VIEWSrnConservation and Animal Welfarernby Stephen R.L. ClarkrnNot so long ago, nor all that far away, we knew our place.rnThe old could command the young, parents commandrnchildren, the well-born command the lowly-born, men commandrnwomen, and the High King over all. No one need havernany doubts about his duty. We all owed duties of deference tornthose above us, and of care to those below. Horses, dogs, andrncattle had their position too (and one that was sometimes higher,rnin its way, than those of many humans). On the one hand,rnthey could be punished for stepping out of line; on the other,rnthey would be valued and rewarded for playing their part. Wildrncreatures were assigned to similar roles, at once a reflection of,rnand a justification for, the status society of civilized humanity.rnThe vision still has enormous influence, even among peoplernwho think they have escaped. Witness that reactionary fictionrnThe Lion King, which requires us to believe that the land will bernfertile, and “at peace,” if the rightful king (high up in the foodrnchain) withstands the incursion of undisciplined hordes (hyenas)rnwho seek to transcend their natures.rnStatus society does have merits. In its proper form, it is becausernwe fulfill our duties of care, to our inferiors, that we mayrnbe owed obedience. As Humphrey Primatt, an 18th-centuryrnAnglican clergyman, insisted in his plea for decent treatment ofrnnonhuman animals, The Duty of Humanity to Inferior Creaturesrn(1776), “He who boasts of the dignity of his nature and the advantagesrnof his station, and thence infers his right of oppressionrnStephen R.L. Clark is a professor of philosophy at the Universityrnof Liverpool.rnof his inferiors exhibits his folly as well as his malice.” Thosernduties of care, and forbearance, were diminished when politicalrnand moral theorists successfully challenged status society in thernname of contract. Instead of owing obedience to our naturalrnsuperiors, the story went, we owed it only where there was, orrncould reasonably be thought to be, a contract of obedience.rnMutual obligations, it was said, rested on an actual or hypotheticalrnagreement, and a decent human society, accordingly,rnimposed identical duties of care and forbearance on all humanrnbeings. Nonhuman creatures, being incapable of making contractsrnor abiding by them, were excluded, as they had been byrnthe Stoics, from all forms of justice. On the one hand, theyrncould not be punished (strictly speaking); on the other, nothingrnthat was done to them could be unlawful. They existed, asrnthe Stoics had said, entirely for our use and profit. Nonhumanrncreatures had a lower status than any human being. Even as statusrncrumbled as a moral and political norm for civilized humanity,rnit was reinforced, in its least respectful form, for everythingrnnonhuman. Actually, uncivilized humanity, or “savages,”rnwere also treated as fair game: they too could not be judged torn”own” the land they lived on, or to have made bargains that arncivilized court would enforce. Nowadays, we pay lip-service tornthe thought that all human beings have equivalent rights ofrnlife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nonhuman creaturesrnare still largely undefended.rnIn its 17th-century beginnings, contract society did not inrnfact give absolute rights of ownership and use to human beings.rnStrictly, we could never own the land itself, but only, at most,rnJUNE 1996/13rnrnrn