My animal ethics history blog post

Discussion and support on vegan related issues and questions, philosophy, activism, food, and science based nutrition.
Meat eater vs. Vegan debate welcome, but please keep it within debate topics.
Post Reply
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:42 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan

My animal ethics history blog post

Post by capgunmatt » Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:04 am

Hi all, this is my first post here :)

I was just reading over a post I made almost a year ago for a group I used to be a part of. I thought it would be a great way to contribute to this forum and introduce myself, while getting feedback on it.

The whole question that the page is answering is: how have humans perceived their relationship to animals differently throughout history. Plus, any particularly interesting events relating to philosophy and animals is included. I was trying to be descriptive not prescriptive in the essay, and the only opinionated m part is at the top where the organisations position is stated.

User avatar
Master in Training
Posts: 718
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:30 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan
Location: North Wales, UK

Re: My animal ethics history blog post

Post by NonZeroSum » Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:53 am

capgunmatt wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:04 am
The whole question that the page is answering is: how have humans perceived their relationship to animals differently throughout history. Plus, any particularly interesting events relating to philosophy and animals is included. I was trying to be descriptive not prescriptive in the essay, and the only opinionated m part is at the top where the organisations position is stated.
Heya, really interesting break down of the history capgunmatt, do you mind if I copy it here so people can quote parts they want to respond to easier? Totally fine to say no and will delete it.

Were you involved with the stalls and designing leafleting with AWLA also by any chance? If so would be really great to get your input on some of the discussions around what makes up a good vegan outreach leaflet and maybe a history article on the - what you've layed out here will already be so helpful.

I think milestones like the speed of food distribution and vegan alternatives could go on the list as well as probably hippie, punk, rasta and hare Krishna artists promotion of the diet went a fair way into the west.

I just discovered Joel Marks recently and definitely more akin to where I sit existentially, in the real sense that sentience demands some constitutional rights, but yeah also aware of the psychology that just will hold back so many in my lifetime, and where some welfarist methods might be necessary to get everyone to accept a higher level of virtue.

Also I personally would call it ethical nihilism, amoralism is more associated with fatalist nihilism, though I understand he's saying he's skeptical normative morals can ever account fully for man's desires and choices of responsibilities when butting up against the absurd nature of existence.

Joely has a YouTube channel also:

Bite Size Vegan's History of Veganism:


Animal Ethics

Everyone has an interest in ethics. There are billions of people in this world, each with different beliefs about right and wrong (or good and bad). Whether we get our beliefs from religion, family, or philosophy, it is important to know when our beliefs affect others. For this reason, ethics is very important because, our religion, family, or philosophy influences our beliefs and our actions that affect others.
Our beliefs influence our actions and our actions affect others. Our beliefs are important to us but our actions are important to others.
Just as we should be thoughtful about what we do and how if affects others, we should extend this compassion to animals. All animals feel, think, and experience pleasure and pain, and care about their lives.

ALWA’s position on the animal rights debate is clear: non-human animals (animals) should be granted rights not to be used as property, nor exclusively as a means-to-an-end, and their use should be abolished, rather than their exploitation regulated.

This overview of animal ethics aims to identify various ways that humans have viewed animals throughout history. It is not exhaustive, only presenting main ideas in a chronological order. This perspective hopefully clarifies what recent perspectives on animals are responding to and building upon.

Mindmap of major animal ethics theorists, their assumptions (above), and outcomes (below). Click to enlarge. (Created with

From two million years ago, humans hunt animals for food.

Humans have hunted animals for around two-million years (McKie, 2012).

Approximately 33 thousand years ago, dogs are domesticated.

All dogs share common ancestors with wolves that began to hunt alongside man and scavenge for leftovers around 33 thousand years ago (The Telegraph, 2015).

Between 11 and 13 thousand years ago, animals are domesticated for food.

Sheep are thought to be the first animal domesticated for food between 11 and 13 thousand years ago in Southwest Asia (Lear, 2012).

Buddist symbol of Ahimsa

Approximately 2.5 thousand years ago, the emergence of a philosophy of non-violence.

The spiritual doctrine of ‘Ahimsa’, a core value of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism emerges in India.

Approximately 2.5 thousand years ago, early moral theories indirectly benefit animals.

Many ancient Greek philosophers viewed the world as hierarchical, with humans at the top, animals below, and plants at the bottom. Correspondingly, animals were thought to be used for man, just as plants were to be used by animals. Some ancient Greek philosophers restrained from eating meat, but usually to practise virtues like moderation and self-restraint.

Pythagoras. Line engraving by D. Cunego, 1782, after R. Meng Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Pythagoras. Line engraving by D. Cunego, 1782, after R. Mengs after Raphael. Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Approximately 500 B.C.E., the Pythagorean diet is practised.

Pythagoras believed that ‘animals share with us the privilege of having a soul’ (Ovid, trans. 1958) and that human souls were reincarnated into animals after death. Followers of Pythagoras throughout the ages refrained from eating animals, but would consume dairy and eggs, in what would become known at the Pythagorean diet.

Rene Descartes (pronouced: day-cart)

Approximately 1640, Descartes states that animals have no moral status.

Rene Descartes’ philosophy of mind (known as dualism) claims that human capacities (like rational thought, language, and self-awareness) could not arise from material processes alone. As such, the human mind was said to be the result of an immaterial soul, and since animals could not reason nor use language rationally, animals could not have a mind and therefore could not suffer or have mental experiences. Descartes believed that animals were mindless machines.

Descartes would explain the behaviour of animals that resembled the experiences of pain as mechanistic reflexes. Thus, according to Descartes, animals could be used in any way necessary without considering their interests nor welfare. This view gained acceptance conveniently at a time when a scientific interest in vivisection was growing, alleviating moral concern for dogs (and other animals) that would display observable reactions while being operated on without anaesthetic.

1785, Kant says animals are not rational and so are not ends-in-themselves.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant was a Prussian philosopher that said ‘every rational being, exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will’ (2002). Since animals were not rational, according to Kant, they were merely objects to be used, not ends-in-themselves. Kant (and other philosophers) use the phrase ‘means-to-an-end’ and ‘end-in-themselves’ to explain their view on an animal or objects purpose. If an animal is a ‘means’, then it is able to be used to achieve some other goal, but if an animal is an ‘end-in-itself’ then their life is a goal itself, and cannot be used to achieve another goal.

Kant believed that it is immoral to use rational beings (like humans) merely as a means-to-an-end, and that animals are not rational beings that can be used as a means to serve man. This theory of morality, known as Kant’s ‘categorical imperative’, defines rational beings as persons (a philosophical term for someone whose interests are taken into consideration in ethical decisions).

Contrasting this categorical imperative is the utilitarian view that views persons as having the ‘utility’ of being used as a means towards pleasure/happiness. In summary, Kant would say that use is not permitted of any being that is rational, while the utilitarians would say that all use is permitted if it results in the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’.

1789, an ethical theory (utilitarianism) that says maximising pleasure and decreasing suffering is intrinsically moral.

In 1789, Jeremy Bentham established utilitarianism, an ethical theory based on maximising happiness. With roots in the ancient Greek philosophy of hedonism, utilitarianism claims that the only intrinsic value in nature is pleasure, and conversely, the only intrinsic disvalue is pain. As a consequentialist theory, utilitarianism determines the morality of actions by their outcomes; the moral action is the one that results in the most pleasure and least pain. Utilitarianism does not attribute beings with inalienable rights that cannot be overridden; any being’s interests can be overturned if their exploitation results in the greatest good for the greatest number.

In its determination of moral acts, utilitarianism considers the interests of all affected beings, and while many utilitarians since Bentham have ignored animals’ welfare, Bentham did extend his theory to include animals’ interests:
The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. [italics in original] (Bentham, 1789)
Jeremy Bentham

In contrast to Descartes, who argued that animals’ interests need not be taken into consideration, Bentham asks: ‘The question is not, “can [animals] reason?” nor, “can they talk?” but, “can they suffer?”’

While Bentham provided a framework for considering animals in his ethical system, he did not exclude the possibility of using them. In short, utilitarianism is not absolutely opposed to using human nor animals if the use results in more pleasure than pain. Utilitarianism is therefore the basis for the welfare approach to animal ethics, as oppose to the rights approach. As Fieser points out, Utilitarianism’s primary concern is for the welfare of beings rather than proposing inalienable rights to humans and animals:

Animal welfare theories accept that animals have interests but allow those interests to be traded away as long as the human benefits are thought to justify the sacrifice, while animal rights theories say that animals, like humans, have interests that cannot be sacrificed or traded away to benefit others. … Supporters of the animal rights movement believe that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation, while supporters of the animal welfare movement believe that animals can be used for those purposes as long as ‘humane’ guidelines are followed. (Fieser, 2010)
1824, the foundation of the first organization for animal welfare.

Founded in Britain in 1824, the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) is the The YouTube ID of Insert video URL or ID here is invalid. oldest (and first) animal welfare charity to be founded anywhere in the world. Primarily concerned in reducing suffering and reforming established animal use to be less cruel, the SPCA has successfully lobbied for new laws in animal welfare since early in its inception (for example, the Cruelty to Animal Act 1835). In 1840 the SPCA was renamed the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA).

1847, the ‘vegetable diet’ becomes known as vegetarianism.

In Britain, a variety of different groups came together in 1847 to form the Vegetarian Society. Before this time, a diet like vegetarianism would be referred to as the Pythagorean diet (after the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras who abstained from eating meat and took a philosophical stance against killing animals). There were numerous reasons for the members of the Vegetarian Society following its diet, for: personal health, religious moderation and self-restraint, the perceived unnaturalness of eating meat (Christian religious reasons), to encourage social reform, and to reject its perceived enablement of social aggression.

Charles Darwin

1859, the theory of evolution implies that humans are not distinct from animals.

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published in 1859, presented the view that all life on Earth has evolved over massive time periods through the mechanism of natural selection. Random variations in individuals of a species would be ‘selected’ by the environment based on how favourable they were to the individual’s survival. Over time, entire populations changed characteristics due to environmental pressures. This presented a dramatic change in perspective for mankind in relation to other animals.

Prior to this time, a common view in Western society was that, humans were created in the image of God and are distinct from the animal kingdom. Darwin’s theory presented humans as different to animals in degree, not in ‘kind’. Humans now had to consider that they are related to the other animals as much as they are related to each other, as oppose to seeing themselves as categorically different from animals.

Henry Salt

1892, the first treatise on animal rights.

In 1892, Henry Salt published Animals’ Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress, which was forward thinking and included many of the modern concepts relating to animal rights.
By Joe Connolly of Veg News[2] - In Defense of Animals' "In Loving Memory". Originally from either Veg News or The Vegan[1], Fair use,

Don Watson. By Joe Connolly of Veg News[2] – In Defense of Animals’ “In Loving Memory”. Originally from either Veg News or The Vegan[1], Fair use,

1944, veganism is founded.

In 1944, Donald Watson in London coined the word vegan when founding the Vegan Society. The Vegan Society defined veganism as: ‘a philosophy and way of life which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.’

1970, ‘speciesism’ is first labelled and rejected.

The word ‘speciesism’ (species-ism) first appeared in a pamphlet published by Richard Ryder of the Oxford Group (see below). Speciesism is the idea that it is not a good reason to treat others differently just because they are of a different species than you.

Speciesism is similar to racism or sexism; sexism relies on picking ‘sex’ as the criteria for excluding certain people from equal concern; racism relies on ‘race’ as the criteria for exclusion; speciesism relies on picking the species of a living being to ignore their suffering. Species association itself cannot justify exploitation or use, any more than race or sex categorisation can.

1971, a publication arguing for animal rights.

A group of philosophers called the Oxford Group, published Animals, Men and Morals: An Inquiry into the Maltreatment of Non-humans (1971). While not being the first book to present a case for animal rights (see 1892 above), the book was ground-breaking at the time because it argued for animal rights instead of animal welfare. The book contained an essay by Richard Ryder which explored the concept of speciesism.

Peter Singer

1975, speciesism is applied to utilitarianism.

Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher, published ‘Animal Liberation’ in 1975. In this work, Singer acknowledges that speciesism is prevalent in modern society and rejected it in favour of an animal-inclusive version of utilitarianism. The book details the use of animals in modern society in two main areas: scientific research and factory farming. It also covers the main questions that someone would ask when interested in going vegetarian, and details the history of the animal rights movement. Writing in an approachable manner, Singer’s book has had a substantial influence in the modern animal welfare/rights movements. While Singer is not vegan, he is vegetarian and explains that vegans ‘are living demonstrations of the practicality and nutritional soundness of a diet that is totally free from the exploitation of other animals’ (2009).

While Singer doesn’t argue for inalienable animal rights, he does make the case that the current use of animals in society is both horrific and inexcusable. Singer’s view is that animals can feel pleasure and pain and so have interests of their own and therefore are not means to our ends. Being a utilitarian, Singer’s view can be categorised as a ‘welfare approach’ to animal ethics because it argues for the consideration of the animal’s welfare in calculations of their use. For Singer, it is acceptable to use animals if it results in ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. Not to simplify Singer’s position, Singer does propose a cessation of animal use for almost all cases in modern society (most of the killing of animals for food, testing, hunting, clothing, etc., and their unnecessary use in entertainment). So, even though it is possible that utilitarian principles could place animal use off-limits entirely (if in every calculation, their use did not result in the greatest good for the greatest number), in theory (and practise) utilitarianism does not grant rights to animals (or humans for that matter) because it cannot guarantee that their use won’t always result in some greater good for some greater number.

For example, Singer’s ethical code would allow for animals to be tested on if the outcome was worthwhile: killing one animal to save two other animals; killing one human to save two humans (assuming equal consideration of interests in both examples). But what about killing one animal to save one human? Again, Singer proposes by considering the interests of all affected parties equally and without speciesism, the outcome that results in the greatest good for the greatest number is the ‘right’ act; as long as an act results in greater good for greater numbers, any act is permitted. Of course, in reality, Singer is far more skeptical of vivisection and the scientific testing on animals for human purposes to approve of such a simplified scenario, but in theory, utilitarianism would allow for the use of any being if it resulted in the benefit of a greater number of beings.

This consequentialist feature of utilitarianism has been criticised by many ethicists, despite continuing to be a prevalent basis for modern ethics. Interestingly, utilitarianism (through Singer) brought animals into the moral concern of wider modern society, but then be unable to offer inalienable rights, a feature that would ultimately cause it the most criticism by animal rights advocates later.

Tom Regan

1983, A deontological argument for animal rights: ‘animals are the subject-of-a-life and possess inherent value’.

Tom Regan published A Case For Animal Rights in 1983, presenting an argument for animal rights. Regan responds to Kant’s categorical imperative in a way that highlights the necessity to include animals within an ethical theory.

Regan’s argument is succinctly summarised by Josephine Donovan (1993):
Regan makes his case by countering Kant’s theory that human moral patients (i.e., those who are severely retarded, infants, or others unable to reason) need not be treated as ends. This to Regan is unacceptable. Therefore, if one accepts both moral agents and moral patients as entitled to the basic respect implied in the notion of rights, Regan argues, it follows that nonhuman moral patients (animals) must be included in the category of those entitled to be treated as ends. To argue otherwise is speciesist; that is, it arbitrarily assumes that humans are worth more than other life forms.

Gary Francione

1995, ‘the abolitionist approach’ to animal rights emerges.

Gary Francione is an American professor of law and philosophy who has established ‘the abolitionist approach’ to animal rights. The abolitionist approach borrows its name from the abolitionists of the United States’ 19th century civil rights movement. The abolitionist approach is two things at once: a set of animal-rights and an approach to animal-rights advocacy.

The animal rights that Francione proposes rely on the criteria that sentience determines whether a being is worthy of moral concern. Francione says that ‘all sentient beings are equal for the purpose of not being used exclusively as a resource’, and that all sentient beings share ‘the right not be treated as property of others’. Since animals are sentient, Francione argues that animal rights advocates ‘abolish, and not merely regulate, institutionalized animal exploitation’.

Francione explains in Animals, Property and the Law (1995) how animal rights will never be established in law while animals are legally considered to be property. In his 1996 book, Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement, Francione criticised the existing animal rights organisations for being ineffective, counterproductive, and speciesist. Francione labels existing animal rights organisations the ‘new-welfarists’ because, unlike the utilitarian welfarists that were only concerned about animals’ welfare, new-welfarists claim to seek the establishment of animal rights, while in practise, promote welfare reforms whose historical results make them indistinguishable from welfarist organisations. Francione sees new-welfarists as missing the opportunity to advocate for inalienable animal rights.

Francione’s ‘moral imperative’ is his claim that: ‘it is a moral imperative to be vegan if animals matter morally’. Therefore, according to the abolitionist approach, veganism is a moral-baseline; veganism is the starting point for a moral life, the least of which a moral person must adhere to.

2001, a psychological explanation for meat-eating culture

Melanie Joy

Melanie Joy is an American professor of psychology and sociology that developed the term ‘carnism’ to describe the ideology of meat eating (Joy, 2001). By labelling the ideology of a diet which is inclusvie of animal products, Joy is able to ‘deconstruct the invisibility of the system, exposing the principles and practises of a system that has since its inception been in hiding’ (Joy, 2010).

In addition to bringing carnism to light and challenging its dominance in most modern cultures, Joy is able to criticise the three main ways that meat eating maintains its acceptance: ‘it is necessary, normal, and natural to eat meat’.

2012, the Cambridge ‘Declaration on Consciousness’ is released.

In 2012, an international group of scientists released a public statement called the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness. It declared that animal consciousness is not exclusively a human capacity, given the evidence of similar ‘neurological substrates that generate consciousness’ found in animals.

2014, an argument for amoral ethics applied to animal liberation.

Joel Marks, an American philosopher, is an amoral vegan abolitionist. Amorality is the general assertion that morality does not exist, Joel explains that only after retiring from a career as a moral realist, did he have an ‘anti-epiphany’ that: ‘religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no [objective] morality’ (Marks, 2012). Marks, having rejected the arguments for god, concludes that there are no mind-independent morals and has proposed an ethic ‘theory’ of desirism to explain human behaviour.

Desirism begins without the assumption that morals are real principles in the universe, and accepts that humans have desires. It is our desires that account for our wants and behaviours. Marks would reject any assertion that principles exist independent of the human mind. For Marks, there is no imperative to obey moral principles b ecause morality does not exist. Furthermore, Marks would argue that individual desires are all that should account for an ethical consideration. Marks is a vegan that desires animal liberation, the same abolition of animal use that Francione wants, however he fundamentally disagrees with Francione’s moral assumptions and would approach animal advocacy in a different way.

Modern times, the welfarist versus animal rights debate continues.

Human interaction with animals, and views about human-animal relationships, have changed dramatically throughout history. Over two million years ago, animals might have been seen as mysterious beings that shared out environment, with various features and abilities often completely different to our own. As we began to interact with animals more, our views have constantly developed: animals became things we could use for food, things to interact with according to various moral virtues, things to use without concern, beings that have interests that deserve consideration, and subject-of-a-life that deserve the inalienable right to life and autonomy. Now, that we see similarities between ourselves and animals, indicates a dramatic change in perspective from the earliest human-animal interactions. The pertinent question then –if we share many similarities between animals– is whether the differences are of relevance and sufficient to influence our ethics on how to interact with them.

The current discourse on animal ethics has benefited from the long history of different views on animals. Empirical evidence (like studies exploring animal consciousness, or research on whether welfare reforms are an effective step towards animal liberation) and new technologies (like cultured meat, and genetic selection/modification) will require new ideas about human-animal interaction to arise, but by understanding the history of animal ethics, we can better hope to generate new ideas and recognise old ones.

Summary of historical views on animals
  • Early mankind’s view (since two million years ago)
    Animals can be hunted or scavenged for food.
  • Early mankind’s view (since ~33 thousand years ago)
    Animals are property to be used for food, money, clothing, entertainment, etc..
  • Descartes’ view (~1640)
    Animals sense stimuli, but don’t have minds, which means that they don’t feel pain nor think about feeling pain, and are therefore not able to suffer, nor have interests, and can be used as means to our ends.
  • Kant’s view (~1785)
    ‘Animals are not self-conscious and are there merely as the means to an end. That end is man.’ (Kant, 1963)
  • Bentham’s view (~1789)
    Animals have interests of their own and should their interests should be taken into consideration when determining moral actions that will affect them (whether they are beneficiaries, or used as the beneficiaries of others).
  • Singer’s view (~1975)
    Animals can feel pleasure and pain and so have interests of their own and therefore are not means-to-our-ends and deserve equal considerations of interests in the calculations of their use.
  • Regan’s view (~1983)
    Humans and animals are ‘subjects-of-a-life’ that have an interest in their continued existence (they want to keep living) and therefore matter morally and should be extended inalienable rights such that their use exclusively as an means-to-an-end is not permitted.
  • Francione’s view (~1995)
    If animals matter morally, we cannot use them at all: animals do matter morally and therefore veganism is a moral imperative and a moral baseline (the least that a moral person should do).
  • Marks’ view (~2014)
    The desire to extend compassion and consideration to animals can derive from personal values without the need to invoke concepts of morality (that assume beliefs in mind-independent moral principles or spirituality).


Bentham, J. (1789). The principles of morals and legislation. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

Darwin, C. (1909). The origin of species. New York, NY: P.F. Collier & Son.

Donovan, J. (1993). Animal rights and feminist theory. In Gaard, G (Eds.), Ecofeminism: Woman, animals, nature. Retrieved from,+Greta+%28ed.%29.+Ecofeminism.pdf

Fieser, J. (2010). Applied ethics: a sourcebook. Retrieved from

Francione, G. L. (1996). Rain without thunder: the ideology of the animal rights movement. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Francione, G. L. (2012). New atheism, moral realism, and animal rights: some preliminary reflections. Retrieved from

Francione, G. L. (2015). Animal rights: the abolitionist approach. Logan, UT: Exempla Press.

Kant, I., ., & Infield, L. (1963). Lectures on Ethics. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Kant, I., ., & Zweig, A. (2002) Groundwork for the metaphysics of morals. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Joy. M. (2001). From carnivore to carnist: liberating the language of meat. Retrieved from

Joy, M. (2010). Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows: an introduction to carnism. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.

Lear, J. (2012). Our furry friends: the history of animal domestication. Journal of Young Investigators, 23(2). Retrieved from,%20Jessica_Our%20Furry%20Friends,%20the%20History%20of%20Animal%20Domestication.pdf

Marks, J. (2012). An amoral manifesto (part I). Retrieved from

Marks, J. (2014). Ethics without morals: in defense of amorality. New York, NY: Routledge.

McKie, R. (2012). Humans hunted meat 2 million years ago. Retrieved from

Mill, J. S. (1871). Utilitarianism. London, UK: Longman, Green, Reader, and Dyer.

Ovid, ., & Innes, M. M. (1955). The metamorphoses of Ovid. Baltimore, Md: Penguin Books.

Regan, T. (1983). The case for animal rights. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Salt, H. S. (1894). Animals’ rights: considered in relation to social progress. New York, NY: Macmillan & Co.

Singer, P. (2009). Animal liberation: the definitive classic of the animal movement. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Taft, C. (2016). Motivational methods for vegan advocacy: A clinical psychology perspective. Danvers, MA: Vegan Publishers.

The Telegraph. (2015). Dog has been man’s best friend for 33,000 years, DNA study finds. Retrieved from

Tuttle, W. (2009). History and evolution of the animal rights movement. Presented at the Animal Rights 2009 National Conference, July 2009. Retrieved from

User avatar
Master in Training
Posts: 718
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:30 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan
Location: North Wales, UK

Re: My animal ethics history blog post

Post by NonZeroSum » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:41 pm

We could make this into a funny game for debate, 3 lists of 25, 50 and a 100 turning points in history, entry to the shorter lists dependent on how necessary the event was in moving the needle on concern for animals and how much of a roll on effect the ideas continue to have in building lasting numbers:

What do peeps think of the mindmap? I think it's interesting:




Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:42 am
Religion: None (Atheist)
Diet: Vegan

Re: My animal ethics history blog post

Post by capgunmatt » Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:22 pm

Heya, really interesting break down of the history capgunmatt, do you mind if I copy it here so people can quote parts they want to respond to easier? Totally fine to say no and will delete it.
That's fine
Were you involved with the stalls and designing leafleting with AWLA also by any chance? If so would be really great to get your input on some of the discussions around what makes up a good vegan outreach leaflet and maybe a history article on the - what you've layed out here will already be so helpful.
I didn't get too involved with ALWA in the sense of designing their materials. I joined and did a lot of outreach, and added a few pages here and there. I also wrote the one at
Also I personally would call it ethical nihilism
I also don't mind this term, but if we want to be precise, then they relate to different things. Amorality is 'without morality', so essentially not having a belief in a morality... which I often simply state as not having a belief in moral facts. Ethical nihilism... well, that might mean the claim that there is no right or wrong. But this could be up for some definitions.

I think of ethics as the study of what to do or how to act. It is the process of coming to a thought-out/considered opinion/answer to ethical questions. It is often (if not almost always) tied up with the assumption that what is ethical is moral, but I see the idea of morality being one type of answer to ethical questions. Ethics askes: what should we do, and morality answers: we should be moral. In doing so, morality assumes moral facts exist.

In this sense ethical nihilism (nihilism coming from nihil meaning 'nothing') is the literal: ethical nothing. Which I would string out to mean, ethical answers cannot be truthfully construed as right or wrong. Now this leaves open the idea of whether they can be subjectively right or wrong, or logically right or wrong,(ie "if X then Y" could be logically right or wrong).

A lot of the time, though, ethical nihilism just means that there is no objective mind-independent right or wrong, and to that end I adopt the term completely.
amoralism is more associated with fatalist nihilism, though I understand he's saying he's skeptical normative morals can ever account fully for man's desires and choices of responsibilities when butting up against the absurd nature of existence.
I'm not sure I understand what fatalist nihilism is, but please explain. :)

so again, I use amorality as a term to describe the general position that one does not adopt the claim that moral facts exist. In this sense it is a term akin to atheism. As an athiest, am clear to myself that I am an agnostic, and that I do not know that there is no god, only that I have not adopted a belief in a god (due to a lack of evidence). In this same way, I do not know there are no moral facts, only that I have not adopted a belief in them.

nihilism is a term that gets such negative press -- which I wouldn't mind too much, except that so many critiques of nihilsm and/or morality are based on a misrepresentation of what it can mean. Nihilism can be existential, mereological, metaphysical, meta-ethical/ethical.... and each is not necessarily dependent on the other.

But I digress, I could go on about nihilism all day...

I'm happy to join this forum and I hope to learn lots here from others, as I am only self-taught in philosophy. If I can contribute in any way that is helpful for the animals or others I would be more than happy.

I'm not aware of the wikis and so on... but happy to contribute

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests