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By Thomas Ryan (auth.)

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Extra resources for Animals and Social Work: A Moral Introduction

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Social work’s moral mission is to assist people not only in the resolution of moral dilemmas, but in becoming morally better persons and morally responsible community members (Siporin, 1975); central to this mission is the importance of moral character and virtue in social workers (Clark, 2006), for ‘nothing in life is of any value except the attempt to be virtuous’ (Murdoch, 1996, p. 87). That social work represents the embodiment of society’s conscience is often construed negatively by practitioners, but conscience, Timms (1983) argues, is best conceptualised in terms of content and function, and fidelity to a moral ideal.

56). Subjectivism reduces morality to personal preference, and so long as one is sincere in one’s thoughts or feelings, implies moral infallibility (Regan, 1991). But whereas emphasis upon sincerity entails a focus upon self, an accent upon truth is other centred. Subjectivism sidelines rational deliberation, and we must just agree to disagree – ‘when I say that cruelty to animals is wrong I am really only saying that I disapprove of cruelty to animals . . If this means that I disapprove of cruelty to animals and someone else does not, both statements may be true and so there is nothing to argue about’ (Singer, 1984, pp.

References to ‘the value base’, ‘the values underpinning practice’ or that social work is a ‘value-laden activity’ are so ubiquitous that an onlooker would assume values to be the stock-in-trade of social work. However, apart from works specifically addressing ethics, one is struck by the paucity of treatment accorded to the role of values, let alone moral philosophy, in the broader social work literature. Discussion of values and morality tend to be conducted in a generalised, cursory and at times desultory manner, and this observation includes major theoretical texts (Howe, 1987; Payne, 1997; Turner, 1996a).

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