Unleashing the synergisms of animal ethics to advance animal protection

  • Madelaine Leitsberger

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The animal protection movement, like many social change movements, has become divided into moderate and more radical branches, leading to conflicts over the morally correct and strategically most effective approach to achieving their cause (i.e. the animal welfare versus rights debate). These substantial disagreements have supposedly harmed the movement, as they can lead to inefficient use of resources, and weaken the inner cohesion of a broad movement, while strengthening identities of fringe groups, causing alienation of animal advocates, the public and other stakeholders. This is a worrying development, given that the animal protection movement is the major driving force protecting animals, working to fulfil human values, such as avoidance of unnecessary suffering, and aiming to mitigate negative impacts of, for example, intensive farming on the environment and human rights.
This thesis explores the disputes between animal welfare and rights through sociological enquiry, using fifteen semi-structured interviews with animal activists, that shed light on differences in opinions, motivations, and experiences. While the results might not be generalizable, they provide a deeper understanding of animal activists than current literature on the topic does.
Based on the results, it then engages in a philosophical and practical discussion over how to best resolve disputes, so as to strengthen the animal protection movement. The thesis introduces the principle of proportionality, used to settle human rights conflicts, but which does not appear to have been applied to interspecies rights conflicts (conceptualised as moral tragedies in this thesis). This approach is developed as a non-ideal theory to allow for some anthropocentric concessions, acknowledging current economic, legal, social, and psychological barriers to fully ethical behaviour, which crucially affect the work of animal activists. Moreover, the approach forms a middle-ground between the various approaches as it is a deontological/rights approach at its core, but also contains consequentialist elements, allowing for some weighing with regards to conflicting rights, and because of its non-ideal character.
Lastly, the thesis argues that, while individual campaigns might be called into question, a general dismissal of a wide array of approaches cannot be reasonably established. Even the consequent polarization caused by different groups is not necessarily harmful, while uniformity most likely would be. Hence, the movement should acknowledge its shared goal to protect animals and seek unity in its diversity.
Date of Award16 Jul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorNeil Messer (Supervisor), Andrew Knight (Supervisor) & Gary Jones (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • animal welfare
  • animal rights
  • utilitariansim
  • animal advocacy
  • animal activism
  • principle of proportionality

Cite this

Unleashing the synergisms of animal ethics to advance animal protection
Leitsberger, M. (Author). 16 Jul 2018

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis