|Bringing animal rights theory down to earth|
Normative theorizing about animals has undeniably made impressive progress over the last four decades. At the same time, however, the overall situation for animals on this planet has deteriorated – with ever more of them being subjected to severe suffering caused by human activity. On condition that most normative theorizing about animals is, ultimately, directed at improving their situation, this state of affairs is unsatisfying and troubling.
This unfortunate development appears to exist, at least partly, because of the way normative theorizing about animals is being undertaken: often constrained by ideological and theoretical blinders and mired in idealizations, current theorizing leaves crucial and fundamental issues unaddressed and, consequently, fails to contribute efficiently to tangible, real-life improvements for animals. Therefore, this presentation calls for a pragmatic and realistic turn in normative theorizing about animals: it advocates a more pragmatic approach in the sense of dealing with issues in a practical, task-oriented way rather than strictly adhering to conceptual and ideological premises, presuppositions, ideas, theory and dogma; and it promotes a more realistic approach in the sense of basing reflection on real-life conditions rather than on idealizations and utopianism.
In order to achieve this goal, this presentation will address a couple of fundamental issues that hamper not only theorizing about animals but also, and more importantly, achieving real improvements for animals. As long as these issues remain unaddressed, the discourse as a whole, including all debates about specific aspects, runs the risk of being ill-equipped to deal with the enormous challenge of bringing about a better world for animals.