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Christine Overall

Philosophers have devoted much thought to whether or not death is bad for human beings, whether death should be postponed, whether or not a longer life is a better life, and whether or not our human lives should be extended. These important questions can also be asked about nonhuman animals. In this chapter I investigate whether, in regard to our animal companions, especially cats and dogs, a longer life is a better life.

I first make some general remarks on the idea of death that is relevant to this question, an idea that is necessarily tied to the concept of longevity. Then I evaluate and reply to three arguments purporting to show that, for animals in general, a longer life is not a better life: first, that death is not bad for animals; second, that death is bad for animals but not as bad as it is for human beings; and third, that merely having some life is good enough for animals, so that premature death is not bad for them. I argue that all of these arguments are unsuccessful, and hence that we have good reasons for believing that, for companion animals as for human beings, a longer life is a better life. I conclude with some brief remarks about the practical implications of this argument for our responsibilities toward companion animals.

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