Interspecies justice: agency, self-determination, and assent

Richard Healey, Angie Pepper

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In this article, we develop and defend an account of the normative significance of nonhuman animal agency. In particular, we examine how animals’ agency interests impact upon the moral permissibility of our interactions with them. First, we defend the claim that nonhuman animals sometimes have rights to self-determination. However, unlike typical adult humans, nonhuman animals cannot exercise this right through the giving or withholding of consent. This combination of claims generates a puzzle about the permissibility of our interactions with nonhuman animals. If animals sometimes have rights to self-determination, but lack the capacity to consent, then when, if ever, is it permissible for us to touch them, hold them, bathe them, or confine them? In the second half of the article, we develop a solution to this puzzle. We argue that while we cannot obtain animals’ consent, they can engage in authoritative communications of will through acts of “assent” and “dissent.”
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)0
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2020


  • consent
  • assent
  • nonhuman animals
  • self-determination
  • autonomy
  • dissent
  • interspecies justice
  • animal rights

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