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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, Biotechnology, and the FutureAlbert Schweitzer's Reverence for LifeAlphavilleAltruismAmerican EugenicsAmerican PsychosisAn Anthology of Psychiatric EthicsAn Introduction to EthicsAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAn Introduction to Kant's Moral Philosophy And a Time to DieAnimal LessonsAnimal RightsAnimals Like UsApplied Ethics in Mental Health CareAre Women Human?Aristotle on Practical WisdomAristotle's Ethics and Moral ResponsibilityAssisted Suicide and the Right to DieAutonomyAutonomy and the Challenges to LiberalismAutonomy, Consent and the LawBabies by DesignBackslidingBad PharmaBad SoulsBasic Desert, Reactive Attitudes and Free WillBeauty JunkiesBefore ForgivingBeing AmoralBeing YourselfBending Over BackwardsBending ScienceBernard WilliamsBetter Humans?Better Than WellBeyond ChoiceBeyond GeneticsBeyond HatredBeyond Humanity?Beyond LossBeyond LossBeyond Moral JudgmentBeyond the DSM StoryBias in Psychiatric DiagnosisBioethicsBioethicsBioethics and the BrainBioethics at the 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ChoiceCompetence, Condemnation, and CommitmentComprehending CareConducting Insanity EvaluationsConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConflict of Interest in the ProfessionsConsuming KidsContemporary Debates In Applied EthicsContemporary Debates in Moral TheoryContemporary Debates in Social PhilosophyContentious IssuesContesting PsychiatryCrazy in AmericaCreating CapabilitiesCreatures Like Us?Crime and CulpabilityCrime, Punishment, and Mental IllnessCritical Perspectives in Public HealthCritical PsychiatryCrueltyCultural Assessment in Clinical PsychiatryCutting to the CoreCyborg CitizenDamaged IdentitiesDeaf Identities in the MakingDeath Is That Man Taking NamesDebating Same-Sex MarriageDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecoding the Ethics CodeDefining DifferenceDefining Right and Wrong in Brain ScienceDefining the Beginning and End of LifeDelusions of GenderDementiaDemocracy in What State?Demons of the Modern WorldDescriptions and PrescriptionsDesert and VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing CountriesDrugs and JusticeDworkin and His CriticsDying in the Twenty-First CenturyEarly WarningEconomics and Youth ViolenceEmbodied RhetoricsEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotional ReasonEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmpathyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEncountering NatureEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEngendering International HealthEnhancing EvolutionEnhancing Human CapacitiesEnoughEros and the GoodErotic InnocenceErotic MoralityEssays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEthical Choices in Contemporary MedicineEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEthical Issues in Behavioral ResearchEthical Issues in Dementia CareEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEthical LifeEthical Reasoning for Mental Health ProfessionalsEthical TheoryEthical WillsEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthicsEthicsEthicsEthics and AnimalsEthics and ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenocide's AftermathGetting RealGluttonyGood WorkGoodness & AdviceGreedGroups in ConflictGrowing Up GirlGut FeminismHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHandbook for Health Care Ethics CommitteesHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of PsychopathyHappinessHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHard FeelingsHard LuckHardwired BehaviorHarmful ThoughtsHeal & ForgiveHealing PsychiatryHealth Care Ethics for PsychologistsHeterosyncraciesHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical EthicsHoly WarHookedHookedHow Can I Be Trusted?How Propaganda WorksHow to Do Things with 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Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, 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Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex OffendersSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in 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Animal suffering is no longer the exclusive focal point for debates concerning nonhuman animals. Animal welfare discussions more broadly include issues such as consciousness, cognition, and emotion. Philosophers, biologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists labor to discover the intersections of human and nonhuman physiology, behavior, and experience. In Why Animals Matter, animal behaviorist Marian Stamp Dawkins carefully places arguments concerning nonhuman animal welfare in the context of wider human concerns such as sustainable food production, human health and disease, and environmental protection. Farmers, consumers, all humans really, have a stake in the outcome of animal welfare arguments. To get them right, says Dawkins, these arguments should be evidence-based and linked to human self-interest. The arguments most likely to inspire action for animal welfare, she says, are those that people recognize as supporting their own interests. Arguments dependent on anthropomorphic claims about the experiences of animals, she says, will be unconvincing to those who assign a high priority to human interests or those who deny animal consciousness. So to begin Dawkins spends quite some time discussing the significance of arguments concerning consciousness in nonhuman animals.
Consciousness is relevant to discussions of animal welfare because if the experiences of animals are like the experiences of humans we have good reason for requiring a justification to treat them differently. Of course, the problem is that we are hardly able to say what we mean by consciousness in humans. Dawkins refers to the mystery of consciousness, of subjective experiences, as the 'hard problem.' But she is not afraid to address the hard questions such as why or when consciousness is necessary or how complex an organism must be to have conscious awareness. The questions are important because Dawkins goal is to keep the study of animal welfare scientific. This means testable hypotheses and evidence-based claims. Confusion over what consciousness actually is, makes it difficult to study scientifically. But this doesn't show that animals lack consciousness, we simply can't say whether animals have conscious experiences or not. What we do know, from studies of human brain activity, is that there is no 'nugget' of tissue that is active when a person is conscious and inactive when she is not. There simply is no 'seat' of consciousness in humans. This may not be troubling if you're a dualist who believes that consciousness cannot be explained solely in terms of the brain. Dualists have their own worries explaining the interaction between mind and brain kinds of 'stuff.' But for physicalists like Dawkins the adaptive significance of conscious awareness simply reduces to the advantage of neural processing mechanisms that give rise to it. Consider the question of pain, for example. What does the conscious experience of pain add to an organism's evolutionary success that an unconscious neural firing of some sort couldn't offer?
Luckily, the 'hard problem' does not need to be solved in order to support the case for animal welfare. The important point to take away from the discussion of consciousness is the appeal to keep claims scientific. We don't know enough about animal consciousness to know what would count as evidence in its favor. Especially among those least inclined toward nonhuman animals, arguments that depend on anthropomorphic claims for animal consciousness will be dismissed as unscientific and animal welfare will suffer the consequences. The most powerful argument for animal welfare, then, is not tied to animal consciousness, according to Dawkins, but rather to the claim that the health of animals directly affects the health of humans.
Animal health affects human health in a variety of ways. Feeding an increasing human population and reducing pollution and greenhouse gasses are challenges that will continue to demand our attention. Dawkins also notes that according to the World Health Organization 75% of the new diseases affecting humans have come from animals or animal products. If human health is connected to animal welfare, then good animal welfare is to our benefit. But what counts as 'good animal welfare?' Physical health is surely part of the story, but for Dawkins what animals 'want' is equally important. The 'wants' she is referring to are the evolutionary urges that stimulate animals to behave in certain ways. For example, warblers, safe in an aviary with plenty of accessible food, still 'want' to migrate. The shortened days stimulate their desire to fly away, even though all their physical needs are being met. Good welfare might not require opening the doors to the aviary, but recognizing the want and trying to reduce frustration is clearly part of the complex picture. This two-pillared approach meets Dawkins' standard for scientific respectability since both physical health and the demonstrable conditions for satisfaction of an animal's wants can be evidence-based. Scientific evaluation of animal welfare can be tied to clear outcomes based on real practices on real farms. Best of all, it shows that you can study animal welfare without first solving the hard problem of animal consciousness. What needs further consideration is how satisfying the 'wants' in this approach, is in the interest of humans.
Why Animals Matter is a scholarly and accessible account of the complicated link between human interests and animal welfare. Yet, Dawkins says the book is not an attempt to persuade you to treat animals differently. This seemed disingenuous at first. Why bother to write a book about animal welfare, if not to try to change behavior? Especially one titled, Why Animals Matter. But perhaps this is because the immediate goal is not really to change your treatment of animals, but instead to clarify current views about what constitutes good welfare for animals, challenge what is required for arguments about animal welfare to succeed, and illustrate how and where human and animal interests intersect. Of course, the reason for doing all this, and for insisting on scientific respectability, is ultimately to effect changes in policy and practice just where evidence deems it suitable.
© 2014 Jonelle DePetro
Jonelle DePetro, PhD, Eastern Illinois University
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