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Bioethics seminar: The moral consequences of perceiving animal minds – Dr Michael Philipp

All University, Public
Event type
Bioethics Centre

The ethical treatment of animals is guided by the cognitive and emotional abilities we attribute to them. These perceptions forge our moral obligations and shape collective attitudes towards the utilisation and conservation of animals we interact with.

In this talk I will discuss an empirical project examining how everyday peoples' perceptions of animal minds are associated with the acceptability of population management euthanasia in conservation contexts. Across 17 diverse species we find that perceptions of greater social-emotional capabilities consistently predict less acceptance of euthanasia used for controlling population sizes – perceptions of greater autonomy do not.

Appreciating that animal minds are perceived as comprising separable facets – rather than a unidimensional sentience – provokes different moral considerations and obligations, beyond assessments of mere intelligence or aesthetics. This emphasises the potential of public perceptions of animals' mental capabilities to bolster (or undermine) conservation efforts.



Angela Neugebauer


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