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

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

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  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)

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  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

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  1. Han means He or She
  2. Human Overpopulation
  3. Human Superiority

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

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  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

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  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

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  1. Reciprocal Morality
  2. Religious Tradition
  3. Rights

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  1. Sheep & Goats Statistics
  2. Soul
  3. Subjectivism
  4. Subject of a Life

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  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

Home - Animal Rights Encyclopedia
  1. Zoophilia
  2. Zoos


Moral Theory Choice

Making a moral choice  There are many moral issues in animal rights. How might you attempt to resolve them? Three solutions or theories that help us resolve moral issues are:
  • Consequence Ethics (or Consequentialism) - you should do what ever will be the best outcome.

  • Duty Ethics (or Deontology) - you should do what you see is your duty.

  • Virtue Ethics (or Virtue Theory) - you should do what the virtuous person would do.
But which of these three moral theories should you choose? First of all, the answer may depend partly on your personality. You might be more concerned about the consequences of your action than be oriented to notions of doing your duty, or visa versa. Or you might be more concerned about being virtuous.

Second, consider your circumstances.
Pick-your-own solutions to resolve moral issues.
A suggestion commonly put forward for choosing which theory to follow is to use one that feels most natural for your particular set of circumstances.

For instance, for dealing with large numbers Consequence Ethics might be appropriate. You might be called on to save a majority of some animals at the expense of a minority of other animals - good consequence for some, bad consequence for others.

When dealing with conflicting obligations you could consider Duty Ethics. As a livestock farmer you are likely to believe that your first obligation is to send livestock for slaughter to feed people. Thus your primary duty would be to people and your secondary duty would be to animals. You are kind to animals as economics permits, but humans come first.

Virtue Ethics may be apt when dealing with personal decisions. You would apply the range of your cognitive strengths (like reason, experience, logic) and emotional dispositions (such as intuition, belief, faith) to act as a virtuous person would act. So on the question of whether you should eat animals your reasoning might be like this: as a virtuous person you should be compassionate to all creatures, thus you should not cause suffering, hence you should not eat animals.

Moral choices are difficult.

In addition to personality and circumstances there is a third accepted way for choosing which moral theory to follow. The three moral theories outlined above (Consequence Ethics, Duty Ethics and Virtue Ethics) sometime complement one another. So if two or all three of them support your proposed moral action you can feel more confident of being on the right moral track. People may want to stop whaling because it will upset the ecosystem (Consequence Ethics), or because there will be no whales left for posterity (Duty Ethics), or because enlightened people do not support industrialised whaling (Virtue Ethics). Consider each moral theory in turn to find the best overall solution.

Bear in mind all three moral theories even if you act on just one of them. You will be better aware of how moral disagreements arise. One person advocates one kind of moral action that clashes with someone else's moral action. A foxhunter or bullfighter may defend their actions as a preservation of tradition; alternatively, you might claim that no one sympathetic to animals would kill animals for sport. This is a case of Duty Ethics versus Virtue Ethics.

Also see Ethical Theories & Animal Rights.



Page revised March 2010.
Web site established Nov 2009.