The Ethics of Elephants in Circuses

Running head: THE ETHICS OF ELEPHANTS IN CIRCUSES

The Ethics of Elephants in Circuses

Dr. Christopher Foster

PHI103: Informal Logic

Ashford University

Annotated example for Week Three Assignment

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THE ETHICS OF ELEPHANTS IN CIRCUSES

Main Argument :

P1: Elephants are highly intelligent animals.

P2: Putting elephants in circuses requires them

to live their lives in extreme confinement.

P3: Anything that requires highly intelligent

animals to live their lives in extreme

confinement is wrong unless it serves a purpose

that outweighs the suffering involved.

P4: Putting elephants in circuses does not serve

a purpose that outweighs the suffering

involved.

C: Therefore, putting elephants in circuses is

wrong.

Counterargument:

P1: Circus elephants provide enjoyment for

humans.

P2: The treatment of circus elephants is not

cruel.

P3: It is morally acceptable to use animals for

human enjoyment provided that their

treatment is not cruel.

C: Therefore it is morally acceptable to have

elephants in circuses.

This is the main argument

in Standard Form.

The main argument is

your argument for your

thesis.

C:

wr

The conclusion of your

main argument is your

thesis statement.

P1

hu

P2

cr

P3

hu

tr

C:

el

r

This is the

counterargument in

standard form, as

indicated in the

instructions.

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THE ETHICS OF ELEPHANTS IN CIRCUSES

The next three

paragraphs provide

support for each premise

of the counterargument

(as indicated in the

instructions). This would

be added even if the

premise seems obvious.

Clarifying the

meaning of key

terms is often an

important aspect

of defending a

premise.

Notice that it is important

to be as fair as possible to

the other side, representing

the counterargument in the

strongest possible light.

The first premise of the counterargument is an obvious

background fact. If people did not find elephants in

circuses enjoyable, there would be no elephants in circuses.

Circuses exist solely for entertainment. Anything not enjoyable

would be dropped, especially something that requires as much

money and labor as elephants.

The second premise hinges on the meaning of the word “cruel”.

To be cruel is to intentionally inflict pain for the primary purpose of

inflicting pain, or to inflict substantially more pain than is required for the

desired result. Giving a vaccination shot to a child is not cruel, because it is

not done for the purpose of inflicting pain and there is not a substantially less

painful way to get the benefit. Similarly, the mere fact that elephants in circuses suffer to some degree

does not mean they are treated cruelly, provided that suffering is not the goal and that they are not

made to suffer more than is necessary for the intended

purpose.

The third premise is supported by common practice.

Meat, leather, milk, and other animal products are routinely used despite the fact that they require

animals to suffer some pain. Working animals typically suffer various degrees of discomfort or pain, yet

their use is not generally considered unethical if they are treated as well as possible given the goal. Of

course it would be wrong to use humans in this way, but animals do not generally have the rights that

humans do. Carl Cohen, for example, argues that rights come from an agreement between moral

agents. He concludes that animals do not have rights because they cannot make such agreements

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THE ETHICS OF ELEPHANTS IN CIRCUSES

It is, of course, good to use

scholarly sources to back up

important points.

The first

sentence of

each

paragraph

states the

topic of the

paragraph. This demonstrates

why the conclusion

of the

counterargument

follows from the

premises (as

indicated in the

instructions).

This part of your argument

may not agree with your own

position at all, but it is

important to represent the

argument as well as you can

so that you demonstrate an

appreciation of the best

argument on the other side.

This paragraph

presents a

reasonable and fair

discussion of the

points of

disagreement

between the two

sides (as indicated

in the instructions).

(Cohen, 2001). While the suffering of animals is a

consideration, it does not prohibit their use for the enjoyment of

humans. So long as the use does not seek pain and

suffering as part of the goal, and is carried out as humanely

as possible, using animals for human enjoyment is

morally acceptable.

This counterargument is deductively valid – if all of the premises

are true, then the conclusion must be as well. The third premise sets two

conditions for the moral acceptability of having elephants in circuses. The first

two premises state that both conditions are

met. It follows absolutely then, that having

elephants in circuses is morally acceptable, which is what the conclusion

says.

The primary disagreement between the sides will likely rest on

whether the treatment of elephants is cruel and unnecessary. Certainly,

life as a circus elephant can involve pain and suffering, but so can

life as a wild elephant. Furthermore, the intentional infliction of pain

and suffering is not always wrong, for example, giving a medical shot.

However, many would find the suffering inflicted by the confinement of

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THE ETHICS OF ELEPHANTS IN CIRCUSES

This objection will be

developed further in

the final paper. A

preview of that

objection is given here

(as indicated in the

instructions).

This paragraph

further develops the

objection, in

preparation for the

final paper.

Again, this point may

(or may not) be

antithetical to your

own view. The point of

this second paper is to

develop and be fair to

the strongest

objection you can

provide to your own

argument.

elephants to be an infliction of suffering for a unnecessary purpose that does not justify the degree of

suffering inflicted. These issues represent the main points of disagreement between the two sides.

The best objection to the original argument is probably

aimed at the fourth premise. Posing such an objection would

require looking at how elephants are actually treated and examining

the degree to which elephants’ presence in circuses contributes to a

further purpose.

For example, Ringling Bros. claims that circus elephants are

guaranteed nutritious food, and prompt medical care, that

their training provides a focus for their mental and physical

abilities, and that they are allowed time for play and social

interaction. “A positive, healthy environment is the foundation of training elephants. Therefore, the

cornerstone of all circus elephant training at Ringling Bros. is reinforcement through praise, repetition,

and reward” (elephantcenter, n.d.). If these claims are true, then it

could be argued that their entertainment value to children and

others might be sufficient to outweigh any suffering caused to the

elephants in captivity.

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THE ETHICS OF ELEPHANTS IN CIRCUSES

References

Cohen, C. (2001). Why animals do not have rights. In The Animal Rights Debate (pp. 27-40). Oxford,

England: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Elephantcenter (n.d.). Pampered performers. Retrieved from http://www.elephantcenter.com/meet-

our-herd/pampered-performers/

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