Vet Ethics: Man’s dominion and the worth of animals

In his book Animal Welfare: A Cool Eye Towards Eden, the well-known welfare scientist John Webster criticises the contribution of moral philosophy to the question of the treatment of animals and their welfare. Webster writes:

The moral philosophy approach to animal welfare – i.e. based upon our thoughts and values, not theirs – tends to generate broad, bold (and careless) conclusions such as ‘Man has no right to cause any animal to suffer’”.

He gives just two examples of such “moral philosophy”: A book by Andrew Lindsay, a Christian author who has attempted to interpret the meaning of “Man’s Dominion” in a way favourable to animal rights; and the famous book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. While admitting that he admires and shares a passion for animal welfare with these authors, and is also well disposed towards aspects of Singer’s utilitarian philosophy, Webster claims that their work is not really helpful. In fact, their work is all too easily debased into empty or wrong-headed slogans. Webster holds a view that “Man” rightly and necessarily has “Dominion” over the animals. He broadly favours traditional forms of animal use, like animal agriculture, so long as they treat animals humanely and fairly. Continue reading Vet Ethics: Man’s dominion and the worth of animals

Traversing the moral distress minefield

Dr Noel was in a spot of bother. On the consulting table was a 3 year old black, heavily pregnant German Shepherd bitch. Her puppies had died inside her and she had a purulent vaginal discharge. Despite being flat and weak, the dog’s character was revealed in her effort to wag her tail at the anxious vet.

The vet’s anxiety was caused by the dog’s owner, a puppy-farm breeder, who was at this moment insisting that he euthanise the dog. Dr Noel explained to the breeder that Valentine – Valentine was the name the breeder had given the dog – could probably be saved if she was speyed without delay. She could then lead a normal life, albeit not one in which she had two or more litters year after year.

But the breeder would have none of it. Couldn’t Dr Noel see, he argued, Continue reading Traversing the moral distress minefield