Human ethics is a philosophy and practice that explores how human beings should live and behave towards each other. Animal ethics is the same, but includes all sentient creatures. A definition of sentience can be found in the embedded short video.
Animal ethicists seek to challenge preconceived beliefs about the way that we treat animals and what is acceptable, critically questioning the conduct of humans towards animals and protecting them from human harm.
Michael Kern, Osteopathy and Craniosacral Therapy teacher, is a passionate animal ethicist and has been a committed vegetarian for over 45 years.
Animal Rights and Welfare
Animal rights requires that all sentient beings deserve the same basic rights in terms of protecting their welfare. The premise of the animal rights movement is that all sentient creatures have the right to live their life free from persecution and deliberate harm, exploitation, and premature death.
Animal welfare proponents do not necessarily wish to prevent the exploitation of animals for human benefit, but they do work to minimise the harm suffered by animals. A person can advocate both animal rights and animal welfare, although the two are fundamentally different approaches to caring for animals.
The PDF attachment contains some considerations about animal activism.
Historically, as a species, we humans have believed that we are superior to animals. There are various belief systems that may form the foundation for this although some cultures have more respect for animals than others. However, many cultures typically show respect only for those animals that have some use to us as humans.
Charles Darwin began to alter these beliefs with the introduction of the theory of evolution. This theory posits that humans and animals evolved from the same ancestors and continue to evolve.
This suggests that animals should have the same moral rights as humans, as we are all part of the same species in some way. Animal rights activists advocate changing the concept of human superiority and change practices that harm animals, such as factory farming and animal research.
You can learn more about factory farming in the UK in the below infographic.