Conflicting Interests and Two Factor Egalitarianism (Blog 18)

In his exploration of interspecific justice, Donald VanDeVeer describes and considers five different principles: Radical Speciesism, Extreme Speciesism, Interest Sensitive Speciesism, Two Factor Egalitarianism and Species Egalitarianism. Radical Speciesism and Extreme Speciesism are, obviously, inherently speciesist. Radical Speicesmism gives no moral weight or intrinsic value to animals. Extreme speciesism is the view that when a moral conflict exists between animal and human-beings the basic interest of animals are overridden by just peripheral interests of humans. Interest Specific Speciesism is the view that basic interests cannot be subordinated by peripheral interests despite whose interests they are (animal or human). Two Factor Egalitarianism “assumes the relevance of two matters: (1) level or importance of interests to each being in a conflict of interests, and (2) the psychological capacities of the parties whose interests conflict.”[1] Finally, Species Egalitarianism is the view that “it is morally permissible… to subordinate the more peripheral to the more basic interest and not otherwise.” [2] VanDeVeer makes the assumption that for the animals who are capable of experiencing suffering we can deduce that “it is in their interest not to suffer.”[3] Furthermore, if it is in their interest not to suffer than it must also be in the interest not to die. It is from these accepted morally relevant interests that he develops the aforementioned principles for resolving conflicts of interests between humans and animals.


First I would like to say that I think VanDeVeer’s work on interspecific justice is extremely important to our class and what we are discussing. We’ve debated whether or not plants or animals have rights but a very specific part of that debate and discussion has been missing up until this point. If we assume that animals do have rights, what are their interests and what happens when their interests conflict with the interests of humans? Of the five principles and theories laid out by VanDeVeer, I found myself most convinced by two-factor egalitarianism. VanDeVeer says, “on TFE the subordination of basic animal interests (say, in living or not suffering) may be subordinated if the animal is (significantly) psychologically “inferior” to the human in Rat-HER_jpegquestion.”[4] I think that this idea appeals to me because, and I’ve madeanimal-testing this point in the past, I feel that there is some sort of proportionality to take in to consideration before we attack certain practices and institutions. For example, useless and even fruitful experimentation on monkeys should stop. These creatures are of higher psychological capacity and they should not be treated like lab rats. However, mice and other small lab animals, maybe rabbits, I believe, don’t have the same moral standing as monkeys and if the testing promotes the more basic interests or to sacrifice the basic interests of those animals with less psychological capacity to promote a serious interest of humans is necessary than I think it’s ok. I really like that “an important general characteristic of TFE is that not any interest of any human morally outweighs any interest of any animal…TFE attempts to take into account both the kind of interests at stake and also psychological traits of the beings in question.”[5] This principle leaves room for case by case situations and proportionality, while at the same time not giving humans the right to use their intellectual and psychological stature to justify every and any unjust action.

Question: Does the classification of basic, peripheral and serious interests leave not only TFE but all of VanDeVeer’s explained principles too vague?

[1] VanDeVeer, 157.

[2] VanDeVeer, 155.

[3] VanDeVeer, 151.

[4] VanDeVeer, 154.

[5] VanDeVeer, 155.


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