Last time I listed 8 axioms and 11 principles (now designatedA1-A8 and P1-P11) as the building materials for a program of ethics towards nonhuman living things. I believe the first three axioms lead to the reasonable, not arbitrary, conclusion that Homo sapiens is the most valuable species of life by virtue of its ability to contribute to the complexity of the universe. While bees can construct a hive, birds a nest, and beavers a dam, humans create the most complex, most enduring structures with the highest level of informational content. We are the only species that can potentially transfer life from our planet to other celestial bodies and thus offer the hope of expanding the range of living things. Conversely humans are potentially the most dangerous species to the trajectory of the universe as the only known life form which can destroy the amazingly complex Earth.
Anthropologists tell us Homo sapiens evolved as an omnivore and in fact meat-eating was critical to the growth and nurturing of the enlarging brain. If we accept Nature as the arbiter of acceptable behavior for living things (A4), then it seems specious to say humans ought not to eat meat. Likewise since Nature did not impose an instinct on one species to protect another and does permit some species taking advantage of others, any categorical imperative that humans should not control or use other species is unsupported by Nature itself.
Resorts to animal consciousness, emotions, and equality suffer from similar inconsistencies. If consciousness or emotional sensitivity is the bottom line of categorical limitations on us, then we must all mimic the Jains, forbidding the killing of flies, mosquitos, ants, predatory animals, rabid dogs, plague-carrying rats, etc. Few animal rights advocates would argue that a common mole has equal value to a rare white rhino. Levels of consideration for living things must be based on specific factors filtered through axioms A5-A8 above. Paradoxically animal rights laws might actually diminish the number of animals – leading to marked reductions, if not extinction, of domesticated animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens. In the case of elimination of zoos may result in reduced human interest in the protection of other species.
In the final portion of this subject I will offer specific ethical guidelines for different areas of man’s relationship with animals.