Controversial Ideas 2021, 1(1), 2; doi: 10.35995/jci01010002
In Defense of Direct Action
Received: 6 May 2020 / Revised: 29 Sep 2020 / Accepted: 31 Mar 2021 / Published: 25 Apr 2021
There is widespread agreement that coercive force may be used to prevent people from seriously and wrongfully harming others. But what about when those others are non-human animals? Some militant animal rights activists endorse the use of violent coercion against those who would otherwise harm animals. In the philosophical literature on animal ethics, however, theirs is a stance that enjoys little direct support. I contend that such coercion is nevertheless prima facie morally permissible. I defend this contention by arguing (a) that from the point of view of common sense morality, it is prima facie permissible to use coercive force to prevent puppies from being wrongfully mutilated and (b) that this point clearly extends to other kinds of animals and to other kinds of seriously harmful practices. I then show that there is, as a result of (b), presumptive moral justification for some of the highly controversial instances of direct action undertaken by the Animal Liberation Front and similar groups of militant animal rights activists. I close by arguing that pragmatic considerations override most proposals to undertake direct action, even when the proposed actions are prima facie morally permissible. Indeed, I conclude that although the use of violent coercion to prevent harm to animals may occasionally be ultima facie permissible, its use is in tension with (and tends to undermine) the broader agenda of the animal rights movement.
Keywords: Alastair Norcross; animal ethics; animal liberation front; common sense morality; direct action; animal experimentation; civil disobedience; abnegation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
Hardman, I. In Defense of Direct Action. Controversial_Ideas 2021, 1, 2.
Hardman I. In Defense of Direct Action. Journal of Controversial Ideas. 2021; 1(1):2.
Hardman, Ivar. 2021. "In Defense of Direct Action." Controversial_Ideas 1, no. 1: 2.