The Worth of Life TOK Presentation by Comfort Abuwa

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The second video in this image if of the "If Slaughterhouses had Glass Walls" Video

This documentary produced by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) provides an argument for not eating meat. In this process, it highlights the cruelty poultry, pigs, cows, and fish are routinely subjected to in slaughterhouses across Europe and around the world.

This documentary has brought forth feelings of indignation, anger, and disappointment in viewers. Various Youtubers have made heartfelt reaction videos in response to this documentary. However, little legal actions have been made to outlaw slaughterhouses or concentrated livestock farms.

Personally, this documentary is, in part, the reason why I currently follow a vegetarian lifestyle. However, when I revisited this video months ago, the argument of whether it is ethical to eat meat took a backseat to the question of “Is it ethically acceptable to kill or intentionally harm animals, or any being?”

If humans were put in place of the the livestock recorded in the film, to a great degree I can predict that there would be a outstanding amount of media drawn to this source.

Terms, such as...

"hate crimes,"
"murder," and
"crimes against humanity,"

would find their place in the public conscious and heated discussions that would arise from this situation.

The practice would be immaculately investigated, and political and legal action would be taken to outlaw it.

Despite continuous outcry from groups such as PETA, the Animal Rights Center Japan, Youth 4 African Wildlife, Centre for Animals and Social Justice, and many more, animals are still exploited, abused, and slaughtered.

Why does the worth of one being rank superior to the worth of another?
How do we distinguish the worthy from the worthless?

In terms of a knowledge question...

How Does Ethics Help Us determine a being's Moral status ?

This question will be investigated through the area of ethics and ways of knowing of reason and emotion.


Knowledge issue: How is a being's moral status (worth) determined through ethical theories?

Moral Status/worth is defined as a being’s value and the extent to which a moral agent has obligations to the being.
A moral agent is a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.

Knowledge Claim

The moral status of a being is conferred by it’s ability to perform cognitive processes.

The cognitive theory of moral status refers to processes such as perception, memory, understanding, and thinking and does not assume that only humans have such properties.

To this end, moral agents are more obligated to beings that have the ability to reason, communicate, and act purposefully.

Chimpanzee: and Pigs:


All humans have a high moral status; thus, moral agents are obligated to humans regardless of their cognitive abilities.

The cognitive theory is found to be implausible to many humans because it suggests that the purview of moral concern does not include mentally handicapped humans or infants.

Example: The U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates all United States public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education for children with mental disabilities.

Retrieved from: and


Judging moral status solely on the basis of membership in the Homo sapien group is as unethical as discrimination on the basis of race and sex. Perhaps, cognitive abilities may not be the sole determinants of moral status. The circle of moral concern must be expanded to all sentient beings (the sentience theory of moral status). This encompasses a larger group of beings. To this end, it is morally permissible to kick a rock down the stairs, but not permissible to do the same to a mouse or cat or human.

Per this theory, the animals displayed in “If Slaughterhouses had glass walls” have moral status and humans have an obligation to them. Thus, the act of capturing, killings, forcibly inseminating, caging, electrocuting, skinning alive, and castrating animals would not be morally permissible.

Development 2

Knowledge Issue: What role do emotion and reason play in the justification of a being’s moral status?

Knowledge Claim

The emotional response humans attribute to beings are used to rationalize the being’s value.

Emotions help humans make rational decisions by narrowing down options to a manageable number.

Secondary Real Life Situation: "Save the animals, except insects"

Example: PEST or PET


Emotions are not a reliable way of knowing a being's value; only reason should be used.

Strong irrational emotions are difficult to ignore and lead to rationalisations rather than clear objective reasoning. An irrational sense of fear and disgust can not be used to justify moral status

While emotions are universal, they are attributed to beings very differently around the world.

Example: Cows in the Hong Kong vs India


According to the Reason-Emotion Continuum emotions are more or less rational. Decisions are best when there is a balance between the two ways of knowing. Because the moral status of beings are not the same around the world, other ways of knowing must be used to further explore this knowledge issue.


The value of a being is determined by whether the being is sentient. Reason and emotion play a partial role in justifying a beings determined value.

Created By
Comfort Abuwa


Created with images by leti_valde94 - "youtube_logo" • surotez9 - "concept question mark abstract"

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