July 7, 2022

Kill the carnivores, says animal rights philosopher

They cause too much suffering

In the hands of Peter Singer, the
philosophy of utilitarianism has become a highly effective weapon for defending
and extending animal rights. So effective, in fact, that it is astonishing to
see another utilitarian use it to propose a plan for the deliberate extinction
of many species. Yet this is what the Rutgers University philosopher Jeff
McMahan does in a provocative article in the New York Times.

His argument is based on Jeremy Bentham’s
classic argument for animal rights: “the question is not, Can they reason? nor,
Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” This obviously means that it is wrong for
us to allow battery hens to suffer, he says. But human-induced suffering is not
the only suffering endured by animals.

What about the suffering inflicted upon
animals by other animals: cats eating birds; lions devouring zebras; hawks
rending rabbits? If we truly wish to reduce the amount of suffering in the
world, something must be done about Nature red in tooth and claw.

McMahan’s proposal is radical: humankind should ease
them into extinction. This may not be technically feasible at the moment
because it could harm the ecological balance. However, when it does become
possible, it would be morally good:

“It would be good to prevent the vast
suffering and countless violent deaths caused by predation. There is therefore
one reason to think that it would be instrumentally good if predatory animal
species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species,
provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm
than would be prevented by the end of predation. The claim that existing animal
species are sacred or irreplaceable is subverted by the moral irrelevance of
the criteria for individuating animal species. I am therefore inclined to
embrace the heretical conclusion that we have reason to desire the extinction
of all carnivorous species.” ~ New York
Times, Sept 19

 



Michael Cook
animal rights
Peter Singer
utilitarianism