Darryl R. J. Macer, Ph.D.
Eubios Ethics Institute
6. The boundaries to love, and animals
Many philosophers consider sexuality in humans to be a drive that is basically the same as in other animals, but love they see as something totally different from any biological category (Singer, 1987). However, as we have seen in the discussion of eros and self-love, the components of love are not so easily separated in humans, and therefore we cannot dismiss animals as possessing only sexual love. While it is accepted that all human beings that can think possess unique moral wills, which is the basis for autonomy, did this capacity suddenly jump into the mind after biological evolution? The data below suggests some animals also have some capacity for free moral judgment.
Human beings are created in the midst of an intricate biodiversity, which is yet to be comprehended. The process or time scale over which all life was made is not so remarkable as the species and ecosystems that we have today, or those that we can see from the fossils. Biological data tells us that all human beings have the same basic set of genes, the variation found in any one population covers almost all of the total variation, and that humans share a common male and female African ancestor. Changes in DNA sequences have also been used to trace the way that different organisms evolve, called phylogenetic trees. We can compare the DNA of species alive today, and investigate trends in the sequence change, and we can also look at DNA from past organisms which is a more direct measure of the change over time.
The concept of love is applied to love of
animals and to love of nature and this is found in many cultures.
In Maori the word aroha is used to denote
something broader than love, but including a oneness with nature
and animals. Bioethics has origins in the relationships
with animals and with nature, and this chapter explores the former
and the following the later. Many of the questions are related
also to questions that are used in medical ethics,
like what is a person or what is natural?
6.1. What is a person and autonomyautonomy
If we want to debate the issues of the boundaries of birth, death, quality of life, and species we must ask what constitutes a person. The word "person" comes from the Greek 'persona', meaning an appearance or face, an individual appearance that has continuity through a story. Animals change with time and experience, persons grow, creating themselves. From birth most human beings become rational, self-aware, and through our childhood we learn and/or are moulded as our genes interact with each other and the environment. This means a person in an intrinsic sense, coming from some character possesses by the person themselves.
Beings can also be treated as persons in a linguistic way, by names, and by ascribing emotions. Parents can do this as they interact with their infants in terms of psychological attributes that they assign to the infant, and we may do this to domestic animals too. Commonly pets are given a name, and this may also be extended to plants and physical objects, like boats, computers or cars. This is an extrinsic value given by someone else to something.
In human society, a person is generally referred to as someone who is rational, capable of free choices, and is a coherent, continuing and autonomous centre of sensations, experiences, emotions, volitions and actions. These are what may be called the characters of a person. A crucial part of our person is self-awareness, or personal identity. Personal identity or our selfhood, only finds its growth in social relationships, we are made fully human by our web of social relationships. However, if a person loses the capacity to communicate with others, but can receive sensory input, we still consider them a person (Macer, 1990).
During fetal life the characters of personhood are apparent in increasing ways. It is clear that the biological qualities of personhood are not present at conception. The early embryo or conceptus does not manifest the activities of a human person. It is a potential human person, at the biological level at least, rather than a human person with potential. To function as a human person a brain is needed, and in a parallel way with brain death the criteria used by some is brain life. The brain develops gradually, so it is difficult to mark a particular time when a sudden change occurs (Jones, 1989).
Another approach, founded in ancient Greek and Christian thought stresses being more than behaving. When a "human" possesses a soul they are a person. In Christian terms a human person is someone made in the image of God, which is not dependent on a criteria of actions.
One of the important reasons for religions to place a high value on human life is belief in the soul. Each individual is precious and unique because they possess a soul, a spiritual status. The body, soul and spirit of the human individual are not separated but are integral in a Christian view. Before an individual becomes a self-aware person they may possess a soul. The timing of the beginning of the human individual actually coincides with the time of ensoulment, which I have discussed elsewhere (Macer, 1990). It is generally believed there is no intermediate in the animal kingdom, although some animals may possess souls. If the soul is from God then it is not necessary to envisage intermediates, but the threshold can be crossed in a single step, between animal instinct and human reflection. The timing of ensoulment in humans does vary between different religions, and within people of the same religion. In a tradition where the presence of a soul is the source of autonomy and protecting human life, the characters of personhood are less important in assigning autonomy.
There has been much debate on the time when a human fetus has a soul, though few now consider it to be at the time of conception, rather it may be at the time of individualization at 14 days when the primitive streak appears and when there is no chance for recombination of two embryos to form one. Others put it at the formation of neural tissues and a functioning nervous system, and others at quickening. These questions have informed debates on human embryo experimentation and abortion, but the most common argument on abortion for the law is viability of the fetus from the mother.
Almost all people accept that causing suffering is bad, and the principle to do no harm is assumed to be a universal ideal, but it is less often applied to other species. In this discussion of persons, we have to look at the evidence suggesting that some other animals may be persons intrinsically, in the same category of use that we use for humans. We can discuss this in terms of individuals, though our study of individual animals informs our understanding of the normal range of traits for species in general.
In most religions there are verses implying some animals may have a soul, and at least a way of worship. The Prophet Mohammed divided creatures into angels, men and beasts: "God the Most High created the angels and placed within them the intellect, He created the beasts and placed within them sensuality, and He created the children of Adam and placed within them both intellect and sensuality. So he whose intellect dominates his sensuality is higher than the angels, and he whose sensuality dominates his intellect is lower than the beasts" (M IV between 1496 and 97). This verse also shows the distinction between angelic men, "ordinary" men, and bestial men (Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1983). Animals are not given religious prescriptions, although they are widely used as images in religion (Figure 12).
Whether the soul of a chimpanzee is different to a human soul has been debated for millennia, and is a question already found in many religions. It is a question only God can answer, not humans. It is a non-scientific question, like many other important questions of bioethics, the value of life, the value of love, and the meaning of existence. Scientific questions are those we can disprove by experiment, and there are many that we cannot. The concept of evolution means we see humans as living creatures derived from other living forms, and we can look at the evolution of love.
The presence of a person also denotes an individual existence. There are two ways to consider an individual, one is from the point of view of self-awareness, and the other is inside a group whether an individual is recognized as a distinct person. In some animal species both are true, and we might also regard them as worthy of more respect as persons of a different species than if they were not distinct persons. Dolphins have an interesting response to killer whales or sharks, to come together very closely and swim as one so that the predator cannot distinguish any one individual to target. Yet at the same time each dolphin has unique whistle sounds and they having not only a long nurture period, but also long-lasting cooperative relationships with other individuals ("friendships"). They have been long revered (Figure 13).
Many people accept that all humans are equal in moral status, and all humans are of superior moral status to nonhuman animals. From these two moral principles they put human welfare ahead of animal suffering. Peter Singer argues that these two moral principles cannot be defended within the terms of a nonreligious approach to ethics. He concludes that there is no rational ethical justification for always putting human suffering ahead of that of nonhuman animals. He argues that "if we are considering public policy in a pluralistic society, we should not take a particular religious outlook as the basis for our laws" (Singer, 1990). But we can ask, do we need to take rational utilitarian philosophy as the basis for public policy? Many different people's cultural and religious views are more consistent with human beings having a higher moral status than animals, and these views may have more in common with each other than with the rationalistic philosophy of academics. There are some fundamental questions about who should decide this, and it needs to be considered at greater length.
However, it is still important to summarize his argument, as it does have consequences for the way we regard animals, and we should improve their treatment. The problem with saying that humans are of higher moral status than animals is that while the human species may have higher mental capacities than animals, not all people do. The word speciesism is used to argue that by rational philosophy we cannot prove that we owe the human species any more ethical duties than we owe animal species. We should focus on the individual when considering ethics, which has been a focus of the movements against sexual or racial discrimination also. Singer argues that we should consider all beings who can suffer in our moral considerations, regardless of species. However, he would still not say that the deaths of animals are equal to the deaths of all humans, as there is an additional factor of the awareness of the future that humans have, which most animals do not have. To kill a human being destroys all the plans that they have made, a feature of humans. He also acknowledges the importance of extrinsic moral factors, such the feelings of family members if one dies (though this is shared with some other familial mammals), basically if the animals are persons in their own sense.
In the conclusion of Good Natured, de Waal (1996) makes a poignant comment, "Animals are no moral philosophers. But then, how many people are?" We find few people who use deep moral principles to consider the consequences before they act. We can also think of how many of our daily activities we actually make moral judgments about. A chimpanzee sharing food with a hungry companion cannot be distinguished from a person working in a soup kitchen.
de Waal makes a list of the following capacities found in other species that are necessary for human morality:
1) Sympathy-related traits: Attachment, succorance, and emotional contagion. Learned adjustment to and special treatment of the disabled and injured. Ability to trade places mentally with others (cognitive empathy).
2) Norm-related characteristics: Prescriptive social rules. Internalization of rules and anticipation of punishment.
3) Reciprocity: A concept of giving, trading, and revenge. Moralistic aggression against violators or reciprocity rules.
4) Getting along: Peacemaking and avoidance of conflict. Community concern and maintenance of good relationships. Accommodation of conflicting interests through negotiation.
There are many species which show different
levels of the above characters, and we should treat them after
considering the level of autonomy that they have.
Rather than expecting animals to speak the same language
as humans, we should examine the actions and behaviour - the same
criteria we use to examine true love from mere words in human
beings. Many human persons have difficulty expressing
the language of ethics and principles, but it does not mean that
they lack the values used for balancing and making decisions.
The same can be asked of members of other species.
6.2. Evolution of altruismaltruism and love
One of the categories that is central to this ethical approach based on the love of life is whether animals are also capable of loving others. In evolution it is assumed that selfishness is required for selection. Natural selection means survival of the fittest, and selfish behaviour allows an individual to leave more offspring. At the genetic level it means a selfish gene will try to replicate itself and leave more progeny (Dawkins, 1976). If a gene does not do this it will not last. When we look at animals we see that some animals exhibit non-selfish behaviour, called altruism. Some even give when there is no hope to receive any genetic benefit, helping unrelated individuals. We must therefore ask the question is altruism the basis for love?
Altruism is found in many species, and this led to the development of sociobiology - the study of animal behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. If love is the basis for ethics - we have several options. We love everything, or we love things we like (partiality), or should we love something more if it can show love (reciprocity)? In terms of evolution the most likely origin of love would be as a reciprocal tit-for-tat system of mutual reward that promotes selective advantage to those who cooperate sometimes compared to those who never do. As Wright (1994) reviewed theories of evolution for a gene for brotherly love, we can also see advantages to survival if a community has love for each other in all social animals. However, there are limits to this love. J.B.S. Haldane is said to have said that he would never give his life for a brother - but, rather, for "two brothers or eight cousins", this equally the proportion of genes that they share with us.
We can look at some interesting examples among animals of altruism, and analyze this from the viewpoint of natural selection, asking why that behaviour would survive. One example is warning calls of individual birds, which may put them at higher danger of being targeted but warns the group of a predator, so they can all take flight or prepare for defense. Vampire bats are not our image of a loving animal, but unrelated bats in the same colony may feed each other. If one bat is successful and another unsuccessful, the successful one may feed the unsuccessful hungry bat. This is called reciprocal altruism, because the bats may reciprocate on another night. This behaviour can be mathematically modeled in such a way to show that it could be a selective advantage for these bats, because they meet frequently, and by helping each other they help themselves leave more offspring (Novack and Sigmund, 1992). We have numerous examples in the animal kingdom of reciprocal altruism within species, but few between species.
Altruism within a species is supported by kin selection, the genes may be promoted through survival of any member of the species that has the genes, not only by the individual or the immediate family. But between species there is no specific reason to risk life for another, or even to spend vital energy and resources on saving another species at the cost of decreased promotion of the genes of the species itself.
Those species which favour their own species over any other individual of another species could be called speciesist. In the same way that racism or sexism are biases, so is specisism. Human beings are generally specisist also. Peter Singer (1976) argues that pains of the same intensity and duration are equally bad whether felt by humans or animals", and we should not be prepared to inflict pain on other animals that we would not bear ourselves, unless there is some overwhelming justification for it.
Some of the examples of inter-species altruism are stories of dolphins saving drowning humans in the ocean, that are found throughout history and throughout the world (Kellert & Wilson, 1993). Cases have been documented on video of dolphins saving people who lie face down in the water (Figure 13).
In order to understand how animals behave and how we should behave to others we need to look at our biological, social and spiritual origins. Biologically much study is founded on genetic analysis. By the year 2001 we will obtain the DNA sequences of all of the human genome. Already we have most of the genes that are involved in our life, including many of the up to 75% which may be involved in determining our behaviour. This will change the way we think, and will help develop bioethics. Behaviour is influenced by both genes and environment. Obviously the complete genetic sequence of humans, and comparison of the genetic similarities and differences to other animals has many implications. Humans are primates, and the species most related to humans is chimpanzees, and we are in a small group with higher primates including orangutans, gibbons and gorillas. Already we know there is great similarity between chimpanzees and humans, how will it change our opinion if we find there are only 100 genes different between these two species? By difference I mean new genes or missing genes, rather than the vast majority of genes which are the same between these two species having only a few nucleotide base changes in their DNA. The similarity may be a great shock to many of us, especially considering some people still deny the similarity we already know.
What is more psychologically difficult to accept, is when sociobiologists begin to trace the origins of our ethical behaviour. However, we can see behavioural patterns in all animals, and increasingly sophisticated ones in so-called higher animals. The origins of our selfishness and altruistic (giving) behaviour are fundamental to how we behave. Excessive concern with personal autonomy could be called selfishness, and there is obviously a balance between too little recognition of autonomy which is against the dignity of a person, and too much which can clash with justice as discussed below. Autonomy should not be the most valuable principle of bioethics, even if it is the most dominant feature of human behaviour.
The Jewish-Christian-Islamic religions say that humans were made in the "image of God" (Genesis 1:26-7). What is this image? Part of this image is what we could call the "human soul", as discussed above. Another approach to investigating the soul is to look for characteristics that have been claimed to make humans higher than animals, and to which some people say reveal the soul. These include, intelligence and intellect, and language ability. It is very difficult to estimate the language ability of animals who use different communication systems. One way is to examine the complexity of the language, which would eliminate most animals from being close to humans, but there would still be doubts over some.
It has been found that chimpanzees and gorillas can be taught sign language (especially Koko, Kanzi, Washoe, Ai), and talk to humans in it, but only to the extent of composing two or three word sentence replies. This sentence structure represents a stage equivalent to a human baby learning to talk, before they can start to actually make longer sentences. However, they can communicate there needs and desires through this medium, and have even gone on Internet for conversations with human beings. This creates enough doubt about their ability to give them at least certain rights, and together with social evidence some claim we should give the higher primates, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and humans, equal rights in what is called the Great Ape Project (1991).
Confucius in the Analects wrote that the presence of jen (human-heartedness, the extension of acts of affection, patience, and understanding) designates a human being as opposed to an animal. Jen is an embodiment of goodness, wisdom, and courage in a descending order of importance (Analects, 14:30), and in the widest sense it refers to a person who possesses the virtues of kindness, gentleness, humanness and unselfishness (6:28). If we can find these characters in animals then we could say that they too possess jen, a similar concept to altruism and love.
James Rachels (1990) in Created from Animals advances the view that in secular philosophy we should not be speciesists, but judge animals as individuals with differing moral worth which may be similar to humans. The sensitivity to pain and capacity for intelligent behaviour are the main qualities we should use to judge whether to use an organism for human ends, as is discussed later in this chapter in the section on animals. The book claims that Darwinism has undermined theological underpinning's of human superiority over animals, which is something many people will refute, especially those who are religious. At the other extreme, the views of Aquinas, who thought animals had no rights, are incompatible with what we know about the biological continuum between animals, and humans. We can argue for a religious difference between the point at which we violate the rights of humans and animals, or use the language of duties, but we certainly have duties to some animals based on their characteristics which we are increasingly becoming aware of. Our ethics must build on the knowledge that we have, and change when that knowledge informs us of new ethically important qualities of animals such as pain, self awareness and rationality.
There are dangers to having respect for life dependent upon revealed characters of behaviour, or an act-centred definition, because not all individuals are able to show acts or even have the potential for future acts. In conclusion we must broaden our horizons to look at the autonomy of all organisms.
Maternal love has been discussed above in the case of human cultures it is universal, and it is also usual across species as well (Figure 11). In some species at least, males or females have genetically programmed roles in the raising of offspring. Animal studies, and human experience, shows that fathers can raise offspring, and maternalism is shared by both sexes (Shaw and Darling, 1985). Although the mother gives birth to the child the father can care for the offspring, sometimes it is actually the usual practice, and other cases it can be induced if the mother is absent. Parental care can tie up resources, but if the offspring will die parents who want to have offspring continue until reproductive age must nurture them (Clutton-Brock, 1992). Parent-offspring behaviour must be stable for the next generation, for the offspring to become successful parents. This means that while children can ask for food, they cannot ask for too much or else the parents will die - the genes for this behaviour must be balanced. This can be done by making the food requests also costly, which is consistent with observed behaviour in some species. While maternal care is the most common behaviour for animals, because it does involve considerable resource cost there are many insect species that appear to have developed deviations from the standard of maternal care commitments.
Frans de Waal (1990) looked at the origins of right and wrong in different animals. Sympathy is a character at least seen in dolphins and whales. Dolphins have been videoed saving companions by biting through harpoon lines and hauling then out of fishing nets. The sympathy shown by whales to other members of their pod once injured is used by whalers, so that once one sperm whale is harpooned, other members of the pod will encircle the boat trying to help the injured companion, while the whalers will find it easy to kill many more. Sympathy in this case means both recognizing someone else's pain, empathy, and doing something about it. Above, I also noted the cases of dolphins saving human lives.
In human beings kissing is a sign of affection, which is thought to have its origins in transfer of masticated food. Kissing without transfer of food is seen also in chimpanzees, and bonobos also tongue kiss. Looking after handicapped persons is also observed in primates. In a chimpanzee colony in Arnhem, the oldest male was found to purposely limp when he could be seen by his rival in what is perceived to be a case of pretending to be in pain and suffering so he would not challenged (de Waal, 1990). A study of human babies found even at a year old babies will try to comfort family members who are pretending to be sick, with behaviour like patting, hugging and rubbing the victim's hurt. However studies of rhesus monkeys find very seldom is sympathy for hurt expressed, although grooming is seen (Figure 14). The behaviour towards a weaker playmate may either be learned adjustment, in which it is learnt that the weaker playmate will not stand rough play, or cognitive empathy in which one can put oneself in another individual's situation.
Sympathy is also seen in other mammal species upon death, for example elephants will sometimes pick up the ivory or bones of a dead herd member, hold pieces in their trunks, and pass them around (Figure 13). Some return for many years to the spot where a relative died, touching the relics. It makes us ask whether they remember. Elephants are the only mammals with brains larger than humans, actually three times the mass. (A sperm whale has a brain mass six times that of a human). There are many cases in dolphins and in primates, and cases in lemurs that protect injured individuals. Given that human beings take pleasure in comforting the sick and seeing someone get better, it is not surprising that other species also show signs of sympathy and love towards others. Culture specific tool use and language has been observed in different communities of chimpanzees and bonobos as evidence of learning not in genes. Tit-for-tat deals between leaders and supporters reminiscent of human politics has also been observed in other primates.
The evolution of the ability to deceive others, to lie, and be morally deceptive, also appears to be something that requires complex mental processes seen only in higher mammals. The term Machiavellian intelligence is used after the book The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli to define the ability to outwit another person through cunning and deceit (Spinney, 1998). The ability to read another's mind may be considered necessary to allow deceit, and a test called the Sally-Anne test has found that children of about four year's old suddenly learn how to deceive others. In the test, a child watches Sally, a doll place a marble in a basket, then Sally leaves and Anne comes, and moves the marble to a box, then she leaves and Sally returns. Asked where Sally will look for the marble when she returns, young children indicate the box because they cannot distinguish what they know (after seeing Anne) and what Sally knows. Other researchers using other observation methods find deceit earlier, for example in a play group one child might pretend they do not like their favorite toy so that others will also ignore it. In primates there are many cases of females hiding infidelity from males, or using false alarm calls to divert attention.
Friendship between different species has been
widely noted and may have been experienced by many readers. Companionship
can lead to dependence upon others, as often seen in the fretting
of dogs for owners who die or disappear. Cases of porpoises that
starved to death after disappearance of their human companion
have also been noted. Loren Eiseley (1964) in The Unexpected
Universe said "one does not meet oneself until one catches
the reflection in an eye other than human".
6.3. Ethical limits of animal use
In most people's minds there are differences between animals and plants. Philosophers can argue that there are morally significant differences between animals and plants, such as the capacity to feel pain. The question of whether animals can think is related to autonomy, and has been discussed above. We now must consider how the philosophy should alter our practical expressions of love and actions to animals. We can think of ethical factors inside and organism and outside, and a summary of some factors for judging animal use is below:
|Intrinsic Ethical Factors||Extrinsic Ethical Factors|
- Future planning
- Value of being alive
- Individual love of life
|- Human Necessity / Desire
- Human sensitivity to animal sufferingsuffering
- Brutality in Humans
- Other animals disapproval
- Religious status of animals
The concept of "do no harm", which has a basis at a more fundamental level - the level of being alive, also argues against hurting any living organism, a love for life. If we are going to harm life, a departure from the ideal of doing no harm and love of life, it must be for a good motive. Such a motive might be survival, and we can see this as natural - all organisms consume and compete with others. Plants compete with each other for space to grow, animals eat plants or other animals, bacteria and fungi also compete for resources and space - sometimes killing other organisms and other times competing without direct killing. Destruction of nature and life by humans is caused by two human motives - necessity and desire. Basically, it is more ethically acceptable to cause harm if there is necessity for survival than if it is only desire. This distinction is required ever more as human desire continues to destroy the planet.
Intrinsic values are something that exists without another assigning value to something. We could also consider intrinsic value as some experience which has value in itself without any instrumental reference by others. To perceive something of intrinsic value we need to have an object of value, whether it is the bone thrown to a dog or a ball thrown to a child, the object becomes of value. It becomes of value even if we cannot be conscious of the value or talk about it, as you can see from the reaction of the animal to the removal of the object that they have interest in. The list above of intrinsic values is not exhaustive, but lists the principle ideas people have given.
The motive for using animals also alters the morality of their use in some religions, suggesting these concerns have a long history. Animal sacrifice for worship is used in Islam, but they would generally condemn scientific research or battery farming. Vivisection is allowed under circumstances where there is no pain or disfigurement and if other animals benefit. The use of animals in science is under the same moral codes as applied to humans. Even though the animals possess a lower consciousness, Islam says animals know their own mode of prayer and psalm, a voluntary act of praise. The killing of any breathing beings, except for food or religious sacrifice, is high on the list of deadly sins. Hindus, Jains and Buddhist believe that we will be reborn as another living animal, which creates their bond of caring and compassion for animals. So they will reject animal sacrifice, even though the sacrifice of an animal won't kill what is essential, in the reality, the soul, of that animal.
Christian scriptures and traditions accept animals do have valid claims upon us. Animals cannot be viewed simply as expendable raw materials for our designs, they do not exist simply to serve us, the doctrine of creation is opposed to anthropocentric notions. The use of animal sacrifices does not mean animals should be sacrificed for the selfish pursuits of man, the practice of animal sacrifice was to bring God into the focus of human hearts in place of their own selfish desires, and was not necessary after the birth of Christ. The Bible often mentions animals, as Israel was an agricultural community. God owns everything of creation, including all our cattle (Psalm 50:10) and He cares for them all (Genesis 8:17, 9:4,10; Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 12:23, 25:4; Numbers 22:32; Proverbs 12:10; Psalms 36:7, 104:10-11, 145:9,15-16, 147:9; Job 38:26-27,41; Jonah 4:11; Matthew 6:25, 10:29.). Animals should also rest on the Sabbath, and should be fed first, before the farmer (Exodus 23:12; Deuteronomy 5:14, 11:15; Numbers 20:8.). However, early Christian theologians such as Aquinas regarded animals as irrational creatures that weren't directly possible of human friendships. The tradition of the Roman Catholic church is to regard animals as means to human ends, and the moral objections to cruelty on animals are more concerned with fear that those inflicting pain will contract habits of cruelty, something also seen in Kant. The contrasting attitude of St. Francis of Assisi, to talk of sister cows or brother dog, is a picture which is appropriate as a biocentric view.
Beyond the motive, another important criteria we use in judging the use of animals is avoiding the infliction of pain. Some distinguish pain from "suffering", but they are both departures from the ideal of avoiding harm. Suffering can be defined as prolonged pain of a certain intensity (Regan, 1983), and it is claimed that no individual can suffer who is incapable of experiencing pain. The capacity for suffering and/or enjoyment has been described as a prerequisite for having any interests (Singer, 1976). Judging pain is subjective, and there are parallels in the way animals and humans respond. Many of the neurotransmitters are similar between higher animals and humans. It is possible that animals do have a different quality of "pain", as the frontal region of the cerebral cortex of humans is thought to be involved in feelings of anxiety, apprehension and suffering components of pain. This region is much smaller in animals, and if it is surgically treated in humans it can make them indifferent to pain. There are differences seen in the types of pain receptors, some respond to mechanical stimuli, some to noxious heat or irritant chemicals, and some to severe cold. The difference between pain of animals and responses of plants (which include electrical response like animals), is that a signal is only a signal, whereas pain is something after the reception and processing of the signal in the nervous system.
We may all agree that animals can suffer, but the question is how much does it matter? Figure 15 illustrates some different ways of farming. Only in some cases is there really a choice between human welfare and the suffering of nonhuman animals, usually it is money. At the practical level, the feeling of pain is the major guiding principle for animal treatment. Another that may define boundaries of killing is if they have self-awareness such as higher apes and dolphins for example, considered above. We do need to consider the findings of animal studies on the level of self-awareness that some may possess. Our bioethics must have a basis from all data, including reasoning, philosophy and biological knowledge.
The creation of very diseased animals as models of human disease has become routine. In this case we must try to balance the pain caused by the benefit, and this is not done well (Porter, 1992). There are agricultural reasons to make faster growing animals, or using animals to make products ("bioreactors"), as mentioned above. To make a chicken lay an egg full of interferon, a protein that can treat some cancer, is novel, but not beyond the daily use of animals. Ethically, if such proteins can be made in soybeans for similar cost it is better, and if the interferon can be delivered to the body by eating only beans - that would be a great advance. Research to make edible vaccines in vegetables or bananas, is underway, which most people would accept if it can provide cheap, just and safe medical care to more people in the world. Genetic engineering can also reduce the number of animals used in toxicity testing, which is not only more ethical but more economic. It is ethically consistent to use lower organisms, cells, or computer models, if possible, and also to use human volunteers and epidemiological research.
A response to the ethical objection that it is wrong to cause pain could be to make animals that don't feel pain to use for experiments, food, or other utility to humans. We could call such animals vegemals (vegetable animals). Because pain is a basic sensation we may object to manipulating it permanently out of strains of animals (Macer, 1989). These type of experiments involve altering the mental requirements of animals to suite our means. In fact these futuristic beings could be engineered to give consent. The motive is anthropocentric and the means may not be interested with the life of the animals themselves, however, if they did not suffer pain than they could be regarded by many as being better off then beings that do, and many organisms that are currently used for human benefit.
If we object to these experiments, we are forced away from arguments based on pain, in which the capacity of a subject for sensation, is the pre-eminent quality on which attitudes towards the treatment of that being by others is based. If we object to these painless animals being made, it may be because we hold religious views according to which we should not grossly alter the creatures of the earth, because it is "unnatural". It could be based on each being having a self, suffering being viewed as the threat to characteristic, worldly related activities which threatens the integrity of the self (Donnelley, 1990), as would the removal of sentience. Using the principle of love, we could ask if we are acting out of love for the animals, or only for human desire. We may also have concerns about changing our own value of love to nature and others, but farming already treats animals as the long-term property of humans, and decides when or how they come into existence and die, and their reproductive choice.
There has been a long history of breeding of domestic animals targeted at different roles. This breeding has led to great diversity in the case of domestic dogs, with a range of sizes and behavioural traits selected for. For several breeds, the past selection to become fighting dogs has meant that they may be easily aroused to fight, and disproportionately be involved in attacks on other animals and human beings. In a US study between 1989 and 1994 there were 109 human deaths caused by dog attacks, with the most frequently involved breeds being Pit bull terriers, Rottweilers and German shepherds. While there is a chance for misidentification of breeds these studies in different countries have led to bans on particular breeds because of the danger, and even the implantation of microchips for identification of already registered dogs that are classified as dangerous. Points systems for danger activity have also been established and dogs accumulating too many points for bad behaviour over a year are destroyed. This is a sad case of the treatment and manipulation of other lifeforms, and occurred before the invention of specific genetic engineering techniques. It would support a limit on the use of new technologies to make more behavioural modifications in other species to please the whims of people.
People will continue to eat animals, and practical ethics must improve the ethical treatment for all animals. One area of particular concern is whether animals should be in a field or in a caged box, or factory farm (Figure 15). The main ethical question is confinement of animals, such as veal calves, pigs and poultry in small cages. There have been several countries which have banned the use of battery caged hens. It has been illegal to use battery cages in Switzerland since 1992. In Sweden they will be illegal from 1998. The possible boredom of animals on factory farms may be another ethical argument against their use. It is interesting that many farmers in the International Survey expressed concerns about animal use, they clearly perceive images of what is a "natural" and "just" life for an animal, and what is not. People need to decide how much more they are prepared to pay for better treatment of animals, such as the costs of eliminating battery farming, or the costs in not using new animal treatments that produce cheaper milk or meat such as bovine growth hormone. The consequences on the different communities involved in agriculture of these decisions also needs to be considered (Figure 20), a variety of external factors, which must also be considered with love.
In conclusion we can say that human love does extend to animals, but there are many questions about the limits that love should impose upon our action for the treatment of animals. We can also see signs of love in a number of animal species. I would suggest that it would be an especially unloving person who kills another being who can love, and we know enough about the minds and behaviour of certain species to say that they can love others even across species boundaries, so at least we should reciprocate. Part of the empathy that we expect animals to show when setting criteria for moral reasoning, we should also show towards animals. Love is give and take, and also trying to do our best for others. We are often guilty of neglecting the interests of others, but species lines should no longer be so easily drawn at animals said to be "lower" than Homo sapiens.
Ram's in a Temple in Luxor, Egypt Foxes in a Shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Sacred Bull in Temple in TamilTamil Nadu, India
Sacred Bull in Temple in Beijing, ChinaChina
Tanuki in a Temple in Tatebayashi, Japan Lion in Temple, Beijing, ChinaChina
Figure 13: Autonomy and personality expressed by animals
Mountain goats in Banff National Park, CanadaCanada
- Many animals walk along particular paths,
and chose where to go - autonomy
A Chipmunk in Massachusetts, USA
- The Chipmunk stores peanuts given by human
neighbours for the winter. Who is being manipulated
into action, the person who feeds or the animal?
Roman Mosaic of DolphinsDolphins
- Dolphins have long been revered
in legends and stories for their relationships
with humans, and accounts from around the world record them as
Wild elephantelephants in Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala, India
- With a brain size triple that of human beings, elephants are known to mourn for lost members of a herd many years in the past, revisiting where they died.
Figure 14: Emergence of altruism and social instincts in animals
Beehives in Hungary
- The social system of the honey bee involves separation into specific roles to promote the survival of the whole hive.
Three cats in a JapaneseJapanese garden
- The domestic cat is often said to be an individual animal, yet this group of three cats is seen, perhaps reflecting instincts of some wild cat families.
- The grooming of fellow troop members can
build up a community spirit.
Seals on a Californian beach
- The colonies of seals found around the world also have complex social hierachies.
Figure 15: Ways to raise animals for food consumption
Flock of sheepsheep, Canterbury, New Zealand
- Enclosed by fences the sheep
are left in fields to graze.
Herd of cattle, Canterbury, New ZealandNew Zealand
- The environment where they live in may be
the envy of many people. It is a marked contrast to the factory
farm approach to animal production.
Chickens in a market, Hong KongHong Kong
- The consumer prefers to buy freshly killed
or live chicken, and there are very crowded conditions for the
chickens in the cages.
Goats and Sheep, Palestine
- The goats and sheep are guided by a shepherd over a large area that was a city two millenia ago, Herodian. This goat is producing so much milk that a bra is fitted to hold the udder.
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