We recently published a page outlining ACE’s philosophical commitments, which, when taken together, form the foundation of our work. In addition to explaining our commitments, we also explain that we are not committed to certain controversial views that are sometimes attributed to us. For instance, we are not committed as an organization to any particular moral theory, any particular view of consciousness, or any particular political ideology.
We believe our research is valuable to anyone who shares the following three philosophical commitments:
1. No individual should be given less than full moral consideration on the basis of any morally irrelevant feature of their identity, and this includes species membership.
Some people have argued that only humans deserve full moral consideration because humans have some characteristic that all other animals lack. However, we are only able to identify one characteristic that applies to all and only humans: membership in the species Homo sapiens. Species membership—like race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation—is an arbitrary feature of identity on which to place moral importance. Nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of any of these features.
2. All other morally relevant factors being equal, the best (most morally good) action is the one that results in the highest net welfare.
Given the choice between making a $1 donation that results in one life spared or making a $1 donation that results in ten lives spared, it’s better to make the donation that will spare ten lives, all else equal. Given the choice between volunteering an hour of time to make a small improvement in an animal’s welfare or volunteering an hour of time to make a large improvement in an animal’s welfare, it’s better to use the time to make the larger net improvement, all else equal.
3. Empirical research can help us determine which action is best.
Anyone who is determined to help animals as much as possible should use research to guide their actions. Investigating animal welfare is, at least to some extent, an empirical enterprise. To better understand the inner lives of nonhuman animals, we can rely on research from academic fields such as biology, neuroscience, and ethology, among others. Predicting the effects of various actions is also, at least to some extent, an empirical enterprise. Studies on the effects of common animal advocacy interventions can help guide our efforts.
Because ACE is committed to transparency, we feel it is important to describe our philosophical commitments explicitly. We hope that our new page can clarify some of the questions our readers may have about the philosophical assumptions we make during the course of our work.
The full page outlining ACE’s philosophical commitments can be found here.
Well writen and very clear so as to be understood by all. Thank you !
For the animals says
First off, I applaud the anti-speciesism statement in point 1.
“2. All other morally relevant factors being equal, the best (most morally good) action is the one that results in the highest net welfare.”
The all other factors equal clause makes that overall foundation statement very unspecific. Because it is silent on the core philosophical differences within animal rights. For example is painless killing of a non-human animal a factor that is equally or almost equally bad as welfare reductions, according to ACE?
The numbers of macerations or other forms of killing of newly hatched males in the egg industry is staggering. If killing non-humans itself is a serious moral factor for ACE then work against that practice may become a high priority. But perhaps not so if killing itself is given marginal or no weight, since the negative welfare involved may not be as large. This also depends on how ACE prioritizes work against deprivation of future welfare (birds killed shortly after birth) vs against present negative welfare (hens suffering in cages).
FWIW my impression so far is that ACE is in all but official statement guided by classical utilitarianism. If I’m mistaken in that then it would be very informative if ACE highlighted what in its recommendation track record so far does not fit with classical utilitarianism?
Toni Adleberg says
Hello “For the animals,”
You’re right that the “all other morally relevant factors being equal” clause makes our second commitment less specific. On our main page devoted to the philosophical foundation of our work (linked at the end of this blog post), we do elaborate on which other factors might be morally relevant and which ones are not relevant, in our view. That discussion should help to clarify precisely what our second commitment entails.
In the same section (the one labeled “Commitment Two: Promoting Welfare,“) we explain that our recommendations are generally consistent with classical utilitarianism, but we don’t take ourselves to be committed, as an organization, to classical utilitarianism. We think that many different moral theories are also consistent with our work.
All the best,