What could justify humanity’s cruel treatment of other creatures? Absolutely nothingby Christine Korsgaard / July 4, 2018 / Leave a comment
Immanuel Kant’s argument that no human being should be used as a mere means to the ends of others has become a part of our moral culture. Speaking informally, you are using a person as a mere means when you are using that person in a way that is contrary to his/her own good and to which he/she could not possibly consent. But every human being, as a rational being, is an “end-in-itself,” as Kant put it, and so has an inherent value that forbids such treatment.
But we human beings have not been willing to exercise this kind of restraint or grant this kind of value to the other animals who share the planet with us. Instead, we have eaten them, experimented on them, tested medications on them, kept ourselves warm with their fur and skin and feathers, used them for transport and for heavy work like pulling plows, enlisted them in our wars, employed them to sniff out bombs and drugs and to track the missing, made them fight and race for our amusement, and found joy and comfort in their companionship.
These uses have to a large extent been at the expense of the interests of the animals themselves, whom we have genetically altered by selective breeding to suit our own purposes, made to work beyond their capacity, subjected to torments in laboratories, and confined to factory farms where they lead short lives in deplorable conditions. Even when we do not use the other animals, we have been heedless of their welfare, freely killing them whenever they are a nuisance to us, and depriving them of the habitat on which they and their communities depend for leading their own lives.
What could justify this difference in the way we treat other human beings, or anyway in t…