Brute Ethics





Animal Ethics Encyclopedia

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Darwin, Charles (1809 - 1882)

Darwin British naturalist and scientist, best known for his theory explaining the origin of species, showing how species evolve from each other.

Darwin's theory changed people's perception of themselves from specially hand made by God to being just an animal evolved from other animals. The perceived gulf between humans and animals thus began to close.

Darwin first developed his theory to explain how species evolve while he was sailing round the world (1831 - 1836) on board HMS Beagle. Many years later he published his theory in his book Origin Of Species. Published in 1859 the book obliquely challenged the conventional view of the creation of species as described in the Bible, that God made each species perfectly formed, permanent and unchanging, and that God made man in his own image.

Darwin called the process of species evolution natural selection, as opposed to artificial selection whereby people selectively breed plants and animals (for instance agricultural stock). Natural selection and its implications - popularly called Darwinism - were resisted by the Victorian public (and still are today by many people, for instance evolutionists) because if man is descended from animals then he is not special and cannot be held above other forms of life. Furthermore, if we are animals then we may be related to animals morally.

Darwin amassed convincing evidence to show that species evolve because environmental conditions change over time, that creatures better adapted to changed conditions tend to leave more descendants, and that these descendants gradually replace less well adapted types which eventually die out. Some people call this the 'survival of the fittest'. For example, trees were light coloured but are now darkened by pollution. Birds notice light coloured moths resting on the darkened trees and eat more of them than the less visible darker coloured ones. The result is that darker coloured moths are becoming more frequent. In these conditions dark moths are better adapted (or 'fitter') than light coloured moths because birds notice them less on the dark backgrounds.

Alfred Wallace (1823 - 1913), British naturalist, independently discovered the process of natural selection and with Darwin made their work known in a joint scientific paper. However, their theory of natural selection did not specify how traits pass from one organism to another. Belatedly in the 20th century their theory was combined with a theory of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884). Mendel, an Austrian monk and part-time experimental biologist, described how what we now call genes are inherited. The combination of natural selection acting on inherited genes is called Neo-Darwinism and forms the basis of genetics and evolutionary theory.

Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, London, near Isaac Newton.

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Deep Ecology

An environmental philosophy, a basis for social change and a guide for personal growth.

Deep ecology is concerned with fundamental philosophical, practical and personal questions about the ways humans relate to their environment. It opposes the exploitation and destruction of the natural world by materialism and consumerism. It says we should minimise our impact on the world and it appeals for a change in the way we think about the world. Deep ecology predicts that if we do not shift our basic values and customs we will destroy the diversity and beauty of the world's life and its ability to support humanity.

The ideas of Deep Ecology arose against the background of the nascent Environmentalism of the 1960's. Deep Ecology is primarily associated with Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology in 1973 and contrasted it to shallow ecology, another form of environmentalism.

Shallow ecology has a Utilitarian and Anthropocentric attitude to nature. It is based on materialism and consumerism. It focuses on using the world's natural resources for unlimited human growth and comes up with technological solutions to offset environmental problems thus made. For example, shallow ecology promotes the recycling of commercial and industrial waste instead of preventing waste in the first place; and it increases demands on the land to produce more food instead of improving human birth control to reduce human numbers (see Human Overpopulation).

The Deep in Deep Ecology refers to a fundamental or wise questioning of attitudes to nature. Deep Ecology questions the root causes of the degeneration of the variety and magnificence of the world. It calls for a more enlightened approach for humanity to live within the bounds of Nature rather than to depend on technological fixes as cure-alls.

The Eight Tenets

Eight tenets, composed by Naess and colleagues, form the basis of Deep Ecology thought. These points are intended to be agreeable to people from any philosophical, political or religious background. Paraphrased the eight tenets are:
  1. All creatures on Earth have value in themselves independent of value humans place on them.

  2. The whole diversity of living beings, simple as well as complex, contribute to life's richness.

  3. Humans should only use other beings to satisfy their basic needs.

  4. The health of non-humans depends on decreasing the number of humans.

  5. Human interference with the world is excessive and worsening.

  6. Human policy (economics, technology and ideology) must change radically.

  7. Quality of life is more important than standard of living.

  8. Every human who believes in these points must work for change.

The eight tenets of Deep Ecology contrast with shallow ecology, which could be characterised as:
  1. All creatures on Earth have value only for their usefulness to humans.

  2. Complex creatures (like humans) are more important than simpler ones.

  3. Humans should use all resources for their material and economic advantage.

  4. The human population can increase without restraint.

  5. Technological progress will solve all problems.

  6. Materialism and consumerism should govern human society.

  7. The standard of living should keep rising.

  8. Leave environmental problems for the experts to solve.

The philosophy of Deep Ecology is supported by some sections of political parties and is used as a philosophical basis for change by environmental activists opposing the human destruction of nature. As a guide for personal growth, Deep Ecology invites each individual to intermesh with and identify with all living things; we are not just saving other species and ecosystems, we are really saving ourselves, because nature is the part of us extending beyond our skin. Deep Ecology says that humans are not isolated objects but are part of the whole.


  • Deep Ecology claims that nature has intrinsic value, ie has value in itself and is not of value just to people. But does intrinsic value exist independently of humanity? Intrinsic value may simply be a part of the human value system that values things which have no value for humanity.

  • For & Against: argue your case

    Harmony vs Industry
  • Claim: Deep ecologists want to stop industrial and technological development in order to embrace a lifestyle that is entirely in harmony with nature. But this would ruin mankind as industrial and technological disintegration would cause great upheaval.

  • Claim: We should continue humanity's industrial and technological development but in such a way as radically to take the pressure off biodiversity, particularly by reducing the human birth rate.

  • Anti-human
  • Claim: Supporters of Deep Ecology say that it is best for nature if humanity disappeared from the face of the Earth. So Deep Ecology is anti-human.

  • Claim: Deep Ecology deplores anti-human statements. Deep Ecology affirms that all beings, including humans, have inherent worth.

  • Aboriginal Harmony
  • Claim: As deep ecologists we should look more to aboriginal people because their values and practices could help us live more wisely.

  • Claim: It is a myth that aboriginal people lived in harmony with nature. They exploited their environment to their full advantage. The only thing we can learn from them is also to exploit the environment to our full advantage.

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Descartes, Rene (1596 - 1650)

Descartes (pronounced Deck Art), was a French philosopher and mathematician. Philosophers honour him as the first really modern philosopher. Prior to Descartes thinking people asked what the world is and how ought we to live in it. But Descartes asked what can we know of the world (now the branch of philosophy called epistemology, the theory of knowledge). Descartes' great contribution to knowledge was his method of tackling the question he posed. He did not accept established ideas about the world as his starting point, as had generally been the rule since the Ancient Greeks. Instead, he started by asking the most basic questions, questioned everything he could, tried to take nothing for granted, and if he found ideas unsound he discarded them.

From Descartes' method grew the philosophy of rationalism: the belief that everything can be known about the world by sitting down and reasoning about it. Rationalism dominated Western philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries before giving way to empiricism, the method of nascent science. Empiricism supports the belief that all knowledge must be derived from observation and experience via our senses (no amount of reasoning will tell you if it is snowing or raining outside, you have to get up and look). Young science married its empiricist outlook to Descartes' rational approach and became an effective force in society. After Descartes (until the rise of quantum theory in the 20th century), people generally held that truth can be discovered with certainty, so long as you follow the right method of enquiry, that of rationalism and empiricism.

Descartes process of thinking led him to believe that nature is split into physical matter and immaterial mind. His body-mind dualism was embrace enthusiastically by subsequent philosophers, scientists and people generally well into the 20th century. Descartes is famed for concluding that, even if all his thinking was wrong, there was one thing he could be absolutely certain about: he existed - because he could think. This conclusion is encapsulated in his famous phrase, cogito ego sum - I think, therefore I am.

As for animals, Descartes maintained that animals cannot reason and do not feel pain; animals are living organic creatures, but they are automata, like mechanical robots. Descartes upheld that only humans are conscious, have minds and souls, can learn and have language and therefore only humans are deserving of compassion. Unfortunately for animals, science adopted his view. Scientists maintained that animals are like unfeeling robots up to and for most of the 20th century, and some 21st century scientists still do. Under Descartes' view the exploitation of animals cannot be a wrong, for you cannot harm things, like robots, bits of wood and sacks of potatoes, which do not possess thoughts, feelings or a sense pain. Thus the scene was set for the next three hundred years for much animal suffering because of human insensibility.

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Dog Controlling

How do you get on with your dog? Is he strong willed and do you ever hit or punish him? Striking animals is not effective and there is virtually never any reason to do so (see Punishment). If you need more control over your dog, communicate effectively with him according to these pointers.

The rational behind this communication with your dog is that he is descended from wolves, who live in packs, which are family groups. A pack is organised into a social hierarchy in which animals higher up the hierarchy can impose their will on those lower down. The parents of a wolf family are usually at the top of the hierarchy; they are the leaders of the pack and can boss everyone. Your dog sees himself as living in a pack; you and any other humans in your household are part of his pack. Your dog will tend to do as you tell him if he believes you are the pack leader. To his way of thinking you are 'dominant' to him and he is 'subordinate' to you. But if he believes he is dominant to you then he will do what he wants and may try to control you. Then there will be trouble when you want him to obey you.

1. Ignore your dog if he approaches you.

This is one of the most effective methods of getting control over your dog. Do not make eye contact. Look away from him. If necessary turn your back on him. Pretend he does not exist. By withholding your attention you also increase its attractiveness to him. Then you can give him attention as a reward for desired behaviour and he will have more incentive to do what you want him to. You need not give your dog less affection overall, just give it to him as a reward for good behaviour.

2. Discourage dominant postures.

Anything that increases your dog's height relative to yours increases his confidence to be dominant and encourages him to see himself as dominant. So do not allow him to get onto the furniture (you might relax this if he has a special chair and you can control him adequately), sleep on your bed, get onto your lap, or put his head or paws on you. If he does any of these things, gently brush him off without making eye contact. Ignore him if he pesters you.

3. Avoid provoking aggression.

Every act won by your dog increases his confidence that he is dominant. So, for instance, deny him access to places where he may behave dominantly and avoid approaching him when you think he may snap or growl.

4. Do not give commands he is unlikely to carry out.

For example, do not command him to give up a retrieved stick you threw for him if he is going to struggle for it. If he disobeys you he is behaving dominantly. It may look like a game to you, but it is serious dominance behaviour to him. Wait till he drops the stick. Do not give him the chance to behave dominantly.

5. Command him to do things.

When you want to give him affection, command him to do something. Then when he obeys give him your affection as a reward. When he asks for something you want to grant him, such as be let into the garden or go for a walk, tell him to sit or lie down and then after a little while let him have what he wants as a reward. In these situations you are behaving dominantly and he is behaving subordinately.

6. Reward submissive behaviour.

Take care to praise him when he behaves well and ignore him when he does something wrong. He will learn that if he wants praise and attention he should behave well. You are showing him the right way to behave and this will strengthen his perception of being subordinate to you.

7. Carry out some obedience training in the home.

Train him a little each day, especially to lie down and remain lying, say two five or ten minute sessions. The more readily he obeys you, the more likely he will do so when you really have to control him. Getting him to stay lying down is a good test of your control. If making him lie down is difficult, leave it until you are more confident of your dominance over him.

A word about dominant, aggressive, territorial and feuding dogs.

Dominant Dogs
Making your dog subordinate will not make him less happy, so long as he is clear about his position in the hierarchy. So do not confuse him. When you start your new behaviour regime, expect that he might get worse for a while. Some dogs get worse or seem depressed and baffled for a bit. These are good signs because they indicate your new-fashioned behaviour is influencing him. When you are clearly dominant you can let up to some degree as long as he continues to behave well. But be alert that he does not try to regain his former dominant position.

Aggressive Dogs
Is your dog aggressive only to certain members of your household (his pack)? He may think he is dominant to them, or thinks he should be, and is challenging their dominance over him. Only these persons should reward and interact with him as described above. The other members of the household should ignore him. Do this until everyone has clear control over him.

Territorial Dogs
Some dogs left a great deal by themselves come to regard their living space as their exclusive territory. If your dog fits this description, keep him with you under your control most of the time. He will learn to share his space with you. If you have to leave your dog alone a lot, please consider giving him away to someone who can be with him. Dogs are highly social creatures and it is heartless and cruel to leave them alone for long periods.

Feuding Dogs
Do your dogs continually fight among themselves? Arrange them in a hierarchy with the top dog the one you think is naturally the most dominant. Always attend first to the dog higher up the hierarchy, for instance, give him his food bowl first, put on his lead first, let him go through the door first, cuddle him first (you can always make up to the others by embracing them longer). You will find that they will accept their positions and the infighting will die down.

And finally, the most important thing of all...

To succeed you must be consistent all the time in all your behaviour to your dog, not just you but the entire household, otherwise he will be confused and get worse. Always be consistent! Let 'Consistency!' be your motto.

Also see Punishment and Shaping.

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Draize Test

A laboratory test used in many countries to determine the safety of substances, such as cosmetics, household and industrial chemicals, especially ones that might come into contact with people's eyes or skin.

The Draize test was introduced in the 1940's by John H Draize (1900 - 1992), an American toxicologist with the US Food and Drug Administration. There is a test for eye irritation and another one for skin irritation. In the test for eye irritation, a laboratory technician drops a solution of a substance onto one eye of several rabbits and leaves their other eye untreated as a comparison. Rabbits are conscious and held down in restraining stocks from which only their heads stick out. Technicians record redness, sores, bleeding and other signs of irritation. Similarly, in the test for skin irritation a technician applies a substances to the bear skin, sometimes preparing it in advance by abrading it. A test usually lasts a number of days, then they kill the rabbits to determine the extent of injury. Guinea pigs, rats and mice may also be used.

Public protest about the Draze Test reached a high point in the early 1980's after Henry Spira, a former sailor and New York City school teacher, organised advertising campaigns and street demonstrations against it. Then the cosmetics industry presented a $1m fund to a research institute to come up with an alternative test. Research for finding alternatives to the Draize Test is ongoing, but no alternative has been found that is deemed sufficient to replace the test and the use of animals completely.

See the Three R's.

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Duty Ethics

Philosophical theory that asserts the right moral action is based on an objective duty or obligation. When you do our duty you behave morally; when you fail to do your duty you behave immorally.

What makes your action right? According to Duty Ethics you should do your duty even if you or others are harmed and suffer as a consequence. For King and country, right or wrong, is a Duty Ethics dictum. Duty Ethics opposes Consequence Ethics, whereby only the consequences of your action is important. A rancher might hate shooting predators but accepts he has an obligation to protect his cattle regardless of his action's impact on wildlife. A researcher might keep an animal in pain if necessary because he believes he has a responsibility to find a cure for a disease. You might release laboratory animals used in experiments as your duty to animalkind; or alternatively you might condemn this behaviour because your first duty is to uphold the law and the standards of society as you see it.

Duty Ethics appeals to an apparently objective source of duty for its authenticity. Duty ethicists believe their duty comes from God, from intuition, from what is 'naturally' right, from the law of their country, from what their society holds as true, from what their leaders say, or from some other apparently 'objective' source.

Duty Ethics works best in situations where you feel a sense of obligation. Duty Ethics is associated with Absolutism, in that you must always do your duty, such as always uphold the rights of others. Rights and Contractarianism are examples of a Duty Ethics theories.

A strength of Duty Ethics is that it applies equally to everyone. That is, if you have a duty to act in a certain situation then everyone else in the same situation has the same duty. Even if your moral action happens to lead to a bad result you have still acted ethically.

An alternative name for Duty Ethics is Deontology, derived from the Greek deon, for that which is necessary or binding, ie a duty, and logos, meaning logic. Duty Ethics is one of three fundamental ethical frameworks which guide how we can think about moral questions and how we should resolve them. The other two frameworks are Consequence Ethics and Virtue Ethics.


  • Origins
  • Where do duties and obligations come from? Duty Ethicists say duties must be determined objectively and absolutely, not subjectively. However, duties might really be behaviours that have been demonstrated over long periods to give the best results and are now honoured in practice and law. In this case Duty Ethics is really a form of Consequence Ethics, by which moral actions depend only on their consequences.

  • Evil Acts
  • Emphasize duty and the greatest atrocities are possible. As a duty ethicist you do your duty without regard for the pernicious consequences of your actions. At times doing your duty will harm others, perhaps irreparably. But behaviour that encourages, supports and increases suffering is immoral.

  • Emotions
  • Devotion to duty does not take into account the role of compassion and other emotions. Morality based on rational duty alone, without empathy or pity, is a moral dead end.

  • Conflicting Duties
  • How can you settle conflict between opposing moral duties? Two common moral duties are to save lives and to tell the truth. If a lamb escapes from a slaughter house, you may wish to save it but cannot lie. One course is to choose the lesser evil of two outcomes. But then you will be considering consequences and acting as a consequence ethicist, whereas Duty Ethics aspires to be moral guidance not based on consequences.

    © 2004 Roger Panaman All rights reserved