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The place of African animal ethics within the welfarist and rightist debate : An interrogation of Akan ontological and ethical beliefs towards animals and the environment.

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Scholars in the field of environmental and animal ethics have propounded theories that outline what, in their view, ought to constitute an ethical relationship between human and the environment and humans and nonhuman animals respectively. In the field of animal ethics, the contributions by Western scholars to theorize a body of animal ethics, either as an ethic in its own right or as a branch of the broader field of environmental ethics is clearly seen.Consequently, there are, notably, two main schools of thought in the field of animal ethics. These are the ‘welfarist’ and the ‘rightist’ approaches (Regan, 2006;Owoseni&Olatoye,2014). Unfortunately, a clearly concerted effort to theorize on animal ethics from an African perspective is at the minimal, although there is a lot written in African environmental ethics, broadly construed. It is within this context that this study locates an African animal ethic within the two main theories in the global animal ethics, using traditional Akan ontology and ethics particularly, those that speak to their relationship with the environment and, especially animals.Thus, using Akan ontological worldview and ethics as foundational sources, alongside learnt principles from the emerging theories in African environmental ethics, the study seeks to find the place of Akan animal ethics within the rightist and welfarist debates. Following qualitative research rubrics, the study collected primary data through one-on-one interviews and focus groups discussions from traditional Akan leaders and experts, and young Akan adults. The data was then analysed using the study’s theoretical framework (welfarism, rightism, and the ethics of interrelatedness) in comparison with the literature to find corresponding answers to the study’s research questions. The findings indicate that the Akan perspective acknowledges the existence of an interconnection between humans and the rest of nature, and that it is an important connection that ought to be sustained. It is also evident that the Akan environmental ethics is anthropocentric in approach through its conferring of instrumental or extrinsic values on nature, instrumental values that go to the benefit of humans.This notwithstanding, Akan environmental ethics is not to be considered as individualistic in nature because it does not seek the interests or rights of individual human agents but instead, the common interest of the community through its goal to ensure the continuous progress and survival of the human community. Ultimately, the study’s findings reveal that Akan animal ethics shares closer affinities with welfarism (direct) than it does with rightism.


Doctorate of Philosophy in Ethics Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg,2020.