on 17 April 2011
The initial chapters clearly set out the prevailing ethical theories and will be useful even if you are well-read in this area. The style is mainstream academic, so can seem a little long-winded at times, as Rowlands systematically works his way through the arguments. The interesting part of course is where Rawls' 'Theory of Justice' is unpeeled to reveal that a purer form can indeed be validly applied to animals. I can't see any flaws in this and it's exciting to think of the implcations.
Rowlands takes as examples, factory farming and fox hunting and shows why they are wrong under his 'new contractarianism' theory. However, the conclusion that he draws, that ALL use of sentient animals is wrong is, I think, unjustfied. I don't believe that his theory shows the wrongness of eating, for example, low intensity, well cared for sheep that have have been allowed to express natural behaviour. Or culling and eating deer that are unnaturally abundant due to our removing the natural top predator (wolves) from the ecosystem. Also, 'New Contractarianism' does not seem to give any real guidance on how we should treat populations and ecosystems, and as a result, I don't think that it can do all the work that we require of such a moral theory.
Chapter 7 I believe requires a good grounding in Theory of Mind, and was beyond my comprehension. The other exciting aspect is that by Rowlands' theory, I think it could be valid to apply a Rawlsean approach (i.e. the original position) to intergenerational justice - I hope someone will take up this baton!