Enabling Nonhuman Animal Agency: Consent, Assent, and Dissent

ERI 149
Wednesday 12 December 2018 (15:15-17:00)

Dr Angie Pepper (Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham) and Dr Rich Healey (University of Glasgow)

Speaker bio's

Angie Pepper's most recent work focuses on the development of a sentience-centred cosmopolitan framework that can guide us in determining principles of global interspecies justice. Angie is especially interested in exploring how the inclusion of nonhuman animals within mainstream accounts of global justice reveals tensions and inadequacies within those positions, and in thinking about what global justice demands for all sentient animals living on Earth. Moreover, Angie is looking at how the interests of nonhuman animals might be incorporated within models of cosmopolitan democracy and how they might be best represented at the global level in the absence of transnational democratic institutions and practices. Aside from her work on nonhuman animals and global justice, Angie is also interested in the place of non-sentient life in our moral thinking, feminist theorizing about justice, political agency and action, the right to privacy, and the importance of assent and dissent in realizing interspecies justice. 

Rich Healey is a Lecturer in Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Before going to Glasgow, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre de Recherche en Éthique in Montréal. His research focuses on our ability to affect what we owe to one another through the exercise of normative powers, the basis of rights and directed duties, and interpersonal moral relationships.


Defenders of animal rights increasingly argue that justice requires us to not only protect the negative rights of nonhuman animals, but also to respect and enable nonhuman animal agency. On such views, justice demands that we create conditions that will give nonhuman animals greater control over the shape and direction of their own lives. In this paper we address an important difficulty we face in realizing this goal, namely, that nonhuman animals lack the ability to give or withhold consent. Since most nonhuman animals are unable to consent to interactions with us, when, if ever, are we permitted to engage in what would otherwise be rights-violating interactions with them? Is it ever permissible for us to touch other animals, hold them, bathe them, confine them, engage them in work, in sport, or use them for entertainment? In response to this challenge, we develop an account of assent and dissent according to which wilful nonhuman animal action can determine the limits of permissible human interactions with them.

This seminar is part of the 2018-19 Global Ethics Tea Seminar Series hosted by the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics.

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