Animal Ethics: Figuring Out What Is Right and Wrong

Lori Gruen

William Griffin Professor of Philosophy
Wesleyan University

Over the last fifty years, scholars have questioned how we value the other-than-human world. The field of Animal Ethics has developed to provide guidance for not only how we think about other animals and what we owe them, but also how to respond ethically to the various conditions they are in. This paper explores the complicated ethical issues that emerge when reflecting on our relationships with other animals. It begins by discussing a variety of normative frameworks that shape our understanding of what is right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. The paper then discusses how scholars have thought about whether and under what conditions other animals have moral status. It then turns to four types of ethical theories that have been developed to help us figure out how to be in better relations with other animals, drawing out their strengths and weaknesses. Despite their theoretical differences, these theories urge us to take seriously the devastation we are causing other animals and the dangers this devastation poses to us all.

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