African ethics is primarily concerned with community and harmonious communal relationships. The claim is frequently made on behalf of African moral beliefs and customs that, in stark contrast with Western moral attitudes and practices, there is no comparable objectification and exploitation of other-than-human animals and nature. This article investigates whether this claim is correct by examining the status of animals in religious and philosophical thought, as well as traditional cultural practices, in Africa. I argue that moral perceptions and attitudes on the African continent remain resolutely anthropocentric. Although values like ubuntu (humanness) or ukama (relationality) have been expanded to include nonhuman nature, animals are characteristically not seen to have any rights, and human duties to them are almost exclusively "indirect." I conclude by asking whether those who, following their own liberation, continue to exploit and oppress other creatures—simply because they can—are not thereby contributing to their own dehumanization.


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pp. 119-144
Launched on MUSE
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