original work published 1976). Regan, T. (2011). The radical egalitarian case for animal rights. In L. P. Pojman & P. Pojman (Eds.), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (6th ed., pp. 81-88). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Inc. (Original work published 1985). De Silva, L. (2011). The Buddhist attitude towards nature. In L. P. Pojman & P. Pojman (Eds.), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (6th ed., pp. 650-654). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Inc. (Original work published 1987). Yin and yang. (February 2011). Retrieved from Wikipedia,, on December 16, 2011. Palmer, C. (2011). An overview of environmental ethics. In L. P. Pojman & P. Pojman (Eds.), Environmental ethics: Readings in theory and application (6th ed., pp. 30). Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Inc. (Original work published 1994). Prince of Wales, C., Juniper, T., & Skelly, I. (2010). Harmony. Great Britain: HarperCollins Publishers Kenner, R. (Director), & Schlosser E., Pearce, R., & Robledo, M. (Co-Producers). (2008). Food Inc. [DVD]. United States: Participant Media & River Road Entertainment. Natural Farming @ Polyface Farms. [Video file excerpted from Food Inc.]. Retrieved from

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