Environmental ethical issues are unavoidable in the current context of climate change and accelerated disappearance of wildlife. First, there is the question of our responsibility to preserve biodiversity and the environment for the benefit of future human generations, as well as that of equity in the access of individuals or groups to various natural resources. Then there is the question of our moral obligations to non-human entities themselves, be they sentient animals, plants, or ecosystems. The programming of this axis includes 3 main research themes.

Axis directors: Antoine C.-Dussault and Kristin Voigt

THEME I – The fundamental issues of non-anthropocentric ethics

Led by: Antoine C.-Dussault and Kristin Voigt

Other contributors: Matthew Barker, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Frédéric Bouchard, Colin Chapman, Sue Donaldson, Luc Faucher, Naïma Hamrouni, Will Kymlicka, Katie McShane, Mauro Rossi and Daniel Marc Weinstock

Most normative theories consider only the interests of human beings. Entities such as ecosystems, plants and non-human animals are only concerned when they have instrumental value to human beings. Under this theme, our researchers will focus on developing non-anthropocentric frameworks to allocate final value to non-human entities and to reflect on the obligations we might have to them, regardless of the effects on members of humanity. More specifically, issues related to the theory of appropriate value (based on the properties of individuals, the virtue of the agent or relationships) will be addressed; the criteria for inclusion in the moral community (sensitivity, life, health, etc.) and the ontology of these properties; the duties of justice understood in terms of the protection of non-human entities, fundamental individual rights, or legal and political status.

Project 1.1. – The value of non-human entities

Led by: Antoine C.-Dussault and Mauro Rossi

Other contributors: Matthew Barker, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Colin Chapman and Katie McShane

Which entities are worthy of moral consideration? What are the criteria (sensitivity, life, diversity, health or other) to determine who or what has a final value, irreducible to mere instrumental value? Which entities are capable of well-being? In this project, researchers are examining the value of sentient animals, living organisms and ecosystems to determine which entities should have proper rights or be subject to obligations, concern or respect. It will also be an opportunity to explore relationship-based approaches in addition to those based on value, virtue or care, in animal and environmental ethics. The aim will be to allow dialogue between moral philosophy and the philosophy of science, such as biology or ecology, in order to identify ways to advance normative reflection on the non-human.

Project 1.2. – Ontology of states and entities

Led by: Matthew Barker

Other contributors: Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Frédéric Bouchard, Antoine C.-Dussaul, Katie McShane and Mauro Rossi

This project concerns the ontological dimension of states or entities commonly considered morally relevant by researchers in environmental and animal ethics. Issues related to the nature of states such as sentience, health, stability, richness, and their applicability to organisms or other entities will be explored, as well as those related to the ontological status of ecologically complex entities such as species, biotic communities, ecosystems and habitats. This project will provide an opportunity to initiate dialogue between researchers interested in questions of metaphysics and philosophy of science and those interested in normative considerations in environmental and animal ethics.

Project 1.3. – Non-anthropocentric theories of justice

Led by: Will Kymlicka and Kristin Voigt

Other contributors: Sue Donaldson, Luc Faucher, Naïma Hamrouni, Katie McShane and Daniel Marc Weinstock

Theories of justice are at the heart of reflections in normative political philosophy. They are what allow us to systematically account for the rights of individuals and the duties of agents. Researchers in environmental and animal ethics have begun to develop theories of justice that go beyond the framework of human justice to include non-human entities and think about the duties we have directly towards them, as well as the rights they can oppose us. In animal ethics, concerns about interspecific justice involve renouncing the speciesist premises that underpin classical theories. This project will be devoted to understanding precisely what speciesism is (thought by analogy with racism and sexism, in particular) and to examining the requirements that a truly antispeciesist theory of justice should satisfy in terms of political status, individual rights, etc.

THEME II – Environmental and interspecific ethics: from theory to practice

Led by: Kristin Voigt

Other contributors: Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Frédéric Bouchard, Colin Chapman, Antoine C.-Dussault, Sue Donaldson, Will Kymlicka, Renan Larue, Katie McShane and Mauro Rossi

This research theme is devoted to the various practical implications of the hypotheses explored in the context of the first theme as well as to the concrete issues related to distributive justice. What would a world look like in which non-human entities were recognized as having value other than merely instrumental? What types of interactions would be prohibited, permitted or encouraged between human agents and non-human entities? How to resolve conflicts between the interests of human beings and those of other animals, living organisms or ecosystems?

Project 2.1. – Interspecific communities

Led by: Sue Donaldson and Kristin Voigt

Other contributors: Colin Chapman, Antoine C.-Dussault, Will Kymlicka, Renan Larue and Katie McShane

How should our communities and relationships within them be restructured once the anthropocentric perspective is overcome? Many animal ethicists strive to design inter-species communities where humans and other animals live together in conditions that meet the demands of justice. From the work on animal sanctuaries considered in a pre-figurative way, it is a question of imagining what larger inter-species communities could look like. How do we arrange our spaces to find the right balance between the sometimes competing interests of human beings and non-human animals? What importance should be given to the ecological impacts of our arrangements? Can urban planning encourage us to better appreciate and respect nature and the non-human inhabitants of our cities by, for example, creating spaces for interaction with members of other species?

Project 2.2. – Human intervention in the wilderness

Led by: Mauro Rossi

Other contributors: Christopher Berrington-Leigh, Frédéric Bouchard, Antoine C.-Dussault, Sue Donaldson, Will Kymlicka, Katie McShane and Kristin Voigt

What are our obligations to animals that live in the wilderness? Do we have a duty to intervene to help them when they suffer from thirst, hunger, disease, accidents, predation? Or should their autonomy be respected by limiting interactions with them as much as possible? What are our duties in the face of ecological problems? Should we intervene to control animal populations or re-introduce or move certain animal species when it promises to promote natural balances and biodiversity? Or is it better to withdraw from wild spaces as much as possible to let the natural mechanisms regain their balance? What place should be given to technologies that would allow us to improve the lives of animals or the health of ecosystems? These are the questions that the researchers associated with this project will try to answer.

THEME III – Environment, human rights and duties (distributive justice issues)

Led by: Kathryn Furlong

Other contributors: Christophe Abrassart, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Peter Dietsch, Marc-Antoine Dilhac, Sue Donaldson, Michelle Kooy, Will Kymlicka, Renan Larue, Justin Leroux, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Sébastien Rioux, Denisse Roca-Servat, Alexandre Sayegh, Sara Teitelbaum, Juan José Torres Michel, Kristin voit, Daniel Marc Weinstock and Rafael Ziegler

Under this theme, issues of distributive justice concerning urban development, access to natural resources or exposure to ecological risks that may affect the well-being of members of certain human groups (inhabitants of disadvantaged neighbourhoods, indigenous communities, etc.) and that of non-human animals will be examined. In addition, decision-making processes and democratic issues surrounding the relationship between citizens and their environment will be studied. In a context of systemic injustices, how can we organize the discussion between the various actors on issues that oppose economic and environmental interests, for example? What are the individual or collective duties of reparation towards the victims of ecological damage caused by human beings, such as the pollution of the air breathed by all and the destruction of natural habitats of wild animals?

Project 3.1. – Access and risks related to natural resources

Led by: Kathryn Furlong and Alexandre Sayegh

Other contributors: Christophe Abrassart, Peter Dietsch, Marc-Antoine Dilhac, Sue Donaldson, Michelle Kooy, Dnisse Roca-Servat, Sara Teitelbaum, Juan José Torres Michel, Kristin Voigt, Daniel Marc Weinstock and Rafael Ziegler

This project will allow researchers to examine the equity of the distribution of the advantages and disadvantages of natural resource development. This distribution is highly unequal in regard to location, social class or gender, and disadvantages low-income households, children, domesticated and liminal animals, the elderly and cultural minorities. Think of access to green spaces or natural resources such as clean air and water. Let us also think of the different degrees of exposure to the risk of incidents or disasters, or to pollution. Finally, let us think about the harmful effects of our decisions on the animals that depend on our facilities. While access to resources can be crucial to our survival, their extraction and processing often harms the people who live near the extraction areas, as well as the ecosystems and animals there. It will be a question of seeking solutions to this type of problem.

Project 3.2. – Human responsibilities: individual and institutional

Led by: Sébastien Rioux and Alexandre Sayegh

Other contributors: Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Peter Dietsch, Kathryn Furlong, Michelle Kooy, Renan Larue, Justin Leroux, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Denisse Roca-Servat, Sara Teitelbaum, Kristin Voigt and Daniel Marc Weinstock

What are our responsibilities in the face of environmental degradation and injustices committed against nonhuman animals? What should citizens do about the climate crisis, the deterioration of ecosystems, the mass extinction of animal species and the exploitation of sentient animals? Who is responsible for the harm suffered by certain vulnerable human groups and what types of compensation are appropriate? This project will focus on our individual responsibilities as consumers (veganism, fair trade and eco-responsible behaviour), but also on our collective responsibilities (economic decline; taxes on polluting products; redevelopment to promote equitable access to natural resources and a fair distribution of risks; institutional incentives for ecological behaviour; legal prohibitions of certain practices, etc.)?

Project 3.3. – Environmental Justice and Democracy – Political Processes

Led by: Christophe Abrassart

Other contributors: Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Peter Dietsch, Marc-Antoine Dilhac, Sue Donaldson, Kathryn Furlong, Will Kymlicka, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Sébastien Rioux, Kristin Voigt and Daniel Marc Weinstock

This project focuses on environmental governance. It will be inspired by the concept of “procedural justice”, which refers to ethics and fairness in the processes of allocation and distribution of resources. With respect to the urban environment, we will focus on how certain groups disadvantaged in environmental justice (the poor, cultural minorities, children, animals, the elderly, etc.) are represented in public deliberations leading to policy decisions (experimentation with hybrid processes). With respect to rural areas, this project will focus on Indigenous communities and their environmental planning claims, particularly in the forest sector. The aim will be to explore mechanisms for participation and representation that can promote justice for animals and for disadvantaged or traditionally excluded human groups.