Warren Animal Rights Theory

Mary Anne Warren wrote a critique of Tom Regan’s argument that the basic moral rights of at least some non-human animals are in no way inferior to our own. Warren argues that Regan’s case for strong animals right position is unpersuasive and that this position entails consequences, which a reasonable person cannot accept. For the strong animal rights position Regan argues that normal, mature mammals are not only sentient but have other mental capacities. He continues by saying that animals are subject-of-a-life, and that all subject-of-a-life have inherent value. All things that have inherent value are equal and that no inherent value is greater than another. This leads to the respect principle, which forbids us to treat beings who have inherent value as mere receptacles. So, people cannot morally exploit anything that has inherent value, so anything that is subject-of-a-life cannot morally be exploited. But inherent value is vaguely defined. Inherent value is not actually defined by what it is, but instead it has been defined by what it is not. Because of this it is difficult to separate which beings have inherent value and which do not. The sharp line theory suggest that there is a place where a line can be drawn between what has inherent value and what does not, but because of the obscurity of the definition of inherent value it is difficult to find an appropriate place to draw this line.

Warren argues that the strong animal rights position is flawed, and I agree. Warren then adjusts the strong animal rights theory and calls it the weak animal rights theory. The main difference being that the weak animal rights theory allows the rights of animals of different kinds to vary in strength. I like this better because it fits more with my personal feelings that I am the top of the food chain and those below me will be eaten.


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