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Death Is Not Bad for Animals

David Velleman argues that death is not bad at all or in any way for nonhuman animals. According to Velleman, an animal—he uses the example of a cow— cannot conceive of himself as an enduring individual; what he cannot conceive, he cannot care about; so the cow cannot care about “which sequences of momentary goods it [sic] enjoys” (1993, 354). Although good and bad things can happen to a cow, they are good or bad only at specific times. “There is no timeless dimension of value along which the cow progresses by undergoing successive benefits and harms. Hence the various benefits accruing to a cow at different moments must not add up to anything at all, not even to zero” (356). Given that “a cow cannot care about extended periods in [his] life ... [t]he totality of this subject’s life simply has no value for him, because he cannot care about it as such, and because its constituent moments, which he can care about, have values that do not accumulate.” Thus, death does not take anything from the cow, since he cannot accumulate momentary wellbeing, and it does not “detract from the value of the cow’s life as a whole, since a cow has no interest in [his] life as a whole, being unable to care about what sort of life [he] lives.” Velleman concludes, “[T]here is no moment at which a cow can be badly off because of death” (357).

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