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Environmental Values

A Constrained-Utility Alternative to Animal Rights

Joshua Frank

Environmental Values 11(2002): 49-62. doi: 10.3197/096327102129340975

Numerous approaches have been taken in an effort to find a non-anthropocentric ethic that will lead to greater consideration of animals. Most of the recent approaches in this area have been rights-based. It is argued here that a rights-based approach alone fails both theoretically and in practical applications. It is shown that in theory these approaches can lead to unsound conclusions and cannot handle uncertainty. In addition, in practice the rules of the rights-based approaches will often be violated. A utility approach with unequal weighting for different species subject to certain rights or obligations is proposed as an alternative. This approach is intended to be operational rather than purely theoretical and therefore would be based on a negotiated consensus rather than a priori theory.


KEYWORDS: anthropocentrism, speciesism, utility, rights, moral status

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Species Equality and the Foundations of Moral Theory James C. Anderson

Beyond Human Racism. Robyn Eckersley

Non-Anthropocentrism? A Killing Objection. Tony Lynch and David Wells

Environmental Values, Anthropocentrism and Speciesism Onora O'Neill

The Moral Status of Beings who are not Persons: A Casuistic Argument. Jon Wetlesen


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