At the initiative of Martin Gibert, Valéry Giroux and François Jaquet, three members of the GRÉEA (Groupe de recherche en éthique environnementale et animale), the Montreal Declaration on Animal Exploitation It was signed by nearly 500 scholars from some 40 countries specializing in moral and political philosophy. This statement echoes the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, in ruling that “converging evidence indicates that nonhuman animals possess the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of states of consciousness, as well as the ability to engage in behavior intentional”. The signatories affirm that the main arguments used to support animal exploitation do not have the necessary relevance to justify it morally. This is especially true of arguments based on the sophisticated cognitive abilities of human beings.
Although their works are rooted in diverse philosophical traditions, these scholars thus agree on the condemnation of speciesism and on the need to profoundly transform our relationships with other animals by putting an end to their exploitation. This position, which was previously supported by a few people especially sensitive to the fate of animals, is now supported for the first time by hundreds of researchers who have dedicated their careers to ethical reflection.
The signatories are in favor of closing the slaughterhouses, ending fishing and developing a plant-based agriculture, but lucidly admit that, although it is “the only realistic and fair collective horizon”, such a project will require “abandoning deep-rooted speciesist habits and profoundly transform some of our institutions”.
In 2022, the Montreal Declaration on Animal Exploitation is undoubtedly an important step in the recognition of non-human animals.
Montreal Declaration on the exploitation of animals
“We are researchers and researchers in moral and political philosophy. Our work is rooted in different philosophical traditions and we rarely all agree with each other. However, we agree on the need for a fundamental transformation of our relationship with other animals. We condemn all practices that involve treating animals as objects or merchandise.
To the extent that it involves unnecessary violence and harm, we declare that animal exploitation is unjust and morally indefensible.
In ethology and neurobiology, it is well established that mammals, birds, fish, and many invertebrates are sentient, that is, capable of feeling pleasure, pain, and emotion. These animals are conscious subjects; They have their own vision of the world around them. It follows that they have interests: our behavior affects their well-being and can benefit or harm them. When we injure a dog or a pig, when we keep a chicken or a salmon in captivity, when we kill a calf for its meat or a mink for its fur, we seriously violate their most fundamental interests.
However, all these damages could be avoided. Of course, it is possible to refrain from wearing leather, from attending bullfights and rodeos, or from showing children lions kept in zoos. Most of us can already do without animal foods without it affecting our health: in fact, the future development of a vegan economy will make this even easier. From a political and institutional point of view, it is possible to stop seeing animals as mere resources at our disposal.
The fact that these individuals are not members of the species Homo sapiens is morally irrelevant: although it seems natural to think that the interests of animals are less important than the comparable interests of humans, this speciesist intuition does not stand up to close scrutiny. Other things being equal, mere belonging to a biological group (delimited by species, skin color or sex) cannot justify unequal consideration or treatment.
There are differences between human beings and other animals, just as there are between individuals of the same species. It is true that some sophisticated cognitive abilities give rise to particular interests, which in turn may justify particular treatment. But an individual’s ability to compose symphonies, to perform advanced mathematical calculations, or to project himself into the distant future, admirable as it may be, does not affect due regard for his interest in feeling pleasure and not suffering. The interests of the most intelligent among us are not more important than the equivalent interests of the less intelligent. To say otherwise would be to classify individuals according to faculties that have no moral relevance. Such an ableist attitude would be morally indefensible.
Therefore, it is hard to escape the conclusion that because it harms animals unnecessarily, animal exploitation is grossly unfair. For this reason, it is essential to work for their disappearance, especially by closing slaughterhouses, banning fishing and developing vegetable agriculture. We are not deluding ourselves; this project will not be achieved in the short term. In particular, it will require giving up entrenched speciesist habits and fundamentally transforming numerous institutions. However, the end of animal exploitation seems to us to be the only realistic and fair collective horizon for non-humans“.