What If They Were Humans? Non-Ideal Theory in the Shelter

In Valéry Giroux, Angie Pepper & Kristin Voigt (eds.), The Ethics of Animal Shelters. New York, US: Oxford University Press (2023)
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Our societies are marked by anthropocentrism: most people treat animals in ways in which they would by no means treat fellow humans. One might nonetheless expect this prejudice to be much less prevalent in animal shelters since these places are created for the very sake of non-humans and generally managed by people who truly care about animal welfare. This chapter questions this expectation. It discusses three practices that are widespread in animal shelters and yet could be suspected of anthropocentrism: killing animals for lack of resources, partnering with the livestock industry, and feeding animals meat. Drawing on the distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory, the chapter argues that management euthanasia and cooperation with animal agriculture are acceptable in non-ideal theory even though they would be condemned by ideal theory. Then it argues that meat-based pet food should be rejected even in the non-ideal circumstances faced by animal shelters.

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François Jaquet
Université de Strasbourg


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