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Humphreys, Rebekah. The Argument from Existence, Blood-Sports, and ‘Sport-Slaves’
2014, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 27 (2): 331-345
Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Rebekah Humphreys

Abstract: The argument from existence is often used as an attempted justification for our use of animals in commercial practices, and is often put forward by lay-persons and philosophers alike. This paper provides an analysis of the argument from existence primarily within the context of blood-sports (applying the argument to the example of game-birding), and in doing so addresses interesting and related issues concerning the distinction between having a life and living, or worthwhile life and mere existence, as well as issues surrounding our responsibilities to prospective and actual beings. However, my analysis of the argument will go beyond the animal ethics context; it is important that it does so in order to reveal the troublesome implications of the argument and to highlight the sorts of unethical practices it supports. In particular, in applying the argument to a relevant example concerning human beings, I will discuss how the argument from existence could be used to justify the ownership of slaves who were reared for slavery. My objective is to show just how problematic the argument from existence is, with the aim of laying the argument to rest once and for all.

Comment: This article would be useful in teaching the following areas: animal ethics, environmental ethics, certain sophisms (in relation to our use of animals in exploitative practices) ethics of bloodsports, issues of equality, speciesism, future creatures and their existence.

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