As an elephant is shot dead in Zimbabwe last month, in an echo of the Cecil the Lion killing, we look at the ethics behind the treatment of animals…
Animal ethics has long been a highly contested area with debates driven by unease about various forms of animal harm, from the use of animals in scientific research to the farming of animals for consumption. And now, a German hunter has paid a vast amount of money to shoot one of the largest elephants ever seen in Zimbabwe for his own pleasure, causing animal rights activists to express their outrage merely three months after the shooting of Cecil the Lion.
Tony Miligan’s essential introduction, Animal Ethics: The Basics therefore provides key considerations surrounding the ethical treatment of animals. Taking a thematic approach, it outlines the current arguments from animal agency to the emergence of the ‘political turn’. This book thus explores such questions as: Can animals think and do they suffer? What do we mean by speciesism? Are humans special? Can animals be political or moral agents? Is animal rights protest ethical?
In terms of whether or not animals think and suffer, the study of animal cognition also raises profound questions about the minds of animals and philosophy of mind itself. Aristotle argued that humans are the only animal to laugh, but in recent experiments rats have also been shown to laugh, and dogs have been shown to respond to over two hundred words in human language.
Therefore, in The Animal Mind, Kristin Andrews introduces and assesses the question raised by Miligan around animal consciousness, looking at essential topics, problems and debates as they cut across animal cognition and awareness. Both books consequently call into question what research into pain and emotions in animals has revealed, as well as what empirical evidence about animal behaviour can tell us about philosophical theories of consciousness.
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