Animal rights vs. animal care ethics
This chapter exposes and interrogates the relationship between humans and non-human animals in traditional Yorùbá African culture in order to cogently frame the theoretical leaning of the Yorùbá people’s worldview in the ongoing global discourse on the ethics of animal relations. Through a hermeneutic exploration of the Yorùbá oral tradition, this paper argues that, within the Yorùbá conceptual system, ideas such as: ‘non-human animals,’ ‘speciesism,’ ‘veganism,’ ‘animal rights,’ and ‘animal companionship’ are eccentric. However, such eccentricism does not suggest a lack of moral consciousness towards non-human animals. Like the animal liberation/rights theories in the West that extend moral duty to animals on the basis of sentience, this paper establishes that the traditional Yorùbá also recognised the sentient nature of animals with some ontologically rooted value and respect. However, unlike the animal liberation/rights theorist who contends that the only right way to treat animals is to treat them as ends in themselves, and not as mere means, the Yorùbá recognise only the welfare of animals and not the rights of animals. In the Yorùbá worldview, the sentient nature of animals implies that their welfare should be cared for, especially for the sake of promoting others’ (humans and the deities) interests and well-being. This paper concludes that the Yorùbá are advocates of an ontological animal care ethics; in this rational framing, religious beliefs, taboos, folktales, proverbs and moonlight poetry are essentially instrumental in serving as restraints to the mistreatment of animals.