|Animal rights arguments|
This workshop aims at providing those speaking out for animals with sound arguments for both everyday situations and more particular purposes. It is designed to familiarise participants with the standard objections to animal rights and the most common defences of established practices. It is directed at those new to the animal rights discourse who would like to expand their argumentative resources as well as those who are already experienced in arguing on behalf of animal rights and who wish to share their knowledge. Beyond that, this workshop also strives to contribute to a comprehensive and systematically structured online arguments database that will have gone live by the time the IARC 14 kicks off. (Please watch out for updates on this ongoing project!) Since this is intended to be not a unidirectional lecture but a workshop, active participation and contributions of attendees are keenly encouraged and crucial for the outcome of this event. So, while we will be discussing some of the most central critical arguments levelled against the idea and concept of animal rights, trying to find sound rebuttals, participants will be given the opportunity to make suggestions, develop ideas and share their own experiences. This workshop builds on, and extends, last year’s workshop, which turned out to generate quite some interest even after the IARC.
However, in order to put the role of rational argumentation into perspective, a few cautionary remarks seem to be called for. Of course, it is perfectly clear that arguments alone will not suffice to achieve a great deal, let alone bring about single-handedly the general acceptance and institutionalisation of animal rights. The main reason for this is the fact that human beings are only potentially rational creatures that – much to the chagrin of proponents of rational argumentation – more often than not choose not to make proper use of this faculty. Instead humans most often resort to their cognitive capacities merely in order to rationalise their irrational behaviour which is in fact primarily governed by emotions, subconscious drives, habits, acquired tastes and preferences and so on. Therefore, what is direly needed here is not a purely reason-based and overly theoretical and abstract approach, but one that tries to appeal to both the minds and hearts of people, acknowledging the fact that ethical reasoning cannot work miracles but does in fact need to be supplemented with, or integrated into, other strategies. One such strategy, which seems particularly promising, consists in relating narratives about one’s personal experiences and transformations. Moreover, most people do not take kindly to the idea of being lectured on moral issues. Consequently, presenting ethical arguments requires a certain amount of care and sensitivity in order not to intimidate interlocutors by wrongly giving the impression of taking the moral high ground. With these cautionary remarks in mind, however, commanding a wide-ranging repertoire of sound arguments might prove to be a – though certainly not the only – valuable asset in the struggle for winning over people for the cause of animal rights.