Bekoff M, Gruen L. Animal welfare and individual characteristics: a conversation against speciesism. Ethics Behav.1993;3(2):163-75

PMID: 11652252


It seems impossible for a human being not to have some point of view concerning nonhuman animal (hereafter animal) welfare. Many people make decisions about how humans are permitted to treat animals using speciesist criteria, basing their decisions on an individual's species membership rather than on that animal's individual characteristics. Although speciesism provides a convenient way for making difficult decisions about who should be used in different types of research, we argue that such decisions should rely on an analysis of individual characteristics and should not be based merely on species membership. We do not argue that the concept of species is never useful or important. To make our points, we present a conversation among a skeptic, an agnostic, and a proponent of the view that our moral obligations to an animal must be based on an analysis of that individual's characteristics. In the course of the discussion, concepts such as personhood, consciousness, cognitive ability, harm, and pain are presented, because one's understanding of these concepts informs his or her ethical decisions about the use of animals by humans.