Ook een konijn is wel eens het haasje. Morele verantwoordelijkheid jegens dieren in verschillende contexten
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Moral responsibility towards animals in different contexts There is a considerable amount of diversity in kinds of animals and the contexts we encounter these animals in the Netherlands. The way we handle animals can differ between various contexts. A rabbit that is being kept as a pet, is often treated differently than a rabbit used for the production of meat. Should we treat all animals the same despite context or is there room for treating animals differently when it comes to forming policies? To answer this question, I examined the moral responsibility we have towards animals, on three different levels. These levels are: - The moral position of animals - The moral responsibilities we have towards animals - The specific considerations in specific contexts To determine where animals morally stand, I’ve reviewed the historical views of Descartes, Rousseau and Kant. The moral value we award animals can differ from them having only instumental value, to them having an inherent dignity. These positions are extremes on a scale, with a lot of possible positions in between them. The position in which animals have intrinsic value, is the current position in government policy. Equally important for the moral position of animals, is the way their interests are taken into account. There are different ethical theories that describe if and how, the interests of animals matter when we make decisions. From these theories we can derive that the way we should treat animals, can differ depending on context. The moral responsibilities we have towards animals, is partially dependent on the moral position they hold. This tells us if we need to protect the interests of animals and why. To establish what kind of responsibility we have towards animals, it is essential to know what the intersts of animals are and how we can care for them. The concept of welfare is very important in this matter. With welfare clearly defined, it is possible to assess the quality of welfare of animals in different contexts. This way we can formulate specific ways to care for the welfare of animals in specific contexts. Difference in contexts also give rise to specific considerations. These considerations can be morally relevant to our moral responsibilities towards animals. To define what our duty of care is towards animals, different factors contribute. The way animals depend on humans, is very important when establishing a specific duty of care. Animals who live in the wild, don’t need a lot of specific care because they are not completely dependent on humans. The care for these animals should be given by not harming their environment. Animals who live as pets, need more specific care because they are unable to fulfill certain needs. Since humans created this environment, they are responsible for providing this specific care. Another important aspect of our interactions with animals, is the realtionship we can have with them. People can have a certain connection to their own pet that they don’t have with other animals. When we acknowledge the fact these relationships exist, we can examine the impact it has on moral responsibility. It is important to see the responsibilities that derive from a specific relationship, as extra responsibilities on top of the moral responsibilities we already have for all animals. This way some animals benefit from additional protection and care, without other animals being overlooked. After research on the three different levels, I can draw a conclusion on our moral responsibilities towards animals in different contexts. All animals have the same moral value and moral position. We have the same moral responsibilities against them, regardless the context. The way we practically carry out these responsibilities in different contexts however, can differ because of other morally relevant contributing factors. Based on this conclusion, we can define more specific regulations for the way we treat animals in different contexts.