“Is Death Bad for a Cow?”

Ben-BradleyProfessor Ben Bradley is chair of the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, US. The professor asks the question “Is Death Bad for a Cow?” In fact he has asked several times – once at West Virginia University, US, in 2007, and again at the University of Reading, UK, in 2008, then at Newcastle University, UK, in 2011. And he will ask once more in a forthcoming Oxford University Press book (for 2015) entitled : The Ethics of Killing Animals. He also discusses the matter in his 2009 book Well-Being and Death , Chapter 4, Section 5, entitled ‘Does Psychology Matter? : Cows’.  Specifically touching on the work of professor David Velleman (of New York University)

“David Velleman claims that cows cannot conceive of themselves as existing through time, and that it follows from this fact that their deaths are not bad for them.

Velleman holds the following thesis about intrinsic value: ‘unless a subject has the bare capacity, the equipment, to care about something under some conditions or other, it cannot be intrinsically good for him.’ Given this thesis and the supposition that cows cannot conceive of their futures, it follows that cows have no lifetime well-being at all. For cows cannot care about how their lives go; they can care at any given time only about how things go for them at that very time. And since cows have no lifetime well-being levels, their deaths cannot be bad for them.”

But professor Bradley does not concur.

“Velleman’s conclusions are unjustified, and, I think, false as well.”

Adding :

“One may wonder where Velleman gets his information about cows.”

Note: The photo above is taken from Syracuse University News which informs of the professor’s recent $94k grant from the Immortality Project which is based at the University of California, Riverside, US.

Also see: [somewhat related] Eating plants – is it wrong? and Is Eating People Wrong?

BONUS (possibly related, somehow): “Cows are deadlier than you ever knew” [article in Io9, thanks to investigator Scott Langill for bringing it  to our attention.)