Darwin on the Treatment of Animals: His Thoughts Then and His Influence Now


  • Dr. Donna Yarri Neag Professor, Department of the Humanities Associate Professor of Theology, Alvernia University
  • Dr. Spencer S. Stober Neag Professor, Department of Math and Science Professor of Biology, Alvernia University




Charles Darwin, Evolutio, n Animal Rights, Animal Ethics, Theory of Evolution


Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has seriously challenged traditional religious views on the origins of life, as well as on our human-animal similarities. Darwin is often referenced in literature on animal ethics with regard to his contention that the difference between humans and other animals is one of degree rather than of kind. This paper posits that Darwin’s writings and theory make more positive contributions to the contemporary debate on animal ethics than for which he has previously been given credit. This paper addresses important aspects of Darwin’s theory for understanding our relationship with other animals and the implications for their subsequent treatment. First, this paper considers themes in Darwin’s original writings regarding relationships among different species; second, enhancements to his theory in support of these themes; and third, recommendations for how these themes can and should inform our moral reasoning and successive treatment of other animals.