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Virtue Ethics. The Environmental Documentary

Virtue ethics is one of the most influential trends in modern Western ethics today. The modern ethics of virtue attempts to overcome the crisis of modern European moral philosophy on new ethical and philosophical foundations. The feature of virtue ethics is that its authors seek to rethink morality, referring to the ancient and medieval heritage (Annas). They contrast the ethics of virtue with theories that use the concepts of moral duty, right, principles, and other core notions as key concepts analyzing, first of all, a person’s actions, their behavior.

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The ethics of virtue shift from motives and results to a person’s character. The main question of virtue ethics is not “what should I do?” but “what should I be to be considered a good person?” Therefore, transcendental, “external” ethical standards are replaced by actual patterns of behavior (Annas). The main ones are not ethical principles and the coherence of universal ethical constructions, but the problems of proper upbringing of a person, the formation of individual traits of his character – a predisposition to virtuous behavior.

According to this trend, which is often accused of subjectivity and insufficient theoretical justification, the individual is inclined to act one way or another not because of their deontological-consequential beliefs, but because of the presence or absence of particular “virtues” as properties/parts of his character (Van Zyl). In order not to speculate on the insufficiently defined and subjective concept of “virtue” (which can be defined as a specific moral property of a person’s character), some authors suggest replacing this word with the definition of “value” (Song & Kim).

Alasdair McIntyre’s book After Virtue, and the ensuing discussion of how virtue ethics differs from the ethics of principles, reinforced this fundamental distinction in modern thought (Annas). On the one hand, an ethical system can rely on the morality of an appropriate action when there are no universal rules, but an obviously successful action is expected from a person, appropriate at a given time, in a given place, and in a given context. On the other hand, an ethical system can also be based on the morality of principles, when universal ethical rules are consistently and logically applied to any everyday situation in life. If the ethical systems of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas are examples of the first type of morality, then Kant and John Rawls gave examples of ethical systems based on moral principles.

Online Article Summary

In the west of the Indian Ocean, a separate population of blue whales lives – this is the conclusion reached by zoologists after analyzing the recordings of whale songs made off the coast of Oman, Madagascar, and the Chagos archipelago. As Wu, the author of the article, reports the findings from articles for Endangered Species Research, native blue whales have distinctly different audio signals than any known. The new population is small: it was seriously damaged by Soviet whalers, who hunted whales in the Arabian Sea in 1963-1967.

A team of zoologists led by New England Aquarium employee Salvatore Cerchio may have discovered a previously unknown population of this species. During acoustic surveys in the vicinity of the Chagos archipelago in 2010-2013, off the coast of Oman in 2011-2012, and the north-western coast of Madagascar in 2016-2019, experts recorded the songs of various species of whales. After analyzing the materials obtained, they identified acoustic signals that belonged to blue whales but did not coincide with the sounds emitted by representatives of known populations. The new song was first recorded off the coast of Madagascar in 2017 and then confirmed by examining older recordings from two other regions studied.

The discovery of Cerchio and his colleagues is extremely important in terms of the protection of blue whales. Like many related species, these giants were hit hard by whaling in the 20th century. Despite an international moratorium that has helped some whale species recover, blue whales are still rare and need protection.

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As for the new population, according to the authors’ assumption, the most severe damage was inflicted on it by Soviet whalers, who caught 1,294 whales in the Arabian Sea in 1963-1967. Given that their numbers were likely initially small, the removal of such a number of individuals could have serious consequences. This explains why the version of the NWIO song remained unknown until 2017.

The authors believe that the abundance of blue whales from the Arabian Sea is still low. Although these marine mammals are not hunted these days, the growing human activity in the seas, such as the construction of ports in Oman and Pakistan, has become a new threat to them. To protect the rare population, zoologists are calling for additional efforts to study it.

Summary of a Ted Talk

There is a movement in the world that not only opposes cruel experiments on animals but also refuses to exploit them in all forms. This is veganism, which is advocated by the speaker Jacy Reese Anthis. In his presentation, he raises the topic of the inadmissibility of animal exploitation in many ways, focusing on cruel animal agriculture, as well as addressing environmental damage.

Addressing the audience, the speaker, as it were, responds to people skeptical about the rejection of meat and animal products in the following way. No matter how tasty the meat is, this is not a reason to take life from a living being. In addition, there are now many different plant-based alternatives to meat that do not differ at all in taste. Citing successful companies such as Beyond Meat, Hungry Planet, and Impossible Foods, Anthis urges listeners not to let their taste preferences outweigh their compassion and sense of justice. For those who still insist on their desire to eat meat, the speaker offers such an alternative as clean meat – a new technology for meat production from stem cells taken from an animal. The use of this technology makes it unnecessary to livestock as such, especially mass production – real meat will be produced at the molecular level in laboratories.

Veganism can also be perceived as a protest against this cruel world in which people do not take into account the interests of other living creatures who do not have the right to vote but also want to live like us. This is the belief of all vegans and those who are going to become one.

The main reason for speaking at Ted Talks Reese cites his belief that, for the most part, proponents of non-violence and animal exploitation persecute inappropriate forms of activism using a personal recommendation approach. In fact, he is convinced that fundamental institutional changes are needed at the grassroots level to change the agenda towards animal rights.

Blackfish and Animal Rights: Essay

The film Blackfish’s key plot is how to contact wild animals, bring them closer to people, and ensure that the smaller brothers have a decent life in the urban environment. A CNN film’s television investigation tells the story of using a killer whale in a show with trained animals and how people provoked the aggressive behavior of animals, affecting the psyche of sensitive creatures.

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The killer whale Tilikum has killed three people in more than thirty years in captivity. Dolphins (and the killer whale is the largest species of dolphins) are very intelligent and social animals. In the wild, they never attack humans, but in captivity, everything is different. They go crazy with confined space and life in slavery. Their nerves are shattered, they begin to be aggressive towards visitors and trainers. In fact, keeping animals in captivity is not about contact with them but exploitation. Meeting with dolphins and real mutual contact with them can only be in the wild, according to their rules.

Cowperthwaite, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, has attended a San Diego killer whale show with her children. She spent the next two years of her life filming an investigative documentary showing that the inhumane treatment of killer whales in amusement parks is detrimental to both animals and the people who work with them. The film, which cost only $ 76,000 to shoot, made the rounds of the internet and attracted the attention of celebrities and animal advocates (Parsons & Rose).

Public pressure on SeaWorld began to grow. Corporations have stopped sponsoring aquariums, regulators have become concerned about their safety, and lawmakers have proposed a ban on captive breeding of killer whales. A year and a half after the release of Black Fin, SeaWorld’s stock prices fell 60%, and its CEO Jim Atchison announced his resignation. By 2018, SeaWorld’s position on the stock exchange had never recovered – and this was due to the fact that one woman made a low-budget film (Parsons & Rose).

Environmental cinema is created to influence human consciousness, guide it, contribute to the formation of an environmental outlook, environmental ethics, which are based on a moral imperative – responsibility for the Earth and life on Earth (Duvall). It is important to note that the quantity, aesthetic quality, and the content of environmental films created in the country speak of both a deep knowledge of nature and the environment, the environmental culture of its creators, and the level of democratization of society and its willingness to deal with environmental problems.

Ecological cinema is an alternative cinema, opposing the mainstream, the flow of mass culture, where the demonstration of domination over external nature, the subordination of nature leads humanity to plunge into a new barbarism (Duvall). However, this is only part of the road to animal rights recognition. The most important part of the overall strategy is the recognition of animal rights.

In 1971, the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program was adopted. In 1972, Stockholm (Sweden) hosted the first UN Conference on the Environment, dealing with the relationship between economic development and the state of the environment (Wenzel). Following the Conference, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was established and remained the leading international environmental organization. Over the following decades, dozens of conventions were signed aimed at nature conservation and the rational use of its resources (Wenzel). Advanced countries develop environmental programs, special legislation, stimulate the development of a “green” economy. A network of non-governmental environmental organizations is emerging, and “green” parties are being created.

Recognizing the rights of nature has enormous implications for peaceful practice. First, a biological species ceases to be property; no individual or legal entity can own it. Second, the rights of biological species and populations are immediately included in the existing well-developed legal protection mechanism (Wenzel). These are fines and prison for violation of the rights of nature, as well as the possibility of filing lawsuits.

Recognition of the rights of nature can occur both in a single country by introducing a definition into the constitution or laws and at the international level by developing special international conventions (declarations) on the protection of natural rights and their ratification in individual countries (Wenzel). It makes sense to seek the introduction of the definition of “Animal rights” in laws that, to one degree or another, actually protect specific animal rights.

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It must include protection of animals from cruelty (the rights of an animal to be protected from cruelty through the human fault and the right to guardianship), the law on protected natural areas (the rights of ecosystems and species to existence, life, freedom, and prosperity, genetic diversity, and the absence of responsibility to humans). Particular articles should be introduced into the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offenses, providing for a warning, fine, arrest, correctional labor, restriction of freedom, or imprisonment for a certain period for violations of the rights of nature.

This particular film focuses on humanistic values ​​and calls for an awareness of the unity of man and nature on a new level. These goals are promoted by the philosophical ideas declared in many works by eco-films creators directly or indirectly (Duvall). The fundamental basis here is ecological philosophy, the most important component of which is the protection of nature and advocacy of harmonious well-being and co-existence of all living creatures. However, adequate protection is only possible when animal rights are clearly enshrined in the legal framework.

Works Cited

Annas, Julia. “Virtue ethics.” The Oxford handbook of ethical theory (2006): 515-536.

Anthis, Jacy Reese, director. Why We Should End Animal Agriculture. TED, 2020. Web.

Cowperthwaite, Gabriela, director. Blackfish. CNN Films, 2013. Web.

Duvall, John A. The environmental documentary: Cinema activism in the 21st century. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2017.

Parsons, E. C. M., and Naomi A. Rose. “The Blackfish Effect: Corporate and policy change in the face of shifting public opinion on captive cetaceans.” Tourism in Marine Environments 13.2-3 (2018): 73-83.

Song, So Young, and Youn-Kyung Kim. “Theory of virtue ethics: do consumers’ good traits predict their socially responsible consumption?.” Journal of Business Ethics 152.4 (2018): 1159-1175.

Van Zyl, Liezl. Virtue ethics: a contemporary introduction. Routledge, 2018.

Wenzel, George. Animal rights, human rights. University of Toronto Press, 2019.

Wu, Katherine J. “A New Population of Blue Whales Was Discovered Hiding in the Indian Ocean.The New York Times, The New York Times. 2020. Web.

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