Should We Make A Social Contract With Animals?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The thesis is divided into two parts. In the first part, Mark Rowlands’ Neo-Rawlsianism is outlined and discussed as an application of social contract theory to animal ethics. It is shown that we can make a social contract with animals, and that there is nothing ridiculous about the idea. It is even shown that animals should (in principle) participate in negotiating a social contract (if we make one). Rowlands’ argument for vegetarianism is outlined as an example of how his Neo-Rawlsianism is applied. This argument relies to some extent on the claim that animals are harmed by a painless death, and an attempt is made to support this claim. But it is ultimately argued that Rowlands’ Neo-Rawlsianism falls foul of a reductio ad absurdum that puts it out of contention, thus implying that we should not make a social contract with animals.
In the second part of the thesis, Tzachi Zamir’s approach to animal ethics is outlined and discussed as a minimalist approach. Zamir proposes a Speciesist-Liberationism. This is explained, and it is shown how it avoids the reductio ad absurdum Neo-Rawlsianism falls foul of. Zamir’s argument for vegetarianism is outlined as an example of how his Minimalism is applied. Various weaknesses are observed in Zamir’s argument, and a more minimal Minimalism is suggested as providing the best argument for vegetarianism and animal liberation, at least until a better substantive moral argument is found.