Steve F. Sapontzis

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Steve F. Sapontzis (born 9 February 1945) is an American philosopher and professor emeritus of philosophy at California State University, East Bay who specializes in animal ethics and environmental ethics.


  • When our interests or the interests of those we care for will be hurt, we do not recognize a moral obligation to "let nature take its course," but when we do not want to be bothered with an obligation, "that's just the way the world works" provides a handy excuse.
  • Where we can prevent predation without occasioning as much or more suffering than we would prevent, we are obligated to do so by the principle that we are obligated to alleviate avoidable animal suffering. Where we cannot prevent or cannot do so without occasioning as much or more suffering than we would prevent, that principle does not obligate us to attempt to prevent predation.
  • On the other hand, refusing to accept and affirm, avoidable suffering, unfair distributions of goods, uninhibited aggression, and so forth, are refusals which have long been and continue to be part of everyday morality. As such, they are a well-established part of life as it is. Animal liberation extends such concerns, which have traditionally been focused on the human world and on human life, to include equal consideration for animals. In this way, animal liberation is simply carrying on the business of everyday moral practice. Therefore, it does not loathe or deny life as it is. Rather, unlike Callicott's proposed retreat to the wilderness, animal liberation is participating in life and, hopefully, in its continuing moral evolution.
  • Baldner contends that is "arrogant" and "paternalistic" morally to condemn something as definitive of the natural order as predation. However, it is in the nature of morality to devise ideals of a better world and to work toward realizing them. This entails judging this world to be less than ideal and working to change it. One could restrict moral evaluations to the products of human activity, but that would be arbitrary: what makes suffering (prima facie) morally bad is not that it is the result of human activity but that it is suffering. Our commitment to making the world a morally better place impels us to make moral evaluations of the natural order. There need be nothing either arrogant or paternalistic in making and acting on such evaluations, provided we recognize the very limited nature of our understanding and our power to make improvements.
  • When healthy animals, whose prospects include the possibility of lives that are worth living, are killed, then they suffer the loss of those prospects, even if they do not suffer pain or anxiety in the killing process. So, the mass killing or "slaughter" of animals for food always involves mass suffering. If the phrase "humane slaughter" is supposed to indicate a killing process without suffering, it is a false label.

Morals, Reason, and Animals (1987)


Temple University Press, 1987. ISBN 978-0877224938.

  • Aristotle thought that men were naturally superior to women and Greeks naturally superior to other races; Victorians thought white men had to shoulder the burden of being superior to savages; and Nazis thought Aryans were a master race. We have come to reject these and many other supposedly natural hierarchies; the history of what we consider moral progress can be viewed as, in large part, the replacement of hierarchical worldviews with a presumption in favor of forms of egalitarianism. This substitution places the burden of proof on those who would deny equal consideration to the interests of all concerned, rather than on those who seek such consideration. Consequently, some reason is needed to justify the fairness of maintaining a hierarchical worldview when we are dealing with animals.
    • p. 107
  • 1. We are morally obligated to alleviate unjustified animal suffering that it is in our power to prevent without occasioning as much or more unjustified suffering.
    2. Innocent animals suffer when they are preyed upon by other animals.
    3. Therefore, we are morally obligated to prevent predation whenever we can do so without occasioning as much or more unjustified suffering than the predation would create, and we are also morally obligated to attempt to expand the number of such cases.
    • "Saving the Rabbit from the Fox", p. 247
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