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Browsing by Subject "full moral status"

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  • Tiisala, Katja (2020)
    This master’s thesis defends the moral equality and rights of sentient animals. The investigation covers equal deontological moral rights to freedom, bodily integrity, life and not to be treated as a mere means: that is, equal negative basic rights to respectful treatment and freedom from harm. Tom Regan’s Rights View stands as the groundbreaking defence of these rights for human and nonhuman subjects-of-a-life. Subjects-of-a-life are equally and inherently valuable animals who have an experiential welfare, agency, preferences and cognitive abilities like memory. All psychologically paradigmatic mammals, birds and fishes at least are subjects-of-a-life. Regan’s chief work, "The Case for Animal Rights" published in 1983, presents the subject-of-a-life criterion as the sufficient criterion for rights possession and leaves the necessary criterion open. This research examines the sufficient and necessary criterion for equal negative basic rights in Regan’s Rights View. The most plausible criterion is sentience according to the research results. All sentient beings feel pleasure and pain. At the minimum, all vertebrates and certain invertebrates are sentient right-holders, possibly all animals with a nervous system qualify. "The Case" and Regan’s other publications are focal sources for this primarily intra-theoretical scrutiny. Subsequent literature in animal ethics supplements the analysis, inter alia the writings by Gary Francione, Christine Korsgaard and Joan Dunayer who defend the sentience criterion for deontological rights. Critical disability studies literature supports the equality of the rights in this research. This thesis justifies both the equality and the scope of negative basic rights. In what comes to the scope, the sufficient and necessary criterion is sentience, because all and only sentient beings are vulnerable to harmful actions. I argue that this vulnerability grounds rights possession. Vulnerability to harming coexists with experiential welfare and is the morally relevant similarity shared by right-holders, according to my interpretation of Regan’s arguments. Sentience means affective individuality and having an experiential welfare. No sentient being should prima facie be harmed, which implies protection through negative basic rights. Non-sentient entities lack an experiential welfare. They can neither be literally harmed nor possess the rights. In what comes to the equality, these rights are equal in order to avoid ableism (i.e. discrimination based on abilities), speciesism (i.e. discrimination based on species) or any other arbitrary discrimination based on coincidental factors out of an individual’s control. Applying the subject-of-a-life criterion as the necessary condition for the rights and the sentience criterion for lower moral standing would epitomise ableism. Hence, I conclude that only experiential welfare is relevant for rights possession instead of the abilities mentioned in the subject-of-a-life criterion or any other abilities. All sentient beings have rights to respectful treatment and freedom from harm equally. Notwithstanding, the right to freedom can belong solely to sentient beings who are intentional agents. The sentience criterion entails a duty to transform societies fundamentally for the sake of abolitionist justice in the Reganian sense. Instead of regulating the use of sentient nonhumans, we should universally eradicate the disrespectful commercial utilisation of them. Sentient nonhumans and humans are equal, inherently valuable individuals who have an affective inner world. They should never be treated as mere means, resources, property or commodities.