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Addressing Animal Abuse: The Complementary Roles of Religion, Secular Ethics, and the Law

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This paper examines the role that religious belief plays in societies' treatment of nonhuman animals, first asking two questions. Does religious belief continue to play a role today in societies' treatment of nonhuman animals, and should it? The paper discusses the interaction of (a) religion, (b) secular ethics, and (c) the law. As with a three-legged stool, each leg or component relies on the next for support. Religious values and claims, as features of the ethical framework by which many people live, have daily implications for nonhuman animals. On a sliding scale, negative to positive, a religious point of view may affect other animals in different ways. Beliefs - religious in nature and origin - about other animals sometimes stand behind the claims and ethical formulations of avowedly nonreligious people and institutions and may be of some interest to philosophers and historians. The paper concludes that only through consideration and involvement of the three separate, yet inter-connected, components can animal abuse be effectively addressed.


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