Animal ethics

Knight A. A request for euthanasia: handling the client. In Practice 2016; 38: 358-359
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Knight A. A request for euthanasia: advising a colleague. In Practice 2016; 38: 469-470
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Discusses: ‘A client brings you a friendly, well-socialised two-year-old male neutered cat named ‘Bob’ for ‘euthanasia’. Apparently the client is moving to a new flat that does not allow cats. ‘What a shame,’ you declare. ‘I'm sure he would make a wonderful pet for someone else. Have you thought about rehoming him?’ But the client replies, ‘I couldn't possibly bear to have someone else own him! Please just put him to sleep.’ What should you do?'

In the second scenario, you're a more experienced veterinarian. A junior colleague has accepted the euthanasia request, but is now having second thoughts. What would you advise?

Knight A. Dealing with dark desires. In Practice 2014 36: 54-55.
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Discusses: ‘You are called in the middle of the night to see what sounds like a badly injured cat following a road traffic accident. Is it wrong to hope the cat has died by the time it reaches the surgery so you can return to bed more quickly? And does it really matter what you think, if such dark thoughts remain locked inside?’

Benz-Schwarzburg J & Knight A. Cognitive relatives yet moral strangers? J Anim Ethics 2011; 1(1): 9-36.
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This article was shortlisted for a 2011 Voiceless Media Prize. Voiceless is an independent non-profit think tank dedicated to alleviating the suffering of animals in Australia. It has awarded over AUD 1.2 million to Australian animal protection projects since 2004. Voiceless media prizes ‘recognise the most accurate and influential print, online or broadcast features relating to animal protection and ethics.’

This article provides an empirically based, interdisciplinary approach to the following two questions: Do animals possess behavioral and cognitive characteristics such as culture, language, and a theory of mind? And if so, what are the implications, when long-standing criteria used to justify differences in moral consideration between humans and animals are no longer considered indisputable? One basic implication is that the psychological needs of captive animals should be adequately catered for. However, for species such as great apes and dolphins with whom we share major characteristics of personhood, welfare considerations alone may not suffice, and consideration of basic rights may be morally warranted—as for humans. Although characteristics supporting the status of personhood are present to differing degrees among the diverse array of animal species, this is a barrier to moral consideration only if anthropocentric, exclusive, and monolithic viewpoints about the necessary prerequisites for personhood are applied. We examine the flaws inherent within such positions and argue for inalienable species-appropriate rights.