Is it Ever Right to Shoot Goats, or Spill Raw Sewage into a Pristine Stream?: the Ethical Complexities of Saving the Environment

The Times Literary Supplement, Peter Singer, September 10, 2008

Even after taking three chapters to develop this extensive account of ethics, Jamieson does not move directly to what is commonly thought of as environmental ethics. His next chapter is about the moral status of non-human animals. Since almost every decision we make about the environment will have an impact on animals, we need to know what weight to give those impacts. Jamieson agrees with what now seems to be a near-consensus among philosophers that "species-ism" – the view that we are entitled to take the interests of animals less seriously than we take human interests, simply because humans are members of our species – is not a defensible moral position. That still leaves many further issues to explore: does the principle of equal consideration of interests adequately ground the moral status of animals (as this reviewer has argued) or should we also attribute rights to animals, as Tom Regan contends? The way we answer that question may lead to different judgments about the wrongness of painlessly killing sentient beings who, because they lack self-awareness, have no explicitly future-directed preferences, and whose death thus seems less of a tragedy than the death of a self-conscious being who does have such preferences.

more at: