Animal Rights Terrorism and Pacifism

Hereth, Blake. "Animal Rights Terrorism and Pacifism." Blog of the APA (February 22, 2018).

If animals have robust moral rights, a serious moral quandary arises: Is animal rights terrorism permitted? According to the Terrorism Objection, the answer is a damning ‘yes’. If animals have robust rights, they have a right not to be unjustly harmed and a right to defensive assistance, the latter of which implies that others are at the very least permitted to maim or kill in an animal’s defense. Such a conclusion has the extremely counterintuitive implication that it is permissible to maim or kill thousands of animal researchers, zookeepers, puppy mill owners, chefs, farmers, and ranchers. I then consider four possible replies to the Terrorism Objection. The first is that animals have no rights, but that is insufficient to blunt the charge since it seems permissible to defend animals from some unjust threats (e.g., to defend a puppy from being tortured by electricity). The second is to motivate the view that animal researchers, ranchers, etc., are not liable to defensive harm even if animals have robust rights, yet that falsely implies that slaveholders were not liable to defensive harm. The final two possibilities are terrorism and pacifism. The former claims that we are permitted to engage in violent animal rights militancy, whereas the latter claims that violence is never permitted. I show that the central objections to terrorism and pacifism are equally strong—a result that vindicates pacifism.


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