Animal rights painting & prints
Animal Rights Paintings & Prints
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Animal Rights Encyclopedia entries
  1. Absolutism
  2. Altruism
  3. Animal Ethics
  4. Animal Rights - see 'Rights'
  5. Animal Rights History
  6. Animal Rights Motto
  7. Animal Rights vs Animal Ethics
  8. Animal Rights vs Animal Welfare
  9. Animal Rights vs Conservation
  10. Anthropocentrism
  11. Anthropocentrism, Enlightened
  12. Anthropomorphism
  13. Aquinas, Thomas
  14. Aristotle

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  1. Bearskin Hats
  2. Beef Cattle Statistics
  3. Bestiality - see 'Zoophilia'
  4. Behaviourism
  5. Bentham, Jeremy
  6. Brain, Milestones of Understanding
  7. Bushmeat

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  1. Cat Traffic Training
  2. Chickens - Broiler Hens
  3. Chickens - Egg-laying Hens
  4. Chickens Statistics
  5. Clever Hans the Counting Horse
  6. Consciousness
  7. Consequence Ethics (Consequentialism)
  8. Consideration, Equal
  9. Contractarianism
  10. Copernicus, Nicolaus
  11. Creature Harmony
  12. Cruelty

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  1. Darwin, Charles
  2. Deep Ecology
  3. Descartes
  4. Dogs - Communication & Control
  5. Duty Ethics (Deontology)

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  1. Emotivism
  2. Environmental Ethics / Environmentalism
  3. Ethical Egoism
  4. Ethical Theories & Animal Rights
  5. Euphemisms
  6. Expanding the Circle
  7. Experimental Animals - see 'Laboratory-Experimental Animals'

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  1. Factory Farming
  2. Fish Statistics
  3. Five Freedoms
  4. Foxhunting with Hounds
  5. Fur Animal Statistics
  6. Fur Brushes & Bows
  7. Fur Farming
  8. Fur Marketing
  9. Fur Morality
  10. Fur Species
  11. Fur Trapping

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  1. Golden Rule
  2. Goldfish Bowls
  3. Great Apes

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  1. Han means He or She
  2. Human Overpopulation
  3. Human Superiority

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  1. Interests
  2. Interests - see Consideration, Equal
  3. Intrinsic Value
  4. Is Ought Fallacy
  5. It - Stop Calling Animals It

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  1. Laboratory-Experimental Animals
  2. Legalism

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  1. Meat Statistics
  2. Mirror Test of Animal Consciousness
  3. Moral Agents & Patients
  4. Moral Autonomy
  5. Moral Status or Standing
  6. Moral Theory Choice
  7. Moral Values & Judgements
  8. Mutilation of Farm Animals

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  1. Naturalistic Fallacy
  2. Natural Selection
  3. New Welfarism - see 'Welfarism, New'
  4. Number Fallacy

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  1. Painism
  2. Passenger Pigeon
  3. Pigs / Hogs Statistics
  4. Predation

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  1. Reciprocal Morality
  2. Religious Tradition
  3. Rights

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  1. Sheep & Goats Statistics
  2. Soul
  3. Subjectivism
  4. Subject of a Life

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  1. Terrorism
  2. Therianthropy

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  1. Universal Declaration on Animals
  2. Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare
  3. Utilitarianism

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  1. Vegetarianism
  2. Vermin
  3. Virtue Ethics

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  1. Welfarism, New
  2. Wolf Ethics

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  1. Zoophilia
  2. Zoos


Moral Autonomy

Free flying moral autonomyYou are morally autonomous if you can reflect on the reasons for your actions, decide on whether your actions are good or bad, and alter your behaviour if necessary so that you act for the moral good.
The law accused animals of crimes because it saw them as morally autonomous.
You are acting morally autonomously if you were to treat someone harshly but after consideration decide it is better to discuss how you can overcome your differences. Someone who is morally autonomous is called a moral agent. A moral agent is someone who can recognise moral right from moral wrong and tries to behave morally right. Most human adults are moral agents and are morally autonomous.

The antithesis of a moral agent is a moral patient, someone we do not expect to be morally responsible for their actions. Human infants and mentally impaired people are moral patients. We can respect their rights but we do not expect them to live up to any moral responsibility like moral agents. Even though moral patients can cause calamity to others, we do not accuse them of moral wrong, but give them moral consideration and protect them from suffering by moral means or legal laws.

Strive for moral autonomy

Moral autonomy is one of the underpinnings of ethics. Morality is not possible if no one can regulate their behaviour, if no one is morally autonomous, if no one is a moral agent. Society holds that you are morally and legally responsible for your actions if you are morally autonomous and will punish you for serious transgressions, such as harming or murdering someone.

Society does not hold you responsible if you cannot understand your position, that is if you are a moral patient. No one prosecutes infants, mentally impaired people and the insane if they do wrong, but gives them help and care. Society assumes that human infants and animals are not morally autonomous but that children grow up to be moral agents whereas animals do not. Animals are said not to be morally autonomous because they cannot contemplate what they do or why they do it.

Animals were in danger as purported moral agents in Europe between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. The law accused a number of animals - dogs, pigs, horses - of crimes to which it held them answerable because it recognised them as morally autonomous. The law enforcers of the period put the animals on trial just like humans, often in ecclesiastic courts. The courts punished animals found guilty with the same penalties they applied to human law-breakers; they hanged, burned or buried them alive. Fortunately, the notion that animals are morally autonomous beings who can suffer the full force of the law eventually lost ground.

People generally hold the view today that you cannot be morally autonomous if you cannot comprehend the idea of moral rights. Some people take this further by saying that as animals cannot comprehend moral rights they therefore should have no rights. One reason why sentience is important in animal rights is because it side-steps that opinion.



Page revised Nov 2010.
Web site established Nov 2009.