Jeane examines the arguments presented by environmental philosophers Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Carol Adams on the ethical bases for vegetarianism. They demand the re-appraisal of the place of nonhuman beings in ethical theories, invite the consideration of the relationship between ecology and ethics and encourage reflection on the relationship of humans with nature. They hold that extending moral consideration to animals emphasizes the importance of nonhumans in our midst. It brings into the forefront the plight of animals that suffer from the attitude of humans who exploit the belief that humanity, as species, is the apex of creation. Jeane argues, however, that adherence to language of rights, interest and justice with regard to humans’ ethical relationship with animals is an inadequate environmental ethic. A contextual, ethical vegetarianism is a better way to account for the complex and nuanced interaction as well as connection that humans have with nonhuman animals.
Jeane refers to Peter Singer in her discussion of an animal liberation that conveys that we should relate to animals as subjects in themselves. Animal liberation is a starting point in questioning the rampant practice of animal discrimination. Specism is a critique leveled against Christian theology and its understandings of the human and non-human animal relationships. Singer, as a utilitarian, holds that the single relevant factors in determining whether a being has interests (which should be considered equally) is whether or not they can feel pleasure and pain. Pain cannot be directly observed so we cannot deny that anything is not suffering.
Drawing from Jeremy Bentham, Jeane points out that the interest of everything are to be taken into account. This includes the capacity to feel pleasure or pain, the capacity for suffering as a basis for equality of beings. Jeane argues for the case of animal rights and that it shouldn’t be based on a particular capability; cruelty and utilitarian accounts are inadequate. Kindness rooted in injustice is not an alternative to cruelty. Rights are not a matter of consequence but based on the inherent value of individuals. This is due to our basic similarity: We are all subjects of a life. Carol Adams points to the twin oppression of women and animals as another pressing dimension of the issue.
Hence, the language of rights and justice were for individuals in a perfect society that can implement these rights, and it is difficult to apply this in practice in the face of sheer biodiversity. It also the raises the question: How about plants? Do they also have rights? Jean’s presentation proposes a move towards contextual and ethical vegetarianism where the operative word is painless death and not simply being against or for the consumption of animal meat.