Animal protection law in Great Britain : in search of the existing moral orthodoxy
Omnipresent in Western society, the idea of progress is commonly advanced in relation to the development of animal protection law in Great Britain. Essentially, it is argued that the law now recognises that animals are worthy of moral consideration in their own right, that is, that they count or matter morally. From the concept of "animal as object" to that of "animal as person", indeed, the history of Western philosophical thinking bears witness to a progressive acknowledgement of animals (or, at least, of some animals) as full members of the moral community, along with all human beings. However, as political theorist Robert Garner argues in his book Animals, Politics and Morality, public policy is never simply a product of moral principles. Rather, influenced by pressure groups, it is the result of a process based on negotiation and compromise. That being the case, in the present thesis, I ask whether Great Britain has truly been the scene of moral progress through the development of animal protection law and to what extent one may speak of moral progress at all in relation to this area of law. Is animal protection law in Great Britain moving away from the traditional moral position that animals are exclusively means to human ends, thereby granting moral standing and equal moral status to animals The answer to this question lies with identifying the philosophical conception of the relations between humans and animals which is expressed through the body of animal protection law in this country. For animals' moral status within the law ensues directly from it. In the first chapter, following the great influence the position plays in the contemporary debate over our moral treatment of animals, I use Tom Regan's theory of animal rights to assess whether animal protection law in Great Britain reflects a conception of human-animal relations that is consistent with a recognition that animals possess moral rights. In the second chapter, I defend the view that animal protection law in Great Britain does not reflect utilitarianism - a position that has been popularised in animal ethics by moral philosopher Peter Singer. In the third chapter, building on the distinctive features of animal protection law in Great Britain which have emerged from the analysis in Chapters I and II, I contend that the law reflects "group egoism" - a form of consequentialism which falls between ethical egoism and utilitarianism. To be sure, what comes forth as the dominant position underlying animal protection law in Great Britain is that human beings protect animals only to the extent to which benefit is provided to them in return, or, at the very least, to the extent that so doing does not impinge on their interests in animal use. Does this position represent any kind of moral progress In the context of changing human attitudes towards animals and the development of animal protection law, I argue that it does. However, this moral progress carries no recognition that animals are worthy of moral consideration in their own right, that is, that they count or matter morally. Far from doing away with the traditional position that animals are exclusively means to human ends, animal protection law in Great Britain fits in with this way of thinking and grants to animals an instrumental value only.