The Intrinsic Value of Liberty for Non-Human Animals

Journal of Value Inquiry 55 (4):685-703 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The prevalent views of animal liberty among animal advocates suggest that liberty is merely instrumentally valuable and invasive paternalism is justified. In contrast to this popular view, I argue that liberty is intrinsically good for animals. I suggest that animal well-being is best accommodated by an Objective List Theory and that liberty is an irreducible component of animal well-being. As such, I argue that it is good for animals to possess liberty even if possessing liberty does not contribute towards their subjective well-being, and even in some cases where it has a negative effect upon their subjective well-being. To establish this view I argue that if animals are agents, as I assume they are, then like humans they must be able to determine the course of their own lives (to some extent). Further, having the opportunity to self-determine one’s life just is the very same thing as liberty, and having the opportunity to determine the course of one’s life is intrinsically good. Thus liberty has intrinsic value for humans and animals. So, in addition to the instrumental harms of having one’s liberty restricted, I claim that restricting animals’ liberty in principle harms them because it undermines their capacity for self-determination and fails to acknowledge their authority as agents to make their own choices.

Similar books and articles

Animals Do Have an Interest in Liberty.Valéry Giroux - 2016 - Journal of Animal Ethics 6 (1):20-43.
Liberty and Valuing Sentient Life.John Hadley - 2013 - Ethics and the Environment 18 (1):87-103.
Incarceration, Liberty, and Dignity.Lori Gruen - 2018 - In Andrew Linzey & Clair Linzey (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Practical Animal Ethics. London: Palgrave Macmillan Uk. pp. 153-163.
Who can be morally obligated to be a vegetarian?Evelyn Pluhar - 1992 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 5 (2):189-215.
Do Animals Have a Right to Liberty.James Rachels - 1989 - In Tom Regan & Peter Singer (eds.), Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Cambridge University Press. pp. 205-223.
Why Animals Have an Interest in Freedom.Andreas T. Schmidt - 2015 - Historical Social Research 40 (4):92-109.
Principles of Paternalism.Simon R. Clarke - 2009 - Journal of Applied Ethics and Philosophy 1 (1):30-38.


Added to PP

569 (#34,619)

6 months
169 (#23,898)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Marc G Wilcox
University of Leeds (PhD)

Citations of this work

Wild Animal Ethics: A Freedom-Based Approach.Eze Paez - 2023 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 26 (2):159-178.
A democratic argument for animal uplifting.Eze Paez & Pablo Magaña - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights.Sue Donaldson & Will Kymlicka - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Will Kymlicka.
On liberty.John Stuart Mill - 2000 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press USA. pp. 519-522.
On Liberty.John Stuart Mill - 1956 - Broadview Press.
Two Concepts of Liberty.Isaiah Berlin - 2002 - In Liberty. Oxford University Press.
Animals and the agency account of moral status.Marc G. Wilcox - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (7):1879-1899.

View all 12 references / Add more references