When we see one of the many videos documenting the exploitation of nonhuman animals and we feel discomforted or otherwise negatively moved isn’t that sufficient reason to advocate on behalf of those suffering? Isn’t it reasonable to argue that if X reacts to an instance of suffering in a way consistent with disapproval she has tacitly premised the existence of a moral duty – e.g. to avoid harming the individual in such a way? Importantly here is the suggestion that one needn’t assent to basic “animal rights” premises to denounce exploitation. Caring about the suffering of other animals doesn’t need to follow from a concern for ethical consistency or parity of reasoning: it is an action directed towards an attempt to understand the Why? motivating the uneasiness.
Emotions are definitionally irrational, however, efforts to separate “emotion” from “reason(s) to act” are notoriously difficult. Mary Midgley wrote:
“feeling and action are essential elements in morality, which concentration on thought has often made philosophers overlook…In general, feelings, to be effective, must take shape as thought, and thoughts, to be effective must be powered by suitable feelings.”
Perhaps de-emphasizing appeals to logical consistency is an appropriate option, instead focusing on the feeling and illuminating it as an unstated proposition: “What I am witnessing is wrong.”
Crossposted @ That Vegan Girl