Death, Pain, and Animal Life

Belshaw, Christopher (2015). Death, Pain, and Animal Life. In: Višak, Tatjana and Garner, Robert eds. The Ethics of Killing Animals. Oxford University Press, pp. 32–50.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199396078.003.0003

Abstract

Chapter 2 draws a distinction between bads that matter morally and bads that don’t. He allows that death can be bad for an animal, and that it can harm an animal and cause it a drop in well-being or welfare. But is death something we have reason to care about or want to prevent? The chapter argues that even though death can harm an animal, it is in most cases not something that matters morally. In contrast, pain harms an animal and is something we should care about. The crucial difference is that most animals are not persons, meaning they lack certain capacities, such as rationality. Most animals lack an awareness of their own existence through time and have no desire for continued life. Therefore, their continued life does not matter morally. This is different in case of pain, since pain matters for the animal and therefore should matter to us.

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