Building on our film screening of "Project Nim" on Tuesday the 18th, the Philosophy Department will host a lunch chat discussion with Professor Gary Steiner, John Howard Harris Chair in Philosophy at Bucknell, on the moral status of animals. Among the many questions we might address are the following:
- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that every year, worldwide, over 50 billion land animals are killed for human consumption. Does this fact raise any ethical questions?
- Do human beings "count" more in the moral scheme of things than nonhuman animals? If so, on what basis should we consider human beings to be morally superior to nonhuman animals?
- Even if we believe that human beings are morally superior to nonhuman animals, should we recognize any limits in the ways we treat nonhuman animals (e.g., in food production, experimentation, entertainment, field labor, etc.)? If so, how should we determine the proper limits or parameters of the treatment of nonhuman animals?
- Do measures such as California's Proposition 2, passed in late 2008 and mandating provisions such as more living space for the animals that we raise for food, accomplish any significant improvements in the lives of the animals we kill for human consumption?
- Are the ways our society currently treats nonhuman animals morally acceptable? If not, what sorts of changes would you propose?
- Is experimentation on nonhuman animals justifiable? Does it yield valuable information that is likely to improve human welfare? Is the improvement of human welfare a sufficient basis for justifying experimentation on nonhuman animals?
- Do institutions such as zoos, rodeos, and circuses pose any ethical problems? If so, what problems do they pose? If not, how do our uses of nonhuman animals in such institutions reflect our values regarding nonhuman animals and the relative moral status of human beings and nonhuman animals?