Utilitarianism: The Morality Of Killing Animals

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The morality of killing animals (when there is no suffering involved) posses a challenge for utilitarian ethics. My objective is to address this problem working within a utilitarian framework.

Utilitarianism is a moral theory that evaluates our actions as moral or immoral depending on the consequences these actions create in the world. A moral action is the one that brings the best consequences to all the individuals involved. These consequences are judged in hedonistic terms or, in other words, their morality depends on whether they reduce or increase the amount of suffering in the world.

As a theory that is mainly concerned with suffering and pleasure, animals are included in the utilitarians ' moral circle, as most animals are perfectly capable of experiencing of pain and pleasure as we do. Sentience is the criteria to be a moral patient, regardless of the individual 's level of cognition. In practical terms, this implies that animal farming is commonly deemed immoral by utilitarian philosophers, due to the great amount of animal suffering it entails.

But, what happens if the animal does not suffer? Imagine an animal that live an enjoyable life that is worth living. If we could kill that animal with no physical or emotional distress, would it be moral? The
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Arguably, the utilitarian position about the killing of animals is very counterintuitive but, there are not, to my knowledge, any convincing arguments to dismiss it. My approach will be, on the one hand, contest the idea “replaceability”. I find this idea questionable as it attributes a positive value to birth by default. On the other hand, the whole argument takes for granted some characteristics of animal mindedness, namely, an absolute lack of self-awareness or self-consciousness. However, the understanding of these aspects of animal cognition has dramatically changed in the last years, and it should be taken into
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