Welcome to my (Cheryl Abbate’s) personal website, where you can find information about my academic work. My area of research in philosophy is ethical theory, social and political philosophy, and applied ethics, especially animal ethics, bioethics, environmental ethics, and military ethics.
Much of my research is devoted to questions concerning the ethics of harming nonhuman animals. While it’s clear that, on the “strong” animal rights view, we ought not to harm nonhuman animals just to produce trivial gains for humans (such as killing farmed animals for gustatory pleasure), there are other situations, and these not infrequent, in which harming some animals is required to save the lives of others (humans or nonhumans). But if animals have rights, is it ever permissible to intentionally cause harm to some animals in order to minimize serious harm (and injustices) to others? My research explores how the philosophy of animal rights might inform the moral discourse surrounding these “hard problems” of animal rights.
Here are some examples of more specific questions I consider:
- Are we justified in causing harm to some animals in order to feed others, such as obligate carnivores living in animal sanctuaries?
- Relatedly, what ought we to do when our duty to assist animals who are treated unjustly conflicts with our duty not to harm others? I.e., what ought we to do when assisting some animals requires that we harm others?
- Is it permissible, on the rights view, to spay/neuter cats, and thereby cause them harm, in order to “control” populations of feral cats?
- Under what conditions, if any, is it permissible to use lethal force to defend ourselves against nonhuman animals when they pose a serious threat to us?
- If animals have rights because they are sentient, what does this imply about abortion? Do sentient fetuses have rights? And if so, under what conditions, if any, is it permissible to abort sentient fetuses (on the animal rights view)?
Although I have a strong focus in animal ethics, my work engages other areas within ethics (broadly construed), including ethical theory, bioethics (especially abortion ethics), the ethics of defensive killing, environmental ethics, moral psychology and emotion, social and political philosophy, and feminist ethics.