‘An Evening on … Defending Animals’

    Activity: Public engagement and outreachPublic speaking engagements


    Session Abstract: Imagine that you are walking down the street and you see one person physically attacking another. It is evident that the victim poses no threat to their attacker, and that the attacker’s capacities for moral agency are not compromised. What are you permitted to do in such a case? Most philosophers believe that it would be morally permissible, and perhaps even obligatory, for you to intervene to defend the victim. Moreover, many believe that it would be permissible for you to harm the attacker if harming them is the only way to stop the threat that they pose.

    Now consider the claim that nonhuman animals have rights. Specifically, animal rights theorists have argued that nonhuman animals have rights against being killed, and rights against being made to suffer. These are important rights that are reflected, albeit inconsistently, in animal welfare legislation that is designed to protect animals against abuse and cruelty. If animals have rights of these kinds, then it would seem, assuming third-party defence is justified, that it would be permissible for you to harm another human if doing so was necessary to stop them from violating the rights of a nonhuman animal.

    While this seems relatively straightforward, few have been prepared to embrace the conclusion that a commitment to animal rights entails that it is sometimes permissible to harm humans in defence of animals. Indeed, most defenders of animal rights explicitly denounce the use of violence in defence of animals, advocate animal rights pacificism, and deny that it could ever be permissible to harm humans in defence of animals. In this workshop, we will interrogate this orthodox position and explore the question of whether it is ever permissible to harm humans in defence of other animals.

    Estimated audience numbers (if applicable)

    Period27 Jan 2021
    Event titleUniversity of Roehampton 'An Evening with a Philosopher' series funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.
    Event typeOther
    Degree of RecognitionNational