Skip to main content
Justice and the Treatment of Animals
Environmental Ethics (1981)
  • Michael Pritchard, Western Michigan University
Although the participants in the initial situation of justice in John Rawls’ Theory of Justice choose principles of justice only, their choices have implications for other moral concerns. The only check on the self-interest of the participants is that there be unanimous acceptance of the principles. But, since animals are not participants, it is possible that principles will be adopted which confiict with what Rawls calls “duties of compassion and humanity” toward animals. This is a consequence of the initial situation’s assumption that principles of justice can be determined independently of other moral considerations. We question this assumption, and show that satisfactory modifications of Rawls’ initial situation undermine its contractarian basis and require the rejection of exclusively self-interested participants.
Publication Date
Winter 1981
Citation Information
Michael Pritchard. "Justice and the Treatment of Animals" Environmental Ethics Vol. 55 Iss. 61 (1981)
Available at: