Moral Theory ChoiceThere 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:
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.
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.