Posts By keir2000

Election Day

The day of a general election in Britain is a crucial part of the political calendar. There have been 21 such days since 1945. All election days since 1945 have been held on a Thursday. Six have been held in May, five in June, four in October, two in February, and one in July, March April and December. The day of a general election does not happen very often. Since 1945, there have been, on average, one every three and a half years or one in every 1,300 days. The election day is even only a small part of the electoral cycle which starts with the dissolution of Parliament followed by the launch of the party manifestos and around three weeks of hustings. 

Nevertheless, the election day is important, and not just because at the end of it (or, to be more accurate, the morning after) the result is known and a new government installed. Rather, elections reflect the state of public opinion which is itself the product of wider social, economic and political forces. 

Sometimes, election days merely denote more of the same. In the 1950s, the Conservatives won three consecutive elections (under Churchill, Eden and Macmillan) repeating their ousting of Labour in 1951 with further successes in 1955 and 1959. Some pontificated at the time that Labour would never win again. This was not, however, because the electorate had rejected the mixed economy and welfare state created by Attlee’s 1945-50 Labour Government. On the contrary, the Tories won precisely because the new economic settlement seemed to work and, not surprisingly, they accepted it lock, stock and barrel, thereby establishing a post-war consensus that lasted until the 1970s.  Similarly, victories by the Thatcher-led Conservatives in 1983 and 1987 confirmed the widespread rejection of the post-war consensus that first became apparent in the election of 1979. Despite an improved performance by Labour in 1992, the Conservatives won their fourth consecutive election under John Major in 1992.

Most post-war elections have produced an overall majority for one party (either Labour or Conservative). Occasionally, election days produce an indeterminate outcome. Since 1945, this has happened three times. In February 1974, Labour failed to overturn Heath’s Conservative majority and Wilson was returned to Downing Street to preside over a minority government until October when another election produced a small majority for Labour. The second time it happened was closer to our own time in 2010 when Cameron’s Conservatives formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats before five years later winning an overall majority.  Finally, in 2017, Theresa May miscalculated, hoping to increase the majority won by Cameron two year’s earlier but ending up falling short of an overall majority.

At other times, election days seem to reflect significant change a turning-point in the political life of the nation. Labour’s victory in 1997, and the arrival of Tony Blair in Downing Street, might be regarded in this light, as the defeat of Thatcherism and the heralding of a new era of centre-left politics. 1997 was certainly noteworthy for ending 18 years of Tory rule. However, as with the Conservative victory in 1951, the Labour landslide in 1997 was to a large extent the product of the party’s acceptance of key parts of Thatcher’s economic liberalism. A key symbol of this was the decision of the party to remove the clause in its own constitution – present since 1918 – committing Labour to the public ownership of the economy.  

The two elections which represented genuine ideological change occurred in 1945 and 1979. They formed brackets around the post-war consensus. At one end, the 1945 election resulted – much to the surprise of many who thought the Conservatives would be rewarded for Churchill’s war-time leadership – in the election of the first majority Labour Government. It was retrospectively apparent that many voters were not focusing on the War so much as the privations and economic crises of the 1930s. What the War effort did reveal was the capacity of the state to regulate the economy and society effectively. It was natural, then, for people to want that to continue in the post-war world, to ensure economic security, health and education. Seen in this context, a Labour Government was, for many, the only option. After all, it was not that Labour had been invisible during the War or even opposed to it. Rather, Labour Ministers served in the war-time Coalition Government with, most conspicuously, Clement Attlee earning Churchill’s respect as Deputy Prime Minister. 

The end of the bracketed post-war period was confirmed by the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in 1979. This election was the culmination of a decade of more of economic crisis and dislocation under the Conservative Government led by Heath and the Labour Governments led by Wilson and then Callaghan. Thatcher’s offer of an alternative – free-market – approach, mixed with a social conservatism seen as an antidote to the more permissive 1960s and 1970s, was made at the right time and the right place. The post-war consensus was dead.

Whether or not the most recent election day – in December 2019 – was similarly significant is a moot point. For some, the unpopularity of Brexit and Corbyn – factors that will soon disappear – was the key determinant of the Conservative victory. For others, the ability of the Tories to defeat incumbent MPs in Labour’s heartland – the so-called ‘red wall’ – was what won it for Boris? Could this be the beginning of a new political realignment that seriously inhibits Labour’s future chances? 

It is clear that the appeal of Brexit, the unpopularity of Corbyn, and the Conservative victories in many of Labour’s heartland seats are inextricably linked. Johnson appealed, unlike Corbyn, to the wider value system of a substantial swathe of working class voters outside of the metropolis. Johnson won because he was able to position the Conservatives in such a way as to appeal to a substantial portion of disillusioned former Labour voters in Britain’s towns in the Midlands and the North without losing too many traditional Tory voters in the South.

It was often pointed out during the campaign that individual parts of Labour’s programme – nationalisation, higher public spending particularly on the NHS, and higher taxes for the best-off – were popular. This perception was largely correct but it was offset by two factors. One is that Labour were not, as they were in the 1980s, competing against a Conservative Party extolling the virtues of the free market and the limited state. The second, and key, factor, was that the popularity of Labour’s left of centre economic policy was more than offset by the unpopularity – amongst key Labour voters at least – of Labour’s perceived social liberalism. 

There is no doubt that Labour – along with many parties of the left in developed economies – has been infected by a particular kind of identity politics. This left-leaning politics of difference is a cultural movement based on a demand for recognition and respect by particular groups of people centred on their race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. The perception of this new left-wing progressivism is that liberal societies promote the interests and values of dominant groups (whites, men and the economically well-off) and undermine and marginalise other groups who are regarded as inferior and less valuable. As a result, identity politics is about redressing negative perceptions by reasserting the value and dignity of the particular oppressed group. 

The problem for Labour is that this version of identity politics – whilst strongly supported by sections of society, particularly in the large urban cities – is despised by many erstwhile Labour voters in non-metropolitan areas of the Midlands and the North. Such voters are attracted to notions of the nation and patriotism that Labour no longer seems to embody. 

Whether or not the 2019 election represents a genuine realignment is, of course, too early to say. A Labour Party led by a more consensual politician who resists the identity politics lobby may still yet drag the party back from its present parlous state. Likewise, the Conservatives may be unable to deliver the economic benefits that Labour’s former heartlands will demand.

A few more election days will have elapsed before we know for sure whether 2019 was as significant as 1945 and 1979.

Why Study Politics?

It is no accident that Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, described Politics as the master science. It is preeminent because politics is an inevitable feature of all societies. We cannot do without it. Defined as the process by which groups representing divergent interests and values make collective decisions, politics is inevitable because of three features of the human condition. First, we have to find a way to live together. We cannot exist in isolation from others. Second, all societies of any complexity contain a range of different interests and values.  Therefore, there will always be a need for a mechanism whereby these different interests and values are reconciled.  Third, scarcity is also an inevitable characteristic of all societies.  Since there is not enough of the goods that people want to go around, there needs to be some mechanism whereby these goods can be distributed. Politics is, therefore, well-worth studying and the aim of our textbook is to introduce students to the major themes of the discipline.

The study of politics prior to the nineteenth century was almost exclusively concerned with a study of values.  That is, politics was equated with moral philosophy, with what ought to be and not what is. Political philosophers asked what is the good life? What, in other words, is the best kind of society for us to live in?  Political philosophy is still an important component of the study of politics. It asks normative, or ought-type questions. Nowadays, though, political philosophy is only one branch of the politics curriculum. It is accompanied by empirical political science, on the one hand, and international relations or politics, on the other. The former asks empirical, or is-type questions about political phenomena. These include the study of particular political systems, sometimes individually, and often in a comparative framework. The study of international politics or international relations has become increasingly popular in recent years. The relationship between sovereign states has been an important component of the study of politics for decades. More recently, however, the focus of politics has begun to shift because in a practical sense we are living in a world which is becoming increasingly interdependent, where the forces of so-called globalisation are placing increasing constraints on what individual so-called ‘sovereign’ states can do on their own.

The Introduction to Politics textbook, now in its fourth edition, covers all three elements of the discipline in detail. Indeed, it is the only introductory textbook to bring together theory, comparative politics, and international relations to provide the most comprehensive and global introduction to politics available. New to this edition is a chapter on non-Western approaches to politics which will help students to build a more diverse understanding of political culture, institutions and actors, with a particular focus on China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Also new is a detailed coverage of the complex and contentious ideology of populism.

So, the obvious answer to the question ‘why study politics’ is that it is intrinsically valuable because of its central place in the affairs of humans. More instrumentally, the skills ordinarily acquired by politics graduates (written and oral communication skills, some basic training in quantitative methods, problem solving, time-management and so on) are valuable for a whole host of careers. Particular suitable for politics graduates are careers in education, local authorities, the civil service and any other public service, although many also work in the private sector. In addition, there has been a more recent emphasis within the UK higher education sector on employability which includes not just a focus on the skills identified above, but also direct engagement with the workplace and specific employers.

Extinction Rebellion And The Politics Of Climate Change

by Robert Garner4th February 2020

Robert Garner explores the competing interests and values that are brought up by environmental activism, exemplified by Extinction Rebellion.

The main demand of the new breed of environmental activism as represented by Extinction Rebellion – a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 – is admirably clear but does not take into account the political complexities involved. Climate change is a political issue not so much, if at all, because there are doubts about the scientific reality of global warming but because it brings to the fore competing interests and values. 

To see how all-pervasive competing interests and values are it is worthwhile thinking about the circumstances under which they would not exist or could be put aside. One obvious scenario (within an individual country at least) is war where there is a national interest in victory against an enemy power. This is the scenario that is envisaged, writ large, by the new breed of climate activist. The clue is in the use of the word ‘extinction’. That is, without a radical approach to climate change, the human race faces annihilation. This line of thinking explains why climate change activists are bewildered at the slow progress that governments are making to address the issue 

Plausible though this nihilistic vision is, it does not address the political difficulties. For one thing, although we know we must ultimately take greater steps if we want to protect human life on the planet, we are not exactly sure what all of the consequences of climate change will be and when they will occur. In the meantime, the impact of climate change has differed, and will continue to differ, from state to state, and from community to community. Most notably, the developing world has been reluctant to act, at least without considerable financial help from the rich North, because it fears the economic consequences – for people who are already poor – of agreeing to a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. There may well be a case for saying that we need to tackle climate change precisely because developing countries are less able to adapt to its consequences. Conversely, for some in the developed world, these consequences – at least for the time being – may be acceptable if they avoid the economic sacrifices that are likely to follow from the kind of radical action insisted upon by Extinction Rebellion. 
Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion protest on 16th November, 2018 in London, UK. Photo by Julia Hawkins, available on Flickr via CC BY 2.0

Even if we take a longer-term view and accept that climate change will have devastating – and perhaps fatal – consequences for the human race, it is still by no means clear that we should respond now with the radical agenda suggested by Extinction Rebellion. There are still choices to be made based on competing interest and values. The older, for instance, may rationalise it is not in their interests to take radical action now because many of the catastrophic effects predicted may not happen in their lifetime. Younger people are more likely to disagree not least because they calculate their lives are going to be much more negatively affected by climate change. 

We also have to factor in the relative value we attach to present and future generations. If one holds that future generations have no moral worth, or at least less moral worth than the currently living, then justice will be served by prioritising the interests of the latter, and this may mean there is less of a case for radical action to deal with climate change. If, on the other hand, it is held that we have moral obligations to future generations then, clearly, justice is served by protecting the planet for those yet to be born, even if that means making sacrifices now. 

The starting point for a comprehensive analysis of the politics of climate change is the recognition that human beings are different. Spatial, temporal and economic factors have to be factored in to arrive at an accurate account of the interests involved. Similarly, questions about competing value systems are equally pertinent – what kind of society do we want to live in? what value do we attach to economic growth? what value should we attach to the non-human realm? The analysis of our current situation presented by radical environmental activists, whilst well-meaning, paints a partial picture which is unlikely to attain universal consent.

Featured image credit: Photo by Callum Shaw. Available on Unsplash via the Unsplash license.

The Boyd Group and Animal Experimentation

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 THE BOYD GROUP AND ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION A Case Study of Deliberation 

by Robert Garner _

 _Professor of Political Theory at the School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester. E-mail: rwg2@le.ac.uk. The author would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice, and the provision of a period of research leave by the University of Leicester. 

Abstract 

This article is an account of the work of the Boyd Group, an informal grouping of stakeholders on both sides of the debate about animal experimentation formed in Britain in the early 1990s. It is an explorative case study which aims to map the opinion-forming processes of the participants of the Boyd Group, many of whom were interviewed by the author, in light of deliberative theory and with the intention of generating suggestions for improved democratic practices in representative bodies split by seemingly intractable moral differences. Not only is animal experimentation a policy issue involving acute moral conflict, but the Boyd Group is also a body made up of partisans representing organisations on both sides of the debate. Not surprisingly, the transformation of views predicted by some deliberative theorists has not occurred. However, deliberation within the Boyd Group has had the effect of softening some of the views and attitudes of the participants, has facilitated some compromises and provides a useful guide to the methods available to those wishing to manage moral conflict. Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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1. Introduction 

This article consists of a case study of the Boyd Group (hereinafter BG), an informal grouping of stakeholders on both sides of the debate about animal experimentation formed in Britain in the early 1990s. Specific circumstances led to this formation, and not least the acute social and political controversy surrounding the use of animals in the laboratory. Two decades later, the BG still meets intermittently, and its purpose – to provide a deliberative forum whereby those with diametrically opposed views on the issue can try to narrow the differences between them – is still as valuable as ever given the capacity the use of animals for research still has to elicit conflict and controversy. 

This piece, then, is an explorative case study which aims to map the opinion-forming processes of the participants of the BG. The theoretical context is provided by the ‘deliberative turn’ in democratic theory which has produced an enormous literature since the early 1990s. The intention of the article is to use the example of the BG to generate suggestions for improved democratic practices in representative bodies split by seemingly intractable moral differences. The use of animals for research purposes is an issue which elicits strong emotions, and would appear to involve intractable moral conflicts. This is often portrayed, in its starkest form, as the choice between sparing an animal from suffering or saving the life of a child. In terms of the BG, not only are these apparently stark moral dilemmas the subject of debate, but those meeting to try to resolve them are not interested lay members of the public, but are mostly partisans, many working for organisations with a vested interest in the outcome. If deliberation has helped in the case of the BG to reduce, amongst the participants, the distance between the strongly held and polarised views in the debate, then it shows the value of deliberation. In short, it is tempting to say that if deliberation works for animal experimentation in the context provided by the BG, it will work for any issue. 

After outlining the major themes of the deliberative democracy literature, this article seeks to define what kind of deliberative forum the BG is. Questions relating to inclusivity, the characteristics of participants and the relationship between participants and their organisations, are important indicators of the kind of forum the BG is and therefore the degree to which it qualifies as a genuinely deliberative arena. Following this, it will be asked how far genuine deliberation has taken place within the BG. For example, how far has self-interest been put to one side during the proceeds? How far have all sides of the debate been given a fair hearing? Has there been mutual respect for the positions being aired? Has it Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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helped to bring the two sides in the animal experimentation debate closer together? To what extent has it created an ‘economy of moral disagreement’ in Gutmann and Thompson’s words? (1996: 3) 

The research undertaken for this article included, initially, a comprehensive review of the literature on deliberative democracy. On the BG, a series (21 in all) of open-ended interviews with most of the major participants, in addition to some who chose not to participate, were conducted in 2014. Some of the interviews were conducted in person, others by alternative means such as e-mail communication, telephone conversations and Skype. A number of the interviewees requested anonymity and this, of course, has been honoured. In addition to the interviews, extensive use was made of the reports of meetings available on the BG website, a series of revealing letters between Andrew Tyler (Director of Animal Aid, a leading animal rights organisation) and Colin Blakemore, one of the founders of the BG (Tyler kindly provided access to these letters), and the transcript of the oral evidence given to a House of Lords Select Committee on animal experimentation which involved many of the participants in BG meetings (House of Lords, 2002). 

2. Deliberation and democracy 

Democratic theory has, according to Bohman’s much-used phrase, taken a ‘deliberative turn’ since the beginning of the 1990s (Bohman, 1998).1 The academic scholarship on deliberative democracy is extensive and varied. Despite this, it is possible to elicit a number of key features shared amongst a vast majority of the exponents. The first is that democracy ought not to be defined in terms of the aggregation of pre-existing preferences in a vote at elections or in a referendum, nor in terms of a reflection of the balance of competing interests within civil society, as the pluralist model has it. Rather, for advocates of deliberative democracy, collective decisions are only legitimate if they are made after reasoned and detailed discussion. Second, it is held that genuinely deliberative arenas ought to be as inclusive as possible with all points of view and social characteristics represented, and an equal chance to participate offered to all of those who are present. Third, during deliberation, self-interest should be put aside, as should strategic behaviour designed to achieve as much as possible of a pre-existing agenda. Instead, mutual respect of, and empathy for, the arguments of others is encouraged. Fourth, the inclusive communication and social learning inherent in the deliberative process, it is suggested, leads to better decisions in the sense that they are more informed, more effective and more just. Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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Finally, deliberation, it is argued, increases the possibility of a consensus being arrived at and the transformation of the views of participants. It is seen therefore as a useful device to tackle issues which seem to involve intractable moral conflicts. That is not to say that unanimity is a real prospect in most cases, and value pluralism is accepted by most advocates of deliberative democracy as a normatively justified obstacle to consensus. As a result, the aggregation of preferences may well still be necessary as an end-point. However, even if there is still disagreement, collective decisions made after deliberation are regarded as more legitimate than the mere aggregation of preferences, not necessarily or not just because of the decisions made, but because of the deliberative procedure followed. It involves a sense, that is, that all the views of participants are taken seriously and that everyone tries to empathise with the views of others. 

3. The Boyd Group and animal experimentation 

The claims made by deliberative theorists can only really be tested by empirical research examining deliberative democracy in action. Here, it should be noted that the early heady days of abstract deliberative theory, has, since the latter years of the 1990s, given way to a ‘new practical emphasis on feasibility’ (Bohman, 1998: 400). Attempts to design ideal deliberative forums have been accompanied by empirical studies of real world examples.2 

The BG represents one example of a deliberative exercise. It is a forum born out of the adversarial climate of animal experimentation politics in Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its origins, in the early 1990s, can be found in a debate in the British media. After appearing on a daytime television debate programme (Kilroy, presented by the former Labour MP Robert Kilroy Silk) two of the leading adversaries in the animal experimentation debate – Les Ward (at that time Chief Executive of Advocates for Animals, an anti-vivisection organisation – previously known as the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection and now known as OneKind) and Colin Blakemore (at that time Waynflete Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford) – decided that a more meaningful dialogue on the issue was required. It was, Ward said later at a House of Lords committee hearing, an attempt to end the ‘trench warfare’ that had accompanied the issue. A discussion forum, he continued, would create an opportunity ‘to hear all the arguments, they could hear mine, we could test the arguments, and we could see if there was some way of finding common ground to move this whole controversial subject of animal experimentation forward’ (House of Lords, 2002: q. 1384). In particular, Ward was keen to test the Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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authenticity of the claim made by scientists that they ‘dislike using animals’ (ibid). Since the aim of the BG was to find agreement on reducing and refining, if not eliminating, the use of animals, it promised to be a useful vehicle to test that claim. 

Conversations between Ward and Blakemore led to the two agreeing to help to organise and meet in a formal body which became known as the BG after its chairman Kenneth Boyd, subsequently Professor of Medical Ethics at Edinburgh University. The BG met regularly – usually at the Wellcome Trust headquarters in London – from 1992 until 2006 by which time its two founders had left. From that time, BG meetings have been intermittent, although there were numerous meetings on the new EU Directive on animal experimentation in a two-year period from 2008, and a meeting on openness in animal research in February 2015. The BG has debated a range of issues relating to animal experimentation, and has produced a number of reports documenting the discussions, and the decisions reached, in some of these debates (Boyd Group, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2002a; Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004). In addition, the BG has also regularly submitted evidence to public consultations (Boyd Group, 2001, 2002b, 2010). 

The operating principles of the BG are unmistakably deliberative in tone, its objectives being ‘to promote dialogue between … diverse people and organisations’, to ‘clarify key issues of concern identified by participants, in order to reveal the basis of the various perspectives and positions on the issues, and to understand where the differences lie’ and ‘where possible, to identify points of consensus and make practical recommendations’. ‘Achieving consensus is not the major goal of the Boyd Group’ it is argued further, but whilst ‘members are not expected to leave behind their positions on the issues’ there is an expectation that ‘careful argument rather than rhetoric’ be employed and that ‘understanding between people who have rather different perspectives … can be enhanced’ (https://science.rspca.org.uk/ ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232712902059&mode=prd).

Animal research, of course, is a notoriously adversarial issue, and continues to be the most contentious issue in animal protection politics (Lyons, 2013). Given that far more animals are bred and killed for food, this might come as a surprise. It is true that there has, of course, been enormous controversy over intensive animal agriculture (so-called ‘factory farming’). However, it is still possible to raise farm animals, and therefore to continue eating meat, in extensive systems with the worst excesses of factory farming removed, and therefore with a much reduced incidence of animal suffering. In the case of animal research, on the other hand, inflicting, sometimes severe, suffering on animals is, scientists Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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claim at least, necessary in order to achieve the benefits of research. As a corollary, of course, it is also claimed that the benefits to humans of animal research are so great as to make the infliction of this suffering justified. 

At the time the BG was formed, the animal experimentation debate had become particularly conflictual and adversarial. Little has occurred in the intervening two decades to change this. Direct action of various kinds remains an important tactic of the animal rights movement (Cressey, 2011) and the two sides in the debate appear as far apart as ever. Scientists seek to defend the value of animal research (Fox, 2012) and their lobbying organisation (in the UK) Understanding Animal Research embarked, in 2014, on an openness strategy designed, in part at least, to publicise its achievements and to reassure public concern about the treatment of animals (http://concordatopenness.org.uk/). On the other side, the anti-vivisectionist community remains adamant that animal research is unethical and, in large part, ineffectual (Garrett, 2012; Linzey and Linzey, 2015), and there is also a body of scientific criticism of animal experimentation (see LaFollette and Shanks, 1996). 

Characteristics of Boyd Group participants 

Although the operating principles of the BG are consistent with the demands of deliberative theory, there are significant differences which do not make it a particularly good test of deliberative theory. For one thing, it is group-based, rather than citizen-based, given that most of its participants – whether or not they have acted as autonomous individuals in the course of deliberation – are representatives of particular groups organised to take a particular position in the debate. Membership is in fact open to both individuals and organisations, although in practice those representing organisations have constituted the vast majority. The BG is also an example of a deliberative forum within civil society, rather than the state. That is, it was set up by actors in civil society with no prompting by state institutions. However, it is not a grass-roots deliberative arena, along the lines promoted by political theorists such as Dryzek (2000, 2000a). Rather, it consists of experts, from the fields of academic science, animal protection and industry lobbying and ethics. Moreover, most of the participants are partisans, with strong leanings towards one side of the debate or the other. 

The characteristics of the BG immediately set it apart from the conventional deliberative forums envisaged by theorists and put into practice in deliberative experiments. Most of these are versions of so-called ‘minipublics’, the classic example of which is the citizens’ jury (Elstub, 2014; Smith and Wales, Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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2000). This involves the choosing of a representative sample of people who are invited to discuss, in small groups of between 16-25, an (often contentious) issue of public policy. Crucial to the exercise is the provision of briefing information provided beforehand and exposure to experts during the deliberative period. The juries are then invited to reach agreement and come up with recommendations. 

Such citizens’ juries differ in crucial ways from the BG. In particular, the latter consists of partisans and experts, and not, as with minipublics, ordinary members of the public with no particular stance on an issue or knowledge. I will deal with the question of expertise here, leaving partisanship until later. The issue of expertise raises some interesting questions about deliberative democracy. One of the characteristics of genuine deliberative democracy is the emphasis placed upon informed and rational decision making. Indeed, for some, the epistemic quality of decision making is its chief advantage (Marti, 2006). An important part of deliberative forums such as citizens’ juries, therefore, is the opportunity offered to participants to gain access to the views of a variety of experts as part of the deliberative exercise. There is, of course, a potential conflict between deliberation and democracy here in the sense that if our goal is the instrumental one of rational, informed, and knowledgeable decision making – in short, producing correct decisions (as opposed to the argument that deliberation is desirable because it is intrinsically valuable) then it is likely that our conclusion should be that democracy ought to be overlooked in favour of non-democratic forums consisting of an elite of political and moral experts. 

Members of the BG have consisted largely of experts in their field, whether it be from the fields of academic science, animal protection lobbying or ethics. Even in the case of the BG, it should be noted however, expertise external to it has been utilised. For example, primatologists were invited to sessions on the use of non-human primates in scientific research (Boyd Group, 2002a: 6), and the BG took advice from six contract-testing organisations and three major manufacturers of household products when considering the use of animals in the testing of household products (Boyd Group, 2002: 12). 

One key question in assessing the deliberative claim of the BG is the degree to which it has been inclusive. Inclusiveness is an important characteristic of deliberative democracy. Of course, theorists of deliberative democracy recognise that modern societies are too large and complex for everyone to be involved in deliberative forums, and this, of course, is the reason for recommending the creation of representative ‘minipublics’. The BG cannot lay claim to be representative of wider society in a descriptive sense. That was not its aim. What it might be able to claim, however, is that it has been representative of the animal experimentation issue, with all sides of the debate given a significant hearing. Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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It might, following Goodin (2000, 82), have been able to get ‘all the positions on the table, as distinct from all persons to the podium’. 

If we adopt this definition of inclusiveness, though, then the BG has only been partly inclusive. This is because the major anti-vivisectionist groups – the National Antivivisection Society (NAVS) and the BUAV – both refused to participate (organisationally at least) from the start, as did other animal rights groups such as Animal Aid and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). There was a perception amongst the bulk of the anti-vivisection group that to participate would be to sell out their abolitionist principles in a forum dominated by scientists with an interest in the continued use of animals in scientific experiments. For NAVS, for instance, the BG ‘has a pre-set agenda’ and that, in any case, it is ‘just another talking shop’ (House of Lords, 2002: q. 1362). 

The anti-vivisection organisations’ public opposition to the BG has therefore been partly ethical and partly strategic. Adopting an animal rights position, these groups are opposed ethically to the use of animals for scientific research irrespective of the benefits, to humans and other animals, which might accrue. In the words of Andrew Tyler, the director of the animal rights group Animal Aid, the BG ‘is a consensus-seeking talking shop … embodying the middle line’ whilst Animal Aid is ‘unequivocally opposed to animal experimentation’ (letter from Andrew Tyler to Colin Blakemore, 24 January 1997). Their opposition to membership was also strategic in the sense that they thought that participation would give ‘credence’ to animal experimentation (letter from Andrew Tyler to Colin Blakemore, 11 July 1996). 

The lack of support from the abolitionist anti-vivisectionist groups has represented a problem for the viability of the BG. Colin Blakemore admitted as much when he remarked that ‘our credibility was reduced’ as a result of it (House of Lords, 2002, q. 964). Les Ward, too, regarded it as a missed opportunity for the anti-vivisection movement. He argues that the public opposition of the anti-vivisection organisations gave the impression that they were not confident of debating the issue, whereas their participation might have led to more debate of the central issues. Indeed, in Ward’s view it was the ‘moral duty’ of the anti-vivisectionists to participate (interview with Les Ward, 19 February 2014). 

However, despite the exclusion of the main anti-vivisectionist groups, it should be pointed out that this was self-exclusion. Indeed, the ethos of the BG has been inclusive. According to its constitution, the only individuals and organisations refused membership are those who ‘support violent activity or break the criminal law’ (information provided by Jane Smith). The key organisers of the BG, including Ward, wanted them to participate. Indeed, Blakemore constantly made the, undoubtedly politically Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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astute, claim that he was prepared to ‘talk to almost anyone’ to achieve progress in the debate, at one point saying that ‘I am perfectly prepared to see the ALF [the Animal Liberation Front] at the table if their attitude is constructive and there is a chance of progress’ (Masood, 1997). The anti-vivisection groups turned down the invitations offered.3 

It is also the case that the abolitionist anti-vivisectionist position was represented continually, until his decision to leave in 2006, by Ward himself, Director of Advocates for Animals. Philosophers sympathetic to the anti-vivisection position, such as Stephen Clarke, were also members. More intriguingly, it is apparent that other anti-vivisectionists regularly participated in the BG in an individual capacity despite their organisation’s public opposition (interview with Jane Smith, 10 November 2014; e-mail communication with Kenneth Boyd, 10 November 2014). A senior member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for instance, regularly attended meetings, and BUAV were also represented on occasions. In addition, all of the major anti-vivisection groups (BUAV, NAVS and Uncaged, as well as Advocates for Animals) were represented in a 2004 joint BG/RSPCA debate on categorising the severity of scientific procedures (Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004). 

The BG, therefore, has had a reasonably inclusive membership, although the anti-vivisectionist stance always constituted a relatively small minority (interview with Jane Smith 21 January, 2014). In 2002, the BG had 25 permanent member organisations including, as well as anti-vivisectionists, animal welfare, pharmaceutical interests, academic scientists, veterinarians and philosophers as well as a nominee from the Home Office (House of Lords, 2002: q. 964). Organisations represented included Advocates for Animals, the RSPCA, the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME), the Universities Fund for Animal Welfare (UFAW), the Research Defence Society (now Understanding Animal Research), the Laboratory Animals Science Association, the Medical Research Council, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the Bioscience Federations’ Animal Science Group. 

4. Managing moral conflict 

How far can the activities of the BG be regarded as genuinely deliberative? The first point to make is the fact that membership of the BG has been made up primarily of organisations is not promising from a deliberative perspective. It raises the prospect of representatives acting as delegates of these organisations, putting forward the organisation’s position and reporting back the outcome. Insofar as this Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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was the case it would minimise the opportunities for members to act autonomously and be prepared to empathise with others around the table, and maybe change their views accordingly. Despite the fact that organisations joined as members of the BG, however, the operational practice of meetings was consistent with deliberative theory. That is, in order to encourage dialogue and genuine deliberation, the BG operates under Chatham House rules where the content of what was discussed can be talked about in public but not who said what (interview with Jane Smith, 10 November 2014). 

The dilemma of group membership in a deliberative body, where participants are supposed to act as individuals open to changing their views, is illustrated in particular by the difficult position that animal rights leaders found themselves in. Those animal rights elites who refused to participate in the BG opposed it partly on the grounds that they were unwilling to attend as individuals as opposed to delegates of their management boards and wider memberships. Jan Creamer, the NAVS’ Chief Executive, for instance, told a House of Lords Select Committee that: ‘I take the view that I work for a Council of Management and if the organisation is not invited to a Boyd Group meeting then I cannot go’ (House of Lords, 2002: q. 1362). Similarly, Andrew Tyler explained his decision to refuse to participate in the BG, in a letter to the Observer newspaper (June 9, 1996), by emphasising that he ‘would never be part of any gatherings whose proceedings, objectives and decision-making were not open to scrutiny by the broad animal rights movement’. In this context, it is interesting that, as was pointed out above, some animal rights leaders sought, consciously or not, to circumvent the group/individual dilemma by attending the BG in an individual capacity which allowed their organisations to remain publically opposed to participation. 

Another, related, factor that might impact on the deliberative potential of the BG is its partisan character. The evidence suggests that the transformation of attitudes, a crucial component of deliberative theory, is – as common sense would suggest – more likely to occur amongst those with no previously strong views on an issue (Hendriks et. al, 2007). Obviously, such uncommitted deliberators are more likely to elicit the quality of open-mindedness, a prerequisite of opinion change. It is for this reason that those organising minipublics deliberately choose non-partisans as participants. Participants in the BG, by contrast, have been mostly knowledgeable partisans and one would therefore expect less movement in views. 

A study of the BG’s operation only partly confirms this pessimistic assumption. What is interesting, firstly, is the methods its participants have used to manage moral conflict. In that sense, its Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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work represents a good example of putting into practice what Gutmann and Thompson (1996) describe as an ‘economy of moral disagreement’, whereby in cases where there are seemingly intractable moral conflicts the aim should be to minimise the distance between competing moral positions, to emphasise what is shared in common and to foster a ‘politics of mutual respect’.4 

The first of these methods relates to the choice of topics for discussion which have been limited to those, more peripheral, areas of the issue where consensus was more likely to be reached. This has included the ethical review process, the use of animals for the testing of cosmetics and household products, the use of non-human primates in the laboratory and openness in animal research. These issues are regarded as peripheral either because they involve the regulation of animal research rather than the actual use of animals in the laboratory, or they involve relatively few animals (compared to those used for medical research). These were the issues, in addition, where there was wide public support for reform. Indeed, in the case of a ban on the use of animals for cosmetic testing, a ban on the use of Great Apes in scientific research and the introduction of local ethical review committees, the Labour Government elected in 1997 acted before, or soon after, the BG deliberated on them.5 

The issues chosen for discussion by the BG maximised the possibility of a consensus emerging. For example, in its 1998 report on the use of animals for testing cosmetics, a ‘consensus position’ was reached endorsing ‘the decision by the British Government not to issue any further licenses to use animals for testing cosmetics’ (Boyd Group, 1998). In a similar vein, it was agreed, in the debate on the use of non-human primates, that the mental capacities of the Great Apes are such that ‘it is unethical to confine them in laboratories and use them in research and testing’ (Boyd Group, 2002: 3). 

Where consensus has proved impossible, the BG has adopted the strategy of explicitly referring to the disagreements. This has taken two main forms. Where the vast majority could reach agreement, a consensus position has been adopted with the dissent of a small minority of members also recorded. In other cases, a more equal division of opinion has been recorded. For example, despite the consensus for a ban on the testing of finished cosmetic products, the BG was unable to reach agreement on whether it ought to be permissible to use animals to test the individual ingredients that are used in cosmetics. The compromise position reached was that a ban could be introduced but only when alternatives to the use of animals for the purpose are validated (Boyd Group, 1998). In the report, the difference of opinion was revealed with some members (the anti-vivisectionists and presumably the animal welfare representatives too) regarding the continued testing on animals of any ‘ingredients developed primarily for use in any Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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cosmetic product calls into question the application of the basic principles of ASPA – the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act – and therefore should not be allowed’ (Boyd Group, 1998).6 

There are many other examples of this recognition of disagreement. For example, in the report on genetic engineering, some (a minority) of members of the BG thought that the genetic engineering of animals ought to be abandoned altogether, others that it should be better regulated (Boyd Group, 1999). Similarly, in the report on the use of animals in testing household products, a statement of principle was agreed whereby ‘[m]embers believe that it is unacceptable to use animals in developing and testing new products that are widely perceived to be convenience products for which there is little potential need’. It was recognised that it is possible to avoid using animals to test finished products in most cases anyway because of existing knowledge about the ingredients. Where this is not available, the Group agreed that the benefits of a new product ‘should be foregone’ (Boyd Group, 2002a: 3). Even here though, one industry group was recorded as being only lukewarm in support of this statement, believing that, if implemented, it risked such testing being moved abroad where it was not banned. (Boyd Group, 2002a: 1). 

Another good example of this method of recognising disagreement concerns the use of non-human primates. Although, as we saw above, there was agreement that the use of Great Apes should not be permitted in scientific research, agreement was not reached on other non-human primates, with some members arguing that their use should be allowed if ‘very strong justification’ was forthcoming, whereas others arguing that their use ought to be prohibited completely (Boyd Group, 2002: 3). Even when animal welfare representatives on the BG were prepared to concede the case for the use of non-human primates in toxicology testing under exceptional circumstances, there was no agreement on the method by which the case for their use might be assessed. Whilst ‘most’ members thought that local ethical review committees should do a harm-benefit analysis of each substance to be tested on non-human primates (with the granting of project licenses being dependent on approval by local ethical reviews) ‘some members’ (probably representatives of contract testing organisations worried about potential loss of business as a result of delays), had concerns about the ‘practicality of such local reviews’ (Boyd Group, 2002: 55).7 

Yet another device utilized to manage moral conflict, and maximise inclusion, within the BG has been the use of sub-groups. For example, in 2004, a debate – co-organised by the RSPCA – on the categories used by the Home Office to classify the severity of scientific procedures, was conducted within Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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three separate round-table discussions. The first consisted of veterinary surgeons and animal care and welfare officers working at institutions licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, the second consisted of license holders under the legislation and the third consisted of representatives from animal protection organisations including the anti-vivisection organisations together with animal welfare groups FRAME, the RSPCA and the Dr. Hadwen Trust (Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004: 1). 

The debate was initiated by the BG following a BUAV video of primate research which appeared to raise serious questions about the utility of the severity categories enshrined in the legislation.6 The report on the severity categories illustrates all of the strategies utilised by the BG to manage moral disagreement. Not only were sub-groups employed but, in addition, the plenary meeting of BG members, which met to consider the reports from each round table, did reach a consensus that the severity bandings are too imprecise and, in particular, that the ‘moderate’ category is ‘too comfortable a term for many of the adverse effects it encompasses’ (Boyd Group, 2004: 4). There was also recognition of disagreement. Thus, written in bold at the start of the report of the proceedings of the animal protection group round table is the statement that all of the groups were ‘opposed to the use of animals in any scientific procedure likely to cause the animals pain, distress or other suffering’ (Boyd Group, 2004: 23). 

How transformative? 

Managing moral conflict through a strategy of economizing moral disagreement is one thing, a genuine transformation of views so that this conflict is significantly reduced is quite another. As one might expect, given the partisan nature of the BG, there is little evidence that deliberation has had a genuinely transformative effect on the views of the participants. The published reports of the BG reveal very little evidence of a significant shift in views on the substantive issues, with the dominant means of managing moral conflict being a recognition of difference. This is confirmed by evidence from the participants. Stephen Clark comments, for instance, that ‘I’m not sure that anyone ever moved from their root convictions’ (e-mail communication 26 February 2014). Certainly, any attempts (by Les Ward in particular) to go beyond these issues to consider the central question of the value of using animals in medical research, and the identification of reduction targets, was met with a return to the trenches. In 2002, Ward had commented, ominously, that there were still people in the BG ‘who are holding entrenched positions’ (House of Lords, 2002: q. 1384), and it was the ‘stalemate’ resulting that provoked, at least in part, Ward’s decision to leave the BG in 2006 (interview with Les Ward, 19 February 2014). Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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That is not to say, however, that deliberation has had no impact on the participants, or the way in which the debate about animal research has been conducted. In the first place, there is some, anecdotal, evidence of a shift in attitudes, if not on the substantive issues then certainly on how the participants regarded each other. In an anonymous survey of members’ views, for instance, one participant said that ‘I’ve had my beliefs and preconceptions challenged’, another that participation in the BG had ‘forced me to look at the issues in a different way and has changed the nature of debates within my organisation. We are more willing to listen to the anti-vivisectionist point of view and to respect it’ (information provided by Jane Smith). 

In addition, there is evidence too, that the participants regarded decisions taken by the BG as legitimate, even if they disagreed with them. For example, Colin Blakemore was ‘not happy’ with the decision to support the banning of the use of Great Apes in medical research, believing instead that a harm-benefit analysis should be used in the case of all animal use (AR Zone, 2011), and was also critical of some aspects of the BG’s decisions on the local ethical review process. However, he was prepared to accept the decisions that he had ‘signed up to’ (House of Lords, 2002, q. 973). 

It is important, too, to note the climate existing when the BG first met in 1992. This was one of hostility and suspicion, particularly on the side of scientists (and not least Blakemore himself who had been the target of threats of violence from the extremes of the animal rights movement). Participants joined the BG, therefore, with not a little apprehension about facing their opponents around a table. In this context, getting advocates from both sides to sit down and talk together in a polite, reasoned and calm manner – irrespective of whether their views on the issues changed too – might be regarded as something of an achievement. As Blakemore remarked: ‘It may not produce always complete agreement but it is very, very difficult to continue to hate someone … if you have sat for two or three hours opposite them around a table, drinking a cup of tea, thrashing out the basis of the differences of opinion’ (House of Lords, 2002: 965). 

In addition, there is some evidence confirming the claim sometimes made (Morris, 2006) that the supporters and practitioners of animal research are able to be more critical of some practices in a closed deliberative arena than would be the case in a public debate. For instance, in the deliberation on severity categories, the participants in the round tables representing licence holders and veterinarians reported that they were dissatisfied by the severity categories used by the Home Office to classify scientific procedures. In the case of the former, it was recognised that the Home Office’s practice of publishing (in Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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the annual statistical review of scientific procedures on animals) an average prospective severity banding for each project, without stipulating the actual severity of the procedures on individual animals, was little short of meaningless (Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004: 7). In the case of the latter, it was ‘generally agreed’ that assigning severity bandings at times ‘can feel rather arbitrary’ and that overall severity bands for projects ‘are of little or no use in practice’ (Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004: 37-9). 

The fact that some disagreements still existed on what might be regarded as peripheral issues indicates that there was little movement amongst those who regarded scientific procedures on animals as essential. Nevertheless, a large degree of consensus was reached, as we saw, on issues such as the testing of household products and cosmetics, the use of non-human primates, and the role of local ethical review processes. Blakemore regarded such progress as ‘quite remarkable’ (House of Lords, 2002: 965) which, whilst something of an exaggeration, does perhaps reflect how far apart the members were when they first met around the deliberative table. It is apparent that Colin Blakemore played a dynamic role in persuading wavering members of the BG to accept the need for some movement on, for example, cosmetic testing and local ethical review (interview with Les Ward, 19 February 2014). 

The discussions on the EU’s proposed new Directive on animal research in 2010 (conducted as part of the Government’s consultation exercise) reveals, it might be argued, how far the BG had come. By this time, its membership had evolved considerably (the two founders having left) but the deliberative approach was now well established. In the view of Jane Smith – a key organiser of, and participant in, the BG from its early days – the result of deliberation on the Directive did ‘show quite considerable movement … in some areas that might not have been expected’ when the debate began (interview with Jane Smith 21 January, 2014). This, in particular, refers to the local ethical review process. The EU Directive stipulated that national regulative regimes must include an animal welfare body (AWB) in every research establishment. This proposal, however, was a much weaker version, in terms of membership and function, of the ethical review process (ERP) already in place in the British regulatory regime. The Directive stipulated that AWBs must contain a minimum of only two members and there was no requirement that they play an ethical role in assessing project licenses by weighing up the harms to the animals against the likely benefits of the research. 

‘Considerable discussion’ on these regulatory issues ensued in the BG (Boyd Group, 2010: 24). In Smith’s view, the ‘bold’ statement that resulted was unexpected (interview with Jane Smith 21 January, 2014). There was not complete consensus, but the ‘general feeling’ of the BG was that the Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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ethical function should remain on the grounds that it would be ‘difficult to see how establishments can exercise responsibility for animal welfare … without providing an opportunity for relevant staff to see and discuss license applications’ (Boyd Group, 2010: 24-5). Likewise, it was agreed that AWBs ought to have more extensive memberships than the minimum requirement set out in the Directive so that they can contain ‘a range of local perspectives and expertise’ (Boyd Group, 2010: 24). 

It is important not to make too much of the near consensus emanating from the BG deliberation on the regulatory process. For one thing, it was, in effect, decided to maintain the status quo which for many animal advocates, of course, is entirely unsatisfactory. On the other hand, this was an opportunity for scientist and industry participants in the BG to suggest weakening what many of them regard as the unnecessary bureaucracy of the ERP. It is clear that there was a difference of opinion on this in the BG deliberations which were examined in some depth (Boyd Group, 2010: 25). Much of this seemed to revolve around the key question of the role to be played by ethics in the regulatory procedure, with some (the minority it seems) using the absence of local ethical consideration in the Directive as a justification for recommending its removal from the British regulatory regime, and those (the vast majority it seems) who recognised that ‘ethical judgements are a necessary part of developing a culture of care’ (Boyd Group, 2010: 25). The fact that the vast majority of the participants in the BG deliberation (consisting mostly of scientists and industry representatives) recognised the importance of ethics might be regarded as an example of deliberation resulting in a more favourable outcome for those concerned about animal protection than what otherwise might have been the case.

5. Conclusion 

The experience of the BG does demonstrate, to a certain extent, the value of deliberation. It has had the effect of softening some of the views and attitudes of the participants, it has facilitated some compromises and it provides a useful guide to the methods available to those wishing to manage moral conflict. In the final analysis, however, what the BG has not done, unsurprisingly, is to produce consensus on the fundamental issue of the use of animals in scientific procedures. 

It is, of course, a problem that consensus was only reached on more peripheral issues as it reflects a failure to confront the really difficult issues, a pattern which, it is claimed, is endemic in animal experimentation ethical review committees (Poort, Holmberg and Ideland, 2003). However, to be fair, reaching consensus on the fundamental question, of whether it is ethically permissible to use animals for Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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scientific purposes, is a tall order in such a partisan body, and was never the intention in any case. It does add support, though, to Parkinson’s ‘somewhat pessimistic’ conclusion that ‘one can only have good deliberation on things which do not matter all that much’, at least to the participants (Parkinson, 2006: 19). 

The big unanswerable question is what impact there could have been had the big anti-vivisectionist, and other animal rights, groups been prepared to join formally. Some, such as Les Ward, regarded their refusal to participate as a missed opportunity. Others argue that the effect would have been, at best, to result in the BG becoming an unworkable and short-lived experiment, and, at worst, to the co-opting and constraining of oppositional views, thereby damaging the anti-vivisection cause (interview with Andrew Tyler, 16 May 2014). What we can say is that the claim, that the BG had a pre-set agenda in favour of animal research, is not supported, as we have seen, by the evidence. All positions were given equal opportunity to be expressed in BG meetings and inordinate care has been taken to ensure that an abolitionist objection to the decisions taken has always been expressed, when requested, in the BG’s published reports. 

Of course, the motivation of participants is open to interpretation. On the one hand, it could be that some, or indeed the majority, of the scientific and industry representatives in the BG have sought to involve animal advocates in order to explain to them the error of their ways. Insofar as this was the primary motive then it is, of course, inconsistent with the open-mindedness that is required by deliberative theory. A suspicion that this was Blakemore’s real motive is illustrated by a journalist who writes about him in the following terms: ‘Blakemore never ceased to believe in the possibility of rational discussion, of dialogue. He felt and still feels that if people knew the facts about animal research … all but the most extreme opponents could be convinced of its necessity’ (Klotzko, 2002). 

A more generous interpretation has advocates of animal research, such as Blakemore, seeking a genuine conversation with anti-vivisectionists in order to break the stalemate of the adversarial debate on the issue that would otherwise continue. In this sense, Blakemore was right when he pointed out that the whole point of the BG is to ‘search for ways of reducing, refining or replacing animals’ and that it would be ‘inconceivable at a gathering, even of scientists alone, where you could say, yes, we think there should be more animal research’ (House of Lords, 2002: q. 969). The counter-factual nature of the question means that we will never know whether the participation of the main anti-vivisectionist Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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organisations would have made any difference to the outcome of BG discussions. Of course, the BG is still active and, perhaps – in a new, very different, era – its promise may yet be more fully realised. 

Notes 

1. The literature on deliberative democracy is too extensive to cite in full. The fact that there are so many edited collections on the subject is indicative of its resonance in political studies. The most notable are: Benhabib, 1996; Besson and Marti, 2006; Bohman, and Rehg, 1997; D’Entreves, 2002; Elster, 1998; Elstub and McLaverty, 2014; Fishkin and Laslett, 2003; Macedo, 1999; Saward, 2000. 

2. Some examples are Davidson and Elstub 2014; Dryzek, 2000; Farrell, O’Malley, and Suiter, 2013; Fishkin and Luskin, 2000; Fung and Wright, 2001; Goodin, 2000, 2002; Parkinson, 2006; Steiner et. al., 2004. 

3. Evidence for Blakemore’s commitment to inclusivity is provided by a fascinating correspondence he had with Andrew Tyler, Director of the animal rights group Animal Aid, between July 1996 and April 1997. In numerous, fairly lengthy, letters – some of which are cited in this article – Blakemore sought to persuade Animal Aid to participate by seeking to rebut Tyler’s objections to the BG. The letters were made available to me by Tyler, and it is clear from the content that both men were happy for the content to be made public. 

4. The obvious retort here is that a deliberative model that does not directly include the interests of non-humans fails, by definition, to treat them with respect. It is beyond the scope of this article to consider what a ‘species-neutral’ deliberative model would look like, but see Donaldson and Kymlicka (2011) and Garner (2016) on this. 

5. In the event, the Labour Government announced, in 1998, a ban on the use of animals to test cosmetic ingredients as well as the finished product. 

6. The 1986 Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act established a dual licensing system whereby, in order to conduct research using animals, a personal licence (reviewed every five years) and a project license permitting particular procedures, is required. 

7. Under the auspices of the 1986 (Scientific Procedures Act) a ‘severity banding’ of animal research was introduced. Procedures are designated as involving mild, moderate or substantial suffering. Not only is there a lack of clarity over what these categories mean, but the banding is determined prior to the actual procedures, and, as all of the sub-groups in the BG deliberation agreed (Boyd Group and RSPCA, 2004: Global Journal of Animal Law, Vol 5, No 1 (2017) 

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3-4), the practice of providing a severity banding of projects (based on the experience of the average animal) is misleading and ethically dubious. 

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AR Zone (2011) Transcript of interview with Colin Blakemore, 19 February (http://arzone.ning.com/ profiles/blogs/transcript-of-prof-colin) 

Benhabib, S. (ed.) (1996) Democracy and Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press 

Besson, J. And Marti, J. (eds.) (2006) Deliberative Democracy and its Discontents, Aldershot: Ashgate 

Bohman, J. (1998) ‘Survey Article: The Coming of Age of Deliberative Democracy’, The Journal of Political Philosophy, 6, 4, 400–25 

Bohman, J. and Rehg, W. (eds.) (1997) Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 

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Klotzko, A. (2002) ‘Colin Blakemore’, The Scientist, April 15 

LaFollette, H., and Shanks, N. (1996). Brute science: Dilemmas of animal experimentation (London: Routledge) 

Linzey, A. and Linzey C. (eds.) (2015) Normalising the Unthinkable: The Ethics of Using Animals in Research, Oxford: Oxford Centre for Animal Research. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280718607_Normalising_the_Unthinkable_The_Ethics_of_Using_Animals_in_Experiments

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Macedo, S. (ed.) (1999) Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement, Oxford: Oxford University Press 

Marti, J. (2006) ‘The Epistemic Conception of Deliberative Democracy Defended: Reasons, Rightness and Equal Political Autonomy’ in J. Besson, and J. Marti (eds.) Deliberative Democracy and its Discontents, Aldershot: Ashgate, 27–56 

Masood, E. (1997) ‘Animal researchers should “start talking” to anti-vivisectionists’, Nature, 389, 5 

Morris, E. (2006) ‘Animal Research: Grey Matters’, Nature, 444, 808–10 

Parkinson, J. (2006) Deliberating in the Real World, Oxford: Oxford University Press 

Poort, L., Holmberg, T., & Ideland, M. (2013) ‘Bringing in the controversy: Re-politicizing the de-politicized strategy of ethics committees’, Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 9, 11, 1–13 

Saward, M. (ed.) (2000) Democratic Innovation: Deliberation, Representation and Association, London: Routledge 

Smith, G. and Wales, C. (2000) ‘Citizens’ Juries and Deliberative Democracy’, Political Studies, 48, 51–65 

Squires, J. (2002) ‘Deliberation and Decision Making: discontinuity in the two-track model’ in M. D’Entreves (ed.) Democracy as Public Deliberation: New Perspectives, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 133–56 

Steiner, J., Bachtiger, A, Sporndli, M and Steenbergen, M (eds.) (2004) Deliberative Politics in Action: Analysing Parliamentary Discourse, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 

Weale, A. (2001) ‘Can We Democratize Decisions on Risk and the Environment?’, Government and Opposition, 36, 3, 355–78

Animal Ethics and the Political

Accepted manuscript published in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 2016 by Garner, R.W., Cochrane, A.&O’Sullivan, S. doi:10.1080/13698230.2016.1194583

Some of the most important recent contributions to normative debates concerning our obligations to nonhuman animals appear to be somehow ‘political’.[i]  Certainly, many of those contributions have come from those working in the field of political, rather than moral, philosophy.  Furthermore, many of them also explicitly employ political language, concepts and ideas when making their prescriptions. For example, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka (2011) have offered a model of animal rights centred around citizenship, sovereignty and denizenship. Martha Nussbaum (2006) has critiqued Rawlsian models of justice for excluding animals, and has argued that her capabilities approach provides an appropriate framework to outline our political relations with animals. Furthermore, Robert Garner (2013) has recently developed a theory of justice for animals that attempts to avoid idealistic utopian theorising and which is instead grounded in non-ideal theory.  Still other theories have asked how ideas and debates familiar within political philosophy – including the scope of the liberal state (Smith 2012, Flanders 2014), the value of equality (O’Sullivan 2011), human rights (Cochrane 2013a), cosmopolitanism (Cooke 2014), global justice (Horta 2013), property rights (Hadley 2015), associative duties (Valentini 2014) and democratic representation (Driessen 2014, Garner forthcoming) – shape our obligations to nonhuman animals.  

In light of these contributions, some thinkers have claimed that we are witnessing a ‘political turn’ in animal ethics (Milligan 2015a, 2015b, Wissenburg and Scholsberg 2014, Wykoff 2014, Donaldson and Kymlicka forthcoming, Garner and O’Sullivan forthcoming, Woodhall and Garmendia da Trindade forthcoming).  But do these various contributions represent a real and meaningful shift in emphasis from previous work in animal ethics?  In order for them to comprise a genuine ‘political turn’, we propose that two things would need to be shown.   First, it would need to be demonstrated that the combined body of work has some unifying thread.  That is to say, the contributions should possess common features of some sort, such as shared assumptions, normative commitments, methods or approaches.  This is not to say that the contributions and their normative prescriptions cannot differ in important and substantial ways; it is simply to point out that for them to comprise a cohesive ‘turn’ in animal ethics, rather than simply amount to a collection of new but quite disparate theories, they must have some shared political feature or set of features which unite them.  Second, for these contributions to mark a political turn, they would also have to be shown to be distinctive in some politically salient way from what we might call ‘traditional animal ethics’; a field which is most famously exemplified by the work of Peter Singer (1990) and Tom Regan (2004).  

At first blush, it might seem obvious that the theories and contributions referred to above do represent something that is both unified and distinctive. After all, as noted, they all employ political language and concepts in making their normative claims about our obligations to animals.  However, if the use of political language and concepts was all that were required to make a contribution to animal ethics ‘political’, then we could safely say that animal ethics has been political since its inception.  Donaldson and Kymlicka (forthcoming) have argued that animal ethicists have theorised the, ‘…moral rights of animals without drawing upon the categories and concepts of political theory’. But the truth is that the use of political categories and concepts has in fact been pervasive in the literature.  To take just one obvious example: many argue quite reasonably that the very notion of ‘rights’ is political, since rights imply entitlements that can be coercively enforced by the state as a matter of justice (Nozick 1980, pp. 499-503, Steiner 2005, p. 460).  And of course the concept of rights is an established feature of traditional theories of animal ethics: it is most obviously central in Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights (2004), but it is also evident in Singer’s utilitarian animal manifesto, Animal Liberation, in which he describes rights as a, ‘convenient political shorthand’ (1990, p. 8). Given the widespread use of political language in the animal ethics literature, of which we will provide more examples below, we argue that if these more recent political contributions to the field are to be regarded as unified and distinctive, a more specific and substantive essential feature needs to be identified.  

This paper, then, is devoted to exploring whether any such unifying and distinctive feature exists. We take as our starting point certain characteristics discussed by Tony Milligan, which he describes as ‘overlapping commitments’ of the political turn (2015a, p. 155, 2015b, p. 7).[ii]  Three of the commitments Milligan identifies can be dispensed with relatively quickly on the basis that they straightforwardly fail to meet the conditions of being unifying and distinctive.  They comprise: a focus on the tension between the treatment of animals and liberal values; a commitment to interest-based rights; and consideration of animal interests as part of the common good. A focus on the tension between liberal values and the treatment of animals is not unifying, and is barely discussed in key recent political texts, such as Zoopolis(2011).  That feature is also not particularly distinctive, with Tom Regan devoting an entire section of The Case for Animal Rights to the issue of how our obligations to animals, and in particular our duty to be vegetarian, conflict with the human interest in liberty (2004, pp. 331-334, see also Clark 1987).  A commitment to interest-based rights is also not unifying, with only a few recent political texts explicitly invoking them (Cochrane 2012).  Furthermore, nor is such a commitment distinctive since the use of interest-based rights has an extremely long history in animal ethics (Feinberg 1974).  Finally, consideration of animal interests as part of the common good cannot be regarded as unifying.[iii]  In fact, it is only explicitly referred to in one recent work, Donaldson and Kymlicka’s Zoopolis, and even in that theory, the only animals whose interests count as part of that common good are domesticated animals (p. 101). 

As such, this paper focuses on the remaining and best candidates for comprising the essential feature of the political turn.  Those candidates are: a focus on relations and positive duties; the offering of feasible and pragmatic prescriptions; and the avoidance of first principles (Milligan 2015a, p. 155, Milligan 2015b, p. 7).  We find that none of these candidates comprise a ‘unifying thread’ of the political turn, and are in fact contested by key theorists working in the field. We also find that none of these features is particularly distinctive, and each has in fact been prevalent in a number of works within traditional animal ethics.  Indeed, on this basis we argue that traditional animal ethics should be regarded as more political than some proponents of the ‘turn’ have suggested (for example, Donaldson and Kymlicka forthcoming).

However, in the final substantive section of the paper, we identify one key focus of these recent political contributions which both unifies them, and which makes them important and original additions to the normative debate relating to human-animal relations.  That focus is on justice. While other theorists (Wykoff 2014) – including Milligan (2015a, 2015b) – have also claimed that these theories offer something novel by their focus on justice, we argue that they have not accurately captured what that focus amounts to.  For the crucial unifying and distinctive feature of these contributions – and what can properly be said to mark them out as a ‘political turn’ – is the way in which they imagine how political institutions, structures and processes might be transformed so as to secure justice for both human and nonhuman animals. Put simply, the essential feature of the political turn is this constructive focus on justice.  The paper concludes by briefly sketching some new areas of enquiry that might be fruitful for future work within the political turn – and most importantly, for just human-animal relations.

A Focus on Relations and Positive Duties

The first candidate for a unifying and distinctive feature of the political turn in animal ethics is its focus on relations in determining our duties towards animals, and its recognition that some of those duties can be positive ones (Milligan 2015a, p. 155, Milligan 2015b, p. 7).  This focus is undoubtedly prominent in the literature. For example, Donaldson and Kymlicka (2011) criticise traditional animal ethics for their exclusive focus on the innate capacities of animals.  On their view, this leads such theories to ignore the variety of relations we have with different animals, and the differentiated rights – including positive ones – that those relations generate.  They point out that when it comes to delineating our obligations to fellow humans, relationships are absolutely crucial:

Different relationships generate different duties – duties of care, hospitality, accommodation, reciprocity, or remedial justice – and much of our moral life is an attempt to sort out this complex moral landscape, trying to determine which sorts of obligations flow from which types of social, political and historical relationships. Our relations with animals are likely to have a similar sort of moral complexity, given the enormous variation in our historic relationships with different categories of animals (p. 6).

For Donaldson and Kymlicka, traditional animal ethics has espoused a ‘remarkably flat moral landscape, devoid of particularized relationships or obligations’ (p. 6). By outlining our duties to animals through consideration of our relations with them, they ‘hope to shift the debate about animals from an issue in applied ethics to a question of political theory’ (p. 12).

            Elizabeth Anderson (2006) agrees, arguing that we need a more differentiated account of what is owed to different sorts of animals.  For instance, she claims that while wild animals may have negative rights not to be harmed, they lack the kinds of positive rights that can only come with membership in a society: ‘An essential commitment of any society is the collective provision of goods to its members. The possession of morally significant capacities alone does not make one a member of human society, with claims to social provision’ (p. 284).  Since domesticated animals and captives from the wild have been incorporated into human society, she argues that they are entitled to positive forms of provision (p. 284).

            Donaldson and Kymlicka (2011) concur with the basic claim that this distinction in our relationships with domesticated and wild animals results in a difference in terms of what is owed to each; but not only do they flesh out the details of those obligations in much more detail than Anderson does, they also consider the implications of additional types of human-animal relationships. First, they argue that rights of ‘citizenship’ – to residency, inclusion and agency – should be granted to domesticated animals on the basis that they are participating members of mixed human-animal communities. Secondly, they argue that rights of ‘sovereignty’ should be granted to those wild animals who live outside human communities, on the basis that they are competent to and desire to run their own affairs without intervention. And finally, they claim that rights of ‘denizenship’ – which fall short of full rights of citizenship –  should be granted to those wild ‘liminal’ animals who live in the midst of human communities, on the basis that they lack the kinds of reciprocal capacities to be regarded as full participants (Chapter 1).

But this focus on relations and positive duties is neither shared by all who have offered political contributions to animal ethics, and nor is it markedly distinctive from previous work in animal ethics.  In the first place, the issue of to what extent relations ought to play a part in determining our obligations to animals is hotly debated amongst these recent contributions to animal ethics. Alasdair Cochrane (2013b), for example, has raised doubts about delineating our obligations to animals via such group-based distinctions, proposing a more cosmopolitan framework which grants equal concern to all sentient creatures irrespective of their relational position. 

Furthermore, there is obviously no compelling reason why a political approach, simply by being political, ought to advocate positive rights. For example, Kimberly Smith’s (2012) work on how far a liberal state can encroach upon citizens’ freedom in order to protect animals very much concentrates on our negative duties towards animals. And indeed, a libertarian political theory of animal rights which rejects the very idea of positive rights would seem perfectly possible (Milburn forthcoming). 

But the focus on relations and positive rights is also insufficiently distinctive from earlier work for it to mark the essential characteristic of any ‘political turn’ in animal ethics.[iv] Indeed, as Donaldson and Kymlicka themselves acknowledge (2011, p. 12), the idea of grounding our obligations to animals in terms of their relational position has a long pedigree in traditional animal ethics. For example, Clare Palmer (2010) – who is not usually associated with the political turn – has outlined and defended an account of the different obligations to wild and domesticated animals that is remarkably similar to, if much fuller than, Elizabeth Anderson’s theory. Furthermore, Palmer herself was partly inspired by – and critical of – the relational theory of duties to animals offered by the environmental ethicist J. Baird Callicott. Callicott (1989) has argued that we each belong to a variety of communities which impose different demands upon us. For example, he claims that our obligations to wild animals in the ‘biotic community’ are quite different to those owed to domesticated animals in the ‘mixed community’. Using the same language, Mary Midgley (1983) has argued that we have ties of kinship with other animals as fellow members of a ‘mixed community’, thus imposing relevant obligations upon us as a result. But perhaps the most well-known relational theories in animal ethics are those of feminist ‘care theories’ (Donovan and Adams 2007). For example, Nel Noddings (1984, p. 156) has argued that what we owe to animals in fact comes down to our personal relationships with animals from different species. 

Furthermore, the idea of acknowledging our positive duties towards animals is also present within traditional theories of animal ethics.  For example, while Bernard Rollin doesn’t go as far as advocating citizenship for domesticated animals, he does think that those animals are members of a social contract with humans, and thus owed membership and certain other positive rights as a result (Rollin 2006, p. 54 and p. 298; and on the contract, see also VanDeVeer 1979, Elliot 1984, Rowlands 1997, Singer 1988). As such, Rollin uses a political concept in an attempt to recognise the legitimate role of domesticated animals as part of our communities. For example, in his discussion of pet dogs, Rollin – in much the same language as Donaldson and Kymlicka – argues that not only are they dependent upon us, but we are dependent upon them. He goes on to say that, ‘…it is hard to imagine a more vivid and pervasive example of a social contract, an agreement in nature and action, than that obtaining between humans and dogs’ (2006, p. 290). When it comes to farm animals, he again asserts that there is no inherent problem with their use by humans, so long as the terms of the social contract through which they were first domesticated are not broken (2006, p. 397, 2003, p. 5). 

In sum, although it is undoubtedly the case that the contributions of Donaldson and Kymlicka, and Anderson, are novel, rich and powerful contributions to the literature, we should be wary of thinking that a focus on relations and positive duties is a unifying feature of any broader ‘political turn’ in animal ethics. We should also be careful not to exaggerate the extent to which these approaches have broken away from traditional animal ethics.  

Feasible and Pragmatic Solutions

A second possible way to characterise the political turn in animal ethics is to claim that it adopts a pragmatic attitude towards political engagement and an enhanced understanding of the nature of compromise, so often critically important to the political process (Milligan 2015a, p. 156, Milligan 2015b, p. 7).  It is easy to see why such a claim would be made; for it does seem that political approaches are less idealistic than many of their traditional animal ethics counterparts. For example, Robert Garner’s work has been particularly prominent in critiquing the utopianism of much animal rights theory and activism. Specifically, Garner (2010) has been critical of the abolitionist wing of the animal rights movement (Francione 2008), which claims that we must work towards abolishing all ownership and use of sentient animals, and that attempts at incremental reform are fundamentally self-defeating as they promote the notion that animals are the resources of humans.  Garner is critical of these abolitionist ideas at the level of principle, but he also believes that they are flawed in terms of their ability to achieve improvements in animals’ lives.  Indeed, Garner points out that no society that currently exists, or which is likely to exist in the foreseeable future, contains a sizeable population of individuals who think that all animal use should be brought to an end.  As such, he argues that abolitionism is practically useless as a strategy, and our efforts should be focused on how we can improve the lives of animals here and now. 

Garner takes up the task of offering a theory which does exactly that in his book, A Theory of Justice for Animals(2013). Garner employs the distinction in political philosophy between ideal and non-ideal theory.  Ideal theory focuses on the validity of a theory of justice or morality in relation to how far it is considered to approximate the truth, in as far as normative arguments can arrive at such a determinate answer. This is the line traditionally taken by animal ethicists. But Garner points out that this is not the only type of theory or criterion of adequacy it is possible to adopt. Indeed, non-ideal theory has emerged as a result of increasing frustration by many at the discrepancy that is perceived to exist between the abstract normative work of political philosophers, in which ideal political and moral principles are advocated, and the application of those principles in the non-ideal (real) world (Mills 2005, Farrelly 2007). Non-ideal theory argues that our political prescriptions must also be judged in relation to their feasibility: that is, how much they are practically possible of achieving at any point. It is this standard that Garner employs in his latest theory of human-animal relations.

But while it is certainly true that elements of this kind of pragmatism exist within many of the texts which have been identified as comprising the political turn – notably in the work of Siobhan O’Sullivan (2011) – it is once again neither a unifying nor distinctive characteristic. In the first place, Garner’s pragmatism is not shared by all of the recent political contributions to normative debates on human-animal relations. For example, Donaldson and Kymlicka’s Zoopolis, with its ambition to assign citizenship, sovereignty and denizenship to animals, is surely properly regarded as a work of ideal theory. Indeed, its prescriptions could most accurately be described as what Rawls (2001) has called a ‘realistic utopia’, in that they are ‘probing the limits of practical political possibility’ – but in this case, in relation to just human-animal relations.  

Second, many traditional animal ethicists have been pragmatists. Singer, for instance, wrote in the second edition of Animal Liberation (1990) that: ‘We are more likely to persuade others to share our attitude if we temper our ideals with common sense than if we strive for the kind of purity that is more appropriate to a religious dietary law than to an ethical and political movement’ (p. 233). Another, more sophisticated, attempt to provide an incremental guide has been provided by Rollin (2005).  Drawing on the notion of partiality central to the care ethic tradition, which was touched upon in the previous section, Rollin notes that partiality to those we are close to is a principle that meets with wide public support. As a result, he argues that animal advocates should, initially at least, focus on the better treatment of companion animals, those with whom humans have close ties of love, friendship and affection, since it is more likely to be a strategy that will meet with public approval than the ‘harder’ cases of farm and laboratory animals.

So while the proposal of feasible and pragmatic prescriptions is certainly evident within many recent political contributions to animal ethics, it cannot be described as the essential feature of any political turn. 

The Avoidance of First Principles

A third possible way to characterise the political turn in animal ethics is to claim that it is unified and distinctive in its avoidance of ‘first principles’ (Milligan 2015a, p. 155, Milligan 2015b, p. 7).[v] That is to say, it can be argued that these new contributions to animal ethics offer a set of political prescriptions about how we ought to treat animals that do not rely on controversial moral foundations.  Such a strategy seems particularly apt to warrant the moniker a ‘political’ approach to animal ethics, since avoiding first principles has commonly been associated with distinctively political approaches to other fields of ethical enquiry, from ‘political liberalism’ to ‘political conceptions of human rights’ (Rawls 1993, Valentini 2012). 

One clear example of such an approach comes from Siobhan O’Sullivan. In Animals, Equality and Democracy(2011), O’Sullivan deliberately leaves aside arguments concerning the ways in which societies unfairly discriminate between humans and animals, the key issue of so much work in traditional animal ethics. Instead, O’Sullivan’s focus is on how contemporary animal welfare regulation discriminates between different types of animals, such as companion and agricultural animals. O’Sullivan asks that we focus on ‘injustices that afflict animals (and animals only)’ (p. 174) and argues that even if many people believe humans to be superior to animals, perhaps we can all agree that the interests of a rabbit in a petting zoo are similar to the interests of a rabbit in a research laboratory. As such, O’Sullivan’s starting point is not a claim about animals’ inherent moral worth, or any other foundational commitment.  Rather, it is the principle of equal consideration and hence the injustice of discriminating between animals with the same capacities and interests. 

Likewise, in his recent book, Animal Property Rights (2015)John Hadley does not make the case for assigning habitat rights to wild animals on the basis of their innate moral capacities and worth.  Instead, he aims to ‘…present as credible case as possible for fitting animals into the existing property rights mold’ (pp. 3-4).  As such, in the same vain as O’Sullivan, Hadley asks us to rethink what we owe to animals on the basis of principles and institutional arrangements that we already accept, rather than on the basis of controversial claims about animals’ moral worth.   

Other recent political contributions to animal ethics have eschewed foundational arguments about animals’ moral worth by exploring the implications of Rawlsian political liberalism for our obligations to animals.  For example, Kimberly Smith in, Governing Animals (2012)aims to build an account of animal entitlements based on the existing ‘social consensus’ amongst Americans about the status of animals, rather than any metaphysical claims about their inherent worth (p. xiv).  In the same spirit, Chad Flanders (2014) argues that the liberal principles informing public reason constrain the values that might be evoked in debates about animals. In particular, he claims that ‘the present consensus on animal rights cannot sustain a public discourse that bases itself on animal rights or the intrinsic worth of animals’ (p. 56). For Flanders, public reason is a matter of existing consensus, and while there is no consensus on the rights of animals, there is some on the role of the state in regulating animal welfare. 

However, the avoidance of first principles is not a good basis to characterise any new political turn because, once again, it is neither a unifying feature of recent contributions which are usually regarded as political, nor is it distinctive from previous work in animal ethics.  For example, some of the paradigm examples of political contributions to animal ethics are grounded explicitly in foundational claims about the moral worth of animals. Indeed, Donaldson and Kymlicka (2011, Chapter 2) advocate a set of universal moral rights for all sentient animals which provides the moral bedrock of their Zoopolis.  These are the rights that all sentient creatures possess, irrespective of whether they are citizens, denizens, or members of wild animals sovereign communities. Furthermore, such rights do a huge amount of work in the theory, ruling out as they do nearly all forms of animal research and agriculture (see also Cochrane 2013a). 

Furthermore, there are also theories within traditional animal ethics that have sought to avoid controversial moral foundations.  Rollin (1994), for example, has outlined a theory of obligations to animals that aims, in extremely similar ways to those theorists mentioned above, not to derive from foundational arguments about the moral worth of animals, but from what society already believes.  This is what Rollin has called the ‘new social ethic’ for animals. Rollin claims that a previous ‘consensus ethic’ promulgated ‘anti-cruelty’ measures in relation to animals.  He argues that while this ethic made sense in societies which made of use traditional husbandry in animal agriculture, it no longer resonates in an era of industrialised farming, where the suffering that animals endure is rarely the result of intentional malicious acts by morally deficient individuals.  As such, he claims that contemporary society now endorses a ‘new social ethic’ that goes beyond wanton cruelty.  That new social ethic demands, ‘…that the animals’ basic natures will not be submerged in the course of their being used by humans’ (p. 80).  In other words, Rollin claims that this new ethic is not a call for the abolition of animal use, but one which calls for drives for increased efficiency and productivity to be curtailed by concern for the needs and well-being of the animals themselves.  Crucially, in his view, it is this ethic that should provide the normative basis of our accounts of what we owe to animals, rather than any controversial claims about their inherent worth.  

Once again, then, while many of the recent political contributions to animal ethics do avoid first principles, it cannot be described as the essential feature of any political turn. It is neither endorsed by all of the recent political contributions to the debate, nor is it particularly distinctive from previous work in animal ethics

A Constructive Focus on Justice

So far, it has been argued that the use of political concepts, the focus on relations and positive rights, the proposal of feasible and pragmatic prescriptions, and the avoidance of first principles are not sufficiently shared and not sufficiently distinctive from traditional animals ethics to provide the essential feature for any new political turn in animal ethics.  This raises the question: has there been any such thing as a political turn in animal ethics?  Or have we simply witnessed a disparate bunch of new contributions to animal ethics, which while framed in political language, offer little that is truly distinctive from previous normative work on our obligations to animals? 

We wish to argue that there has in fact been a political turn in animal ethics, and that there is a unifying thread running through these recent political contributions which marks them out as distinctive from previous work in animal ethics.  That unifying thread is a focus on justice.  But crucially, it is also a specific type of focus on justice.  For we argue that theories which comprise the political turn all seek to explore how political institutions, structures and processes might be transformed to better serve the interests of animals.  In other words, they outline the shape and nature of a community that secures justice for both humans and other animals. 

Traditional theories of animal ethics have all tended to provide two things: an account of the moral status of animals; and an account of our moral obligations to animals. Political contributions are somewhat different, we argue, in that their focus is on justice, rather than morality (Wissenburg and Scholsberg 2014, pp. 1-5).  Morality is usually considered to be a broader concept than justice.  For example, a particular action or way of behaving may be immoral, such as speaking unkindly behind someone’s back, but that does not thereby mean that such action and behaviour is unjust.  Justice involves an element of compulsion; to behave justly is ‘a requirement rather than an optional extra’ (Campbell 1980, p. 20).  Furthermore, because the claims of justice are regarded as so pressing, the obligation to act so as to avoid injustice falls most often on the state or other political authority. This is not to say that acts of injustice cannot be perpetrated by individuals or by collective entities such as corporations; but it is to say that political institutions that are best placed to enforce justice and remedy injustices. Focusing on justice in the context of the moral status of animals, then, directs attention away from how we, as individuals, ought to regard animals, towards the way in which the state ought to regulate the treatment of animals.  It is thus perhaps unsurprising that political theorists working on the nature of our obligations to animals have adopted this focus on justice.

However, this should not be taken to mean that a discourse based on justice is entirely absent from traditional animal ethics. Indeed, it is the case that most traditional animal ethicists actually assume that their moral theories are also theories of justice; and thus that the state has an obligation to act upon them. Regan (2004), for instance, merely assumes that a rights-based discourse is identical to one based on justice, and that justice and morality are one and the same thing. As a consequence, for Regan, excluding animals as recipients of justice is equivalent to depriving them of any direct moral worth. This assertion is apparent from Regan’s inaccurate critique of Rawls’s contractarian theory of justice. Regan, for instance, remarks that Rawls’s contractarianism ‘systematically denies that we have direct duties to those human beings who do not have a sense of justice – young children, for instance, and many mentally retarded humans’, as well as animals (Regan 1985, p. 17). In a more recent work, Regan repeats the claim that Rawls’s ‘moral outlook prejudicially excludes nonhuman animals from direct moral concern’ (Cohen and Regan 2001, p. 171).

Regan’s conceptual confusion derives from his assumption that there is no moral realm independent of justice where direct duties can be owed to animals. By contrast, Alison Hills (2005, p. 93) recognises the distinction between a realm of justice and a realm of morality. As she points out, it is only if ‘the whole of ethics is defined by a contract’ that animals might be deemed to have no moral standing so that we have no direct duties to them. Rawls, by contrast, wants to distinguish between ethics and justice, with animals excluded only from the latter. The key point, then, is that Regan assumes that his discourse is based on justice as much as it is on morality. For him, the two are interchangeable.  We might say, then, that what makes the political turn innovative is its focus on justice as distinctive from morality.

Tony Milligan has also claimed that these recent political approaches share a commitment to offering more than an account of our personal obligations relating to reforms in lifestyle, consumer behaviour, diet and so on.  He argues that these new political works seek to offer specifically political prescriptions.[vi] Milligan writes: ‘Lobbying for legislative change serves as an exemplar of moving beyond lifestyle choices and into the terrain where only a political movement can be effective’ (2015a, p. 168).  But this is not quite the same focus on justice that we have in mind. Milligan seems to believe that these contributions all have the commitment to working within existing political structures to achieve reforms that serve the interests of animals.  But while that may be a part of some political approaches, in general terms this interpretation of the turn is too narrow for our purposes. For what makes the political turn both cohesive and distinctive is the fact that the theories which comprise it do not just work within existing structures, but also ask how those structures might be transformed.  In other words, they reflect upon and reimagine our political structures, institutions and processes. And in particular, they consider how those structures, institutions and processes might be transformed to secure justice for both humans and animals.

Jason Wyckoff (2014) is another theorist who has recently claimed that political contributions to animal ethics can be distinguished by their focus on justice. But he too misses the mark in terms of what that focus amounts to. Wyckoff argues that traditional animal ethics has failed to understand that the wrongs suffered by animals are primarily structural, rather than the result of cruel behaviour by individuals (p. 539).  He goes on to argue that the institutional practices which construct animals as property – such as the ‘resource paradigm’ – need to be overhauled in order for animals to be treated justly (pp. 547-551).

But while Wyckoff is correct that the political approach is concerned with political structures, institutions and processes, he fails to identify what is distinctive and unique about this new, emerging scholarship.  Indeed, there are three important limitations to Wyckoff’s particular characterisation of a political approach focused on justice. First, while analysing how the institution of property affects animals is undoubtedly important, it is an issue that is extremely well traversed in animal ethics, most notably by Gary Francione (1995; but see also Hauser et al eds. 2006). As such, Wyckoff’s theory cannot be said to exemplify a new ‘turn’ that is qualitatively distinct from the work of traditional animal ethics. 

Second, offering a critical analysis of existing structures and institutions to diagnose how and why animals are mistreated is also far from distinctive.  Indeed, the question of how social structures and forces serve to oppress different groups, including animals, is familiar within the sociological literature on human-animal relations, amongst ecofeminists, and in critical animal studies (Nibert 2002, Adams 2000, Torres 2007).  Furthermore, and finally, while such work is clearly valuable, it is important to bear in mind that it is primarily explanatory.  Our claim is that what makes the theories comprising the political turn distinctive is that they are constructive and normative: that is to say, they go beyond simply analysing existing political structures to explain how and why injustices to animals occur; for they also imagine how our political institutions and processes might be transformed for the benefit of human and animals alike.  

For example, one of the primary aims of Donaldson and Kymlicka’s Zoopolis is to reimagine the concepts of citizenship and sovereignty so that they might serve the interests of animals. One of Nussbaum’s goals in Frontiers of Justice (2006), is to ask the basic question of what a scheme of social justice that takes the capabilities of sentient animals seriously would look like.  As we have seen, in A Theory of Justice for Animals (2013)Garner constructs the framework a just political order that is socially, politically and economically possible to achieve. And in separate works, Smith (2012) and Flanders (2014) have both considered how a state guided by the principles of political liberalism ought to govern its relations with animals. In Animals, Equality and Democracy, O’Sullivan does not merely critique contemporary states for their unfair discrimination between different types of animal, but also explores how the liberal democratic principle of equality may be used to secure justice for all animals.  Cochrane (2013a) has reimagined the very idea of human rights to investigate how they might evolve to robustly protect the basic interests of animals. Laura Valentini (2014) has explored the implications of applying so-called ‘associative duties’ towards certain non-human animals.  Steve Cooke (2014) has imagined how extending the cosmopolitan duty of hospitality might affect our obligations to animals across borders.  In ‘Expanding Global Justice: The Case for the International Protection of Animals’, Oscar Horta (2013) has explored the shape and nature of an international system of animal protection.  Hadley (2015) has reimagined the very conception of property as it might be applied to wild animals. Finally, a number of political theorist have recently explored how democratic institutions might be reformed so as to better represent the interests and claims of animals (Driessen 2014, Garner forthcoming).

This focus on imagining how our political institutions, structures and processes might be transformed so as to secure justice for both human and nonhuman animals is what unifies these various contributions.  And it is also what makes these contributions distinctive from previous work in animal ethics, which focused far more on the moral obligations of individuals, or simply assumed that personal obligations ought to be enforced by the state.  This constructive focus on justice is the essential feature of the political turn in animal ethics. 

Conclusions

In this paper we have sought to establish whether there has been any coherent and novel ‘political turn’ in normative debates concerning our treatment of animals, and what the essential feature of such a turn might be.   We have argued that the mere use of political language and concepts is insufficient to provide the basis for any new turn on the grounds that such language has always been prevalent in the animal ethics literature.  Further, we have claimed that other possible characteristics – such as a focus on relational position and positive duties, feasible and pragmatic prescriptions and the avoidance of first principles – are insufficiently shared amongst these contributions and insufficiently distinctive from previous work in animal ethics to constitute the essential feature of any new political turn.  Indeed, we have argued that traditional animal ethics has been far more political than some thinkers have claimed.

            Yet we do find that there is something significant that unites these contributions and which marks them out as providing something different from previous work in traditional animal ethics. That feature is a focus on justice; and more specifically on how our political institutions, structures and process might be transformed so as to secure just human-animal relations. 

            To be sure, the political turn in animal ethics is still in its infancy. As such, the research potential of the turn has by no means be fully realised. We have provided a flavour of the justice-focused animal scholarship undertaken to date. Perhaps a pressing concern for political turn scholars is consideration of which further institutions, structures and processes might be challenged, redefined or reimagined in pursuit of justice for animals. Some of the key questions that come to mind include: must just, animal-friendly institutions be bound by the nation-state? What shape and structure would a political economy that served the interests of animals possess? What are the political bounds of toleration – domestically and internationally – in respect of the treatment of animals? How are animals to be properly and meaningfully represented across all of our political institutions, structures and processes?  And should those institutions, structures and processes be modelled on the ways in which human rights are currently protected domestically and internationally, or should they take a very different form?  No doubt these questions, and many others, will be pursued as our relations with animals becomes an established and essential part of the discipline of political philosophy.    

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[i] From this point on, we follow the convention of using the term ‘animal’ instead of the more accurate but more cumbersome ‘nonhuman animal’.

[ii] Seven features are referred to in Milligan, Animal Ethics: The Basics, 155; and only five in Milligan, “The Political Turn in Animals Rights”, 7.  The ones which fail to make the latter list are: the notion that animals’ interests are part of the common good; and the conceptualisation of the movement as a political (rather than moral) crusade. 

[iii] Note that this is one of the features which does not make it into Milligan’s list in ‘The political turn in animal rights’.

[iv] It is also worth questioning how essential it is to the most significant implications of Donaldson and Kymlicka’s theory.  After all, it is the ‘traditional’ animal rights they advocate which will have the most profound impact upon human-animal relations.  For the universal rights of animals to life, to not to be tortured and not to be exploited mean that the vast majority of domesticated animals will be phased out of existence.

[v] Milligan puts this claim in slightly different terms.  He argues that the political turn ‘downgrades the argument from marginal cases’.  In other words, these political contributions rely less on the claim that animals have an inherent moral value because human individuals with similar capacities, such as young infants and the seriously mentally disabled, have such value.  But the point is the same: political contributions avoid relying on controversial claims about inherent moral value to ground normative prescriptions relating to animals. 

[vi] Hence he characterises this overlapping commitment as belief in the view that animal rights is a political, as opposed to moral, crusade.

Animal Rights and the Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory

Accepted manuscript published in European Journal of Political Theory, 2016 by Garner, Robert W. Doi: 10.1177/1474885116630937 

 

Abstract 

Deliberative democracy has been castigated by those who regard it as exclusive, elitist, and unrealistic. As a result, it is suggested, deliberative arenas will merely reproduce inequalities, advantaging the already powerful extolling mainstream world views excluding the interests of the less powerful. Moreover, the tactics employed by those excluded social movements seeking to right an injustice are typically those which are incompatible with the key characteristics of deliberatively democracy. This paper seeks to examine the case against deliberative democracy through the prism of animal rights. It will be argued that the critique of deliberative democracy is largely misplaced because it underestimates the rationalistic basis of animal rights philosophy, misunderstands the aspirational character of deliberative theory, mistakenly attributes problems that are not restricted to deliberation but result from interest group politics in general, and ignores the educative potential of deliberation. It is further argued that this debate about the apparent incompatibility between the ideals of deliberative democracy and non-deliberative activism disguises the potential that deliberative democracy has for advocates of animal rights and, by extension, other social movements too. 

Deliberative democracy began life as a radical critique of the conventional, aggregative-based, theory and practice of democracy, which, it is argued, is too open to abuse by those elites with money and the capacity to manipulate public opinion. However, deliberative democracy has, in turn, been castigated by those who regard it as exclusive, elitist and unrealistic, because of its failure to take into account a range of structural inequalities existing within contemporary liberal democracies, and its failure to recognise that there are severe psychological constraints on the capacity of individuals to fulfil the role required of them. As a result, it is suggested, deliberative arenas will merely reproduce these inequalities, advantaging the already powerful extolling mainstream world views excluding the interests of the less powerful and those expounding alternative worldviews. Moreover, the tactics employed by those excluded social movements seeking to right an injustice are typically those – involving various forms of protest and direct action – which are incompatible with the key characteristics of deliberatively democracy and are therefore deemed to be illegitimate by deliberative theorists. 

One social movement to which this critique of deliberative democracy has been applied is that concerned with advocating animal rights. This article seeks to evaluate the case against deliberative democracy through the prism of this one social movement and one issue, although it is emphasised that the arguments provided have a wider resonance beyond the particular issue of animal rights. Thus, it will seek to defend deliberative democracy against the charge that it is incompatible with animal rights activism, and by so doing seeks to defend deliberative democracy more broadly. It will be argued that the critique of deliberative democracy is largely misplaced because it underestimates the rationalistic basis of animal rights activism and philosophy, misunderstands the aspirational character of deliberative theory, mistakenly attributes problems that are not restricted to deliberation but 

result from interest group politics in general, and ignores the educative potential of deliberation. It is further argued that this debate about the apparent incompatibility between the ideals of deliberative democracy and non-deliberative activism disguises the potential that deliberative democracy has for advocates of animal protection and, by extension, other social movements too. 

Deliberative Democracy: From Saviour to Pariah. 

The idea of deliberation has a long history in political thought (Gutmann and Thompson, 2004: 8-9) but, since the 1980s – led by the seminal work of Habermas (1990; 1996) in particular – democratic theory has taken a ‘deliberative turn’ (Bohman, 1998; Dryzek, 2000: 1). Indeed, it is little exaggeration to claim that, since then, deliberative democracy has played a leading role in political theory itself. Its purchase has been the offering of a remedy, or at least a partial one, to the perceived weaknesses of traditional democracies – characterised by soundbite politics, the dominance of money, poor decision-making, declining participation, increasing moral and political divisions and so forth. The academic scholarship on deliberative democracy is extensive and varied.1 Because of the volume of literature, there has been a degree of ‘concept stretching’ (Steiner, 2008). Nevertheless, it is still possible to elicit a number of key features shared amongst a vast majority of the exponents of deliberative democracy. 

The first feature is that democracy ought not to be defined in terms of the aggregation of pre-existing preferences in a vote at elections or in a referendum, nor in terms of a reflection of the balance of competing interests within civil society, as the pluralist model has it. Rather, for advocates of deliberative democracy, collective decisions are only legitimate if they are made after reasoned and detailed discussion. It therefore focuses on the communicative process, being a ‘talk-centric, rather than a ‘voting-centric’ democratic theory (Chambers, 2003: 308). Second, it is held that genuinely deliberative arenas ought to be as inclusive as possible with all points of view and social characteristics represented, and an equal chance to participate offered to all of those who are present. Inclusivity, therefore, refers to both presence and voice. 

Third, during deliberation, self interest should be put aside, as should strategic behaviour designed to achieve as much as possible of a pre-existing agenda. Instead, mutual respect of, and empathy for, the arguments of others is encouraged. Fourth, the inclusive communication and social learning inherent in the deliberative process, it is suggested, leads to better decisions in the sense that they are more informed, more effective, more just and therefore more legitimate. For some deliberative democrats (for example, Estlund, 1997), the epistemic function is paramount whereas for others (for example, Gaus, 1997) the intrinsic value of deliberation, its educative function and its closer approximation to political equality, is its most important attribute. 

Finally, ‘a central tenet of all deliberative theory’ (Chambers, 2003: 318) is that deliberation can change minds and transform opinions. The goal, at least in some – particularly early – accounts of deliberative democracy, is to arrive at decisions that everyone can accept, or at least not reasonably reject. It is seen, therefore, as a useful device to tackle issues which seem to involve intractable moral conflicts (Gutmann and Thompson,1996). That is not to say that unanimity is a real prospect in most cases, and value pluralism is accepted by most advocates of deliberative democracy as a normatively justified obstacle to consensus (Chambers, 2003: 321; Dryzek, 2010: chapter 5; Friberg-Fernos and Schaffer, 2014: 100; Gutmann and Thompson, 2004: 26-9; Mackie, 2006: 290). As a result, the aggregation of preferences may well still be necessary as an end-point. However, even if there is still disagreement, collective decisions made after deliberation are regarded as more legitimate than the mere aggregation of preferences, not necessarily or not just because of the decisions made, but because of the deliberative procedure followed which engenders mutual understanding. It involves a sense, that is, that all the views of participants are taken seriously and that everyone tries to empathise with the views of others. For Gutmann and Thompson, 1996: 3, 83-5), for instance, deliberation should aim at an ‘economy of moral disagreement’ in the sense not just that the participant’s substantive positions have moved closer together, but that there is a greater acceptance of the terms of difference and disagreement.  

Not surprisingly, perhaps, deliberative democracy has met with some strong criticisms. One significant problem, it is argued, is that, without some fundamental reforms to the balance of power amongst competing interests in contemporary liberal democracies, deliberatively democracy merely reproduces existing inequalities, advantaging the already powerful (Shapiro, 2005: 24). Thus: ‘By insisting that parties to deliberation not depart from public reason, they…propose to rigidify some of the structural disadvantages that marginalized groups confront’ (Medearis, 2005: 64). The inequalities referred to are based, in part, on finance, but also go wider, and include the type of communication valued by advocates of deliberative democracy and the possibility of discourse hegemony constraining what is discussed in deliberative forums. Thus, a common complaint is that deliberative democracy advantages a particular form of rationalistic and dispassionate communication which benefits some – the well-educated and well-spoken – over others who may favour speech which is emotional and passionate (Sanders, 1997; Young, 1996; 2000; 2001). 

Another, related, source of inequality is ideological hegemony, in which the views expressed in political arenas – and, by definition in deliberative arenas too – are necessarily limited so as not to challenge the dominant relations of power (Lukes, 2005). As Young (2001: 685) points out, activists confronted by a deliberative setting will be suspicious on the grounds that ‘the majority of participants…will be influenced by a common discourse that  itself is a complex product of structural inequality’. Deliberative democracy therefore lacks a theory of ideology to counter the dangers of a hegemonic discourse. For social movements intent on radical change, then, participation in deliberative forums is unproductive, co-opting the ‘energy of citizens committed to justice, leaving little time for mobilizing people to bash the institutional constraints and decision-making process from the outside’ (Young, 2001: 682). 

Because of these inequalities, critics of deliberative democracy claim, some groups may have to engage in activities – such as direct action – to get their voices heard and to challenge a dominant discourse. However, it is further argued, these types of activities are incompatible with the methods prescribed by deliberative democrats. As a corollary, by denying the legitimacy of such tactics, it is claimed that deliberative democracy takes insufficient account of the inequalities of power in existing liberal democracies, inequalities which the non-deliberative tactics of many social movements are designed to address. As Young (2001: 675) writes: ‘The deliberative democrat who thinks that power can be bracketed by the soft tones of the seminar room is naive’. 

Another argument against deliberative democracy is that it, rather naively, chooses to neglect the fact that, as psychological studies persuasively suggest, most of our moral and political decision-making is based on non-rational factors (such as habit, emotions, and culturally adopted meanings). Generated in such a way, these beliefs are unlikely to be altered through reasoned arguments. Participants in a deliberative arena may therefore accept a reasoned argument and yet still cling to their previous non-rationalistic beliefs. Ryfe (2005: 56) goes as far as to say that deliberation ‘represents a disturbance of every-day reasoning habits’ in the sense that it ignores the evidence which suggests a propensity for individuals to take information short cuts and to habitually cling to long-held positions irrespective of evidence which seems to challenge their validity (see also Mutz, 2008: 533-5 and Rosenberg, 2014: 101-12). 

Deliberative Democracy and Animal Rights Activism 

These critiques of deliberative democracy can, and have been, made in the context of animal rights activism. The animal rights movement is the classic example of an outsider. Its objective – the complete abolition of the use of animals for human benefit – is far removed from current practice – and, for the most part, public opinion. The animal rights movement is faced by very powerful interests – those representing agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies in particular – and a dominant discourse which suggests that the use of animals (provided this use is as humane as possible) is morally unproblematic. It is possible, of course, for the animal rights movement to seek compromise. However, a significant portion of activists are unwilling to compromise and dilute their moral purity believing that its adversaries are unresponsive to mere argumentation. As a result, many of the animal rights movement’s adversarial and conflictual tactics are, it is argued, incompatible with the consensual and accommodation behaviour required by deliberative democracy (Humphrey and Stears, 2006). 

Deliberative democracy is therefore incompatible with animal rights activism, it is argued, insofar as it denies the legitimacy of any outcome produced by adversarial and conflictual activism. Given the structural inequalities that the animal rights movement is faced with, it is argued, activists should ‘not be expected to restrain their efforts by accepting the behavioural and dispositional limitations urged upon them by the theorists of deliberative democracy’ (Humphrey and Stears, 2006: 417). D’Arcy (2007: 7) concurs with this judgment. Insofar as the animal rights movement relies crucially on adversarial and strategic  actions, then deliberative democracy suffers from ‘a fatal defect that decisively undermines its viability’. 

For Humphreys and Stears (2006), animal rights activism routinely engage in two tactics that are particularly at odds with deliberative democracy. The first of these is described as cost levying (405-8). This is activity which increases the cost and/or decreases the benefits associated with conduct opposed by the activists. In the case of the animal rights movement, cost-levying would include activities such as promoting consumer boycotts, negative publicity campaigns and, at the more extreme end, damage to property and the intimidation of those involved, or associated with, organisations that use animals. Such activity is, ostensibly at least, at odds with the emphasis that deliberative democrats put on reason and persuasion. That is, cost-levying works by altering behaviour through the costs incurred of not doing so. 

The second strategy pursued by animal rights activists at odds with deliberative democracy is the exaggeration of moral disagreement through the use of polarizing rhetoric (Humphreys and Stears, 2006: 408-12). These activities are not designed to win opponents over by reasoned arguments or to attempt to narrow the gap between positions – the raison de’ etre of deliberative democracy – but to maximise the differences between activists and their rivals. One example of this kind of strategy is to compare the killing of animals with the holocaust. Such a comparison, whatever its intentions, has the effect of demonising adversaries thereby making any reasoned conversation with them impossible. It is exactly the opposite of Guttman and Thompson’s (1996) deliberative recommendation that those whose views differ should aim at an economy of moral disagreement. 

The critique, that humans do not have the capacities to cope with the rationalistic demands of deliberation, can also be illustrated by reference to issues inolving animal ethics. Thus, participants in a deliberative arena may accept an animal ethics argument (or any other ethical argument for that matter) and yet still cling to their previous non-rationalistic belief. A participant may, for example, be able to follow and concur with the closely-argued case against eating meat, but habit and custom may prevent the change in behaviour that ought to be the rational response. 

Deliberative Democracy, Non-deliberative Activism and the Animal Rights Movement 

This paper seeks to argue that the alleged incompatibility between animal rights activism and deliberative democracy can be exaggerated. In the first place, it should be pointed out that whilst some animal rights activism is, superficially at least, undoubtedly incompatible with deliberative democracy, much of is not. The animal rights movement engages in a great deal of consciousness raising, the purpose of which is to influence, educate and transform opinions (D’Arcy, 2007: 2-3). It is no accident that the contemporary animal rights movement has grown up on the back of sustained attempts by academic philosophers to provide a reasoned justification for regarding animals as morally considerable (see, for instance, Regan, 1984 and Singer, 1990). In fact, so rationalistic has the movement been that there are some, particularly from the care-ethic tradition, who argue that the movement is too rationalistic and ought to pay more attention to values such as caring, compassion and sentiment (Donovan, 2007). 

It is the case, however, that the tactics – of cost-levying and polarising rhetoric – identified by Humphreys and Stears are common tactics within the animal rights movement and are, superficially at least, incompatible with the demands of deliberation. A number of responses can be made to this apparent disjuncture between deliberative principles and the tactics of the animal rights movement. In the first place, critics fail to recognise that 

deliberative democracy is a normative aspiration which ‘challenges political reality’ (Thompson, 2008: 499). No genuinely deliberative political system exists anywhere. It is, therefore, an ideal theory (Gutmann, 1996: 343). Many deliberative theorists, it should be noted, recognise that a genuinely deliberative political system requires a narrowing of the inequalities currently present in the political system and that this may require significant social and economic change (see, for instance, Bohman, 1996: 140; Cohen, 1988; Cohen and Rogers, 1983; Gutmann and Thompson, 1996, Chapters 6-9; Pettit, 1999: 194). 

The aim is for deliberative forums to be inclusive and egalitarian, containing all relevant interests who must be given an equal chance to participate. In an unequal society, deliberative exercises should aim at bracketing inequalities, and, as Gutmann and Thompson (2004: 42-3) point out: ‘Deliberation is a more promising way of dealing with injustice than the usually available alternatives, such as…bargaining among interest groups (which usually reproduce the prevailing inequalities)’. It is possible to envisage postponing deliberative democracy until a more equal society is created. Such a conclusion, though, is utopian. We can agree here with Elstub (2014: 195) when he writes that ‘deepening democracy within the structural constraints of liberal democracy is still a worthy enterprise, and can, indeed, contribute to overcoming these structural constraints’. It is asking too much, however, for inequalities to be organised out of existence. Ultimately, what deliberative theory seeks to do is to ask what would a genuinely deliberative political system look like and how would it operate? In this sense, deliberative theory ‘provides the normative basis from which an imminent criticism of the failings of putatively deliberative institutions can proceed’ (O’Neil, 2002: 259). 

Critics of deliberative democracy also exaggerate its rigidity. For example, although, as we saw, a common criticism of deliberative theory is that it advantages a particular form of rationalistic communication which benefits some over others, there is no reason – as many 

deliberative theorists have conceded (Gutmann and Thompson, 1996: 136) – why alternative forms of communication (such as rhetoric, storytelling, testimony and greeting) cannot also be permitted within deliberative forums. This represents a revision, rather than abandonment, of deliberative democracy (Talisse, 2005: 424). Alternatively, there is nothing in deliberative theory which precludes representatives from within the ranks of less eloquent groups to speak on the group’s behalf (Guttman and Thompson, 1996: 133). 

In addition, because many deliberative theorists do recognise that inequalities in political power can have a crucial bearing on the quality of deliberation, many accept that, in a non-deliberative polity, non-deliberative activism is justified as a means of addressing political inequalities (Gutmann and Thompson, 1996: 135; Gutmann and Thompson, 2004: 51; Smith, 2004; Bohman, 1996: 140; Pettit, 1999: 194). This acceptance of the need for non-deliberative activism is not a criticism of deliberative democracy as such, but rather a recognition that a genuine deliberative political system cannot exist without greater inclusivity. It should also be noted that, even those who have criticised the constraints of traditional deliberative democratic theory, have not rejected deliberative democracy wholesale but have adopted it to allow non-deliberative activism and non-formal means of communication. Dryzek (2000: v-vi), for instance, distinguishes between deliberative and his preferred theory of ‘discursive’ democracy, the latter denoting a more edgy, critical and less accommodating doctrine than the gentlemanly and calm demeanour portrayed by the former. Similarly, Young (1996: 124) describes her preferred version of a discussion-based theory a ‘communicative’ rather than a deliberative theory of democracy, ‘to indicate an equal privileging of any forms of communicative interaction where people aim to reach understanding’ as well as an acceptance of difference rather than a desire to transcend it. 

Applied to the issue of animal rights, then, we can say that – whilst it is true that at least some, adversarial and confrontational, animal rights activism is incompatible with  

deliberative democracy – the tone of such activism – if not some of the more extreme versions involving actual violence (Hadley, 2015) – is entirely justified whilst the animal rights movement is so disadvantaged in the current system of interest group politics. More to the point, this activism can be justified by advocates of deliberative democracy precisely because this system does not meet the requirements of a genuinely deliberative politics. Indeed, it may be that adversarial and confrontational activism helps to ensure that the objectives of the animal rights movement are brought to public attention, and would therefore be treated with respect in any future deliberative political system (D’Arcy, 2007: 12-13). For many advocates of deliberative democracy, then, the use of non-deliberative means to achieve deliberative ends is entirely justified. 

One dimension of political inequality that is particularly relevant to the debate about the treatment of animals is the ideological hegemony possessed by those powerful interests with an interest in the continued exploitation of animals (Nibert, 2002; Torres, 2007). The abolitionist animal rights paradigm is culturally and socially unacceptable for most people. The dominant non-abolitionist paradigm, which regards it as entirely normal for animals to be used for human benefit, may well be a product of the role played by powerful vested interests. More certain is the role they have played in shaping the moral and political agenda. Thus, the agribusiness industry, through advertising and other means of communication, seeks to disguise the reality of the modern industrialised ‘factory’ farming of animals. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry seeks to persuade the public that animal experimentation is always vital for medical research (despite much evidence to the contrary) (see, for example, Sharpe, 1988). 

The dominant discourse about animals undoubtedly affects the terms of deliberative debate, and is a further illustration why greater political equality is necessary before a genuinely deliberative environment can be achieved. Many deliberative theorists, though – as 

we have seen – would accept this conclusion. Likewise, it is not clear why an account of ideological or discourse hegemony represents a challenge to deliberative democracy in particular, as opposed to being a critique of the existing arenas of interest group and electoral politics in general. Indeed, deliberative democracy may have a better chance of countering a dominant discourse since it is designed to put all arguments – including the dominant discourse – to a reasoned test in an environment in which the influence of alternative means of communication – such as the media – can be reduced. As Fishkin (2009: 6) notes: ‘Efforts to manipulate public opinion work best with an inattentive and/or uninformed public’. Thus, a mere aggregation of pre-existing preferences, without a deliberative element, is more likely to be shaped by the dominant discourse than a genuinely deliberative decision-making arena. Indeed, there is some evidence, provided below, that deliberation can neuter, to some extent, the prevailing dominant discourse about animals. 

Deliberative democracy is not, then, inconsistent with ‘the demand for the sort of broad, transformative democratization of existing social, economic and political institutions that would equalise power relations’ (Medearis, 2005: 74). Indeed, it may be a prerequisite for genuine deliberative democracy to take place. However, this radical project compliments the role of deliberative democracy rather than replacing it. Even with perfect democratic inclusion there will still need to be decisions to make, and conflicts to manage and resolve. This is particularly the case when the issue involves moral conflict rather than the distribution of economic resources. 

Because inequality, and lack of inclusiveness, is unlikely to be removed from the interest group universe, it might be argued that a genuine deliberative democracy is impossible of realisation, at least at the present time (Sanders, 1997; Walzer, 1999). Given this, it might be possible to model a nonideal version of deliberative democracy whereby so-called ‘deliberative activism’ (Fung, 2003) – activism aimed at getting a hearing for a social 

movement’s concern within deliberative arenas – is legitimate, and may remain so whilst the nonideal circumstances prevail. This, then, would provide a way of reconciling non-deliberative activism with the principles of deliberative democracy. In this scenario, though, activists must depart from deliberation with reluctance, and only in order to further the values underlying deliberation (Fung, 2003: 402-4). 

As for the argument that deliberative democracy is unrealistic because of the psychological limitations of the participants, two main responses are particularly important. In the first place, as indicated above, there has been an internal critique of rationalistic animal ethics from within the care ethic school, exponents of which argue that the animal rights movement is too rationalistic and ought to pay more attention to values such as caring, compassion and sentiment (Donovan, 2007). In other words, not all animal ethics is necessarily dependent merely on rationalistic arguments. The same, of course, applies to many other issues which have suffering and justice-claims at their core. More to the point, as we have seen, too, many deliberative theorists have accepted that deliberative communication should not give precedence to rationalistic and dispassionate speech over that which is emotional and passionate. 

Of course, whilst compassion and emotion are not necessarily incompatible with rationality, habitual behaviour is more difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with the demands of deliberative democracy. One might respond by pointing out that deliberative democracy, again as indicated above, is an aspiration. It assumes that participants, schooled in the superficiality of conventional aggregative democracy, may well struggle to cope with the greater demands of deliberation. Nevertheless, as Mill (1972: 347-8) pointed out in the context of political participation more broadly, those engaging in deliberation are likely to get better at it the more they do of it. If, on the other hand, the critique is saying that the non-rational basis of belief systems is  

immutable, a matter of capacity rather than skill (Rosenberg, 2014: 108), then the prospects for effective deliberation appear bleaker. However, the immutability claim is arguably much more difficult to sustain. 

Animal Rights Activism in a Genuinely Deliberative Political System 

Fung’s non-ideal model of deliberative activism is only valid, of course, whilst a genuine deliberative democracy does not exist. But what if a genuinely deliberative political system was possible? The fact that to count as a genuinely deliberative political system there would have be inclusivity – where holders of all views are given an equal say, where arguments couched in self-interest are discouraged, where respect and empathy for the views of others are encouraged – suggests that animal rights activists,as well as those from other social movements, would not be disadvantaged. 

In this scenario, of a genuine deliberative political system, would participation in it by social movement activists such as those concerned about animal rights become morally obligatory? Would there no longer be any justification for adversarial and confrontational activism? It should be noted that deliberative democracy remains a procedure (a theory of agency), and as such there can be no guarantee that it will produce the substantive outcomes desired by social movement, such as those advocating animal rights (although there is some evidence that it might move them closer to their goal – see below). What ought animal rights advocates to do then? Should they give up on employing additional, non-deliberative, tactics which might help them to move further towards their goal? 

Animal rights advocates, it should be said, are unlikely to accept the consensus, or at least the recognition and acceptance of difference, that deliberative forums aspire to because  

that does not include the meeting of their abolitionist goals. Indeed, this is likely to preclude them from agreeing to deliberate in the first place. In this sense, fundamentalism is not really compatible with deliberation. As Simon (1999: 50) points out in the context of another issue: ‘many minority students and academics regard the demand to deliberate over issues of racial justice, notably affirmative action, as offensive or oppressive. For them, merely to treat such questions as open to debate is a personal assault’. Insofar as contemporary politics is characterised by a clash of fundamentalisms, then, deliberation may be an unrealistic aspiration. Shapiro (1999: 30) articulates the problem astutely when he notes that asking a fundamentalist to participate in deliberative forums ‘would look as though she were being told that it is fine to be a fundamentalist so long as she abandons her fundamentalism’. As a result, the only fundamentalists who are likely to be amenable to deliberation are ‘fallibilist democrats’ which, for Shapiro (2005: 26) ‘is an empty class, destined to remain uninhabited’. 

There is no definitive answer to the question about what attitude to deliberation social movement activists, whether concerned about animal rights or anything else, can realistically, or ought to, adopt. On the one hand, it can be argued that pursuing non-deliberative tactics is justified for any social justice movement because of the moral urgency perceived to be involved (Hendriks, 2011: 5). On the other, to complain that deliberation will not bring about the desired objectives of animal rights activists ‘is to complain about democracy itself, and not about deliberation as a procedure’ (Miller, 2002: 215). Provided that all perspectives on an issue are raised and discussed – which deliberative democracy requires – an outcome which rejects some of them cannot be regarded as undemocratic. Clearly, the gap – between the abolitionist goals of the animal rights movement (the end of all uses of animals for food, entertainment, and scientific procedures) and present practice – is so wide that it can be asked whether the promise of deliberative democracy is something that animal rights advocates cannot afford to ignore. 

Attention should be drawn here to a feature common to a social movement activist’s position that is arguably never justified. This is a level of epistemic arrogance that advocates of deliberative democracy rightly, it seems to me, seek to challenge. A key characteristic of deliberative democracy is the insistence that participants are willing to listen to others, to try to empathise and understand their opponents point of view. The activist, by contrast, tends to think that ‘those who oppose him are either the power-hungry beneficiaries of the unjust status quo or the inattentive and unaware masses who do not “think seriously” about the injustice of the institutions that govern their lives and so unwittingly accept them’ (Talisse, 2005: 428). Given the on-going, and unresolved, academic debate about questions of justice in general, and animal rights in particular, a degree of ‘epistemic modesty’, enshrined in the practice of deliberative democracy (Talisse, 2005: 429-30), might be in order for animal rights activists. This is particularly the case when it is realised that there are those, on the other side of the debate, who are equally convinced that animal exploitation is not only morally legitimate but, particularly in the case of animal experimentation, morally obligatory. 

Is Deliberative Democracy Beneficial to Animals? 

Even if we reject the claim that deliberative democracy is incompatible with the tactics employed by the animal rights movement, this still does not mean that it is particularly advantageous for animal rights activists to commit themselves to participating in deliberative arenas. Ultimately, as I pointed out above, the relationship between democrat procedures and desired outcomes remains contingent, so there is no certainty that the deliberative democratic procedure is going to produce outcomes that are desirable for animal advocates. In any case, from an impartial standpoint, the case for deliberative democracy does not, of course, depend on how far it does so. However, some political theorists have claimed that a deliberative form  

of democracy is likely to produce more ecologically desirable outcomes than the conventional aggregative form of democracy (Dryzek, 1987, 1990; Eckersley, 2000; Goodin 2003; Smith, 2003), and it is worth speculating how far this assertion is valid in the case of debate and decision-making in the case of animals. 

The promise of deliberative democracy for animal advocates (as it might be for other social movement activists) might be considerable if it is the case that it can lead to a transformation of views in their favour. At present, animal advocates can make the claim – accurate or not – that, on at least some issues, public opinion is supportive of greater protection for animals than is presently allowed for by current legislation and regulations. Invoking deliberative democracy, however, allows us to go one step further. The claim here is not just that we should compare policy outcomes with an aggregation of individual preferences in opinion polls. Rather, we should be comparing the present legislative and administrative regimes governing the treatment of animals with genuinely informed public opinion mediated through deliberation. As Fishkin and Luskin, (2000: 19) put it: ‘In contrast to ordinary polls, showing public opinion as it is, these deliberative microcosms attempt to show public opinion as it would be if its members learned, thought, and talked more about the issues’. 

The case for regarding a deliberative form of democracy as conducive to environmental protection is based on a number of factors, and these can be reviewed to assess their efficacy for animal protection. It is argued, firstly, that deliberative democracy encourages participants to be open to the views of others, to listen to what they have to say and empathise with their point of view. This conclusion is embellished by the inclusive demands of deliberative democracy, whereby all positions in the (in this case animal ethics) debate have to be present and heard. One can see how the views of those who seek to protect animals (including those who seek to abolish the use of animals) would probably get a better  

hearing in an inclusive deliberative environment than in traditional campaigning, and this might lead to a shift in views, or at least an ‘economy of moral disagreement’ (Gutmann and Thompson, 1996: 3, 83-5). 

One can see, too, how the empathy facilitated by deliberation might be extended beyond humans to include other species. Goodin (2003; 2005) provides one model whereby deliberation ‘within’ (because he envisages an ‘internal reflective’ mode of deliberation occurring within the minds of individuals as an alternative to an ‘external collective’ mode) allows for the interests of the excluded and the mute (future generations, nature and animals) to be promoted by being encapsulated or incorporated into the interests of the participants (through ‘empathetic imagining’). The interests of nonhumans, for Goodin then, can be internalized and represented by humans who become sympathetic to them through this process of internal reflection. Goodin’s emphasis on the capacity of deliberative democracy to encourage empathy is linked to the supposed ‘moralizing effect’ (Niemeyer, 2004, p. 347) of deliberation. That is, genuine deliberation involves the advancement of arguments by citizens about what is right, and in the general or public interest, and not about what is in the self-interests of participants. One can contrast genuine deliberation here with the dominance of powerful vested interests in traditional interest group politics. Shifting the debate from interests to generalizable interests and values, it might be argued, is likely to benefit animals given that the human espousal of animal protection is an altruistic cause, not directly benefiting (at least economically) the human deliberators. 

However, even if the ability of deliberation to minimise or remove the influence of self-interest (a claim that is by no means clearly established) is assumed to be the case, the dichotomy suggested – between moralizing animal advocates and selfish advocates of animal exploitation – is too simplistic. For one thing, the consideration of non-human interests ‘might be at odds with generalizable human interests’ (Eckersley, 1995: 179). For example, whilst it  

is undoubtedly true that the use of animals in scientific research does produce enormous financial benefits for economic actors – pharmaceutical companies in particular – and therefore serves their partial interests, there is also a public health benefit which (providing that one accepts the empirical claim that using animals to develop and test drugs does actually work) arguably transcends the self-interest of those involved in the practice. 

It is clear, then, that, as Eckersley (1995: 179) asserts, there are doubts about the extent to which deliberative democracy can ‘secure the protection, or at least ensure the systematic consideration, of non-human interests that might be at odds with generalisable human interests’. Because of this, Eckersley advocates the constitutional protection of non-humans. An alternative which sticks with deliberative democracy is to dispense with an anthropocentric model of democracy by finding a way to represent the interests of animals, independently of those of humans, within deliberative forums. One device would be to utilise Goodin’s idea of ‘empathetic imagining’(discussed above), whereas another would be to institutionalise the representation of non-humans through the placement of guardians whose role would be to represent the interests of animals even when they clash with human interests (Eckersley, 1995: 179). 

Animals and the Epistemic Function of Deliberative Democracy 

The case for the efficacy of deliberative democracy is also based on the claim that the debate and reflection involved in deliberation has an epistemic function, eliciting greater understanding of an issue thereby reducing the negative influence of the media and vested interests (Cohen, 1986; Estlund, 1997). This is why the deliberative approach is seen as a prerequisite for the transformation of views which is claimed to be one of its chief strengths. Of course, in terms of the issue under review here, the assumption is that animal advocates 

are right about what they say and that extensive deliberation is bound to reveal this. One can see how this might work in cases where issues are largely dependent upon facts. It is true that the ‘cost’ of acquiring information on an issue is reduced within a deliberative framework (because it is provided as part of the process), and equally true that this information is provided without the distortions of the media and vested interests. Facts do play some part in the animal ethics debate. The claim that animal experimentation does produce significant human benefits, for instance, can be put to a rigorous test within a deliberative arena, and, in addition, it is plausible to claim that attitudes to factory farming can be influenced by information about exactly how animals are kept within intensive husbandry systems, and scientific evidence on the impact on them of confinement. 

There is evidence from case studies of actual deliberative exercises involving animal issues that the provision of factual information has had an impact on the participants. In one case (the WQ project2), for instance, the aim of the citizens’ juries set up as part of the exercise was to assess citizens’ response to the farm animal welfare protocols drawn up by animal welfare scientists. It was reported that some jurors were ‘quite shocked and surprised’ by the reality of intensive animal agriculture, and all of the members of the Italian jury, and the vast majority of the UK jurors, admitted they were not aware of the sheer extent of intensification. In particular, they were shocked about the stocking densities in broiler sheds, and the short life-spans of broiler chickens (Miele, Veissier, Evans and Botreau, 2011: 113). 

Although we do not know if there was a shift in opinion as a result of deliberation, because their views at the outset of deliberation were not measured, the jurors in general were fully supportive of strong animal welfare measures and they were not convinced that the protocols developed by animal welfare scientists went far enough. In particular, they were critical of the proposal that, when measuring the quality of animal welfare in any particular farm unit, very low scores in one area (such as housing) could be compensated for by high  

scores in other areas (such as nutrition). Moreover, contrary to the initial protocols, most jurors were also adamant that the classification ‘excellent welfare’ should only be used in relation to extensive systems with outdoor access for the animals (Miele, Veissier, Evans and Botreau, 2011: 114). 

In the case of those deliberative exercises involving the issue of xenotransplantation, too3, participants were generally hostile to the use of animal organs, preferring instead to recommend other public policy goals such as schemes to encourage organ donation and health promotion campaigns to reduce the demand for organs. There was a ‘consistent lack of support’ for xenotransplantation in the so-called Deliberative Mapping Project, and it was the worst performing option (out of nine) across all of the Citizens’ Panels (Eames, Burgess, Davies, Mayer, Staley, Stirling, Williamson, 2004: 6; 30-6). Similarly, Participatory Technology Assessment (PTA) exercises in the Netherlands and Canada recommended a moratorium on xenotransplantation, whereas a significant minority in the Swiss PTA did so too (the majority opting for regulation) (Griessler, 2011: 38). 

There is some evidence that opinion against xenotransplantation hardened when deliberators were exposed to factual information about the consequences for animal welfare, as well as the health risks. In the Canadian PTA, for instance, as the participants learnt more ‘they became less accepting of xenotransplantation’ (personal e-mail from Edna Einsiedel, 10 March 2014). This was confirmed in the Deliberative Mapping Project too where many held a negative view of xenotransplantation from the start but it also ‘suffered significant negative shifts in performance’ particularly after the joint workshop when members of the Citizens’ Panels were exposed to the views of the experts (Eames, Burgess, Davies, Mayer, Staley, Stirling, Williamson, 2004: 39).It was true, too, that in most cases animal welfare played an role in determining the hostility of deliberative forums to xenotransplantation. In the Swiss case, for instance: ‘A significant majority of the panel supported the statement that the 

breeding conditions of “source animals” would not at all meet requirements of species-appropriate animal husbandry’ (Griessler, 2011: 40). However, animal welfare was never the only, or the most important, issue in any jury. Rather, public health concerns (the risk of uncontrollable infection being prominent) tended to be of most concern, followed by concerns about the ethical implications of crossing the species barrier, and doubts about the feasibility of xenotransplantation). 

What should be made of this empirical evidence? In the first place, insofar as the claim about the impact, in terms of changing opinions, of full, and unmediated, provision of information is true – and there is some evidence for it in addition to the examples provided above (see, for example, Barabas, 2004; Button and Mattson, 1999; Elstub, 2014, p. 179; Fishkin, 2009: 26-37, 84; Goodin, 2008, pp. 38-63; Kuper, 1997; Luskin et. al., 2002; Petts, 2001: 220; Sunstein, 2008: 97) – it should be pointed out that this can be separated from the deliberation process itself.4 That is, one could endeavour to provide comprehensive and balanced information on an issue without requiring those making a decision to then deliberate about it. It is certainly the case that, in so far as mini-publics have resulted in preference change, it is difficult to prove that it has occurred as a result of actual deliberation as opposed to the provision of information (Elstub, 2014: 179). It is also the case that if it can be shown that a ‘correct’ assessment of comprehensive information is more likely to emerge from a panel of experts, then – if the epistemic function of deliberation is all we are concerned about – we would be duty bound to prefer this process over democratic deliberation (Freeman, 2000: 387; Lafont, 2006: 8-9). 

More significantly, the debate about the moral status of animals (and many other issues too) is not, of course, entirely, or even mainly, dependent upon facts. Facts are rarely, if ever, decisive in a normative debate where intractable moral conflicts, represented by incommensurable frames, are unlikely to find an easy resolution (Button and Mattson, 1999:  

622). Thus, for example, even if animal experimentation does produce significant benefits to humans – vital, life saving, benefits even – an animal rights advocate would still regard the use of animals as illegitimate, regarding the benefits as ill-gotten.5 There is some arrogance, then, involved in the claim that were people in possession of all the – empirical and normative – information then they are sure to be converted to an animal protection point of view let alone an animal rights cause, the latter involving a commitment to the abolition of animal exploitation and not just its reform. There is no evidence from the empirical cases studies mentioned above, for instance, that the provision of information and the deliberative process led to any transformation in the worldviews of the participants. No participant was converted to the animal rights cause as a result of deliberation and, similarly, the small minority of participants who declared a commitment to animal rights at the beginning were not persuaded to amend their position. 

Conclusion 

By considering deliberative democracy in the context of a particular social movement issue, this article has argued that deliberative democracy can be defended against the charges that it is inconsistent with the tactics employed by social movements such as the one that seeks to promote the rights of animals, and that it is unrealistic given the constraints of human psychology. Such a conclusion underestimates the rationalistic basis of animal rights activism and philosophy, misunderstands the aspirational character of deliberative theory, mistakenly attributes problems that are not restricted to deliberation but result from interest group politics in general, and ignores the educative potential of deliberation. It is quite another thing, however, to claim that participation in deliberative forums will inevitably lead to a more positive attitude to the protection of animals, let alone result in the acceptance of an  

animal rights agenda. There is some evidence that the provision of detailed information of the way animals are actually treated does have the capacity to shift opinions, but it is not clear how important the role of deliberation, as opposed to exposure to information, is responsible. 

Ultimately, deliberative democracy remains a procedure, whereas social movement agendas, such as that promoted by animal rights advocates, represent a substantive value. The relationship between democrat procedures and desired outcomes, therefore, remains contingent, so there is no certainty that even a deliberative democratic procedure is going to produce outcomes that are desirable for social movement advocates. However, such advocates have to, and presumably prefer to, participate in a democratic environment. Here, there is some evidence to suggest that a genuinely deliberative political system will be more beneficial to them than an aggregative version which magnifies the inequalities which disadvantage them. In the meantime, deliberative theory does not prohibit social movement activists, such as those concerned with promoting animal rights, from pursuing non-deliberative tactics.

Notes 

1. The literature on deliberative democracy is too extensive to cite in full. Early 

crucial texts were provided by Habermas, 1990,1996. The fact that there are so many edited collections on the subject is indicative of its resonance in political studies. The most notable are: Benhabib, 1996; Besson and Marti, 2006; Bohman, and Rehg, 1997; D’Entreves, 2002; Elster, 1998; Elstub and McLaverty, 2014; Fishkin and Laslett, 2008; Macedo, 1999; Saward, 2000. 

2. The Welfare Quality (WQ) project was an EU-funded exercise which sought to ascertain societal views in drawing up a protocol for assessing animal welfare on farms and at  

slaughter plants (Miele, Veissier, Evans and Botreau, 2011). This was achieved through the creation of almost 50 focus group discussions in a variety of EU member states, and citizens’ juries in Italy, the UK and Norway. The latter consisted of 10-12 people representing different sides of the debate (vegetarians, consumers on a budget, health conscious consumers, environmentally aware consumers, halal or kosher eaters, ‘mainstream’ consumers and so on) who met on a weekly basis for a number of sessions lasting for two hours. The sessions included one where experts presented three alternative ethical positions concerning human-animal relations; an animal rights perspective, an animal welfare perspective and a more instrumental view of human/animal relations. 

3. Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of cells, tissues and organs from animals to humans. An EU funded-study, between 2009-2012 examined the responses of a variety of countries to the emergence of the xenotransplantation issue. This project focused, in particular, on the role played by citizen participation hence the title of the project ‘Impact of Citizen Participation on Decision-Making in a Knowledge Intensive Policy Field’ or CIT-PART for short ((Lang and Griessler, 2013; Griessler, Biegelbauer, Hansen, and Loeber, 2012; Griessler, Biegelbauer and Hansen, 2011). In actual fact, the use of participatory and deliberative devices (so-called Participatory Technology Assessment or PTA) to consider xenotransplantation has been extremely limited. Of the 12 countries studied in the CIT-PART project, only three – Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands – used PTAs. In all three cases, the forums were set up at the behest of the respective health ministries. Six Citizen Forums of 15-25 demographically representative participants were set up in different Canadian regions (Einsiedel and Ross, 2002). In Switzerland, a PubliForum, consisting of 28 citizens selected to represent the Swiss population, met for eight days in 2000 (Griessler, 2011) whereas the PTA in the Netherlands was initiated in 1999  

The CIT-PART project examines actual real-world attempts to introduce deliberation into decision-making. This can be contrasted with deliberative exercises within civil society set up by academics. One such academic exercise concerned with the xenotransplantation issue, funded by the Wellcome Trust, consisted of a group of multi-disciplinary researchers – grouped under the so-called Deliberative Mapping Project – which undertook, in 2002, the UK’s first PTA in which xenotransplantation was assessed, along with alternatives, as a solution to the ‘kidney gap’. The project mapped the views of four Citizens’ Panels of 8-10 people, who met for six 90 minute sessions and a full day workshop together with a Specialists’ Panel 17 strong, who engaged with the Citizens’ Panels in a joint workshop (Eames, Burgess, Davies, Mayer, Staley, Stirling, Williamson, 2004: 13-15). 

4. One way, suggested by Goodin (2000; 2005; 2008: 51), of reconciling the impact of information provision with deliberative democracy is to employ the notion, mentioned earlier, that in these cases opinion change is a product of ‘internal-reflective’ processes of ‘democratic deliberation within’. 

5. Here it is interesting to note the debate the surrounds the notion of unnecessary suffering which is widely held to be the cornerstone of the animal welfare ethic, held to be the dominant frame within which the well-being of animals is considered. Facts alone cannot determine what ‘unnecessary’ suffering means because of the values that impinge upon competing interpretations. What is regarded as unnecessary will depend upon prior assumptions about the moral status of humans and animals. For example, some advocates of using animals in scientific research claim that even the remotest chance of scientific progress, particularly if it relates to medical progress, will justify inflicting, perhaps even severe, suffering on animals. For those who hold that the moral status of animals ought to be higher a much tougher definition of necessity must be provided before the infliction of suffering is justified.  

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DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: A CASE STUDY OF ANIMAL PROTECTION

A version of this article was published in the journal Politics and Animals, 4, 2018: 1-15.

Abstract

This article provides a case study of deliberative forums concerned with animal protection issues. It is argued that, whilst the deliberative exercises reviewed had relatively little impact on policy makers, there was some evidence of an attitude shift amongst the participants, and these tended to be in the direction of support for greater protection for animals. However, there are three important caveats to this conclusion. In the first place, the opinion shifts documented all came about as a result of the provision of information which, strictly speaking, can be separated from deliberation. Secondly, there was no evidence of a shift in values, and thirdly, and perhaps not surprisingly, shifts of opinion were less likely to occur when partisans were involved.   

Keywords

Deliberative democracy, animal protection, animal experimentation, public policy

The early days of abstract deliberative theory, has, since the latter years of the 1990s, given way to a ‘new practical emphasis on feasibility’ (Bohman, 1998, p. 400).  Attempts to design ideal deliberative forums have been accompanied by empirical studies of real world examples.1 One area of policy which has been subject to deliberative experimentation is the protection of animals. This article seeks to provide a comprehensive examination of some attempts to subject animal protection to deliberative decision-making, and will consider the outcomes in light of deliberative theory.

There are a number of reasons for focusing on a case study of animal protection and deliberative democracy. In general terms, firstly, this is a case study which has not been examined in any detail before.2 It therefore adds to the existing literature on deliberative democracy in practice. Secondly, the treatment of animals is an issue which would seem to be particularly appropriate for the deliberative method. This is because the way animals are treated tends to be an issue which elicits strong emotions, and, on occasions at least, would appear to involve intractable moral conflicts. One of the benefits of deliberation, it is claimed by its adherents, is that it can help to reduce such moral conflicts, and may even generate consensus. The case study can also throw light on the degree to which deliberation produces outcomes that are regarded as acceptable to all, or any, of the various stakeholders. Some green political theorists, for example, have claimed that a deliberative form of democracy is likely to produce more ecologically desirable outcomes than the conventional aggregative form of democracy (Dryzek, 1987, 1990; Eckersley, 2000; Goodin 2003; Smith, 2003). It is worth speculating how far this assertion is valid in the case of debate and decision-making in the case of animals.

The article will proceed in five main stages. First, the claims of deliberative theorists will be sketched. This will be followed, secondly, by a description of the deliberative arenas under review and a contextual analysis of the relationship between animal protection and deliberation. The substantive analysis of the case study will proceed in three steps. In the first place, the deliberative arenas will be distinguished in terms of their structure, membership, degree of inclusivity and deliberative intent. Secondly, it will be asked how transformative the deliberative arenas were. To what extent, in other words, did the prior opinions and values of the participants shift as a result of deliberation, and in what direction? Finally, it will be asked what impact on governmental decision-making the deliberative arenas have.  

It is argued in this article that, whilst the deliberative exercises reviewed had relatively little impact on policy makers, there was some evidence of attitude shifts, and these tended to be in the direction of support for greater protection for animals. However, three important caveats to this conclusion should be highlighted. In the first place, the opinion shifts that have been documented all came about as a result of the provision of information. Clearly – as a result of common fact-finding and interrogating arguments – deliberation has an educative function built into it. However, strickly speaking, the provision of information can be separated from deliberation. Secondly, there was no evidence of a shift in values as a result of deliberation, and thirdly, and perhaps not surprisingly, shifts of opinion were less likely to occur when partisans were involved in deliberation.    

Deliberative Democratic Theory3

Since the 1980s, democratic theory, and indeed arguably political theory itself, has taken a ‘deliberative turn’ (Bohman, 1998; Dryzek, 2000, p. 1). The academic scholarship on deliberative democratic theory is extensive and varied4 with differences over such key issues as the types of communication to be permitted in deliberative forums, the goal and purpose of deliberation, and the most appropriate site of deliberation. Deliberative participants, too, can be non-specialist members of the public or partisans, whether at an elite or at the grass roots level. Because of the volume of literature on deliberative democracy, there has been a degree of ‘concept stretching’ (Steiner, 2008) in the sense that deliberative democracy has taken on a variety of different forms. Despite this, it is still possible to elicit a number of key features shared amongst a vast majority of the exponents of deliberative democracy. 

Firstly, it is argued by deliberative theorists that democracy ought not to be defined in terms of the aggregation of pre-existing preferences in a vote at elections or in a referendum, nor in terms of a reflection of the balance of competing interests within civil society, as the pluralist model has it. Rather, for advocates of deliberative democracy, collective decisions are only legitimate if they are made after reasoned and detailed discussion. Deliberative democratic theorists do think political participation is valuable. But not all participation counts as deliberative. Rather, deliberative democrats are concerned with the quality of decision making and not merely the numbers involved.

The deliberative process, it is suggested, leads to better decisions in the sense that they are more informed, more effective, more just and therefore more legitimate. This is partly because genuinely deliberative arenas ought to be as inclusive as possible with all points of view and social characteristics represented, and an equal chance to participate offered to all of those who are present. In addition, deliberative theorists insist that self interest should be put aside, as should strategic behaviour designed to achieve as much as possible of a pre-existing agenda. Instead, mutual respect of, and empathy for, the arguments of others is encouraged. For some (for example, Estland, 1997), the epistemic function of deliberation, its capacity to reach optimum decisions, is paramount whereas for others (for example, Gaus, 1997) the intrinsic value of deliberation, its educative function and its closer approximation to political equality, is its most important attribute. From an epistemic point of view, the benefit of deliberation, it is said, is that it increases the pool of information available to the participants, and it permits and improves the detection of factual and logical mistakes in citizens’ reasoning about the world. 

Finally, ‘a central tenet of all deliberative theory’ (Chambers, 2003, p. 318) is that deliberation can change minds and transform opinions. The goal, at least in some – particularly early – accounts of deliberative democracy, is to arrive at decisions that everyone can accept, or at least not reasonably reject. It is seen, therefore, as a useful device to tackle issues which seem to involve intractable moral conflicts (Gutmann and Thompson,1996). That is not to say that unanimity is a real prospect in most cases, and value pluralism is accepted by most advocates of deliberative democracy as a normatively justified obstacle to consensus (Chambers, 2003, p. 321; Dryzek, 2010: chapter 5; Friberg-Fernos and Karlsson, 2014, p. 100; Gutmann and Thompson, 2004, pp. 26-9; Mackie, 2006, p. 290). Moreover, as Dryzek (2001, pp. 1-2) has pointed out, an equally positive result of deliberation would be where participants do not change their preferences but decide, after un-coerced reflection, to confirm their initial preferences. 

As a result, the aggregation of preferences may well still be necessary as an end-point of a deliberative exercise. However, even if there is still disagreement, collective decisions made after deliberation are regarded as more legitimate than the mere aggregation of preferences, not necessarily or not just because of the decisions made, but because of the deliberative procedure followed which engenders mutual understanding. It involves a sense, that is, that all the views of participants are taken seriously and that everyone tries to empathise with the views of others. For Gutmann and Thompson, (1996: pp. 83-5), for instance, deliberation should aim at an ‘economy of moral disagreement’ in the sense not just that the participant’s substantive positions have moved closer together, but that there is a greater acceptance of the terms of difference and disagreement.

Animal Protection and Deliberative Democracy

Assessing deliberative theory by examining empirical examples of deliberation in practice is, of course, fraught with difficulties because the former is an ideal, and the latter will always fall short. As a result, the aim of this article is not so much to test deliberative theory, but to assess the case studies presented in light of deliberative theory. In particular, exponents of deliberation insist that it has the potential to change opinions and generate consensus, and this claim is particularly interesting given that debates about how animals ought to be treated usually involve moral conflicts that are difficult to manage. If deliberation can work in eliminating, or narrowing, the differences between participants in this issue, then, it might be argued, it will work for any issue. 

There are some grounds for thinking that deliberative decision-making might produce outcomes that will benefit those who seek greater protection for animals. For one thing, since deliberation requires inclusivity, the views of those who seek greater protection for animals (including those who seek the complete abolition of their use for human benefit) are likely to get a better hearing in an inclusive deliberative environment than in traditional campaigning, and this might lead to a shift in views, or at least an ‘economy of moral disagreement’ amongst all of the participants (Gutmann and Thompson, 1996, p. 3, pp. 83-5). One can see, too, how the empathy facilitated by deliberation might be extended beyond humans to include other species. Goodin (2003; 2005) provides one model linking deliberation with empathy. He envisages individuals deliberating internally with themselves (an ‘internal reflective’ mode of deliberation occurring within the minds of individuals as an alternative to an ‘external collective’ mode) whereby the interests of the excluded and the mute (future generations, nature and animals) can be imagined and thereby promoted. 

An important point to make at this point is that the anthropocentric deliberating about animals that will be discussed in this chapter can be contrasted with a non-anthropocentric version where the interests of animals are directly incorporated into the democratic process. As noted by Garner (2016a) and Eckersley (1999), there are limitations to the former in the sense that animal interests are only considered when humans insist that they ought to be. This undoubtedly accounts for the fact that, as we shall see, animal issues in the case studies under review were constructed in terms of human issues (like public health) or in terms of a cost-benefit analysis where humans do not lose out significantly. It is beyond the scope of this article to consider how valid a ‘species-neutral’ deliberative model is, and, indeed, what it would look like (see Donaldson and Kymlicka, 2011 and Garner, 2016a on this).

A further factor supporting the claim that deliberation is likely to produce outcomes supportive of the greater protection of animals is the supposed ‘moralizing effect’ (Niemeyer, 2004, p. 347) of deliberation. That is, genuine deliberation involves the advancement of arguments by citizens about what is right, and in the general or public interest, and not about what is in the self-interests of participants. Shifting the debate from interests to generalizable interests and values, it might be argued, is likely to benefit animals given that the human espousal of animal protection is an altruistic cause, not directly benefiting (at least economically) the human deliberators.5

To test the claims identified above, this article examines a number of actual examples of deliberation involving animal protection issues. The first four involved the classic deliberative instrument, as explained below, of the citizen jury. Two of these involved the issue of xenotransplatation.6 One of them concerned the responses of a variety of governments to the emergence of the xenotransplantation issue, where one possibility was the creation of deliberative mechanisms to gauge public attitudes to the issue. The evidence here is provided by the outputs deriving from an EU funded study, conducted between 2009-2012. The project focused, in particular, on the role played by citizen participation hence the title of the project ‘Impact of Citizen Participation on Decision-Making in a Knowledge Intensive Policy Field’ or CIT-PART for short (Lang and Griessler, 2013; Griessler, et. al., 2012; Griessler, et. al., 2011).

The case for such participatory exercises has gained strength in science and technology policy circles since the 1990s as a result of a number of high profile controversies (such as nuclear power, BSE, and human stem cell research) where the treatment of animals was only a small part (Weale, 2001). In actual fact, the use of participatory and deliberative devices (so-called Participatory Technology Assessment or PTA) in consideration of xenotransplantation has been extremely limited. Of the 12 countries studied in the CIT-PART project, only three – Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands – used PTAs. 

The second deliberative exercise concerned with xenotransplantation is a 2002 project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, conducted by a group of multi-disciplinary researchers – grouped under the so-called Deliberative Mapping Project (DMP)– in which xenotransplantation was assessed, along with alternatives, as a solution to the ‘kidney gap’ (Eames, et. al, 2004). Although the UK government had no role in creating it, this deliberative exercise was the UK’s first PTA. 

The third example of deliberation to be examined is the so-called Welfare Quality (WQ) project. This was an EU-funded exercise which sought to ascertain societal views in drawing up a protocol for assessing animal welfare on farms and at slaughter plants (Miele, et. al., 2011). The fourth is the deliberative exercise conducted in 2013 that came about as a result of Ipsos MORI (a European polling organisation) being commissioned by the lobbying group Understanding Animal Research (UAR), on behalf of the Medical Research Council and the British Pharmacological Society, to conduct a public dialogue on openness in animal research ‘to inform the content going into the draft of the Concordat document’ on the subject which UAR were planning to publish (Ipsos MORI, 2013, p. 10). The final deliberative forum on animal protection to be considered in this article is, for reasons that will become clear, different from the four mentioned so far. This is the so-called Boyd Group (BG) which is an informal grouping of stakeholders on both sides of the debate about animal experimentation formed in Britain in the early 1990s.7

A Typology of Deliberation

The first task in this examination of animal protection deliberative decision-making is to provide a typology of the deliberative arenas in terms of their structure, membership, degree of inclusivity and deliberative intent. The first factor to take into account is the circumstances surrounding their creation. Here, one can make an initial distinction between those created as a result of a state initiative and those emerging from civil society. In the former category are the PTAs on xenotransplantation, and the WQ exercise. In the case of all three of the PTAs, the deliberative forums were set up at the behest of the respective health ministries of the countries (Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands), and the WQ was an EU initiative to help gauge public attitudes to the treatment of farm animals. 

            The deliberative arenas created by state initiatives are particularly interesting because they examine actual real-world attempts to introduce deliberation into decision-making. By contrast, the other three involved the creation of deliberative forums within civil society. Here, one can make a distinction between the DMP, which was instigated by academics, and the two others which were the initiative of stakeholders within civil society. In the case of the Ipsos MORI project, the prime mover was, as we saw, UAR, a body designed to promote the use of animals in scientific research and protect the interests of those doing such work. The BG, by contrast, is a forum born out of the adversarial climate of animal experimentation politics in Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Increasingly disillusioned by this climate, some leading figures on both sides of the debate (most notably Les Ward – at that time Chief Executive of Advocates for Animals, an anti-vivisection organisation – and Colin Blakemore – at that time Waynflete Professor of Physiology at the University of Oxford) – decided that a more meaningful dialogue on the issue was required. Conversations between Ward and Blakemore led to the two agreeing to help to organise and meet in a formal body which became known as the BG after its chairman Kenneth Boyd, subsequently Professor of Medical Ethics at Edinburgh University. 

The second element of the typology is the structure and membership of the deliberative arenas once created. The first point to note is that all but one of the deliberative forums discussed are ‘minipublics’, utilising the citizens’ jury model of deliberation (Smith and Wales, 2000) which involves the choosing of a representative sample of people invited to discuss, in small groups, a particularly contentious issue of public policy. Crucial to the exercise is ensuring that participants are not experts in the issue under discussion, that they are not stakeholders in the debate, and that they are, in some way, representative of wider society. These ‘amateur’ participants are then provided with briefing information beforehand and are exposed to experts during the deliberative period. The juries are then invited to reach agreement, if possible, and come up with recommendations.

All three PTAs in the CIT-PART study adopted the citizens’ jury model. Six Citizen Forums of 15-25 demographically representative participants were set up in 6 different Canadian regions (Einsiedel and Ross, 2002). In Switzerland, a PubliForum, consisting of 28 citizens selected to represent the Swiss population, met for eight days in 2000 (Griessler, 2011) whereas the PTA in the Netherlands was initiated by policy makers in 1999 as part of a wider public debate (Versteeg and Loeber, 2011). Likewise, the WQ project created almost 50 focus group discussions in a variety of EU member states, and citizens’ juries, containing 10-12 citizens, in Italy, the UK and Norway who met on a weekly basis for a number of sessions lasting for two hours. The sessions included one where experts presented three alternative ethical positions concerning human-animal relations; an animal rights perspective, an animal welfare perspective and a more instrumental view of human/animal relations (Miele et. al., 2011). The DMP, likewise, mapped the views of four Citizens’ Panels of 8-10 people, who met for six 90 minute sessions and a full day workshop together with a Specialists’ Panel 17 strong, who engaged with the Citizens’ Panels in a joint workshop (Eames, et. al., 2004, pp. 13-15). 

The WQ citizens’ juries were different from the others mentioned above in the sense that the organisers aimed not so much for representativeness in terms of class, gender and age, but in terms of ensuring that all sides of the farm animal welfare debate were represented. Thus, the juries consisted of 10-12 people representing different sides of the debate (vegetarians, consumers on a budget, health conscious consumers, environmentally aware consumers, halal or kosher eaters, ‘mainstream’ consumers and so on). (Miele, et. al., 2011, p. 108). Finally, Ipsos MORI set up 6 events in three locations (in Manchester, London and Cardiff) attended by 15-18 participants organised into workshops. Those actively involved in animal rights and animal research were ‘screened out’ at the recruitment stage (Ipsos MORI, 2013, p. 12).

            The BG, by contrast, is a group-based, rather than citizen-based, deliberative forum. Most of its participants – whether or not they have acted as autonomous individuals in the course of deliberation – are representatives of particular groups organised to take a particular position in the debate. Membership is in fact open to both individuals and organisations, although in practice those representing organisations have constituted the vast majority. It therefore consists of experts, from the fields of academic science, animal protection and industry lobbying and ethics. Moreover, most of the participants are partisans, with strong leanings towards one side of the debate or the other. The BG has debated a range of issues relating to animal experimentation, and has produced a number of reports documenting the discussions, and the decisions reached, in some of these debates (Boyd Group, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2002a; Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004). In addition, the BG has also regularly submitted evidence to public consultations. (Boyd Group, 2001, 2002b, 2010).

             There are significant doubts about the BG’s degree of inclusivity. It cannot lay claim to be representative of wider society in a descriptive sense. That was not its aim. What it might be able to claim, however, is that, like the WQ structure noted above, it has been representative of the animal experimentation issue, with all sides of the debate given a significant hearing. Even if we adopt this definition, though, the BG has only been partly inclusive. This is because the major anti-vivisectionist groups – the National Antivivisection Society (NAVS) and the BUAV – both refused to participate (organisationally at least) from the start, as did other animal rights groups such as Animal Aid and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Having said that, the abolitionist anti-vivisectionist position was represented continually, until his decision to leave in 2006, by Les Ward, Director of Advocates for Animals as well as by others sympathetic to the anti-vivisection position, such as academics and those employed by anti-vivisectionist groups in an individual capacity (interview with Jane Smith, 10 November 2014; e-mail communication with Kenneth Boyd, 10 November 2014). The BG, therefore, has had a reasonably inclusive membership, although the anti-vivisectionist stance always constituted a relatively small minority (interview with Jane Smith 21 January, 2014). 

The final component centres on the degree of deliberative intent present in the arenas under discussion. Here, it should be pointed out that, at the very least, most of the deliberative arenas considered here were as, or more, concerned with eliciting the views of participants (and, by default, those of wider society) rather than with measuring how far views changed as a result of deliberation. This, for instance, was the motive behind the actions of the three governments who set up PTAs on the issue of xenotransplantation. Likewise, UAR were concerned to gauge public attitudes to openness in animal experimentation, and the WQ project was explicitly designed to ascertain societal views to aid animal welfare scientists in drawing up a protocol for assessing animal welfare on farms and at slaughter plants, 

Having said that, all of the deliberative arenas identified are structured so as to maximise, if deliberative theory is right, the possibility of the narrowing or elimination of differences between the participants. In the case of the BG, the fact that membership has been made up primarily of organisations is not promising from a deliberative perspective because it raises the prospect of representatives acting as delegates of these organisations, putting forward the organisation’s position and reporting back the outcome. Insofar as this was the case it would minimise the opportunities for members to act autonomously and be prepared to empathise with others around the table, and maybe change their views accordingly. Despite the fact that organisations joined as members of the BG, however, the operational practice of meetings was consistent with deliberative theory. That is, in order to encourage dialogue and genuine deliberation, the BG operates under Chatham House rules where the content of what was discussed can be talked about in public but not who said what (interview with Jane Smith, 10 November 2014). 

The Transformative Potential of Deliberative Democracy

In terms of the transformative potential of deliberation, there is some evidence from the forums under review in this article that opinions did change as a result of the deliberative process, and that, more often than not, this opinion change was in the direction of greater protection for animals. 

This was most notable in the case of participants in the WQ project. The aim of the citizens’ juries was to assess citizens’ response to the WQ assessment protocols drawn up by animal welfare scientists. It was reported that some jurors were ‘quite shocked and surprised’ by the reality of intensive animal agriculture, and all of the Italian jurors, and the vast majority of the UK and Norwegian jurors, admitted they were not aware of the sheer extent of intensification. In particular, they were shocked about the stocking densities in broiler sheds, the short life-spans of broiler chickens, and the degree of lameness in milking cows (Miele, et. al, 2011, p. 113; Miele, et. al., 2010, p. 37, 151, 163). Likewise, many jurors ‘expressed surprise at how infrequently farms are inspected for animal welfare conditions’ (Miele et. al., 2010, p. 18). Similarly, when the Norwegian jury was shown video clips of modern farming practices such as the farrowing crate, they ‘reacted very strongly and emotionally…one juror even covering her eyes and refusing to look’ (Miele, 2010, p. 101). The jurors in general were fully supportive of strong animal welfare measures and they were not convinced that the protocols developed by animal welfare scientists went far enough. 

Two particular concerns were expressed by the jurors. Firstly they were critical of the proposal that, when measuring the quality of animal welfare in any particular farm unit, very low scores in one area could be compensated for by high scores in other areas. (Miele, et. al., 2011, p. 114). The impetus behind this view was the surprise and shock, indicated above, at the way farm animals were treated (Miele, et. al., 2010, p. 39). Participants were generally hostile, secondly, to the guiding principle of the protocol, drawn up by animal welfare scientists, not to make a priori judgements when assessing the welfare standards of any particular farm. The jurors, by contrast, showed a dislike for intensification, even when it could be shown that the measurable welfare of the animals – such as productivity and health – in intensive units was positive. Most jurors were adamant that the classification ‘excellent welfare’ should only be used in relation to extensive systems with outdoor access. This hostility to intensification was clearly there at the beginning. When the jurors were given, as an initial exercise, the task of listing the criteria of a ‘good life’ for farm animals, many emphasised the importance of space, and the ability to perform natural behaviour (Miele, et. al., 2010, pp. 11-14, 78, 149). This position intensified as the participants learnt more about the condition of farm animals. One UK juror symbolised this when, asked the same question at the end of the jury meetings, wrote that the only option for a farm animal wanting to experience a good life was ‘to escape’ (Miele, et. al., 2010, p. 52). 

In the xenotransplantation cases, we do not know for sure if the views of the participants in deliberative forums changed over time. What we do know is that participants were generally hostile to the use of animal organs, preferring instead to recommend other public policy goals such as schemes to encourage organ donation and health promotion campaigns to reduce the demand for organs. There was a ‘consistent lack of support’ for xenotransplantation in the DMP, and it was the worst performing option (out of nine) across all of the Citizens’ Panels (Eames, et. al. 2004, p. 6; 30-6). Similarly, the PTAs in the Netherlands and Canada recommended a moratorium on xenotransplantation, whereas a significant minority in the Swiss PTA did so too (the majority opting for regulation) (Griessler, 2011, p. 38).

There is some evidence that opinion against xenotransplantation hardened when deliberators were exposed to factual information about the consequences for animal welfare, as well as the health risks. In the Canadian PTA, for instance, as the participants learnt more ‘they became less accepting of xenotransplantation’ (personal e-mail from Edna Einsiedel, 10 March 2014). This was confirmed in the DMP too where many held a negative view of xenotransplantation from the start but opinions hardened particularly after the joint workshop when members of the Citizens’ Panels were exposed to the views of the experts (Eames, et. al., 2004, p. 39). It was true, too, that in most cases animal welfare played an role in determining the hostility of deliberative forums to xenotransplantation. In the Swiss case, for instance: ‘A significant majority of the panel supported the statement that the breeding conditions of “source animals” would not at all meet requirements of species-appropriate animal husbandry’ (Griessler, 2011, p. 40). However, animal welfare was never the only, or the most important, issue in any jury. Rather, public health concerns (the risk of uncontrollable infection being prominent) tended to be of most concern, followed by concerns about the ethical implications of crossing the species barrier, and doubts about the feasibility of xenotransplantation).

In the Ipsos MORI focus groups, similarly, it is noticeable how opinions on the scrutiny that animal researchers should be exposed to hardened as a result of evidence, provided by the campaigning group British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), of the mistreatment of animals. A number of significant findings emanated from the deliberative exercise. Firstly, it was apparent that participants lacked basic knowledge about animal research and its regulation. For instance, there was a misconception that most animal research is done for cosmetics or on higher non-human primates (Ipsos MORI, 2013, p. 4). In addition, some concern was expressed by participants when they found out that most animals are killed after the procedures are carried out. The report indicates that ‘despite being told that the (killing) was done humanely many were still adamant that it was a very serious harm to shorten an animals’ life unnecessarily’ (2013, p. 19). Similarly, participants were ‘surprised and disappointed’ to learn that the number of inspectors is so low (2013, p. 40).

The pre-deliberative position of most participants was that the sector ought to subject itself to external scrutiny. After hearing factual information and the case for and against animal research in event 1, the participants across all of the workshops became more favourably inclined towards animal research (Ipsos MORI, 2013, p. 24). However, when presented, in event 2, with undercover footage of misdemeanours in laboratories provided by BUAV, ‘participants became very angry about malpractice’ (2013, p. 4) and ‘many reverted to an oppositional stance in relation to animal research’ (2013, p. 25). As a result, participants were much more willing to consider more rigorous scrutiny including insisting that license applications be subject to external scrutiny, and even that CCTV be placed in labs to be screened in public, an idea that gained ‘much support’ (2013, p. 6, 42-4).

            In the case of the BG, as one might expect given its partisan character, there is little evidence that deliberation has had a genuinely transformative effect on the views of the participants. The published reports of the BG reveal very little evidence of a significant shift in views on the substantive issues. This is confirmed by evidence from the participants. The philosopher Stephen Clark – a regular participant in BG discussions – comments, for instance, that ‘I’m not sure that anyone ever moved from their root convictions’ (e-mail communication 26 February 2014). Certainly, any attempts (by Les Ward in particular) to go beyond relatively minor tweaks to the way animals are treated in laboratories to consider the central question of the value of using animals in medical research, and the identification of reduction targets, was met with a return to the trenches. In 2002, Ward had commented, ominously, that there were still people in the BG ‘who are holding entrenched positions’ (House of Lords, 2002: q. 1384), and it was the ‘stalemate’ resulting that provoked, at least in part, Ward’s decision to leave the BG in 2006 (interview with Les Ward, 19 February 2014). 

The BG does, however, provide a useful guide to how moral conflicts can be managed in a deliberative setting. A large degree of substantive consensus was reached on issues such as the testing of household products and cosmetics, the use of non-human primates, and the role of local ethical review processes. Blakemore regarded such progress as ‘quite remarkable’ (House of Lords, 2002: 965) which, whilst something of an exaggeration, does perhaps reflect how far apart the members were when they first met around the deliberative table. 

Perhaps more important, there is also some, anecdotal, evidence of a shift in how the participants regarded each other personally and the positions in the debate they represented. Blakemore hinted at the positive effects of deliberation when he remarked to a House of Lords Select Committee that: ‘It may not produce always complete agreement but it is very, very difficult to continue to hate someone…if you have sat for two or three hours opposite them around a table, drinking a cup of tea, thrashing out the basis of the differences of opinion’ (House of Lords, 2002: 965). As part of this thawing of relations between two sides previously at loggerheads, was the acceptance, on both sides, that their opponent’s values were worthy of discussion, and should not be just dismissed out of hand. This is an example of what Dryzek and Niemeyer (2006) have described as the forging of a meta-consensus. That is, whilst there might not be evidence of a normative consensus, where there is ‘agreement on the values that should predominate’, there was a recognition of the legitimacy of disputed values, an acceptance of the credibility of disputed beliefs, and those promoting them, and agreement on the character of disputed policy choices.

A number of methods have been used by the BG in order to manage moral conflict. The first of relates to the choice of topics for discussion which have been limited to those, more peripheral, areas of the issue – such as aspects of the regulatory system and the use of animals for non-therapeutic purposes – where consensus could be maximised. For example, BG members, by consensus, opposed the use of animals for the testing of cosmetics and household products (Boyd Group, 1998). Where consensus has proved impossible, the BG has adopted the strategy of explicitly referring to the disagreements, either recording the dissent of a minority or a more equal division of opinion – as in the decision on genetic engineering, where some members of the BG thought that the genetic engineering of animals ought to be abandoned altogether, others that it should be better regulated (Boyd Group, Group, 1999).

Yet another device utilized to manage moral conflict, and maximise inclusion, within the BG has been the use of sub-groups. For example, in 2004, a debate – co-organised by the RSPCA – on the categories used by the Home Office to classify the severity of scientific procedures, was conducted within three separate round-table discussions consisting of veterinary surgeons and animal care and welfare officers, license holders under the 1986 legislation and representatives from animal protection organisations including the anti-vivisection organisations together with animal welfare groups (Boyd Group and the RSPCA, 2004, p. 1). The discussions of the three separate groups were then fed into the plenary meeting of the Boyd Group. Utilising sub-groups allowed for the participation of anti-vivisection organisations unwilling to debate directly with industry and scientific representatives.

Three Caveats

It might appear that the account so far confirms, at least partly, the transformative potential of deliberative democracy, although, as was pointed out earlier, authentic deliberation is not dependent upon the transformation of preferences, but merely un-coerced reflection. In all of the deliberative forums reviewed, there was some evidence that opinions changed during the deliberative process. However, three important caveats to this conclusion should be highlighted. In the first place, the opinion shifts that have been documented all came about as a result of the provision of information. As we saw, some deliberative theorists claim that deliberation has an important epistemic function, and the deliberative forums concerned with animal protection issues documented in this article seem to support this claim. Moreover, there is plenty of additional evidence from other deliberative case studies of the impact, in terms of changing opinions, of the full, and unmediated, provision of information (see, for example, Barabas, 2004; Button and Mattson, 1999; Elstub, 2014, p. 179; Fishkin, 2009, pp. 26-37, 84; Goodin, 2008, pp. 38-63; Kuper, 1997; Luskin et. al., 2002; Petts, 2001, p. 220; Sunstein, 2008, p. 97). 

It should be pointed out, though, that this epistemic function can be separated from the deliberation process itself.That is, one could endeavour to provide comprehensive and balanced information on an issue without requiring those making a decision to then deliberate about it. It is certainly the case that, in so far as minipublics have resulted in preference change, it is difficult to prove that, as Elstub (2014, p. 179) points out, it has occurred as a result of actual deliberation as opposed to the provision of information. It is also the case that if it can be shown that a ‘correct’ assessment of comprehensive information is more likely to emerge from a panel of experts, then – if the epistemic function of deliberation is all we are concerned about – we would be duty bound to prefer this process over democratic deliberation (Freeman, 2000, p. 387; Lafont, 2006, pp. 8-9). 

The second caveat is that, whilst the provision of information did lead to opinion change in the deliberative forums discussed in this article, participants not already committed to an animal rights position (the vast majority in all forums) were not converted to such a position. In other words, there was no paradigm shift in values. The central element of the value system held by the vast majority of the participants was that it is legitimate morally for humans to use animals, even if that means animals suffer in the process, provided that the benefit to humans is regarded as significant enough. An illustrative example is the use of animals for experimental purposes. It is quite legitimate to regard the use of an animal in the laboratory as unacceptable morally on the grounds that the suffering that it is intended to inflict outweighs the predicted benefit, or because it is duplicating an experiment already done. A genuine value shift, on the other hand, requires a belief that it is illegitimate morally to use animals whatever the level of suffering inflicted, and whatever the benefit that might accrue.

Insofar as opinions changed in favour of greater protection for animals in our case studies, then, it was largely because factual information shifted the cost-benefit analysis in favour of animal protection. Thus, xenotransplantation was ruled out partly because it was felt that the suffering inflicted on animals was unacceptable, and partly because of the perceived dangers to human health. It was not because deliberative participants came to think that animals had a right not to be used irrespective of the benefits to humans that might accrue. No such transformation was evident either in the BG where there was never any question that an anti-vivisection position would prevail in any of the issues discussed just as there was no conversion in the Ipsos MORI focus groups to the position that animals should not be used as experimental subjects. Similarly, opposition to factory farming in the WQ project occurred because the participants, having possession of the facts about the animal suffering involved, came to the conclusion that this suffering outweighed the human benefits to be gained (for example, the cheap and plentiful supply of meat) from the practice. There was never any question of the deliberators being converted to the view that animals should not be used as sources of food. Those small numbers of jurors who were sympathetic to an animal rights position failed to persuade others, and were generally treated with indifference, or even hostility, by the others (Miele, et. al., 2010, pp. 76-7, 122).

One response to the conclusion that deliberation did not produce a value shift in the cases reviewed is to say that the deliberative arenas were not inclusive enough, and had they been so (had, that is, there been greater inclusion of those holding an alternative animal rights paradigm) then a value shift might have occurred. There is an element of truth in this response. Those holding an alternative animal rights paradigm did participate. However, these individuals represented a small minority of the participants, and there was an element of tokenism about their role. In the case of the Boyd Group, as we saw, the absence of an animal rights stance was self-inflicted since the major anti-vivisection organisations refused to participate. In the case of the WQ citizens’ juries, a maximum of two of the 12 participants in each one showed any sympathy for an animal rights position.

One the other hand, the organisers of the deliberative forums cannot be accused of bias here. There was a conscious attempt to include all positions in the debate, and given that an animal rights perspective represents a tiny proportion of the public, it was not unreasonable to so limit its visibility within the deliberative forums. Moreover, in a number of cases, such as the WQ forums, an explicitly animal rights position was provided to participants by invited experts. Finally, as we saw, the BG was always open to anti-vivisectionists, and some did attend, often in an individual capacity.

One of the reasons that most anti-vivisectionists did not participate in the BG – and, indeed, one of the reasons that animal rights advocates would find it difficult to participate in deliberate forums in general – is the emphasis placed by deliberative democracy on empathy and consensus building. Whether or not they are right to be so concerned about sacrificing their moral purity by engaging with deliberation is the subject matter of a very different article (on this see Garner, 2016). In this context, though, it is worthwhile mentioning the objection to deliberative democracy that, by constraining debate and trying so hard to reach consensus and accommodation, it fails to accurately reflect the fact that political debates often do involve competing world views where the aim of each side is to challenge each other and, in so doing, undermine ‘the whole life-situation’ of the other (Johnson, 1998, pp. 166-7).

The final caveat to the transformative claim of the deliberative forums under review in this article is that it is clear that where the participants are partisans, they are less likely to change their opinions. This is most apparent, as we saw, in the case of the BG. This concurs with the evidence that the transformation of attitudes, a crucial component of deliberative theory, is – as common sense would suggest – more likely to occur amongst those with no previously strong views on an issue (Hendriks et. al, 2007). Obviously, such uncommitted deliberators are more likely to elicit the quality of open-mindedness, a prerequisite of opinion change. It is for this reason that those organising minipublics deliberately choose non-partisans as participants. It may be, too, that, in the case of some participants, what we are witnessing is not so much the transformation of attitudes but the formation of attitudes (facilitated by the provision of information and by discussion), which had previously been ‘ill-formed and murky’ (Sunstein, 2005, p. 194). Such ‘ill-formed’ preferences are much less likely in a forum of stakeholders, such as the BG. In terms of the minipublics under review there is likely to have been a mixed picture. Some of the invited participants were recruited precisely because they held a considered view on the issue under discussion (animal rights activists in particular) whereas others appeared not to have a clearly worked out position.

So, what the BG – participants in which have been mostly knowledgeable partisans – has not done, unsurprisingly, is to produce consensus on the fundamental issue of the use of animals in scientific procedures. Indeed, to be fair, this task is a tall order in such a partisan body, and was never the intention in any case. Having said that, a study of decision-making in the BG, as we saw, only partly confirms this pessimistic conclusion, since participation has had the effect of promoting a meta-consensus, softening some views and attitudes, as well as facilitating some compromises. As such, it provides a useful guide to the methods available to those wishing to manage moral conflict.

The Degree and Character of Impact

The third question relates to the degree of impact the deliberative forums discussed in this article have had.8 This is an important question not least because there has been a great deal of criticism of the emphasis that deliberative democratic theory places upon the informal public sphere rather than decision-making bodies in the formal public sphere (Squires, 2002). It is true that deliberative exercises initiated by state institutions remain few and far between. As we have seen, for instance, although the deliberative arenas set up to examine the xenotransplantation issue – studied in the CIT-PART project – were part of the formal state decision-making arena, the bulk of the countries studied in the CIT-PART project did not involve citizens in any formal way before making a decision, relying instead on expert Technology Assessment. Moreover, it is certainly the case that it is rare for minipublics to impact upon public policy, at least in a direct sense (Abels, 2007; Elstub, 2014, p. 181; Goodin and Dryzek, 2006). However, the above critique of deliberative democracy probably underestimates the importance of indirect impact on public policy that deliberation within civil society can have, in raising awareness of an issue and helping to shape attitudes. 

            It is no surprise, of course, to conclude that deliberative minipublics set up by non-governmental bodies have little impact on public policy.  This is certainly the case with the deliberative forums reviewed in this article. The one possible exception here is the policy impact of the BG. Although existing in the informal public sphere, one might expect the BG to have a considerable amount of impact on public policy given the status and expertise of those who have participated in it. Indeed, the Home Office encouraged the BG’s work and sent an observer to its meetings (Boyd, 1999, p. 44). 

It is true that much of what the BG recommended (for example, the banning of the testing of cosmetic ingredients, and the ban on the use of the Great Apes) did find its way into the British Government’s programme. Likewise, it was claimed that the BG report on the ERP ‘helped to persuade the Home Office that an approved local ethical review process in every research establishment should be mandatory’ (Boyd, 1999, p. 44).Similarly, it is claimed that the Home Office ‘took notice of the consensus’ that emerged in the debate within the BG in 2010 about the need to maintain the ERP, and that ‘some of the momentum’ for the Government’s decision to maintain an ERP – in the form of revamped Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies (AWERB) – came from the BG’s work (interview with Jane Smith 21 January, 2014). 

Of course, determining the causes of public policy outputs is notoriously difficult. It is  

difficult to know, for instance, whether the Home Office was already moving in the direction recommended by BG reports. What can be said is that, given that most of these recommendations had strong public backing, it is not surprising that policy makers acted as they did, and would be probably have acted in the same way if the BG had never existed.

Even those deliberative forums set up by governmental organisations may have little policy impact. This is because, as Dryzek et. al. (2009, p. 284) point out, governments set up deliberative exercises for a variety of instrumental reasons from buying time in order to postpone a decision on an issue, as a device to freeze out partisans  or in order to legitimize a decision where the issue is divisive. The introduction of deliberative exercises by policy makers, then, is no guarantee that the recommendations of deliberative forums will have an impact on public policy. One of the key findings of the CIT-PART project, for instance, is that there was not a clear link between the recommendations of the xenotransplantation minipublics and government policy (Griessler, et. al., 2012, pp. 50-4). It is true that in the Netherlands a moratorium on xenotransplantation was introduced so there was congruency between government policy and the recommendations of the Dutch PTA. However, the results of the PTA exercise was only known after the policy was adopted, and so no simple causal claim can be made. In Switzerland, likewise, government policy – adopting a permissive approach where xenotrasplantation research would be permitted provided it was rigorously regulated – was revealed a few days before the final plenary session of the PTA recommended, by a majority, the same stance.  In Canada, there is no evidence of impact because the government made no definitive statement about the status of xenotransplantation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The disjuncture, between the recommendations of citizens’ juries and public policy outcomes, is perhaps most stark in the WQ project study. Here, the citizens’ jury recommendation, that farms with poor animal welfare scores in some areas should not be deemed acceptable if high scores were achieved in other areas, was not included as part of the final WQ protocol presented to the European Commission on the grounds that ‘such a rule would result in half of all European farms being considered “unacceptable”’! (Miele, et. al., 2011: 115). Nevertheless, the gap between science and the public revealed by the WQ exercise was addressed to some extent in the final protocol. For example, it was accepted, firstly, that some systems (such as the battery cage for laying hens) ought to be prohibited – and not assessed – because they are known to pose a high risk to animal welfare; secondly, that positive emotions, and not just suffering, ought to be measured; and finally, that there ought to be stricter rules for awarding farms a high welfare ranking (Miele, et. al., 2011, p.  116).

Conclusion

The case study of deliberation and animal protection examined in this article lends support to the claim that deliberation can led to changes in the positions of participants, that consensus is more likely to occur, and that these changes are more often than not in the direction of support for greater protection for animals. However, these changes occurred largely as a result of the provision of information rather than deliberation as such. Moreover, participants did not elicit a paradigm shift in values towards an alternative ethical position challenging the use of animals. That is, most participants continued to accept that it is morally permissible to use animals provided that they are not made to suffer unnecessarily. Any shifts in position occurred as a result of new knowledge that adjusted the cost-benefit analysis necessitated by the unnecessary suffering principle.  

Finally, the deliberative forums examined in this article also lends support to the judgement that a shift in attitudes is more likely to take place when the participants are not partisans. Thus, as might be suspected, there is little evidence to suggest that members of the BG, who were – unlike the other forums considered – partisans, have changed their view on the utility of animal experimentation as a result of deliberation. This conclusion adds support to Parkinson’s ‘somewhat pessimistic’ conclusion that ‘one can only have good deliberation on things which do not matter all that much’, at least to the participants (Parkinson, 2006, p. 19).  However, even the BG has produced some deliberative benefits. It provides some useful lessons in the art of managing moral conflicts, demonstrates the emergence of a meta-consensus, and a substantive narrowing of disagreement on certain issues. Finally, there was undoubtedly a not to be underestimated building of trust between the different sides in the debate.

The reliance on secondary data sources for some of the deliberative exercises reported in this article is inevitably problematic since it leads to a far from optimum account. For example, tests for the quality of deliberation are absent (Sanders, 2012; Gerber et. al, 2014). Moreover, information on the measurement of preference transformation is incomplete. Nevertheless, the evidence that can be elicited from the case studies of animal protection decision-making presented in this article are significant enough to justify the claim that there is a strong case for further bespoke research in this area. In particular, the fact that deliberation does equate, to at least some extent, with support for the greater protection of animals should be of considerable interest to the animal protection movement. 

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice, and the provision of a period of research leave by the University of Leicester, which provided me with the time and resources to research and write this article.

Notes

1.         Some examples are Barabas, 2004; Button and Mattson, 1999; Davidson and Elstub, 2013; Dryzek, 2000; Fishkin and Luskin, 2000; Fung and Wright, 2001; Goodin, 2000, 2002; Kuper, 1997; Parkinson, 2006; Petts, 2001; Steiner, et. al., 2004.

2.         Parry (2016) has put the theoretical case for the value of deliberation from an animal protection standpoint. There has also been a debate about the alleged incompatibility between the idealsof deliberative democracy and the non-deliberative activism practiced by the animal rights movement. On this see Humphreys and Stears, 2006, D’Arcy (2007), Hadley (2015) and Garner (2016). None of these accounts, however, engage, as this current article does, with actual deliberative exercises involving animal issues.

3.         This is a shortened version of a characterisation that originally appeared in Garner, 2016).

4.         The literature on deliberative democracy is too extensive to cite in full. The fact that there are so many edited collections on the subject is indicative of its resonance in political studies. The most notable are: Benhabib, 1996; Besson and Marti, 2006; Bohman, and Rehg, 1997; D’Entreves, 2002; Elster, 1998; Elstub and McLaverty, 2014; Fishkin and Laslett, 2003; Macedo, 1999; Saward, 2000.

5.         However, the distinction – between selfless animal advocates and selfish animal exploiters – is too simplistic. There is a generalizable human interest at stake here (Eckersley, 1995: 179). For example, the economic benefits of animal exploitation spread beyond those who are engaged in the use of animals, not least through the tex receipts generated by it. In addition, there is the direct public health benefit of animal experimentation, providing that one accepts the empirical claim that using animals to develop and test drugs does actually work.

6.         Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of cells, tissues and organs from animals to humans.

7.         The material on the Boyd Group provided in this article is based on a series (21 in all) of open-ended interviews – some in person and some by e-mail – with most of the major participants, and some who chose not to participate, I conducted in 2014. In addition to the interviews, extensive use was made of the reports of meetings. These were originally made available on the BG website which has subsequently been removed with a view to being updated. In addition, I also made use of the transcript of the oral evidence given to a House of Lords Select Committee on animal experimentation which involved many of the participants in BG meetings (House of Lords, 2002).

8.         In this section, I am focusing on the degree of impact on public policy that the deliberative forums under discussion had. There is an additional question, which is beyond the scope of the current article, about the democratic legitimacy of deliberative democracy. On this question, see Lafont (2015) and Parkinson (2006).

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Animals, Ethics and Public Policy

This is a version of an article that was eventually, after peer review, published in the journal Political Quarterly, 81, 1, 2010, pp.123-30.

The plight of animals has been an intermittently important issue, particularly in Britain, but it has never been electorally decisive. Similarly, the entitlements of animals have been largely ignored by the political studies community. Where the interests of animals have been considered, in both the political and academic worlds, it is in terms of their welfare, rather than their rights. That is, it is widely accepted that we owe some moral obligations to animals, but the interests of humans, it is argued, must come first, and our right to exploit animals in order to further these interests remain sacrosanct. This article traces the emergence of the animals issue in the context of the post-1945 political and academic climate. It then seeks to review the animal ethics literature. In the process, the prevailing moral orthodoxy about animals is challenged. It is argued that there is no intellectual justification for rejecting a version of animal rights that necessitates fundamental changes to the way animals are currently treated.

POLITICAL STUDIES AND ANIMALS

A well known definition of politics was provided by the political scientists Harold Lasswell in the title of his 1936 book ‘Politics: Who Gets What, When, How?’  Students of politics may well have different views about the ‘who’ question.  Some might think that political resources ought to be redistributed so that the least well-off get more, or that far more ought to be done to equalise resources on the grounds of gender or race.  Almost all students of politics, however, would agree that the beneficiaries of principles of justice ought exclusively to be humans.  

            For a large part of the 20th century normative analysis – seeking to answer ‘ought’ rather than ‘is’ questions – was frowned upon even when it related just to humans.  This was partly to do with the intellectual influence of a school of thought known as logical positivism, which denied the validity of any normative statements, and partly to do with the apparent political consensus existing, in the West at least, up to the 1970s. It was in this context that the political theorist Peter Laslett could publish an article in which he argued that political philosophy is dead.1  To emphasise the point, the dominant form of political analysis at the time, particularly in the United States, was so-called ‘behaviouralism’, an approach that seeks to explain political behaviour through the adoption of scientific methods used in the natural sciences. At least until the late 1960s, then, there was little normative thinking about humans let alone animals.

            The cosy consensus, and the decline of political philosophy did not last.  It was challenged in the 1960s largely from the left by a group of activists and academics who questioned the suffocating bureaucracy and elitism of the post-war settlement, and challenged the nuclear deterrent basis of consensus foreign and defence policy.  More significantly, though, repeated economic failures in the 1970s accompanied by severe industrial relations problems led to a return to ideological politics in the West with challenges to the consensus emerging from the right and the left.

Partly at least as a result of this tumult, political philosophers began to find their voice again.  In particular, the 1970s witnessed the publication of what is regarded as the key text of post-war political theory. Written by an American philosopher from Harvard, John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice sought to put the case for a left leaning set of liberal political principles.  This work has produced an enormous literature including a book length riposte to Rawls by another Harvard scholar, Robert Nozick,2 which defended a libertarian position whereby the state’s role is limited and redistributive taxation illegitimate.

Despite the resurgence of political philosophy as a valid field of study, its agenda remains anthropocentric – or human centred. Political philosophers have disagreed on the nature of the good life and the political order designed to achieve it.  Almost without exception, however, they have regarded it as a question that only applies to humans.  Since the time of the Greeks, philosophers have considered the moral status of non-humans but, with very few exceptions, non-humans have been relegated to an inferior place in the scheme of things. Even the vast majority of modern political philosophers have sought to reinforce this inferiority.  For example, whatever the differences between Rawls and Nozick, both essentially thought that political theory was about the human question.  Rawls, in particular, is absolutely clear that nonhumans should be excluded as beneficiaries of his theory of justice. Within the academic discipline of political studies, the issue of the moral status of nonhumans has only been taken seriously by a small group of green political theorists.3  

SENTIENCY, AUTONOMY AND THE MORAL STATUS OF ANIMALS

Challenging anthropocentrism leads us to reject the moral primacy of humans, but it does not necessarily lead us to a focus on the moral worth of individual nonhuman animals. Environmental philosophers who reject anthropocentrism put forward an alternative so-called ‘ecocentric’ ethic which, whilst removing humans from the moral pedestal, also accords value to collective entities such as species and ecosystems.4 Such a denial of the importance of individuals is anathema from the perspective of the liberal social justice tradition. Moreover, the attempt to attach intrinsic value to the non-sentient, and even non-living, constituent parts of ecosystems is equally flawed morally. 

This rejection of an ecocentric ethic is based on the moral importance that can be accorded to sentiency, or the capacity to experience pain and pleasure. It is difficult to see how we can attach moral standing to non-sentient nature when it is pretty obvious that rocks, trees, mountains and rivers cannot be harmed in the same way as sentient beings.  It does not seem sensible to talk about wronging non-sentient nature as opposed to harming it.  So, polluting a river is to harm it but it is difficult to see how we can wrong the river.  Rather, by polluting the river we wrong those sentient beings who benefit from it. This does not mean that non-sentient parts of nature have no value. Instead, the value of nature is extrinsic. In other words, it is valuable for the benefits it provides for those humans and animals that depend upon it. This leaves humans and nonhuman animals as potential recipients of intrinsic value.  Few would want to deny that humans have moral standing and there are few serious advocates these days of a so-called ‘perfectionist’ theory of justice in which some humans are regarded as more important than others.  

Attaching intrinsic value to animals is not equivalent to according them moral equality with humans. Indeed, the conventional, or orthodox, position regarding the moral status of animals is that, because animals have some moral worth, it is wrong for humans to inflict unnecessary suffering on them but, because humans remain superior morally, it is equally legitimate for humans to inflict suffering on animals if there is a substantial benefit to humans likely to accrue. This ethic has been used to justify the extensive exploitation of animals that occurs in the West. Indeed, it is often not realised how central the exploitation of animals is to the functioning of our economy and society.  We use and kill billions of animals every year for a wide variety of purposes:  in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, to ensure that the products we use are safe, to use parts of their bodies such as their fur and skin, and merely for sport and entertainment. 

For good reasons, much of the public debate centres on animal experimentation, but in terms of numbers at least this activity is dwarfed by the raising and killing of animals for food. During the time it takes you to read this article about a million animals will have been slaughtered for food in the United States alone. This, of course, means big profits, and the meat and poultry industry is one of the biggest manufacturing concerns in the developed world.  Since the Second World War, humans have developed increasingly efficient and cost effective ways of converting animals into meat.  Gone, for the most part, is the image of animals grazing outside, living a pleasant life before being painlessly put to sleep. Since the intensification of animal agriculture, commonly known as ‘factory farming’, farm animals tend to live lives of pain, distress and boredom.  This is the world of the battery cage for chickens, the veal crate for calves and the stall and tether system for pigs. And we must include too the suffering that occurs in the slaughtering process and in the transport of live animals, an issue that provoked considerable public protest in Britain in the 1990s.

It has been my contention5  that there is a genuine politics of animal welfare, in the sense that what constitutes ‘unnecessary’ suffering is sufficiently vague to be open to debate. Indeed, the definition of ‘unnecessary’ has widened over the past 30 years or so to take into account changing public attitudes to animals which have, in part, been shaped by greater knowledge of the way animals can suffer. For example, the use of animals for the toxicity testing of cosmetics is now widely regarded as unnecessary, as is the wearing of fur for many people. Increasingly now, too, the most extreme forms of factory farming, such as battery cages, are being dismantled at the EU level, as a recognition that they are regarded by many as unnecessary.

Despite the improvements to animal welfare that have undoubtedly occurred, they remain relatively minor in scope and animals still pay a heavy price as a result of the application  of the animal welfare ethic. In the last 30 years or so, an increasingly large group of scholars and activists have argued that this cost is too high; that animal welfare is flawed because it does not adequately represent the moral status of animals. Indeed, some philosophers have argued that at least some nonhuman animals are not morally inferior to humans.  As a consequence, we should not do to animals what we are not prepared to do to humans. 

            There are two main versions of this ethic. One is provided by the Australian-born Princeton philosopher Peter Singer. Singer’s book ‘Animal Liberation’ published in the 1970s was a best seller and is often regarded as the bible of the animal rights movement.  There is a great irony here in that Singer is a utilitarian, an ethical approach that rejects the idea of rights for humans as well as animals.  Singer argues that because at least some animals are sentient then, all things being equal, this capacity of animals to suffer should not be regarded as any less important morally than a human’s capacity to suffer.  He therefore calls for the ‘equal consideration of interests’.  In other words, animal and human interests in not suffering should be treated equally.  

The second version of the ethic that suggests equality between the species is the more conventional animal rights position.  The best known of the philosophers who have advocated the granting of rights to animals is the American academic Tom Regan who wrote a long and philosophically rigorous book called ‘The Case for Animal Rights’ in the 1980s. Regan argues that according animals a right to life has the effect of building a protective fence around them so that their fundamental interests cannot, under normal circumstances, be sacrificed in order to promote the general welfare.  This means that animal welfare is inconsistent with rights precisely because it does allow for the sacrifice of fundamental animal interests provided that a significant benefit to humans occurs.  

There is some doubt about the consequences, for animals, of adopting Singer’s ethic. For act utilitarians, an action is only morally permissible if the balance of pleasures or preferences outweighs the infliction of pain or the denial of preferences. At the very least, then, each action or policy – say, the ending of the use of animals for food or research – will have to be judged on its merits, and it is not clear that this would result in a justification, on utilitarian grounds, for abolition. A proposal to abolish animal research, for instance, would have to weigh up the benefits to animals against the benefits, to humans and animals, of continuing the practice. By contrast, an animal rights ethic, or at least one which holds that animals have a right to life and liberty, would, if established, automatically justify abolishing the use of animals for food and research, since to continue with these practices is to infringe their basic rights.

This, of course, begs the question of whether animals do have fundamental rights, as is being claimed. The first step in assessing the claims made by all sides in the debate  is to recognise that those insisting upon human moral superiority need to find a morally relevant characteristic possessed by humans but not by nonhumans, thereby justifying differential treatment. Whilst it is now recognised that sentiency alone cannot do this work, defenders of the moral orthodoxy tend to focus on personhood. Humans unlike animals, it is argued, have the characteristics of personhood.  These characteristics include rationality, autonomy, moral agency, a language capability, free will, self-consciousness and so on.  Those opposing an animal rights ethic argue that humans are persons and animals, though sentient, are not. Persons, it is said, can be harmed in much more fundamental ways than non-persons, and have lives which are qualitatively more worthwhile.  As a result, it is morally permissible to sacrifice the interests animals have in not suffering in order to defend the much more profound interests humans have.6  

A CRITIQUE OF ANIMAL WELFARE

Advocates of human/animal moral equality seek to respond to this defence of animal welfare in two main ways. The first is to say that at least some animals do possess elements of personhood. Here, it would clearly be churlish to deny that some animals have cognitive abilities that are considerable. The Great Apes, in particular, would appear to have considerable cognitive abilities, and it would be wise to err on the side of caution and assume that they are persons and are treated morally as if they are humans. To a certain extent, this is what is gradually beginning to happen with some countries considering a formal constitutional amendment to that effect. Equally, many species of animals are more than merely sentient possessing some of the characteristics of personhood. Regan argues, for instance, that rights are not granted to animals by virtue of their sentiency but because they are, what he calls ‘subjects-of-a-life’, beings, that is, with considerable cognitive capabilities. 

            However, there are two main problems with the attempt to show that humans are not the only species with personhood. Firstly, the effect of achieving personhood for those animals, such as the Great Apes, with considerable cognitive abilities would simply be to create another boundary line, above which would contain humans and some animals, and below which would be the vast majority of animals. Secondly, it is equally clear that even the most intellectually able animals do not have the characteristics of personhood to the same degree as the average normal adult human. As a result, animals will always lose out in a direct application of the personhood argument, if the personhood argument is applied without any further adaptation. 

The second response to the defence of an animal welfare ethic is to deny that all humans are persons.7 Thus, the argument goes, if we are saying that it is personhood that distinguishes humans morally from animals (as opposed to species) then what are we to do with those humans – babies and infants, adults who lack any or the full range of ‘normal’ human cognitive ability – who are not full persons? Logical consistency demands one of two responses. Either we treat these so-called ‘marginal’ humans as if they were full persons, or we regard them, like animals, as non-persons. But, of course, if we regard marginal humans as if they were full persons then there is no logical justification for failing to treat animals in the same way. The only way of avoiding this conclusion is to treat marginal humans in the same way as animals. Unsurprisingly, though, there are not many takers for accepting that we can exploit marginal humans in the same way as we do animals, as experimental subjects, for example, or as sources of food even.

Despite the logically flawless character of the so-called ‘argument from marginal cases’, it is not a position that has been decisive in the ethical debate about animals. Part of the reason for this is that it is widely recognised that we often do treat marginal humans in a different way from ‘normal’ humans. We do not, for instance, give those with severe dementia the freedom that other humans would expect, and there is little ethical objection to this in public debate on the issue. Similarly, when choosing the beneficiaries of scarce medical resources, health professionals will often take into account quality of life issues which may put at risk the well-being of less capable humans. 

Of course, there is a huge difference between denying marginal humans liberty or the use of expensive medical treatment and actively seeking to exploit them for the benefit of others. To this end, the current treatment of marginal humans is in no way equivalent to the treatment of animals, and to that extent the force of the argument from marginal cases remains. Ultimately, the argument from marginal cases has not had the impact it perhaps deserves because it challenges the powerful moral intuition that we should protect those humans with severe disadvantages.  It is, of course, this very sentiment that exponents employ to generate sympathy for the plight of animals, but the importance of the species barrier persists.

A RIGHT NOT TO SUFFER

Neither response to the defenders of the moral orthodoxy, therefore, is particularly successful. As a result, according rights to animals on the same grounds as humans has a tendency to appear utopian and far-fetched. This stems largely from the fact that to grant animals a right to life and liberty, as many exponents of animal rights seek to do, is to imply that what is wrong is our use of animals, irrespective of the way they are treated. It is to say, in other words, that to use animals for whatever purpose is a form of slavery, a situation that can only be rectified by ‘liberating’ them from the clutches of their oppressors.8

            Does this mean, then, that the animal rights project is doomed to be disregarded by the vast majority who cannot accept the moral egalitarianism that it is built upon? I would suggest not, but only if we adopt a much more (morally and politically) acceptable version of animal rights based on the sentiency of animals and not their personhood. This position is to be distinguished from that adopted by some animal rights philosophers (including Regan in his early writings) in which a right to life for animals (and all that follows from it) is drawn from the mere fact of their sentiency. The autonomy defence of the moral orthodoxy (the argument from marginal cases notwithstanding) has put paid to that. 

Instead, an animal rights theory based on sentiency must take into account the moral importance of personhood. In effect, this means accepting that the loss of life and liberty for a human is of greater moral significance than it is for an animal. This is hardly controversial. Indeed, at least before the argument from marginal cases is factored in, there is a consensus amongst animal rights philosophers that human life is more valuable than animal life. For a person, then, death means that a future is taken away, consisting of ‘a constellation of experiences, beliefs, desires, goals, projects, activities, and various other things’.9 If the life is taken of a being that does not have this ‘constellation of experiences’, or has them to a lesser degree, it is difficult to see that being can be harmed to the same extent, providing the death is painless.  In Singer’s words:

 to take the life of a being who has been hoping, planning and working for some future goal is to deprive that being of the fulfilment of all those efforts;

to take the life of a being with a mental capacity below the level needed to grasp that one is a being with a future – much less make plans for the future –

cannot involve this particular kind of loss.10

Of course, there is a difference between saying that animals have less interest in life and saying that they have nointerest in continued life. In the former case, it follows that if we had to choose between saving the life of a human and an animal we should choose the former but that it is not justifiable morally to kill animals where human life is not at stake. This would mean, for instance, that killing animals for food (even if done humanely) would not be justified unless humans are likely to starve as a result, an outcome which is not the case for the vast majority in the modern world. Even if we adopt what might be called the ‘sentiency position’, that animals have no interest in continued life, but they do have an interest in avoiding suffering pain (and maybe even other forms of suffering such as boredom, stress and anxiety) that is equivalent to a human’s interest in avoiding suffering, then, I would argue, radical conclusions still follow.

This position would hold that, whilst killing animals humanely raises no ethical difficulties (as is largely the case in the current moral orthodoxy), humans would no longer be able to use animals, irrespective of the benefits that might accrue from so doing, if suffering is inflicted as a result. It is my contention that applying this principle would have the effect of rendering many current uses of animals illegitimate morally. For instance, whilst killing animals for food humanely raises no ethical objections, inflicting suffering on them in order to provide food would, in almost all cases, no longer be sanctioned. This would certainly rule out the current system of factory farming, and it is an open question whether an extensive system of animal agriculture could ever meet the ethical requirements of the sentiency position. Similarly, using animals for scientific procedures should only be permitted where the infliction of suffering is minimized or eliminated. 

CONCLUSION – PUBLIC POLICY AND THE SENTIENCY POSITION

It has been suggested in this article that it is morally permissible to claim that an animal’s interest in avoiding the infliction of suffering, particularly pain, is equivalent, all things being equal, to a human’s interest in avoiding the infliction of pain. Insofar as we are prepared to accord humans a right to be free from the infliction of pain by other humans, therefore, then there seems little reason to deny animals a similar right. This, ‘sentiency position’, it has been argued, is significantly different from both the orthodox animal welfare position and the conventional animal rights position. 

In contrast to the former, an animal’s interest in not suffering is not to be sacrificed even when significant human interests can be promoted in the process. In contrast to the latter, the moral importance of personhood – a characteristic possessed only by humans (and perhaps a small number of non-human species) – is recognized. As a result, it is not the use of animals per se that ought to be of moral concern (as it is for many animal rights philosophers) but what we do to them whilst they are being used. Moreover, it is the infliction of suffering on animals that ought to concern us and not killing them humanely or depriving them of liberty, providing that this deprivation of liberty does not cause suffering.

The sentiency position offers a clear guide to policy makers. Uses of animals that cause suffering, on farms and in laboratories in particular, ought to be prohibited. In this respect, the current state of the law in Britain and elsewhere is inadequate. Individual elements of factory farming have been gradually abolished over the years, largely on the grounds that they are not regarded as necessary. According to the sentiency position, however, the intensive farming of animals ought to be prohibited in total, not because it is unnecessary, but because it causes suffering. 

The legislation relating to animal experimentation in Britain – the 1986 Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act – permits the issuing of project licenses for work involving animals which are deemed to be necessary, in terms of the benefits that are likely to accrue for humans and other animals. There is an upper pain limit beyond which work has to be stopped irrespective of any potential benefits lost. Below that, however, suffering is allowed to be inflicted if the benefits are thought to justify it. The sentiency position regards this as an infringement on animals’ right not to suffer. As a consequence, only those projects that do not cause suffering – through, for instance, the use of appropriate anesthetic so that the animal is rendered unconscious, and is not allowed to recover if suffering is likely to occur once consciousness is regained – are morally acceptable. 

The focus on the sentiency of animals – as opposed to their lives and liberty – is not inconsistent with much of the campaigning of the animal rights movement. The two major issues it focuses on are the treatment of animals on farms and in laboratories, where the greatest degree of suffering takes place. Less attention is paid to the keeping of pet or companion animals, as opposed to their treatment, despite the fact that it involves restrictions on liberty. Equally, zoos and circuses tend to be morally condemned by the animal rights movement not because of the loss of liberty such activity produces per se but primarily when the infringement of liberty causes suffering.

This article has also suggested that there is a strong case for making animal protection a central part of mainstream political theory.  It would seem to represent its natural progression.  By incorporating animal interests, the structure of liberal ideology is not affected but its coverage will be. In other words, we do not have to change the fundamental character of liberal ideology but we do have to extend the conceptual arrangements common to it if animals are to be properly protected. As a result, mainstream political theory needs to consider what it means to say that animals have rights against humans, freedoms from humans and equality with humans. Likewise, the recognition that animals have important interests raises questions about how, and by whom, those interests are to be represented.  Just as political theorists are increasingly looking beyond the state to take into account the reality of globalisation, they should also look beyond the human species if they are to accurately reflect the moral worth of animals.

References

1.         Laslett, P. (ed.) Philosophy, Politics and Society, Oxford: Blackwell, 1970.

2.         Rawls, JA Theory of Justice, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1971; 

            Nozick, R. (1974) Anarchy, State and Utopia, Oxford: Blackwell, 1974.

3.         See, for instance, Hayward, T., Ecological Thought, Cambridge: Polity Press, 

            1994.

4.         See Fox, W., Towards a Transpersonal Ecology, Totnes: Resurgence, 1995.

5.         Garner, R., Animals, Politics and Morality, Manchester: Manchester University 

            Press, 2004 (second edition).

6.         See, for instance, Townsend, A., ‘Radical Vegetarians’, Australasian Journal of 

            Philosophy, 57, 1976, pp. 85-93.

7.         Dombrowski, D., Babies and Beasts: The Argument from Marginal Cases

            Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997.

8.         The ‘use position’, a version of animal rights which suggests that animals have a 

            right to liberty and therefore ought to be liberated from human use, is challenged 

            effectively in Cochrane, A., Animal Rights Without Liberation, Unpublished PhD 

            thesis, LSE, 2005.

9.         Rowlands, M., Animals Like Us, London: Verso, 2002, p. 76.  

10.       Singer, P. Animal Liberation, London: Cape, 1990, second edition, p.21.

‘Much Ado About Nothing?: Barry, Justice and Animals’.

This is a version of the article that was, after peer review, published in the journal Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 15, 3, 2012, pp.363-76.

There are three principal reasons for addressing the role of nonhuman animals in Brian Barry’s contractarian theory of justice. Two relate to contractarianism in general. In the first place, the contractarian approach has certain benefits for those seeking to defend the interests of animals. Establishing contractual grounds for granting to animals a considerable moral status has the effect, added to well-known rights and utilitarian versions, of covering all the bases. And the added bonus is that contractarian theories of justice have dominated in debates about the subject over the past thirty years or so. In addition, the clear and concise and, some would say, objective way in which principles of justice are derived from contractarian theories contrasts with the ‘mysterious’ way in which rights, for humans and for animals, are often justified. The target here is the account put forward by Tom Regan (1984) who bases animal rights on what Mark Rowlands regards as the ‘controversial metaphysical assumption’ that animals, as ‘subjects-of-a-life’, are beings with inherent value.  As a result, for Rowlands, we should reject the concept of inherent value as mysteriousad hoc and, ultimately, unnecessary’. By contrast, ‘properly understood’ contractarianism is the ‘greatest ally’ of animal rights since it ‘provides the most satisfactory theoretical basis for the attribution of moral rights to non-human and non-rational individuals’ (Rowlands, 1998: 118, 119, 2).

The third reason for the topic of this article relates specifically to Barry.  Much of the work on the role of animals within contractarian thought has focused on Rawls. Nothing much has been written on the role of animals in Barry’s version of contractarianism. This represents a gap in the literature because Barry’s work does consider the interests of animals in various places and, superficially at least, he would appear to be more sympathetic to the interests of animals than Rawls.  

After a brief sketch of the Rawlsian context in which Barry is operating, Barry’s position on the protection of animals is explored. Here, it is argued that, despite the optimism that Barry might offer a theory of justice that can provide substantial protection for the interests of animals – promoted, in part, by his critique of Rawls – the conclusion of this article is that he is unable ultimately to break the shackles of his contractarian framework, which automatically rules out animals as direct beneficiaries of justice. Insofar as animals can be protected within Barry’s theory of justice as impartiality, they are not being protected as a result of their intrinsic value, but merely as one, non-vital, human set of beliefs included within a conception of the good. Barry does offer the possibility of adjudicating between competing conceptions of the good according to principles laid down by justice as impartiality. However, the decisions (as opposed to the procedure by which they are made) emanating from Barry’s procedural device are not themselves substantive principles of justice, to be constitutionally entrenched, and are open to repeal at any point in the future. Moreover, it is unlikely that many issues involving animals will be subject to the justice as impartiality procedure anyway since Barry is committed to the liberal position that, as far as possible, individuals should be left alone to pursue their own conceptions of the good. 

Whatever Barry’s intention, then, the moral worth of animals within his contractarian theory derives ultimately from the degree to which a recognition of that worth contributes to human self-interest rather than from the intrinsic value of animals independently of human self-interest. This anthropocentric position, dependent on an indirect duty view of animals, means that their protection is contingent upon enough humans regarding animal protection as important. For many animal ethicists, protecting animals as a by product of anthropocentric concerns, even though those concerns might be enlightened, is flawed morally and has counter-intuitive implications. Nevertheless, as is suggested in the final section of this article, an indirect duty view towards animals does have its advantages for the advocate of animal protection. This is not least because an indirect duty view, enshrined in Barry’s procedural device, reflects accurately the way in which issues relating to animals are placed by humans on the political agenda, and rely on them for support.

Barry, Rawls and Animals

Although they have written extensively about Rawls, those working within the animal ethics field have virtually ignored the work of Brian Barry. This might be a mistake because Barry does appear to be much more sympathetic to the plight of animals than Rawls is, and therefore seems to offer the prospect of a contractarian theory of justice that might be able to incorporate the interests of animals. For instance, he agrees with Peter Singer, one of the major exponents of the view that the moral status of animals is considerable, that ‘a lot of cruelty to animals is going on and ought to be stopped’ (Barry, 1998: 206). He also states that ‘I take it to be uncontroversial that we can act wrongly in relation to non-human animals’ (Barry, 1999: 95). In the case of particular uses of animals, Barry is adamant that hunting and the ritual slaughter of animals are both indefensible (Barry, 2001: 39-43).

Barry is also critical of Rawls’s position on animals. Contractarian theories have provided one arena for those seeking to theorise animal protection, existing alongside more traditional rights and utilitarian approaches.1 The main target here, not surprisingly, has been Rawls. It is assumed that animals cannot be protected directly from within a contractarian approach. This view is primarily derived from Rawls (1972: 504-5) who excludes animals from his theory of justice mainly on the grounds that only ‘moral persons’ are entitled to be beneficiaries of justice. Rawls does not rule out protecting animals from cruel treatment but, for him – as for many liberal political theorists – this concern belongs to a broader moral arena which is not part of the realm of justice.2

There would seem to be two general responses we can make to Rawls’s reluctance to include animals as beneficiaries of justice. Barry appears to reject the first of these, which is that we should accept Rawls’s exclusion of animals. For example, he is dismissive of the attempt, by David Richards (1971), to allow individuals within the original position to protect nonhuman animals, not because they calculate they might end up being nonhuman animals, but because of some other motivational device. Such an approach accepts Rawls’s exclusion of animals as direct recipients of justice since it does not dispense with moral agency as the crucial qualification for being considered a beneficiary of justice. Rather, it sees the moral agents in the original position acting on behalf of animals. Clearly, the motivational device cannot be based on altruism but it could be based on a calculation that, once out from behind the veil of ignorance, the participants in the original position might discover that they do care about animals and the ability to do so is important to them.

Rawls himself uses this device to accord justice to future generations.  Thus, he argues (1972: 128) that ‘we may think of the parties as heads of families, and therefore as having a desire to further the welfare of their nearest descendants’. Participants in the original position still pursue their own interests but these interests are expanded so as to include the welfare of (at least some) future generations. Richards (1971: 207) incorporates animals into his theory in the same way. Thus, participants in the original position are aware ‘that persons generally have certain basic sympathies with animals and animal life’. Barry is critical of the attempt to incorporate the interests of animals through such a motivational device. He doubts whether the contractors would know that people are generally sympathetic to animals since it is far from being a universal human trait, and in so far as it does exist it tends to be reserved for companion animals and not those used to produce food or as scientific subjects. As he writes: ‘I do not therefore think that much regard for the interests of nonhuman animals would emerge from the protection of strictly human interests’ (Barry, 1989: 207).

The second response to Rawls that animal ethicists have made is to adapt his contract so as to allow for the inclusion of animals as beneficiaries of justice. This has involved amending the veil of ignorance so as to make species, along with gender, race and social situation, as an unknown. Since participants in the original position will then not know whether they will end up being humans or animals they will protect themselves against the latter eventuality by making sure that animals are owed duties of justice.3

Despite the doubts raised about whether this adaptation of Rawls is valid, Barry (1989: 204) sides with those who think it is possible to incorporate animals within Rawls’s theory of justice. As he writes: ‘There is no reason in principle why we could not derive protection for the interests of nonhuman animals by using the machinery of the original position. All we have to do is to extend its scope to include representatives of all sentient beings’.4 To those who would challenge this move he points out that Rawls is prepared to include small children and cognitively-disabled adults as beneficiaries of justice. ‘If a day-old infant can be represented in the original position’, he concludes, ‘why not a monkey or a dog?’ (Barry, 1989: 212). There would seem, then, to be something in Andrew Vincent’s claim (1998: 130) that Barry is ‘much more open to extensionist arguments’ than Rawls is.

Coupled with this assent to the adaptation of Rawls in favour of animals is Barry’s assertion that Rawls’s conclusion, that it is wrong to be cruel to animals but not unjust, ‘is perhaps not an unreasonable place to come out’ (Barry, 1989: 212). Whilst this assertion does seem to contradict Barry’s preparedness to accept the strategy of incorporating animals into Rawls’s theory of justice, it does give the impression that he recognises that animals can be harmed directly. Indeed, he argues that the duty not to be cruel to animals is ‘clearly preferable to Rawls’s proposal to make duties to future generations parasitic on justice among contemporaries’ (Barry, 1989: 212). Given this sympathy to animals it is worth asking whether Barry’s contractarian theory – justice as impartiality – can incorporate the interests of animals in ways that Rawls’s theory cannot.

Animals in a Scanlonian Contract

Barry’s justice as impartiality starts by arguing that Rawls’s original position is inadequate, and therefore ought to be replaced with an alternative, derived from Thomas Scanlon (1982; 1988). This Scanlonian approach, originally devised as a vehicle for moral arguments rather than those concerned with justice, ‘takes the fundamental question to be whether a principle could reasonably be rejected by parties who, in addition to their own personal aims, were moved by a desire to find principles that others similarly motivated could also accept’ (Scanlon, 1988: 137-8). The Scanlonian contract differs from Rawls’s version in two crucial ways. In the first place, it dispenses with the veil of ignorance. In other words, parties in the original position are aware of their identities and their interests. Secondly, the parties are not merely self-interested but are motivated by ‘the desire for reasonable agreement’ (Barry, 1995: 67). Individuals, therefore, have a ‘desire to behave fairly’ (52). Principles of justice, for Barry therefore, will come about as a result of bargaining and negotiation within the original position. It is therefore impartial because it ‘entails that people should not look at things from their own point of view alone but seek to find a basis for agreement that is acceptable from all points of view’ (Barry, 1989: 8). Only those principles that cannot be reasonably rejected by others pass the test and can be included as principles of justice.  To this end, Barry (1995: 69) envisages a veto power for each person ‘on all proposed principles for regulating social life’.

            Where does Barry’s version of the contract leave animals? According to him, the inclusion of animal protection principles within justice as impartiality would require that they be principles that cannot be reasonably rejected. Unlike Rawls, Barry can include the interests of animals within a theory of justice because he adopts a broad notion of interests. Interests, for Barry, are not just narrow self interests but can include altruistic wants such as a desire to see animals well-protected. Thus, Barry’s original position contains ‘people who are well informed, concerned to further their own interest and conceptions of the good, but capable of recognising reasonable objections on the part of others’ (Barry, 2005: 99). This approach can be contrasted with what he calls justice as mutual advantage, associated with Hobbes and, more recently, David Gauthier (1986). This Barry (1995: 31-46) rejects, not least on the grounds that it is an unstable framework because individuals will always try to promote their interests, even when an apparent agreement has been reached, if they think they can get away with it. For animals, and indeed non-rational humans too, justice as mutual advantage is therefore clearly inadequate.5

Despite the positive noises Barry makes about the moral status of animals, however, there is every reason to think that all but the most basic animal protection principles would fail to achieve reasonable agreement, and thus be excluded from a theory of justice. To see that this is so note that, according to the terms of the Scanlonian contract, a principle of justice involving animals would not be owed directly to animals, only to those humans who regard it as a good, who regard it as in their broad interests to protect animals. This is because, in the Scanlonian version of the contract, the participants know they are humans and know what their particular, narrow, self-interests are. This can be contrasted with Rawls’s theory of justice whereby it is possible, as we saw, to argue that, because the participants are behind a veil of ignorance, they do not know they are going to be humans. As a result, in Rawls’s formulation, it is open to us to argue that participants in the original position ought to seek the direct protection of animals just in case any of them turn out to be animals. Such a move is not open to Barry because of the nature of the contract he adopts. 

Here, we come up against what might, at first site, seem to be a puzzling feature of Barry’s thought, for despite seeming to recognise that we have direct duties to animals, in his mature contractarian theory he adopts an indirect duty view of animals. That he does so is evident in his dismissal of the claim that justice as impartiality is equivalent to Mill’s harm principle, that state action ought to be restricted to the prohibition of actions harmful to those other than the actor. One of his arguments against such a claim of equivalence is that it would ‘entail the illegitimacy of any kind of legislation for the protection of the interests of non-human animals’, as well as other activities, such as public nuisances and the destruction of ancient trees and buildings, that affect others adversely but could not be said to harm them. ‘Yet it seems absurd to suggest’, he continues, ‘that all animal welfare legislation is inherently unjust’ (Barry, 1995: 86).

Barry could only reject a privileged position being given to the negative sense of the harm principle – whereby only harmful consequences can be a justification for intervention – if he thinks that animals cannot be said to be harmed by the actions of others. Instead, the most charitable version of Barry’s position has him arguing that actions which affect negatively the interests of animals should only count if they harm those humans who are concerned about animal welfare, in the same way that some humans may be harmed by the destruction of an ancient building.

It is easy to see why the protection of animals – conceived as a good – is more likely to be rejected in a Scanlonian contract than a more narrow human self interest. Consider an interest directly impinging on (human) participants in the original position such as an interest in not being harmed. Now, a principle protecting humans from harm is unlikely to be rejected since to do so would sacrifice a fundamental interest, one that is necessary for the pursuit of any conception of the good. In a similar vein, as Barry (1995: 8) points out, although you would benefit from privileged treatment being given to your skin colour or gender, you cannot reasonably expect this to be acceptable to those (with a different skin colour or gender) who would lose out. However, this is a very different category from the upholding of a particular conception of the good, such as the protection of animals. In this latter category, it might not be reasonable to reject a principle that prohibits gratuitous cruelty, defined as cruelty that does not serve any other human function.  Many would object, however, to a principle of justice aimed at protecting animals precisely on the grounds that it impacts negatively either upon their alternative conception of the good such as one involving a fundamental economic interest. 

This conclusion is heightened by the fact that all that is required for a proposed principle of justice to be rejected is an individual veto. As Paul Kelly (1998: 57) points out, Barry’s contract ‘seems to weight the argument too much in favour of an individual’s own self-interest’. This resort to (usually economic) self-interest is exactly, of course, how the exploitation of animals is usually justified. In fact, the position of animals would be worse under Barry’s justice as impartiality than it would under the current animal welfare orthodoxy. Thus, for example, the economic interests of agribusiness or pharmaceutical companies will, if the Scanlonian model is applied, always act as a veto upon measures to improve the welfare of animals, and this veto would override public opinion. It is difficult to see how measures, say, to eliminate the worst excesses of factory farming – which are beginning to happen in practice at least in Europe – would be justified by justice as impartiality. 

So, whatever Barry’s intuitive thoughts about our direct duties to animals might have been, his contractarian model excludes them. And it is clear, in addition, that he thinks that ‘no conception of the good should be built into the constitution or the principles of justice’ (Barry, 1995: 172. Thus, only if animals themselves are regarded as being direct beneficiaries of justice, as opposed to being part of a human’s conception of the good, would substantial animal welfare measures be acceptable according to justice as impartiality. This is consistent with his statement that ‘it does not seem to me that the concept of justice can be deployed intelligibly outside the context of relations between human beings’ precisely because ‘justice and injustice can be predicated only of relations among creatures who are regarded as moral equals’ (Barry, 1999: 95). 

One option that is open to Barry, although he does not take this up, is to imagine that the interests of animals could be represented by a trustee or surrogate. This would ensure that the interests of animals could be considered directly in the original position. Some, such as Martha Nussbaum (2006: 335), regard this as a weak form of moral entitlement in that, in                                                                                                                                                Andrew Cohen’s words, ‘it denies them their independent standing by filtering their interests through the interests of trustees’ (Cohen, 2007: 195-6). I am inclined to agree with Cohen (2007: 195-6) that this is a criticism of ‘irresponsible or sloppy’ trusteeship rather than a criticism of trusteeship in general. In other words, if it is accepted that animals can be represented by trustees under the terms of the contract then their interests can be considered directly, and all that is left is the, by no means easy, task of deciding the practicalities of representing animals in this way. 

A more significant question for our purposes is to ask whether there are grounds for including animals as worthy recipients of trustee representation? Cohen (2007) thinks so.  He distinguishes between what he calls primary and secondary moral standing within a contractarian framework. Primary moral standing is attached to those (normal rational adult humans) who are part of the ‘circumstances of justice’ in the sense that they are able to participate in the making of agreements. Secondary moral standing is attached to those unable to participate in the making of agreements (nonhuman animals and marginal humans). This latter form of moral standing applies when enough rational agents (the advocates) insist upon other contractors regarding animals and marginal humans as beings with moral standing in return for their (the advocates’) cooperation. Christopher Morris (1998: 191) adopts essentially the same position in defence of contractarianism. Thus, he argues that: ‘No normal human being would interact cooperatively with someone who was not ready to accord genuine moral standing to one’s children’ and by extrapolation animals.

We can accept that the interests of animals can, as a matter of practice, be represented directly by a trustee. What is much harder to accept is the position that secondary moral standing, as described by Cohen, provides grounds for the effective representation of animal interests. The problem is, as with our discussion of Barry’s contract in this article, that justice (secondary moral standing for Cohen) is owed to animals in so far as other humans regard it as a good worth having. As a result, the extent to which animals are accorded moral standing will be dependent upon enough humans wanting this outcome, plus their ability to persuade others that it is worthwhile. It is, in other words, contingent. Cohen (2007: 196) admits this when he writes that the awarding of secondary moral standing to animals ‘would depend on empirical considerations: how many people insist on direct moral regard, and for which animals?’. Morris (1998: 192) likewise accepts that ‘it certainly cannot be denied that some creatures, who we ordinarily believe have at least some moral standing…will lack that status, on this contractarian view’. As a result, ‘the dependence of moral standing on the contingent pattern of people’s interests may seem too arbitrary’ in the sense that members of the same nonhuman species may be treated differently merely because one has the ‘fortuitous relational property of being cared for by me’.

Another problem with the anthropocentric contractarian attempt to incorporate the interests of animals is that it would seem to justify the extension of moral consideration to anything that a particular human advocate wishes including inanimate objects.6 Remember, all that is required for moral worth to be applied, according to the contractarian position, is for enough humans to desire it. Cohen (2007: 192) responds to this by arguing, correctly it seems to me, that moral standing requires an entity to have interests. ‘Infants and dogs have welfares and so have interests that persons can promote, hinder or ignore’, Cohen writes, but ‘mountains and statutes…do not have welfares or goods of their own’. 

Cohen is here suggesting that moral standing requires sentiency. Interestingly, too, Scanlon (1982: 113-4; see also 1998: 182-3), if not Barry, engages with the possibility of having the interests of animals represented in the original position on the grounds that they are sentient. He argues that the necessary conditions are that a being must ‘have a good, that is, there must be a clear sense in which things can be said to go better or worse for that being’ and that ‘its good be sufficiently similar to our own to provide a basis for some system of comparability’ and that we need to have some idea of ‘what it is like to be that being’. The capacity to feel pain, Scanlon thinks, is likely to satisfy these conditions. In such situations, he continues, it might be possible to countenance a trustee acting on behalf of those that are ‘incapable of literally agreeing to anything’. However, Scanlon is ‘not clear’ whether these conditions are sufficient for a being to be included in a contract situation whereas moral agency clearly is.

Limiting moral standing to sentient beings, as Cohen suggests, is not an entirely satisfactory response to the critics of contractarianism who argue that it supports a much too broad conception of what counts as morally considerable. This is because moral standing is, for contractarians, not based on the properties of the potential recipients, but on the contractual agreement reached. It is not therefore limited to sentience, but on anything the participants in an original position agree upon. If they want to accord moral standing to inanimate objects then there does not seem much to stop them. Moreover, and even more importantly, if sentience is being introduced at this point as an important property of moral standing, why does it not qualify as a source of moral standing independently of any contractural agreement?

Just Procedures for Adjudicating Between Conceptions of the Good.

What I have said so far suggests that it is unlikely, by utilizing Barry’s justice as impartiality, that substantial animal welfare measures would be adopted as principles of justice. Like Rawls, though, Barry takes a very narrow view of justice. ‘It is…a great mistake’, he writes, ‘to suppose that justice as impartiality is intended to constitute a complete, self-sufficient moral system’ (Barry, 1995: 77). Nevertheless, he also raises the possibility – as does Rawls in a later work – that the state does not have to remain neutral about competing conceptions of the good but might intervene to promote one at the expense of another (Barry, 1995: 77; Rawls, 2001: 252). The outcomes would not be regarded as principles of justice but are part of justice as impartiality in the sense that decisions are taken in accordance with procedural justice. Thus, he writes that ‘as far as the great bulk of contemporary legislation and policy making is concerned, justice as impartiality will have things to say about how the legislation or policy can be framed consistently with the demands of justice, but it is silent on the question of what the content of the legislation or policy should be’ (Barry, 1995: 143).

Barry (1995: 86) rejects the ‘preclusion’ principle – that issues which raise moral controversy should always be settled by leaving the decision to the individual, at least where to do so does not cause harm to others – partly at least on the grounds that he does not ‘believe…it is plausible to suggest that there is a principle of justice demanding that the law must come down against the protection of foetuses or animals’ (1995: 92). Public policy, therefore, ‘will in many matters reflect some conception of the good’ (1995: 161). This is promising, from an animal protection perspective, because Barry (1995: 91) is right to say that the preclusion principle is used ‘by defenders of the continued legality of barbarous sports such as fox hunting, stag hunting, and hare coursing, and could, presumably, be used with equal force for the restoration of legality to such things as cock fighting, dog fighting, and bear baiting’. It is no accident that the defenders of fox hunting campaigned against the proposal to ban the practice primarily on libertarian grounds, that it was a matter of individual conscience and liberty.

For those concerned about the welfare of animals, however, Barry’s acceptance that a theory of justice must have a procedure to adjudicate between competing conceptions of the good does not seem to offer much. Even though majority decisions – accompanied by a full, free and well-informed debate – are acceptable, so there is no veto, it is a hit and miss affair with no guarantee that decisions would be made protecting animals. As Richard Arneson (2000: 66) points out, the claim that ‘”we are following fair procedures” cannot be an adequate answer to someone who complains that she is unfairly disadvantaged by sectarian state policy’. Moreover, Barry’s liberal focus means that he is still committed to the distinction between the right and the good, where the latter, unlike the former, ‘cannot be resolved by rational argument’ (Barry, 1995: 30). He is therefore clear that a neutral stance is desirable, albeit not always possible, because disputes about the good are irresolvable, and neutrality is therefore ‘the only fair, and thus generally acceptable, way of dealing with this fact’ (Barry, 1995: 13).

            Barry (1995: 171) himself, for example, admits to being an admirer of the ecocentric conception of the good, which seeks to attach intrinsic value to nature, including animals, living but non-sentient entities and inanimate objects. ‘But I do not see’, he confesses, ‘how its claims can be presented in such a way as to show that it would be unreasonable to adopt a different view, and I take it that any other conception of the good is subject to the same liability’. This is why, for Barry, a communitarian attempt to derive a theory of justice from a particular conception of the good is doomed to failure. 

Justice as impartiality, then, is not in itself a comprehensive moral system but instead sets ‘the legitimate limits to the pursuit of any particular moral system’s precepts’ (Barry, 1995: 77). These limits are set by the prevention of harm which is the fundamental principle of justice as impartiality because ‘what is harmful is deleterious to the furtherance of virtually any conception of the good’ (Barry, 1995: 143). All of this would seem to suggest that only when it is absolutely necessary for the state to adjudicate actively between competing conceptions of the good should it do so. Thus, the main example Barry provides is of this type. This is the case of the building of a dam, the consequence of which would be the extinction of a species of fish, the snail darter.  In the process of deciding whether the dam should be built, Barry (1995: 151) thinks it justifiable for individuals to ‘appeal to your own conception of the good and try to convince others of your case on the basis of that’.  If you hold a conception of the good which includes the preservation of the snail darter and the democratic decision goes against you and the dam is built you can continue to argue the decision was wrong and regrettable.  Provided the procedure was just, however, under the terms of justice as impartiality, then the decision is ‘legitimate but bad’ (1995: 150).

            Barry appears to offer a way out of the difficulty of reconciling moral pluralism with a moral imperative to treat animals humanely, since it would seem justifiable for the good of animal protection to be pursued by the state through the mechanism of a democratic procedure, even though by so doing competing conceptions of the good might be damaged in the process.  The problem with Barry’s argument, however, is that putting competing conceptions of the good to the vote must surely be a last resort for liberals since to do so offends against moral pluralism.  Clearly in some cases – Barry’s dam is one example – a decision has to be taken one way or the other.  Where such a decision can be avoided, though, a commitment to moral pluralism surely necessitates inaction.  

Indeed, Barry accepts that many different conceptions of the good pursued by individuals and groups do not conflict. I, for instance, may abstain from pork on religious grounds whereas you do not. Even if I think that your moral view is misguided, Barry (1995: 80) argues, ‘we may still agree that each of us has a perfect right…to do either x or y’. This, as a matter of fact, is the way that the treatment of animals tends to be framed in liberal societies. Thus, I may choose to absent from eating meat whereas you do not and I may choose to buy ‘cruelty free’ cosmetics whereas you do not. Both of our conceptions of the good are accommodated in a liberal polity.

The problem with this from an animal protection perspective, however, is obvious. As long as the interests of animals within a liberal framework are framed in terms of a human conception of the good, their protection is likely to be limited if not non-existent. Protecting animals in most cases is, as we have seen, unlikely to receive the reasonable agreement that Barry demands to be incorporated as a principle of justice. Moreover, the neutrality principle is always likely to be an obstacle to putting animal protection issues through the just decision procedure that Barry recommends, and even if an issue involving animal protection is decided in a way that benefits animals, its existence is fragile.

Case Studies of Hunting and Ritual Slaughter

Two animal protection issues particularly illustrate the difficulty Barry’s theory creates for those who wish to protect animal interests. The first is fox hunting. Hunting with hounds was, after a long campaign by anti-hunting groups, banned in Britain in 2004. Seen in terms of Barry’s position, this was a conflict between two competing conceptions of the good. On the one side were those whose conception of the good included a desire to hunt, on the other side were those who regarded hunting as cruel and unnecessary. The issue was eventually resolved in favour of the latter, in the sense that legislation was passed ostensibly banning hunting with hounds.7

Two main points can be made about the relationship between the hunting issue and Barry’s theory of justice. In the first place, the anti-hunt lobby campaigned for many years to persuade the British Parliament to introduce a ban. The reason for the delay was that successive Labour governments were unwilling to commit themselves to including a ban as part of their policy programme. Indeed, they were even reluctant to provide time for a free vote on the issue. It is undoubtedly the case that part of the reason for this reticence was the feeling that, in a liberal democratic polity, it would be inappropriate for government to intervene in what was essentially regarded as a conscience issue. Here, it is not insignificant that the hunting community has increasingly framed the issue in terms of the right to the freedom to pursue their conception of the good. Indeed, the hunting community has elicited a good deal of sympathy by painting the opponents of hunting as an illiberal mob intent upon an attack on a defenceless minority.  Thus, the 2002 Countryside Alliance demonstration in London was labelled the ‘Liberty and Livelihood’ march.

The fact that fox hunting was abolished, leaving aside the apparently feeble attempts to enforce the ban, suggests that animals can be protected by utilizing Barry’s procedural justice scheme. The second point to make though is that the ban remains fragile since it is open to repeal. Thus, at the time of writing, the likelihood of a repeal is strong given Labour’s electoral defeat. Conservative MPs, along with many Liberal Democrats, are generally favourable to hunting and the Government is likely to allow another free vote on the issue.

The second issue relates to the ritual slaughter of animals. This would seem to be the classic example of an issue where Barry’s contractarian theory of justice would recommend state neutrality. That is, those who eat meat, and who observe either the Jewish or Muslim faith, should be allowed to eat meat only from animals that have been ritually slaughtered (slaughtered, that is, without prior stunning). For other meat eaters, who hold different faiths, or no faith at all, there is no such compunction to eat ritually slaughtered animals. Indeed, in many countries – including Britain and the United States – this coexistence is exactly what exists. Yet, what is ignored is the extensive evidence that the practice of ritual slaughter has severe welfare consequences for animals (FAWC, 1985: 20; Fraser and Broom, 1990: 152).

Interestingly, Barry (2001: 39-43) argues that because of the evidence that animals suffer as a result of ritual slaughter, it is a practice which is ‘virtually impossible to provide an intellectually coherent rationale for’, and yet it exists, he claims, because of, what he sees as, the illegitimate influence of multiculturalism rather than liberalism (2001: 295).  Thus, ritual slaughter, he argues, is mistakenly regarded as an issue of religious liberty whereas in fact it is a dietary request.  Jews and Muslims could and should, therefore, cease eating meat. It is, Barry (2001: 43) writes, ‘hard to see why some cows and sheep should have to suffer in ways that are unacceptable generally in order to enable people with certain religious beliefs to eat their carcasses.

However, a liberal would surely not accept Barry’s critique of the application of an exemption on religious or cultural grounds, since from a liberal animal welfare perspective it is not the feelings of the animals that takes precedence but the benefits to humans.  Thus, on liberal grounds it is quite justifiable to allow a minority to gain the perceived religious benefits that it is claimed derive from ritual slaughter.  In short, religious toleration is an important liberal principle.  Even if we accept that Barry is right to say that a law banning ritual slaughter ‘does not restrict religious liberty, only the ability to eat meat’ (2001: 44), it is the case then that those involved are deprived of the freedom to eat meat, all in the name of an attack on religious autonomy.  Unlike hunting, too, ritual slaughter continues on the grounds that it is illegitimate to intervene to prohibit one particular conception of the good.

Both of the issues discussed in this section reveal the problem associated with basing the protection of animals on their inclusion within a conception of the good. Even though Barry is opposed to fox hunting and ritual slaughter his theory by no means guarantees that they will be outlawed. The only way in which animals can receive permanent and guaranteed protection against being hunted and ritually slaughtered is if we recognise that they have a fundamental interest in not being so treated, as opposed to having their interests represented, at one remove, as a part of a human conception of the good. In other words, only if this interest is protected, as a matter of justice, can the animal protection requirement be fully met. 

Beyond Contractarianism?

We have seen that it is unlikely that participants in Barry’s Scanlonian original position would opt for principles of justice that involved considerable protection for animals. To propose such principles would invariably fail to get reasonable agreement since they would be vetoed – as conceptions of the good which do not serve the vital interest of their advocates – by those with a fundamental interest in continuing to exploit animals. To avoid this conclusion from within a contractarian framework requires either that species membership is included as an unknown behind a veil of ignorance, or that some justification is found for representing the direct interests of animals within Barry’s version of the original position. The former option is unavailable to Barry and the latter, as we have seen is a doubtful prospect. Barry (1989: 207) himself recognises the weakness of animals’ position if they are excluded from the original position. In a comment on Rawls’s and Richard’s work he points out that if we make the assumption ‘that the rational contractors are to pursue their own ends from within the original position, then it must follow that the only way of guaranteeing that the interests of animals will be protected is to include them among the parties whose assent is required’.

The exclusion of the direct consideration of animal interests within the original position means that their well-being becomes dependent upon being part of what humans regard as a flourishing life for themselves rather than because of any intrinsic value of animals which obligates us to treat them well. It is therefore a so-called indirect duty view of animals. Moreover, as with Rawls, it is of little import for Barry to claim that, whilst not protected by principles of justice, what is done to animals is subject to principles of morality. This is because, like Rawls, Barry is committed to the principle that the state should refrain, as far as possible, from intervening in the pursuit of individual conceptions of the good that cause no harm to humans.

For many animal ethicists, the anthropocentric flavour of this liberal discourse leaves a bad taste. This position would seem to represent a backward step in the sense that most moral philosophers now accept that we have direct duties to animals, that they can be harmed directly as a result of their capacity to suffer. As a result, the consensus is that only a theory of justice that accords intrinsic value to animals – so that it is recognised that at least some harm inflicted on them ought to be prohibited, not because it benefits humans, but because it is of direct benefit to the animals themselves – is valid. It is wrong, then, to claim that animals’ lack of moral standing, derived from contractarian theories, is compatible with our ‘common-sense’ view of animals. For about two hundred years, in Britain at least, the moral orthodoxy has been that inflicting unnecessary suffering on animals is a wrong done to the animal and not to those humans who might be affected negatively by it. This position is, of course, not equivalent to animal rights precisely because humans are still regarded as superior morally. The infliction of suffering on animals only becomes illegitimate morally when such suffering produces no human benefit.

In defence of the intrinsic value of animals it is important to note that it is possible to distinguish between the fact that a moral statement about animals is ‘by definition a “human-based-interest” statement’ and the claim that ‘none of my statements about the world have any independence or informative content outside the fact of my humanity’ (Vincent, 1998: 133). In other words, the fact that the valuer of the moral status of animals is human does not exclude the possibility that animals have intrinsic value, a value, that is, which exists independently of the human valuer. There is strong evidence that at least some nonhuman animals do have, like humans, intrinsic value. The fact that animals are sentient, and have varying degrees of cognitive ability, means that what we do to them matters to them, and would continue to do so even if no human was prepared to act as though it did. Animals therefore have moral standing and should be regarded as a direct moral object ‘something to which moral consideration is paid’ rather, as with the indirect duty view, ‘something about or concerning which moral consideration is paid (Morris, 1998: 191).

As a result, it follows that the interests of animals need to be protected directly from within a theory of justice. This involves, as Brian Baxter (2005) recognises, expanding the community of justice, a task with which Barry does not engage. Andrew Cohen (2007: 196-7), although generally supportive of the contractarian position, outlines accurately the cost to animals of its anthropocentric character. ‘The theory’, he writes, ‘is committed to holding that torturing horses is permissible if nobody believes it is impermissible. But torturing horses is wrong. Not only is it wrong, it is wrong to the horses’, and ‘it remains wrong even if no one believes it is’. This argument leads to the claim that the protection of animals should not be dependent upon being part of a conception of the good but, rather, their inclusion in a community of justice, so that at least some of their interests are protected, along with those of humans, by the basic structure of society. In this sense, Barry’s stricture that ‘any society that does not make the prevention of harm a priority is to that extent unjust’ (Barry, 1998: 233) can be applied to animals as much as to humans.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this article is that, ultimately, both Barry and Rawls are constrained by their contractarian framework. The bottom line for contractarian theories is that it is impossible to have agreement on principles of justice without some form of assent to that agreement. That is the point of a contract. A contract which did not have the assent of one of the parties would be declared null and void. Indeed, as we saw, Rawls’s original position was designed in such a way as to automatically exclude the interest of animals. Or rather, the exclusion of animals is an inevitable consequence of choosing the contractarian method in the first place. 

            As a result, Barry’s contractarianism can only justify indirect duties to animals, and this position is morally counter-intuitive. Of course, these conclusions do not mean that the quest to include animals as beneficiaries of justice fails, only that contractarian accounts cannot do the work required. The first step is to emphasise the beneficiary role and reject the participatory one. Many theories of justice do just that. It is to such theories – based, for example, on needs, interests and sentience – that those committed to protecting animals as a matter of justice need to focus. It is important to note here that this conclusion applies to any meaningful conception of animal protection, including animal welfare. For, as we saw, Barry’s contractarianism would only seem to justify prohibiting gratuitous cruelty to animals. In other cases, particularly where there is an economic interest at stake, there is a case to be made, from within contractarianism, for exploiting animals in many different ways.

Having said that, Barry’s contractarian theory does have the advantage that it reflects the political reality that it is humans who do the valuing of animal interests and it is humans who put animal interests on to the political agenda. This is an important insight which is politically significant. Indeed, contractarian theories provide a political model for how animal interests are represented in practice. As Baxter (2000: 49) points out, ‘whether or not any component of non-human nature is saved depends on whether or not enough people can be persuaded’ that they ought to be. In the context of environmentalism, Rawls and Barry’s liberalism is, in Derek Bell’s words, a ‘”contingently green liberalism” rather than an “intrinsically green liberalism”’ and it is ‘up to the environmentalist to persuade enough of their fellow citizens of the value of their “green ideals”’ (Bell, 2002: 721). In the same way then, Barry offers us contingent support for the protection of animals. 

In this context, it is important to recognise, as Christopher Morris (1998: 188) has emphasised, that contractarianism is ‘not merely a method for determining the nature and content of the requirements of justice; it may also give us a way of providing reasons for accepting and complying with justice’. Morris is referring here to a theory of justice as mutual advantage in which self-interest is a condition upon agreeing to abide by principles of justice. As he writes, ‘the fact that certain principles or practices are determined by rational agreement is a reason for accepting and abiding by them’ (Morris, 1996: 218). As we have seen, such a theory explicitly excludes animals, and it may help to explain a contemporary reality about animal protection politics. For why, despite the work of many animal advocates, ethicists and activists, and the strength of their arguments that animals deserve to be regarded as morally considerable, is it that the message has tended to have so little influence? Animals are still, despite many decades of campaigning, exploited mercilessly and made to suffer in innumerable ways and not, in short, treated as if they are morally considerable. 

The answer might lie in the fact that it is not enough to simply state in dry philosophical language that animals have intrinsic value, because of the characteristics – sentience or autonomy – they possess, and therefore ought to be treated in a certain way. Many accept the logic of this position, however imperfectly, but still ignore and tacitly accept the exploitation of animals. One conclusion to this paradox relates to Morris’s claim that because of its ‘other-directed’ character – the fact that it benefits others -‘sometimes we do not have reason to be just’ or, to put it in a stronger way, ‘sometimes it pays not to be just’ (Morris, 2008: 16). What is needed, as well as – or instead of – a case for the moral considerability of animals, is a focus on how the protection of animals benefits us. The exact form a politically-viable indirect duty approach to animals would take, though, is a subject for another article. 

Acknowledgements

This article was researched and written whilst I was the holder of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for its support.

Notes

  1. A contractarian account is provided by Mark Rowlands (1998), an animal rights account provided by, amongst many others, Tom Regan (1984), and a utilitarian account provided by Peter Singer (1990).
  2. Both Peter Carruthers (1992) and Peter Sandoe & Stine Christiansen (2008: 19), uphold Rawls’s assertion that animals are not owed duties of justice. 
  3. The best known attempts to adapt Rawls in order to incorporate animals are provided by Mark Rowlands (1998) and Donald Vandeveer (1979).
  4. Doubts about the validity of adapting Rawls to include animals have been expressed by Brian Baxter, (2005: 95-6) and by author……
  5. David Gauthier (1986: 268) confirms this when he writes that: ‘Animals, the unborn, the congenitally handicapped and defective, fall beyond the pale of a morality tied to mutuality’.
  6. This is a position held by Peter Carruthers (1992: 99-100). 
  7. The degree to which this legislation has actually worked in achieving its objectives is open to question. Certainly, foxes are still killed quite legally although it is now illegal to hunt them with a pack of hounds. The level of enforcement, however, remains doubtful and there would seem to have been relatively little impact on the number of hunts existing.

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Animal Welfare, Ethics and the Work of the International Whaling Commission

This was a version of an article that was published, after peer review, in the Journal Of Global Ethics, 7, 3, 2011, pp. 279-90

ABSTRACT

This article provides a critique of the IWC’s traditional focus on anthropocentric conservation in the governance of whaling. It is argued that this position, which relies on accepting the view that we have no direct moral duties to whales, is out of step with the moral status that now tends, in theory and practice, to be granted to animals. More specifically, anthropocentric conservation conflicts with the widespread acceptance, in theory and practice, that nonhuman animals such as whales have moral standing, that what we do to them matters to them directly. This does not mean that whaling should necessarily be prohibited on ethical grounds, although the animal welfare analysis of whaling sketched in this article does suggest that, on balance, it is difficult to defend morally. Rather, it is being claimed that it is morally objectionable to deny, as the whaling nations do, that the IWC ought to be mandated to consider the welfare implications of whaling.

The international regulation of whaling has reached crisis point as parties to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) have repeatedly failed to agree on a way forward (Epstein, 2008: 199-200; Chasek et. al. 2010: 205-14). This impasse has been driven by the existence of competing interests among the parties, predicated upon different ethical world views. Traditionally, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – the governing body of the ICRW – has been dominated by the ideology of anthropocentric conservationism, whereby whales are to be preserved, not because they are regarded as intrinsically valuable, but in order to maintain a sustainable stock to allow hunting them to continue. As the membership of the IWC has expanded, and the whaling nations reduced to a small minority, however, there has been enormous pressure, both from the governments of non-whaling nations and NGOs, to take account of the welfare of individual whales. There is currently no agreement on whether animal welfare falls within the IWC’s mandate, and there is no requirement for animal welfare data to be collected. However, animal welfare has been identified as a major issue for resolution in the current reform process. To this end at its meeting in 2010 the IWC agreed to the British delegation’s offer to convene a whale welfare and ethics workshop, which was held in March 2011 (IWC, 2010).

It is the aim of this article to outline and evaluate the ethical approaches current in the debate in order to make a moral judgement on the practice of whaling.2 It is argued that the IWC’s traditional focus on anthropocentric conservation, which relies upon an acceptance of the view that we have no direct duties to whales, is out of step with the moral status which now, in theory and practice, tends to be accorded generally to animals. In particular, such a position conflicts with the widespread acceptance, in theory and practice, that nonhuman animals such as whales have moral standing, that what we do to them matters to them directly. This does not mean, of course, that whaling should necessarily be prohibited on ethical grounds. The acceptance that animals such as whales have a moral right to life would enable us to reach this conclusion. The application of an animal welfare ethic to whaling would, by contrast, require us to weigh up the costs to whales against the benefits to those who seek to catch them. As this article will suggest, a plausible animal welfare case against whaling can be made. At the very least, though, to deny, as the IWC currently does, the validity of engaging in such an animal-welfare centred debate is clearly objectionable morally.

Anthropocentric Conservationism and the IWC

The regulation of whaling provides the classic example of an anthropocentric wildlife treaty, in the sense that the only value of whales is as a resource for humans. Unregulated whaling over many centuries decimated the whale population, bringing many species to the brink of extinction (D’Amato and Chopra, 1991: 28-9). This resulted in the creation, in the 1930s, of an international body to protect whale stocks. Its present incarnation, the ICRW, came into being in 1948. It was designed to conserve whales, not because they were regarded as intrinsically valuable, and therefore worthy of some respect and decent treatment, but because whaling nations recognized that they needed to be conserved in order for hunting them to continue. The convention set up a standing body, the IWC, which is designed to regulate the industry by imposing annual quotas determined by calculating the maximum sustainable yields. The moratorium on commercial whaling, introduced in 1982, was designed, at least for the whaling nations, ostensibly to allow whale stocks to recover. 

The ethical position denoted by anthropocentric conservation is equivalent to the so-called indirect duty view approach to animals. This approach was common particularly prior to the nineteenth century. Thus, for philosophers such as Kant (1965/1797), the treatment of animals may raise ethical issues, but animal interests do not matter in their own right. In other words, ill-treating an animal does not infringe any morally important interests that animals themselves possess, but we may infringe the interests of other humans in the process. The obligation to treat an animal well is, then, an indirect obligation since it derives from the direct obligation to another human.

From the perspective of anthropocentric conservationism, then, since the intrinsic value of animals is not recognised, their protection depends entirely on whether it is in the interests of humans to do so. For example, the need to conserve whale stokes was, at least for the whaling nations, the reason behind the moratorium on commercial whaling, which, as an indirect consequence, has protected at least some whales.3 An indirect duty ethic also justifies protecting whales on aesthetic grounds. The case for whale watching, for instance, is that it benefits humans who get pleasure from observing whales in their natural habitat. In addition, of course, there are economic benefits to be had from facilitating whales from being seen. In fact, it is possible to justify a prohibition of whaling on the general grounds that it serves a wide variety of human interests – including squeamishness, and an emotional dislike of cruelty – to do so. Of course, these have to be balanced against the interests of those humans with an economic or cultural interest in continuing to hunt whales.

Whaling and Modern Animal Ethics

There is a problem with basing a modern wildlife treaty on an ethical framework which denies or ignores the moral standing of nonhuman animals. The problem is that this ethical framework conflicts with the widespread acceptance, in theory and practice, that we do have direct duties to animals; that what we do to them is of ethical importance in and of itself.

Few philosophers would deny now that we owe at least something to animals directly. What we do them, in other words, matters to them and not just to those humans with a vested interest in their protection. Accepting that we owe direct duties to animals, however, does not mean that any use of animals is automatically prohibited. A useful distinction here, following Goodpaster (1978), is between moral standing and moral significance. The former I take to mean the existence of any degree of direct moral considerability, the latter I take to mean the degree of moral worth, so that, as Attfield (2003: 43) clarifies, ‘moral standing…is compatible with different degrees of moral significance’. All that is being claimed here so far is that, for the vast majority of philosophers, animals have moral standing, but that claim is consistent with the position that humans have greater moral worth than animals. In other words, accepting that animals have moral standing does not rule out sacrificing their interests in order to benefit humans who may have a greater degree of moral significance.

            The moral orthodoxy regarding animals, which emerged in the nineteenth century, does seek to make a distinction between moral standing and moral significance. This animal welfare ethic holds that, whilst we owe some obligations to animals on the grounds that they can be harmed directly, it is morally justifiable for humans to exploit them provided that humans benefit significantly in the process. The principle of unnecessary suffering, therefore, can be invoked if the level of suffering inflicted on an animal outweighs the benefits likely to be gained by humans. Robert Nozick (1974: 35-42.) provides a concise but admirably effective definition of animal welfare when he writes that it constitutes ‘utilitarianism for animals, Kantianism for people.’ Sacrificing the interests of animals for the aggregative welfare, then, is permissible providing that the benefit is significant enough, but treating humans in the same way is prohibited whatever the benefits that might accrue from so doing.

Of great importance in the transformation of the moral status of animals is the recognition of the moral significance of sentience. This claim derives from utilitarianism. As Bentham (1948: 311) wrote, in an oft-quoted passage, ‘the question of moral status is not ‘Can they reason? Nor, Can they talk? But, Can they suffer?’.  Animals’ lack of other psychological capacities, such as reason, autonomy, moral agency and so forth, is still, for many philosophers, important but this lack is now more often than not invoked to deprive animals of an increase in moral significance rather than the existence of any moral standing. There is a consensus, in other words, that the sentiency of animals means that we have some moral obligations to them.

             There are some animal ethicists, of course, who want to go much further and accord moral rights to at least some animals. Traditionally, animal rights has been associated with an abolitionist position, whereby the granting of rights to animals is equivalent to a prohibition on their use, as sources of food or models of scientific research, irrespective of what is done to them whilst being used. Regan (1984), for instance, argues that because animals have what he calls inherent value, they possess a right to be treated with respect. Being treated with respect is inconsistent, Regan argues, with being exploited even if the exploitation does not involve suffering. 

I do not think that an animal rights position necessarily equates with abolitionism. If one grants to animals a right not suffer, for instance, then it is not using animals that ought to be of concern morally, but rather what is done to them whilst being used (author, 2010; 2011).  It is important to note, though, that both versions of animal rights use ‘rights’ in the same sense. The purpose of a right is to draw a protective fence around its possessor. In other words, we are not entitled to sacrifice an individual’s right even if by so doing we could maximise aggregate general welfare. For example, if it was possible to find cure for a range of currently fatal diseases by inflicting pain and death upon a small number of humans (or even one) the rights view – or, to be completely accurate, a particular version of rights theory – would impose significant constraints upon so doing, on the grounds that such constraints protect important individual interests.

            What an animal rights ethics prescribes with regard to whaling will depend on which version is adopted. If we accept the strong version of animal rights, whereby the use of animals is prohibited, then whaling would clearly be morally wrong. Finding a method of killing that reduced or eliminated the infliction of pain would not alter this, since killing them, irrespective of the method used, is still a wrong. If, on the other hand, we accord to animals such as whales a right not to suffer, then the moral legitimacy of whaling will depend upon the degree to which it does cause suffering. This, of course, is an empirical question, which will be discussed further below in the context of an animal welfare analysis of whaling. 

For now, it should be noted that the position that whales have a right not to suffer differs from the consideration of suffering in such an animal welfare analysis. In the case of the former, even if there are human benefits to be had from causing whales to suffer these are illegitimate morally because they have been achieved by infringing the rights of whales. In the case of the latter, the pursuit of such human benefits may be legitimate morally depending on the degree to which they can be regarded as necessary. Since whales do not have rights, according to the animal welfare ethic, it may be legitimate morally to sacrifice their interest in not suffering.

            Of course, describing what is meant by an animal rights position, and its implications for practices such as whaling, is easier than justifying according rights to animals in the first place. Such an analysis is beyond the scope of this paper. A starting point would be to establish on what grounds animals are being accorded rights. For some philosophers, mere sentience is enough for such a move (Francione, 2008), whereas for others – such as Regan (1984) – establishing that at least some animals have psychological characteristics beyond mere sentience, is important. This latter move is designed to counter the common argument that personhood – including a range of psychological capacities such as autonomy, rationality, language use, moral agency and so on – is synonymous with human beings and explains our greater moral worth (see, for example, Steinbock, 1978)

There is little doubt physiologically that whales can feel pain. In addition, although it is impossible to ascertain with certainty, there are a number of factors that suggest that whales have considerable cognitive capacities. They have remarkable sensory powers, and complex communication capacities. Moreover, some whale species are social animals, and have developed interspecies communication with dolphins (Lilly, 1967). Dolphins themselves are regarded, by some scientists, as possessing the necessary cognitive capacities for personhood (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article6973994.ece). Much is often made of the size of a whale’s brain (the biggest being six times larger than a human’s) but this, of course, is insignificant compared to the size of the brain relative to the body. What is more important is the structure of the brain and, in particular, the number of neocortical neurons. Here, research has found that the number of such neurons in the Minke whale is, at 12.8 billion, 13 times that of the rhesus monkey but only two thirds that of the human (Eriksen and Pakkenberg, 2007).

If we accept the view that whales can be regarded as persons because of the characteristics they possess, then they are entitled to the same degree of moral status as human persons. That is, if humans have a right to life, then so do whales. As Regan (1984:110), who holds this view, points out: ‘a painless killing, from the point of view of what a whale loses when killed, is just as harmful, just as great a loss to the whale, as a painful one’. As a result ‘Even were the day to come …where we had the technological means to kill a whale instantaneously, painlessly, that would not cancel the immorality of the killing’. Importantly, though, even if we reject the claim that whales, unlike normal adult humans, are persons, it is still possible to justify the prohibition of whaling on rights grounds, if one accepts that it is credible to accord to them a right not to suffer, and it can be established that whaling causes suffering. It seems to me that such a position is a valid one. Whales clearly have an interest in avoiding suffering whereas it is more contentious to argue they do have an interest in continued life.

Animal Welfare and and the Treatment of Animals in Practice

It is undoubtedly the case that some, maybe many, of those involved in NGOs oppose whaling because they regard it as a practice which infringes the rights of whales. The granting of rights to animals, however, remains extremely contentious. In practical terms, the glaring inconsistency is between the practice of anthropocentric conservation in the case of whales, which denies or ignores their moral standing, and the dominance of the animal welfare ethic in the way animals are treated in general. Thus, the acceptance of the animal welfare ethic has led to the introduction of animal welfare laws in most developed countries. In a world-wide survey by Boreham (2011), for example, it is concluded that ‘it is now quite a rarity for a country to have absolutely no coverage of animal welfare in their laws’ and ‘there is now recognition of animal welfare across all regions, including the Middle East, Africa and Asia’. Many of these animal welfare laws provide legal constraints on what can be done to animals in the pursuit of human gain in a variety of spheres.

            Not only has the animal welfare ethic predominated within individual countries. It is also increasingly the basis for international agreements involving animals. For example, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) – an intergovernmental organisation with a membership of 172 countries including Norway, Iceland and Japan – first adopted culturally neutral standards for the humane slaughter of animals for human consumption in 2005. Although written with specific reference to terrestrial animals in a slaughterhouse environment, the guidelines note that the principles apply to all animals slaughtered outside slaughterhouses. The latest version of the guidelines (OIE, 2009: chapter 7.5) include guiding principles for animal welfare (Article 7.1.2), incorporating recognition and promotion of the ‘five freedoms’4, as well as a chapter detailing recommendations to ‘ensure the welfare of food animals during pre-slaughter and slaughter processes until they are dead’ (Chapter 7.5). Provisions include various prohibitions on animal handling, as well as criteria for the effective application of pre-slaughter stunning (Article 7.5.7). The provisions in this agreement quite clearly recognise the moral standing of animals and are designed to protect their interests in not suffering.

It is true that many treaties concerned with wild animals remain primarily anthropocentric (author, 2005: 118-20). However, the interests that individual wild animals have in avoiding suffering are being increasingly recognised. For example, throughout the European Union there has been enormous political pressure to ban the particularly harsh leg-hold trap in favour of a more humane alternative. Moreover, there is an, admittedly very weak, Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards between the EU, Canada and the Russian Federation signed in 1998, and a similar agreement between the EU and the United States was signed in the same year (Harrop, 2003). These standards set out the permitted length of time it should take for an animal to die once trapped. However weak these agreements are, they do involve a recognition that wild animals are not merely resources for us to exploit as we see fit but entities with moral standing whose interests have, however perfunctorily, to be taken into account.

Even within the IWC, pressure, from non-whaling nations and NGOs, has resulted in some consideration of the welfare of whales. The impact on whales of slaughter methods has been a matter for discussion in the past (see below). More recently, the IWC has started to address issues – such as ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear – which have a significant welfare component (Johnson, et. al., 2005). Clearly, there is a conservation motive here too since if whales are killed by ship strikes, as they usually are, or by getting entangled in fishing gear, then it impacts upon the sustainability of the species.  Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly the case that the welfare of individual whales has been a consideration here too. 

For example, at the IWC meeting in Agadir, Morocco, in 2010 the report of a workshop on welfare issues (originally proposed by Norway) associated with euthanasia and the entanglement of large whales was endorsed. This report accepted that, in some circumstances, euthanasia is often the most appropriate option because it is the most humane option (http://iwcoffice.org/_documents/commission/IWC62docs/62-15.pdfhttp://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/wildlife/protect/whales/documents/iwc62.pdf). Such a conclusion is at odds, of course, with an approach concerned exclusively with maintaining species numbers.

The principles of animal welfare, then, are adopted extensively at the national and supra-national levels. Moreover, the welfare of individual whales is given some consideration by the IWC itself when more general human/whale interactions are discussed. Given this, it is inconsistent that animal welfare is not currently regarded as within the IWC’s remit, and that the welfare of whales is not regarded as a factor that ought to be taken into account in discussions about whaling. 

An Animal Welfare Analysis of Whaling

An assessment of the moral acceptability of whaling from an animal welfare perspective requires the weighing up of the costs to whales against the benefits to those who seek to catch them. Any significant human benefit can justify the exploitation of animals, which are not protected by a right to life or a right not to suffer at human hands. Crucially, what is regarded as unnecessary suffering is not static and there are reasonable disagreements about what constitutes ‘unnecessary’ in this context. Indeed, over the past few decades what is regarded as unnecessary suffering in the treatment of animals in general has expanded to reflect a growing awareness of the different ways animals can suffer, changes in cultural norms, and technological developments which have made it possible to use alternatives. Thirty years ago or so, for example, the wearing of fur and the testing of cosmetics on animals was regarded as acceptable.  Now, many people in the developed world frown upon both practices. 

The cost-benefit calculation relating to whaling is not an exact science, but it is possible to sketch out a framework. On the cost side, it is widely accepted that the method of killing whales causes enormous suffering and is likely to be unavoidable. High speed pursuits are likely to cause fear and agitation in the hunted whale. The use of harpoons whose explosive charge detonates inside whales cannot ensure that the animals do not suffer before death ensues. The Japanese Government’s own data suggests that up to 60% of minke whales do not die instantaneously in special permit whaling (Ishikawa, 2005). This is not surprising since whalers are trying to catch a rapidly moving target, which may only appear at the surface for a short period of time. As a result, the chances of the harpoon acting as a stunning device are relatively small. Therefore, the suffering endured by a whale that is caught but not killed instantaneously is caused by four major factors: the fear engendered by the hunt, the initial harpoon strike, the subsequent explosion and the application of ‘secondary killing methods’ (further harpoons or rifle fire, until death ensues).  

It is not difficult to show that the level of suffering involved in killing whaling is greater than that deemed to be ethically permissible in the case of killing domesticated animals slaughtered for food. It is quite clear, for instance, that the methods used to kill whales do not meet the OIE standards described above. To put it starkly, if the OIE published a recommendation that it was internationally acceptable to fire hand grenades into cows as they ran around the field there would rightly be an outcry! Of course, the OIE regulations apply to domesticated animals that are to be consumed for food. However, charges of ethical inconsistency can be raised against those countries which sign up to the standards pertaining to domesticated animals but then completely ignore them in the context of the killing of wild animals for the purposes of commercial meat production. This is particularly applicable given that the major use to which dead whales are now put is, as we will see below, a source of food. 

Against this evaluation, it can be pointed out that greater suffering – than experienced by farm animals or by wild animals such as whales – may, and often is, inflicted on some animals used in experimental contexts. In those cases, however, the benefits, or potential benefits, to shumans and/or other animals may well be greater. In defence of whaling, too, it can be argued that whilst whales suffer in the process of being caught it is probably true that, in general, they live better lives than confined animals (such as veal calves on which see below) on factory farms, where the moral case reform is even greater. In part answer to this, it should be pointed out that the worst excesses of factory farming (for instance, the veal crate, the battery cage, the sow stall and tether and so on) are being dismantled across the countries of the European Union, although it is conceded that world-wide the incidence of factory farming methods is growing.

There is also some validity in the argument, put forward by delegates from whaling nations, that whaling should be compared with other forms of hunting rather than with the treatment of domesticated animals. Here, though, there is a strong case for saying that the method of killing whales involves the infliction of greater suffering than that inflicted upon most other hunted animals.  It is arguably easier to kill a land-based wild animal humanely than it is to kill a whale, although in practice it is conceded that a clean kill is not always possible and suffering sometimes does take place. In addition, although trapping animals can cause great suffering, there have, as we saw above, been attempts to take the welfare interests of individual trapped animals into account. 

Given the suffering inflicted on whales, the moral justification, from an animal welfare perspective, for their continued hunting depends on two factors. The first is the ability of the whaling industry to develop more humane hunting methods. There is some possibility of this. The first discussion within the IWC of the welfare of whales, as opposed to their conservation as a species, occurred in 1958, and this was the start of a process whereby the conservation agenda has been challenged by ‘protectionist’, and later ‘preservationist’ agendas (D’Amato and Chopra, 1991: 32-48). As a symbol of this, a Working Group on Humane Killing was set up within the IWC in 1982, and some changes have occurred as a result of the IWC’s increasing focus on protectionism, a development driven in particular by the approach of the British Government (Harrop, 2003). In addition, the use of cold (non-exploding) harpoons was banned in 1981, although it is still used by subsistence hunters. Moreover, other changes, such as the tailoring of weaponry to the size and species of the whales being hunted, improvements to ‘secondary killing’ methods – concerned with killing whales that have not been killed by the harpoon – and ensuring that welfare standards improve in the area of subsistence whaling, have also been mooted. Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how welfare standards can improve dramatically. As Harrop (2003: 85) points out: ‘a large whale in a cruel sea is not an easy quarry for hunting and necessarily the killing of these animals will fail to conform with contemporary welfare expectations’.

            The second factor to be considered in an animal welfare assessment of whaling is the human benefits gained by continuing to catch whales. To what extent, in other words, is whaling, and more specifically the suffering inflicted on whales, necessary? By the beginning of the twentieth century, the products derived from catching whales constituted a significant economic resource.  Whales traditionally had a large variety of commercial uses – most notably the oil extracted from their bodies was used for a variety of purposes and not least for lighting – and it no exaggeration to say that the ‘whaling industry was the equivalent of today’s petroleum industry’ (Epstein, 2008: 28). As substitutes were found, and whale stocks plummeted, however, whaling has long ceased to be an economically important activity, for states at least, although it may still represent an important source of economic value for some small communities.The primary use of the whales caught now is as a source of food. But, despite the fact that whaling nations have sometimes sought to justify whaling in terms of food security (Epstein, 2008: 231-4), whale meat represents a tiny proportion of the food consumed in whaling nations. Indeed, few people, even in whaling nations, have ever eaten whale meat (Allaby, 1986: 146-7). 

In this sense, a useful comparison would be between whaling and the veal trade. Origi­nally, the tender and pale veal meat came from calves slaughtered after a few days of birth before they began to eat grass and their flesh darkened. The problem for the veal producers was that these very young calves were very small. In the 1950s, veal producers in Holland hit upon the idea of keeping the calves alive longer without their flesh becoming any less pale or tender.  During the 16 weeks of their lives, calves were fed a liquid diet which lacked the required amount of both roughage and iron and, because the animal could not be permitted to consume these elements naturally and develop muscles which reduce the tenderness of the meat, it was necessary for them to be removed quickly from their mothers and confined. The most notorious confinement was the so­-called veal crate, a device which prevented the calf from turning round or grooming the whole of its body and which isolated the animal completely from external stimuli and even bedding which might be a source of iron. It has been widely recognised in Europe that the suffering inflicted on calves simply did not justify a delicacy which was enjoyed by very few, and the veal crate was banned in Britain in 1990 and later throughout the EU. It can be argued that whaling occupies a very similar position ethically to the veal crate, and it is therefore vulnerable to the same outcome.

Of course, there will be some economic dislocation caused by the banning of whaling and, from an animal welfare perspective, those who oppose whaling have to show that this dislocation can be readily rectified by alternative sources of employment and investment opportunities. Here, the economic benefit of whaling need to be measured against the income that is currently raised by whale watching and the additional amounts that could be raised if additional resources were put into promoting it. The point, though, is that, even from an animal welfare perspective, the infliction of suffering on animals is not justified by just any human benefits. These benefits have to be shown to be significant. 

Cultural Diversity, Ethics and Animal Welfare

The reality now, as Epstein (2008: 235-43) has shown, is that the pro-whaling discourse is more about cultural identity than it is about economics. A challenge to attempts to pass a moral judgement against whaling on animal welfare grounds, therefore,  is offered by those who say that whaling should be permitted on the grounds that it represents an important part of the culture of the society that permits it, just as, say, bullfighting is revered in Spain or fox hunting in Britain. Thus, it has been claimed that the ban on commercial whaling represents a cultural bias against the Japanese since the consumption of whale meat reflects ‘dietary customs, religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds and emotional sensibilities…For the Japanese people, the whale is not only a food source, but also a basis of culture’ (Sumi, 1989: 318).

Assessing the degree to which cultural diversity is a sufficient justification for the suffering inflicted on whales from an animal welfare perspective is a difficult task, and requires more research in particular to ascertain the actual loss to members of a particular culture if whaling is prohibited. This, of course, is likely to vary. Much will depend on the extent to which the killing and consumption of whales is an integral part of the culture, as opposed to a more general relationship with the animals which might be satisfied by alternative means, such as whale watching, which do not involve the infliction of suffering. What can be challenged effectively is the assumption of moral relativism that often appears to lie behind claims linking cultural diversity with whaling.5 Moral relativism is the ‘idea that the authority of moral norms is relative to time and place…so that they cannot be objectively justified and so cannot be absolute’ (Lukes, 2008: x, 16). The pro-whaling literature tends to link cultural diversity and whaling with moral relativism in this way. Thus, in a Japanese paper seeking to defend whaling, it is stated that ‘there are two kinds of ethics or morals, one is innate and universal, and the other is acquired and culture-social specific’ (Hayashi, Morishita and Ohmagari, 2006)

This statement expressively acknowledges that only a part of ethics is ‘innate and universal’ whilst that part of ethics concerning whaling is ‘acquired and culture-social specific’. There is, however, a strong case to be made in favour of the claim that the ethics involving the treatment of whales ought to be governed by a universal ethic too. By utilising familiar arguments, it is possible to suggest that that such a relativistic view of morality in the case of animals is mistaken. In the first place, although it might be the case that moral diversity does exist in the world as a descriptive fact, we cannot move from observing this diversity of morals to the conclusion that ‘therefore there is no one true morality and no privileged value perspective’ (Lukes, 2008: 133). In the context of this article, therefore, just because a particular culture regards whaling as ethically acceptable does not automatically mean that it is so. Thus, it may be correct to say, as one ethical defence of whaling does, that: ‘Depending on one’s cultural as well as ethnic background, there are differences in the things people judge to be cruel’ (Hayashi, Morishita and Ohmagari, 2006), but that, by itself, is not a justification for the claim that all actions deriving from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds are thereby morally permissible.

Second, a moral relativist position underestimates the degree to which we can reach considered judgements on moral questions involving animals. Such a judgement includes assessing the logical consistency of a moral claim as well as the validity of any factual claims made. Central to many competing moral positions are facts which are empirically verifiable. To give one relevant example, Descartes (1912/1637) justified the acceptability of using animals in scientific experiments on the grounds that they could not feel pain. There are few thinkers who would now accept this empirical conclusion and therefore the major justification for the normative claim no longer holds. Of course, it is the case that a moral conclusion, that experimenting on animals is wrong, cannot be derived from the empirical fact that animals feel pain, since such a conclusion requires a normative premise to the effect that we ought not to experiment on beings who can feel pain. Nevertheless, facts can have an important bearing on moral arguments. We have seen, for instance, that the moral case for and against whaling involves the use of factual statements – for instance, on the cognitive capacity of whales or on the economic benefits which can be derived from their exploitation – which can be subject to empirical verification. 

Third, the moral relativist position underestimates the degree to which there is consensus on the moral status of animals. As this article has revealed, there is evidence that most governments, at least in the developed world – including the governments of whaling and non-whaling nations – agree that we ought to take into account the interests of animals in our decision-making, that what we do to animals as, say, sources of food or as experimental subjects, has an impact on their welfare, and that we have moral obligations to ensure that we try as far as possible to protect the interests of animals. 

Fourth, it can be argued that the reason why the extensive degree of moral consensus is not fully appreciated is because of a failure to distinguish between the concepts of the good, on the one hand, and, on the other, the right. Those who seek to link moral relativism with cultural diversity in order to justify the continuation of whaling seem to confuse a theory of the good with a theory of the right. A conception of the good refers to what an individual or a group regards as an ideal way of living. For instance, I might base my life on the teachings of the Bible, whilst others might base their lives on the Koran, and others might adopt a secular life-style. The list of possible conceptions of the good is endless. A desire to spend a great deal of time on the sofa watching game shows on television is as much a conception of the good as is going to the opera. It is a central feature of liberal political thought that the state (or indeed the international community) should not intervene to favour one conception of the good over another. 

Those supporting whaling argue that their conception of the good involves catching whales and consuming whale products, and that non-whaling nations and peoples have no business in intervening to impose their way of life on them. Before this is accepted, however, we need to contrast a conception of the good with the idea of a right. A right is what individuals are owed. At the very least, it represents a right to be free of interference that causes harm. Crucially, in liberal political thought, the right takes precedence over the good. In other words, ‘the ‘rights which people have, and which it is the job of the state to protect, come first and stand as constraints on the conceptions of the good which people can choose to pursue’ (Mulhall and Swift, 1992: 30) So, if my conception of the good consists in engaging in practices that causes harm then the state should intervene to stop it. In other words, the moral pluralism that liberals advocate has to be a ‘reasonable pluralism’ (Rawls, 1993: xix-xx). For instance, most would argue that a conception of the good that involves genital mutilation is unacceptable because it causes harm to others. Likewise, the vast majority would regard slavery in a similar light, as a conception of the good that is unacceptable because of the harm caused by pursuing it.

The point I am edging towards here is that, when it comes to conceptions of the good, moral pluralism is to be encouraged. We do live in a world of variety and it is not possible, or desirable, to intervene by claiming that one good is better than another. However, there is a great deal of consensus, across different cultures and different nations, on what can be regarded as a right and therefore what conceptions of the good are beyond the pale morally. To give a stark example, a culture that sought to inflict severe harm on a racial minority would be universally condemned.

Those who seek to defend whaling on the grounds of moral relativism tend to regard the activity as a conception of the good. Those who seek to prohibit whaling are then accused of seeking to impose their own conception of the good on others. This is the grounds for the charge that to seek to do so is an example of cultural imperialism. The case against whaling, however, involves much more than this. To regard whaling as a legitimate conception of the good, to be weighed against competing and equally legitimate conceptions of the good, is to disregard the harm that is inflicted on whales in the pursuit of this particular lifestyle. Built into the claim of cultural relativism, therefore, is an assumption either that whales cannot suffer or that their suffering is inconsequential. The animal welfare case against whaling is based on the assertion that neither assumption is justified. As a result, we are entitled to take into account the suffering of whales in building a moral case against the practice. It will not do, in other words, to dismiss opposition to whaling on the grounds that it is merely one conception of the good amongst others. 

Conclusion

This article has suggested that the IWC’s continuing adoption of anthropocentric conservation conflicts with the widespread acceptance, in theory and practice, of an ethic that accords direct moral standing to nonhuman animals. Few philosophers today, for good reason, would deny that we have direct moral obligations to animals such as whales. Such an ethic is now widely accepted in practice in the case of domesticated animals, and is increasingly a consideration in the way in which wild animals are treated by humans. The IWC itself has recognised this ethic in some human/whale interactions, but has denied its validity in the case of whaling. Of course, the application of animal welfare principles to whaling does not necessarily justify its prohibition on moral grounds, although the adoption of an animal rights ethic which accorded a right to life to whales would do so. The first step, therefore, should be an amendment to the convention schedule creating a permanent working group on animal welfare and mandating the submission of animal welfare data. 

The animal welfare analysis of whaling sketched in this article does suggest that, on balance, it is difficult to defend morally, although more work is needed to establish the case. Despite the suffering that does occur, at least sometimes, during the catching of whales, whaling is not now justified primarily for the economic benefits it produces but for its cultural value. This justification, however, is vulnerable to the charge that alternative, non-exploitative, uses of whales are equally appropriate. There are strong grounds for thinking that the cultural benefits claimed for whaling cannot be justified on the grounds of a moral relativism, as some whaling advocates seek to do. Nevertheless, an animal welfare case for whaling centring on the cultural benefits that may derive from it, is not dependent on the validity of moral relativism but could be based merely on the balancing of interests. There is no case, however, for the IWC to fail, as it has done, to engage seriously with the process of balancing these interests. What is clear is that a version of cultural diversity which holds that it is justifiable to deny that whales have any moral worth, and that we are entitled to do anything we want to them, is inconsistent with the widely-held principle that they have intrinsic value.

Notes

1.         acknowledgements omitted.

2.         It is not being claimed here that moral arguments are likely to be the key determining variable in the development of the international regulation of whaling. Mitchell (1998) has shown that in the case of whaling a scientific-based discourse has had more impact than those that are interest or moral-based. By contrast, Epstein (2008) points to the importance of an anti-whaling discourse and minimises the political importance of the scientific community. This article does not take a position in this debate. All that is being claimed is that moral arguments ought to be decisive, irrespective of whether they are or not. 

3.         Whaling still persists under the guise of ‘scientific’ whaling conducted by Japan under the auspices of the IWC. In addition, Iceland and Norway set themselves annual quotas for the commercial hunting of whales having lodged objections to the moratorium. About 1,500 whales were killed by these methods in 2008. In addition, the IWC awards Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling quotas for whale hunts in Russia, the USA, Greenland and St. Vincent. Between 300-400 whales are caught annually under these quotas (www.iwcoffice.org/conservation/table_permit.htm.

4.         Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

5.         The position taken here is also one adopted by Barry (2001) and Casal (2003).

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