Animal welfare and the moral value of nonhuman animals

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29 Scopus citations


The animal welfare position, which represents the prevailing paradigm for thinking about our moral and legal obligations to nonhuman animals, maintains that animal life has a lesser value than human life and, therefore, it is morally acceptable to use animals as human resources as long as we treat them 'humanely' and do not inflict 'unnecessary' suffering on them. According to this position, animals are not self-aware and live in an eternal present; they do not have an interest in continuing to live as distinguished from an interest in not suffering. The use and killing of animals does not per se involve inflicting harm on them. The view that animal life has a lesser moral value cannot be justified in that all sentient beings are self-aware and have an interest in continuing to live. Although we do not treat all humans equally, we accord all humans the right not to be treated as property. We cannot justify not according this one right to all sentient nonhumans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-36
Number of pages13
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


  • Animal cognition
  • Animal rights
  • Animal welfare
  • Animals as property
  • Rights theory
  • Sentience
  • Utilitarianism


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