Why is the animal welfare movement actually commited to the liberation of animals.
Let us first define what is Welfarism. Every moral person agree that welfare is good, and that there is a strong moral imperative to promote welfare, not just for ourselves and those close to us, but also more generally to the world at large.
Welfare is the objective measure of the subjective agreeability or desirability of a subject’s situation. This means that every consciousness that can either desire or passively enjoy the state in which they are produces welfare. This definition can be accepted weakly or strongly. Weak welfare theory claims that subjective situations are either, qualitatively, : desirable, neutral or averse. A desirable situation is worth one unit of welfare, a neutral situation isn’t worth any welfare, and an averse situation is worth -1 units of welfare. Strong welfare theory adds to this that the desirability and averse-ness or a situation can be measured and weighted against one another to produce a scale of some sort. Both welfare theories claim that, as time passes, a subject can add welfare, but Strong welfare theory claims that particularly desirable or averse states can add more than one unit in an instantaneous amount of time. Other strong welfare theorists may claim that some situations may be worth more absolute welfare per second than others.
What’s striking about Welfarism is that they also claim that welfare is the only thing that is good, and that promoting welfare is the only moral imperative there is. Contrary to other moral stances, who claim that promoting welfare is better, ceteris paribus – welfarists claim that all other things are meaningless, when it comes to morality.
This has many implications, some intuitive, and some controversial. It explains our love for justice – justice, say welfarists, is the most efficient way to produce the largest amount of welfare with a scarce quantity of resources.. It explains our love of freedom and personal rights – being free and having rights is agreeable to us and that’s why we love it and want people to have them. It also explains why we sometimes want to take away the rights of those who abuse them – we believe, correctly so, they are using their rights in such a way that does more pain than joy.
The principal selling point of welfarism, however, is that it gives an elegant, efficient and easily universalisable criterion of morality – a clear way to decide whom do we need to consider when making a moral decision that is : all beings with subjective states of consciousness.
The first controversial aspect of welfarism is its commitment to a private conception of the mind. Some philosopher of the mind, Like Wittgenstein and Jaworski, give good reason to reject such a conception, and so, cannot endorse welfarism, because that would lead them to conclude that there can be no such thing as morality, which would be absurd. This is not unsurmountable, however, and philosophers endorsing a public conception of the mind can fudge their definition of welfare to accommodate their view. It remains rare, however, to promote welfarism with a public conception of the mind and there can possibly be philosophical problems that may arise with this unconventional approach.
The second controversial aspect of welfarism relies on the way they calculate welfare. According to welfarists, there is no difference in the value of two lives with vastly different absolute welfare, provided that their total welfare is the same. That is, a person with a large amount of moments of intense torture and large amount of moments of exquisite ecstasy would be just as satisfied with their life as a person whose life is much more calm, provided that the net difference between their respective joys and pains is the same. My intuition is that this depends from person to person, and, if I’m right, welfarism must be false – but welfarists can then retort that a person who likes a calm life can feel a sort of pain with having an extreme life and vice-versa, hence why it would vary from person to person. It remains controversial that this really addresses the objection or merely displaces it, semantically speaking.
In ethical animal treatment activism, there are three main currents.
Animal welfare is the current that believes that ethical treatment of animals means improving their welfare – better living condition, protection against unnecessary pain, adapted entertainment and other things of that sort – it is philosophically based in welfarism, and uses welfarism claim that there is no more moral obligation to welfare that would command that non-human animals be given rights.
Animal rights is the current that claims that animals are relevantly like humans in such a way as to be deserving of rights just like ours, but in a way that is adapted to them. Animals have no use for a right to vote, for example, but they deserve some political leverage to make the government acknowledge their preference in policies that directly affect them. To have their voices heard even if they can’t understand ours.
Animal liberation believes that «adapted to them» implies that we humans have no business interacting with any animal without their consent – no right to breed animals, which counts as rape, or capture them, which is kidnapping. These beliefs, if applied, would eventually lead to a world where domesticated animal breeds will go extinct in but a generation and the only animals left will be us and wild animals. Animal liberationists believe this would be the best thing ever.
And so should welfarists, for that matter.
Traditionally, animal welfarists have taken an approach where they see an exploitation of an animal, like a fur farm or a flesh farm, and they ask : «How can we make this more ethical», then use the welfarist stance that, if a life is worth living, it must be brought to life, conveniently forget the repugnant conclusion, and ask themselves how can farm animal’s lives be made worth living.
However, this is an incorrect methodology, as far as welfarism is concerned. As welfarism is concerned with the welfare of all creature, the welfare of wild animals that farm animals take the place of must also be considered. As wilderness spaces such as forests and jungles are much denser with lives than farms, all of which are presumably well-worth living, farming, then, must always be kept to a minimum, because farms are a sub-optimal way to produce welfare for non-human animals. It is also worth noting that farms are, as a rule, built on places where wildlife is able to thrive when allowed to, because farmlife is a direct ecological competitor of wildlife.
Welfarism has no criterion for restricting morality to situations that affect humans – in fact, the monism of the welfare criterion implicitly assume the opposite. Welfarism must concern itself with wild animals.
For that reason, it is committed to animal liberation.