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A Constrained-Utility Alternative to Animal Rights

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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.

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Keywords: anthropocentrism; moral status; rights; speciesism; utility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2002

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 1.933. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.493.
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