Marine animals such as dolphins and belugas are used for entertainment and experimental studies. This remains a major problem because keeping marine animals in confinement for human purposes is a violation of animal rights to live freely from human use, regardless the type of treatment that the marine animals are receiving. In this paper, I will argue that we ought to reject Immanuel Kant’s notion of treating marine animals such as whales or belugas as a means to human ends due to their lack of rational capacity because Kant fails to properly account for marginal cases including infants who also lack the rational capacity, but they are treated as an ‘end’ in themselves.
Immanuel Kant would support the Vancouver Aquarium’s treatment of marine animals as a means to human purposes. Kant argues that “animals are not self-conscious and are merely as a means to an end” (Lectures on Ethics, 239). This conveys that humans have a right to use animals as a means to their purpose such as viewing whales in the aquarium for pleasure or experimenting on belugas for future discoveries regarding marine life because these marine animals aren’t part of the moral community, which consists of individuals who possess moral regard (Lectures on Ethics, 239). Moreover, animals aren’t a part of the moral community because they lack the capacity for rational autonomy, and therefore animals cannot make moral decisions (Warriner, 4). On the other hand, humans must have the capacity for rational autonomy to make moral decisions so they are a part of the moral community (Warriner, 10). For example, humans are rational agents so they have “the ability to deliberate and make autonomous choices” (Warriner, 10). Consequently,...
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...ent or research purposes (Lectures on Ethics, 239-240). However, Kant’s position is inequitable because there are some humans, who also don’t possess rational autonomy, including infants and they should also be treated as a means to human ends because they are not part of the moral community (Warriner, 17). This implies that Kant’s element of rational autonomy to indicate if individuals ought to be included in the moral community is unjustifiable because it would exclude humans, who lack rational autonomy as well. Therefore, we ought to include marine animals in our moral community in order to respond to the problem of marginal cases. As a result, we also have specific moral duties towards marine animals and shouldn’t treat whales or belugas as a means to our ends such as profits or scientific discoveries that results from the entertainment and research purposes.
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