Philosophical Studies 178 (12):4053-4082 (2021)

Blake Hereth
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
The Animal Rights Thesis (ART) entails that nonhuman animals like pigs and cows have moral rights, including rights not to be unjustly harmed. If ART is true, it appears to imply the permissibility of killing ranchers, farmers, and zookeepers in defense of animals who will otherwise be unjustly killed. This is the Militancy Objection (MO) to ART. I consider four replies to MO and reject three of them. First, MO fails because animals lack rights, or lack rights of sufficient strength to justify other-defensive killing. Second, MO fails because those who unjustly threaten animals aren't liable or, if they are liable, their liability is outweighed by other considerations (e.g., a strong presumption against vigilante killing). I then argue both of these fail. Third, MO succeeds because animal militancy is permissible. Fourth, MO fails because there aren't liability justifications for defensive killing in general (i.e., pacifism is true). I argue that there's thoroughgoing epistemic parity between the Militancy View (MV) and the Pacifist View (PV), and that two considerations favor PV over MV. First, because under conditions of uncertainty, we should believe rights-bearers retain rather than lose their rights, which PV affirms and MV denies. Second, because PV is intrinsically likelier than MV to be true since PV at worst affirms wrongful letting die and MV at worst affirms wrongful killing, the latter of which is intrinsically harder to justify than the former.
Keywords Animal rights  Other-defense  Pacifism  Militancy objection  Epistemic parity
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Reprint years 2021
DOI 10.1007/s11098-021-01636-x
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