By Thomas Ryan (auth.)
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Extra info for Animals and Social Work: A Moral Introduction
Anthropocentric orthodoxy was and remains the chief villain of the piece – the exclusion of animals from the moral sphere was seen as obvious, and as proof of one’s concern for human beings. Zoophilism and misanthropy were, and are, invariably taken to be natural bedfellows. But social workers cannot disregard moral arguments just because they have always been ignored thus far, ‘because they prefer to think the present obvious. How things are is not how they must be’ (Clark, 1991, p. 121). Whilst it is fair to say that it is extremely unlikely that any contemporary social worker would advocate cruelty to animals, the majority would object to it on the grounds that it may well lead to cruelty to human beings, whilst many are seemingly indifferent even to this reality (given the almost deafening silence on the subject), and most, one suspects, are not particularly clear in their own minds what they think about this issue or why.
To be sure, this is so, but no explanation or argument is proffered as to why it is, or more to the point, ought to be exclusively the case. This conceptualisation of morality and subjectivity as referring to normal adult human intelligence not only excludes animals from the circle of moral considerability but also raises key questions about the status of humans who are philosophically deemed to be marginal cases. , 1991; Warren, 1997). Until relatively recently, it appeared axiomatic that ethics and morality were circumscribedly humanocentric (MacIver, 1948; Passmore, 1974), although there have been signiﬁcant Social Work, Subjectivity and the Moral World 43 challenges from environmental (Hay, 2002; Nash, 1990) and animal rights (Hursthouse, 2000; Taylor, 1999) philosophies to this humancentred ethic during the latter part of the twentieth century.
Whilst observing that it is customary for social workers to view reality as society, Wilkes (1981) insists that given human beings inhabit three worlds, the natural, the social and the world of self, it is preferable that we view reality as the whole of creation. What social work needs is a framework of reality that includes the individual, against a background that acknowledges the natural world and our common animality; an acknowledgement of the moral momentousness of the world outside the self that prevents moral claims from being synonymous with the human will (Antonaccio, 2000).