Ethical Treatment of Animals

Posted: November 29th, 2013












Ethical Treatment of Animals





Ethical issue and the problem it presents


Animals make good companions and are loyal to their keepers hence once a person takes the initiative to keep a pet it is their duty to take care of that animal. One major problem identified about some of these pet owners is the lack of knowledge of proper treatment of the animals they choose to keep or they have a tendency to neglect the animals’ needs hence explaining the presence of strays. Strays are animals that undergo neglect hence forcing them to run away in search of alternative means to survive on their own. The neglect of a pet’s needs is an ethical issue that needs consideration. Animals just like humans, have needs to feed, health needs requiring medication and good hygiene needs hence require constant cleaning to prevent diseases or pest infestation (Sandoe & Christiansen, 2008). The treatment of a person towards their pets will determine how they treat others and will enhance their level of responsibility. Other than presence of stray animal, another social problem created lack of sense of responsibility in individuals. A cruel habit towards animals shows lack of ethical morals in an individual and may be extended to humans as studies indicate a direct link between human treatment and animal treatment hence it should be addressed.

How deontology can resolve the problem

The issue of neglect and mistreatment of a pet is soluble using the deontology theory of ethics that is based on people doing that which is ethically correct while adhere to their obligations and duties (Milligan, 2010). This theory emphasizes on doing what is most beneficial to that being that they are obliged to a theory brought forward by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). By understanding their obligation to pets, pet owners will be able to take better care of the pets ensuring that they provide for them their basic needs that include good diet, good care, good hygiene and constant medical checking up by the veterinarian (Sandoe & Christiansen, 2008). Once a person follows this theory, they become very consistent as they understand their duties and it becomes routine for them to enact. This creates a sense of fulfillment as the owner fulfills his obligation and the pet receives the required treatment hence both parties benefit and the achievement of greater good. This also enhances the individual’s morality where the individual focuses more on his actions rather than the consequence or results from his actions. This ensures that there is no bias in the action as the individual focuses on what he is obliged to do which ensures universality in our actions, that they are acceptable universally.

Contrast of this theory and other theories in the problem solving

Relativism theory

The deontology theory contrasts with relativism in the sense that relativism does not state any moral absolutes that apply universally. Ones actions are dictated by the surrounding or culture that they find themselves in hence creating situation ethics (Cahn & Markie, 1998). Therefore, if an owner neglected a pet in a society where pets are not valued then he/ she would not have committed an unethical act, as it was not expected of him / her by the society.

Emotivism theory

Emotivism indicates that moral judgment is based on feelings or emotions and not in statement of facts. Hence, it depends on how the affected party feels about an action or an incident (Ayer, 1952). Therefore, in this case, if the owner feels that there is nothing wrong with how he treats his pets regardless of how the society views the situation, there is no case against the owner.

Ethical egoism theory

Ethical egoism holds that people should act in self-interest but in a manner, that does not harm others. Here both the rights of the individual and that being acted upon are upheld (Sanders, 1988). It is a form of consequential theory hence is subject oriented where the one observing this theory acts in an ethical way towards another. Hence, in this case, a pet owner is not obliged to care for it unless he feels that by doing that it would benefit him hence the action is result oriented.


Of the three theories, relativism is the closest theory to deontology in the interpretation. This is because in relativism one is governed by the norms or the culture of the people in his/ her surrounding. In deontology however, one’s actions are also governed by the set obligatory standards by the society. Therefore they are both influenced by external influences and expectations hence the similarity (Cahn & Markie, 1998). In the case of relativism, if one comes from a society that requires good treatment of domestic animals the person would be obliged to treat the pet in a manner to fulfill those expectations. In deontology the universal expectation is good treatment of pets hence one has a duty to implement that obligation. However, these two theories differ in that in relativity, there is no defined moral standard defining what is right or wrong but that is determined by culture and community norms. In deontology the moral standards are set and do not vary from one society to the other hence are universal.


Ayer, A. J., (1952). Language, Truth and Logic. New York: Dover Publications. Print

Cahn, S. M. & Markie, P. J., (1998). Ethics: History, theory and contemporary issues. New York: Oxford University Press. Print

Tony, M., (2010). Beyond Animal Rights: Food, pets and ethics. London; New York: Continuum. Print

Sanders, S. M., (1988). Is Egoism Morally Defensible? Netherlands, Philosophia: Springer volume 18.

Sandoe, P. & Christiansen, S. B., (2008). Ethics of Animal Use. Oxford: Blackwell. Print





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