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38 J. Value Inquiry 33 (2004)
Respect for People and Animals

handle is hein.journals/jrnlvi38 and id is 33 raw text is: L   The Journal of Value Inquiry 38: 33-47, 2004.                   33
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Respect for People and Animals
Department of Philosophy, University of Missouri-Columbia, 438 General
Classroom Building, MO 65211, USA; e-mail: markiep@missouri. edu
The problem ofrespect for people and animals consists of four plausible claims
which cannot all be true. Some of the ways, we use nonhuman animals to
promote our own welfare in research and agriculture are morally permissible.
It would be morally wrong to use in similar ways people whose cognitive
abilities are no greater than the cognitive abilities of such animals. If it is
morally permissible to treat one group of moral subjects in a certain way
but wrong to treat another in that same way, then some difference between
them explains the difference in permissible treatment. No difference between
the animals we use in research and agriculture, on the one hand, and people
with equivalent cognitive abilities, on the other, explains this difference in
the moral status of our actions. Tom Regan has offered one solution to the
problem, arguing that our current use of animals in research and agriculture
is morally impermissible.1 Animals share in the very claim rights to respect
that would be violated if people of comparable cognitive development, such
as human infants and severely disabled people, were treated in such ways.
Carl Cohen has offered an alternative view, arguing that our current treatment
of animals is morally permissible. Animals lack the rights to respect that are
possessed by human infants and severely disabled people.2
Regan and Cohen nonetheless agree on some important background as-
sumptions. Since animals and people of equivalent cognitive ability are expe-
riencing subjects of a life, they are moral subjects. Their welfare is relevant
to our obligations. They are not moral agents, however; their actions are not
proper objects of moral evaluation.4 Regan and Cohen also agree that the
impermissibility of our treating human infants and severely disabled people
in the ways we treat animals derives from the fact that infants and severely
disabled people have claim rights that would be violated by such treatment.5
The central disagreement between Regan and Cohen concerns whether such
rights are also possessed by cognitively equivalent animals.
A third approach to the problem involves rejecting some of these assump-
tions. It is based on the principle of moral agency that only moral agents
possess claim rights. Under this principle, whatever would be wrong with
our treating human infants and severely disabled people as we currently treat
cognitively equivalent animals, it is not that in doing so we would violate

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