A Brief Review of
Why Animal Suffering Matters:
Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics.
Hardback: Oxford University Press, 2009
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia.
Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Rev. Andrew Linzey is justifiably recognized for developing an “animal theology” that attributes what he calls “theos-rights” to animals. He has argued that Christians, especially, have a duty to show Christ-like compassion to animals as oppressed and suffering beings. His new book, Why Animal Suffering Matters, makes a more broadly philosophical argument. Traditional ethics treats the suffering of nonhuman animals as less morally relevant than human suffering, because animals differ from humans in ways that humans consider to be morally significant. Further, traditional ethics considers moral solicitude for animals as an “emotional,” “non-rational” response to a suffering that is qualitatively different from that which humans experience. But why are the differences between humans and animals morally relevant? That is, how do they justify differential treatment? Linzey argues that when some of these allegedly crucial differences are reconfigured, they in fact make a “rational” case for reducing/preventing the suffering of animals.
Linzey highlights six of the most commonly cited differences. Animals are: “natural slaves” (in the logic of Aristotle and Augustine); non-rational beings; linguistically deficient; not moral agents; soulless; and devoid of the divine image. He briefly reviews the evidence for each of these assessments and then asks whether the differences are, in any event, morally relevant. When “reconfigured,” the differences can be seen to mean that animals cannot give or withhold consent to their treatment, they cannot represent or give voice to their own interests, they are morally innocent, and they are vulnerable and defenseless. They are not unlike infants or comatose adults in these respects, and yet we would not consider the suffering of infants or comatose adults as morally less relevant. These differences engender greater moral solicitude, not less. Continue Reading…