Animal rights painting & 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

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  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 Status

Is your moral status the same as a frogSticks and stones have no moral status because we cannot harm them. Smashing a stone or breaking a stick is neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. But living beings can have moral status because we can help or harm them. If beings have moral status they are said to be 'morally considerable', that is we should consider treating them morally. A corollary is that if animals have moral status then they may deserve equal moral consideration or rights.

Stones do not have moral standing.

Moral status is sometimes called moral standing or moral value, and sometimes can mean the same as moral rights, depending on the way the term is used.

Based on the degree of similarity you think animals have with humanity, you could claim that animals have no moral status, some moral status or the same moral status as humans. Accepting that animals have some moral status may cause you problems, for how could you justify exploiting them for food, sport, experimentation, and so on? If you exploit animals but acknowledge their moral considerability you would have to change your relationship and dealings with them.

As well as basing moral status on the idea of harm, you can also base it on interests. Circumstances make people different in terms of wealth, education, sense of moral responsibility and balance of rationality. But we are all equal in that we have basic interests. Two basic interests that everyone shares are an interest in staying alive and an interest in staying healthy.

It is on interests, philosophers claim, that we should base our consideration of the moral status of people. A corollary, however, is that animals also have interests and therefore logically also deserve moral status. Animals, like humans, have interests such as staying alive, staying healthy, living free to make their own decisions, and interacting with their kin and fellows.

An advantage of focusing on interests as a criterion of moral status is that species membership becomes a non-deciding factor - that humans deserve greater moral status simply because they belong to the human species - so often used to exclude animals from appropriate moral consideration. Emphasising interests, you can claim that hedgehogs and humans deserve equal moral consideration of their interests.

Another determination of moral status is sentiency, the idea that creatures can feel pleasure and pain and can suffer. This takes us back to the idea of harm because sentient creatures can suffer.

How do we know beyond a reasonable doubt that animals can be harmed, have interests and are sentient? Critics may say that what we see when animals react is only an act. You could program a robot to react the same way and they cannot be harmed, nor do they have interests and are not sentient. However, all vertebrates share much the same evolution and biology (nervous system, physiology, etc); therefore all creatures are likely to share to some degree the same kind of physical feelings, such as pain. Therefore, we should give them the benefit of the doubt because if we do not then we risk making a horrifying moral blunder.

Also see the related entries Rights, Equal Consideration, Environmentalism, and Deep Ecology.



Page revised Nov 2010.
Web site established Nov 2009.