Núria Almiron and Olatz Aranceta-Reboredo at IAMCR 2022

Paper: "Lobbying against compassion: The ethics of persuasion when nonhuman animals suffering is involved"


Imatge inicial

From 11-15 July, 2022, Núria Almiron and Olatz Aranceta-Reboredo participated in the IAMCR Beijing Conference 2022 with the paper: "Lobbying against compassion: The ethics of persuasion when nonhuman animals suffering is involved", presented in the Ethics of Society and Ethics of Communication Working Group.

Abstract: This paper aligns with Martha Nussbaum’s (2008) affirmative view of compassion, not as an irrational emotion but rather a moral one, a prosocial behaviour, a response to the suffering of others, and a willingness to alleviate it. In Nussbaum's words, this is a moral compass that, we argue, should be cultivated, not blocked by media and communication. Nussbaum and an increasing number of ethicists claim such cultivation must be conducted with an interspecies gaze: i.e., incorporating individuals from other species into our circle of compassion. Though widely shared and on the rise, this agreement is, however, time and again contravened by communication practices. More particularly, the need to develop compassion towards other animals is often ignored or even undermined by the communication efforts of industries exploiting other animals. While these industries have strategically adhered to the animal welfare rhetoric of our time, the truth is that their very business is dependent on compassion towards the exploited animals being prevented from fully flourishing. From an interspecies ethical perspective – an ethics which also allocates moral consideration to other animals – it follows that strategic communication endorsing activities that involve animal suffering cannot contribute to forms of public relations that can support ethical practice. In this paper, we explore the ethical and theoretical frameworks raised by critical public relations that can be applied to adopt a critical stance towards what we call here “lobbying against compassion”. To this end, we will first examine the role of compassion as a strong motivator for prosocial behaviours as discussed by social psychology and the neuroscience of compassion. This will allow us to clearly identify what can be promoted or obstructed through public relations regarding compassion, as adapted here to the case of the strategic communication of animal exploitation industries – mostly animal-based food, animal experimentation and animal-based entertainment. Second, we will conduct a literature review to identify the ethical frameworks raised by previous critical public relations literature that can also be used to justify the cultivation of compassion toward other animals. This is so because these frameworks endorse of an ethics of persuasion focused, amongst other things, on the common interest, non-violence and transparency – an ethics of persuasion that is grounded on real, not calculated, compassion. Finally, we will argue that an ethics of persuasion that incorporates compassion towards the suffering of other animals – and therefore avoids endorsing animal suffering – is unavoidable for public relations ethics and practice to be ethically reinforced.

References: Nussbaum, Martha C. 2008. Upheavals Of Thought. The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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