Oscar Horta
Horta, 2012
Óscar Horta Álvarez

(1974-05-07) 7 May 1974 (age 49)
Vigo, Spain[1]
Alma materUniversity of Santiago de Compostela
AwardsFerrater Mora Prize (2007)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolAnalytic philosophy
InstitutionsUniversity of Santiago de Compostela
ThesisUn desafío para la bioética: la cuestión del especismo ("A Challenge to Bioethics: The Issue of Speciesism") (2007)
Doctoral advisorLuis G. Soto
Main interests

Óscar Horta Álvarez (born 7 May 1974)[1] is a Spanish animal activist and moral philosopher who is currently a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) and one of the co-founders of the organization Animal Ethics. He is known for his work in animal ethics, especially around the problem of wild animal suffering. He has also worked on the concept of speciesism and on the clarification of the arguments for the moral consideration of nonhuman animals. In 2022, Horta published his first book in English, Making a Stand for Animals.[2]

Education and career

Oscar Horta delivering a lecture "Intervention in Nature in Ethics and/or Politics: Addressing Issues Related to Non-human Animals" in 2015

Horta completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) in 1999, going on to complete a doctorate in philosophy at the same institution in 2007. His thesis was entitled Un desafío para la bioética: la cuestión del especismo ("A Challenge to Bioethics: The Issue of Speciesism"). In 2007, he won the Ferrater Mora Prize from the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, for his essay on the ethics of Catalan philosopher José Ferrater Mora.[1]

From 2005 to 2009, he was a lecturer in the Department of Logic and Moral Philosophy at USC. He subsequently took up a visiting researcher position at Rutgers University from 2009 to 2010 and a research fellowship at the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology from 2009 to 2011. He returned to USC in 2011 as a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Anthropology, becoming a professor in 2018.[3]

Horta co-founded the animal advocacy organisation Animal Ethics in 2012.[4] He has also acted as an organiser and spokesperson for the Spanish animal rights organisations Derechos para los Animales ("Rights for Animals") and Alternativa para la Liberación Animal ("Alternative for Animal Liberation");[5] these organisations later merged to form Equanimal.[6] Horta is a member of the advisory board for the Sentience Institute, UPF-Centre for Animal Ethics, and Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering.[3]

Horta published Making a Stand for Animals, in 2022; his first English-language book.[2]

Philosophical work


Main article: Speciesism

Horta has defined speciesism as discrimination against those who do not belong to one or more species, understanding by discrimination an unjustified unequal consideration or treatment.[7] This is a normative account of the concept. According to Horta, if treating animals of different species in different ways is justified then it cannot be considered discriminatory and it is not an instance of speciesism.[8] Horta's account also denies that speciesism is confined to discrimination on the basis of species alone. Horta's account regards as speciesist all forms of discrimination against those who are not members of a certain species regardless of whether the reason is mere species membership or other reasons (such as the possession of complex cognitive abilities).[9] He has argued in favor of this position by analogy to sexism or racism, which typically include discrimination against women or racialized people based on criteria such as their alleged capacities (not only gender, sex, ancestry, or physical traits).[10] Horta's account of speciesism is also similar to Joan Dunayer's but unlike Paul Waldau's in that he has also argued that discrimination against nonhuman animals is only one instance of speciesism, which can be referred to as anthropocentric speciesism, because it is also possible to discriminate against some nonhuman animals in comparison to others in ways that are speciesist.[11][12][13]

Wild animal suffering

Main article: Wild animal suffering

Horta argues that, contrary to an "idyllic" view of the wilderness, animals suffer significantly in nature from disease, predation, exposure, starvation, and other threats. Horta rejects speciesism, and thus argues that we have good reason to intervene in natural processes to protect animals from this suffering when it is possible to do so without causing more harm.[14][15][16][17] Current ways of helping include rescues of animals during natural disasters, centres for orphaned, sick, and injured animals, and vaccination and feeding programs.[18] Horta has claimed that such initiatives could be expanded, and that in order to avoid controversies with environmentalists opposing such initiatives, pilot programs could start by focusing on wild animals living in urban, suburban, or agricultural environments.[19] He has also argued that the most promising courses of action right now may consist in gaining more knowledge about the conditions causing wild animal suffering and about how to best carry out measures that can improve the situation of animals affected by natural (or a combination of natural and indirectly anthropogenic) causes.[20] Horta's work on wild animal suffering has been influential,[21] with Jeff McMahan, whose work on wild animal suffering, "The Meat Eaters", appeared in The New York Times, attributing his interest in the question to Horta.[22]

Personal life

Horta is vegan and has commented that "the reason why I decided to go vegan was that I was presented with what I saw as strong arguments to do so, not that I was feeling empathy towards nonhuman animals."[23]

Selected works

Horta has published philosophical work in Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, English, Italian, French, and German.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Oscar Horta wins Ferrater Mora Prize". Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. 2008-01-03. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  2. ^ a b Horta, Oscar (2022). Making a Stand for Animals. London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781003285922. ISBN 978-1-00-328592-2. S2CID 248280373.
  3. ^ a b c Horta, Oscar. "CV". Academia.edu. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  4. ^ "Conversation with Leah McKelvie". Animal Charity Evaluators. 2015-08-19. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  5. ^ Horta, Oscar (2010-09-02). "Entrevista con Óscar Horta (castellano)" (Interview). Interviewed by Christian Coeder.
  6. ^ "Igualdad Animal y Equanimal se unen para defender a los animales" [Animal Equality and Equanimal unite to defend animals]. Igualdad Animal (in Spanish). 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  7. ^ Horta, Oscar (June 2010). "What is Speciesism?". Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 23 (3): 243–266. doi:10.1007/s10806-009-9205-2. ISSN 1187-7863. S2CID 19603504.
  8. ^ Horta, Oscar (June 2018). "Moral Considerability and the Argument from Relevance". Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 31 (3): 369–388. doi:10.1007/s10806-018-9730-y. ISSN 1187-7863. S2CID 158150659.
  9. ^ An alternative, description account is defended in Jaquet, François (2019). "Is Speciesism Wrong by Definition?". Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 32 (3): 447–458. doi:10.1007/s10806-019-09784-1. S2CID 195236790.
  10. ^ Horta, Oscar. 2010. "What is speciesism?" Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (3): 243-66, pp. 244-27. doi:10.1007/s10806-009-9205-2
  11. ^ Horta, Oscar (2013-02-01), "Animals, Moral Status of", in Lafollette, Hugh (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. wbiee156, doi:10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee156, ISBN 978-1-4051-8641-4
  12. ^ Dunayer, Joan (2004). Speciesism. Derwood: Ryce Pub. ISBN 978-0-9706475-6-6. OCLC 57245844.
  13. ^ Waldau, Paul (2002). The Specter of Speciesism: Buddhist and Christian Views of Animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514571-7. OCLC 45356534.
  14. ^ Horta, Oscar (2010-01-01). "The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature". Between the Species. 13 (10). doi:10.15368/bts.2010v13n10.10.
  15. ^ Horta, Oscar. 2010. "Debunking the idylic view of natural processes: Population dynamics and suffering in the wild". Telos 17 (1): 73-88. Open access icon
  16. ^ Horta, Oscar (2013). "Zoopolis, interventions and the State of Nature". Law, Ethics and Philosophy: 113–125. ISSN 2341-1465.
  17. ^ Dorado, Daniel (November 2015). "Ethical Interventions in the Wild: an Annotated Bibliography". Relations. 3 (2): 219–238. doi:10.7358/rela-2015-002-dora.
  18. ^ "Helping animals in the wild". Animal Ethics. 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  19. ^ Horta, Oscar. 2017. "Animal Suffering in Nature: The Case for Intervention". Environmental Ethics 39 (3): 261-79 doi:10.5840/enviroethics201739320.
  20. ^ Horta, Oscar. 2018. "Concern for Wild Animal Suffering and Environmental Ethics: What Are the Limits of the Disagreement?". Les Ateliers de l’Éthique / The Ethical Forum 13 (1): 85-100 doi:10.7202/1055119ar.
  21. ^ Milburn, J. (2020-02-20). "Sentientist politics gone wild". Politics and Animals. 5: 19–24.
  22. ^ Faria, Catia (May 2015). "Making a Difference on Behalf of Animals Living in the Wild: Interview with Jeff McMahan". Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism. 3 (1): 81–84. doi:10.7358/rela-2015-001-fari.
  23. ^ Horta, Oscar (2018-11-04). "Ask the moral philosopher – Q & A with Oscar Horta" (Interview). Interviewed by Christian Koeder.