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Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights [Paperback]

by Tom Regan, Jeffery Moussaieff Masson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 7, 2005 0742549933 978-0742549937
Described by Jeffrey Masson as 'the single best introduction to animal rights ever written,' this new book by Tom Regan will structure the animal rights debate for generations to come. In a style at once simple and elegant, Regan dispels the negative image of animal rights advocates perpetrated by the mass media, unmasks the fraudulent rhetoric of 'humane treatment' favored by animal exploiters, and explains why existing laws function to legitimize institutional cruelty. Written by the leading philosophical spokesperson for animal rights, Tom Regan's shocking exposZ of animal abuse makes an essential and lasting contribution that will significantly impact the history of animal rights advocacy in America.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to this friendly but uncompromising manifesto, "being kind" and "avoiding cruelty" to animals is not enough. Regan proscribes instead a strict regime of "animal rights," forbidding any exploitation of animals whatsoever-for food, clothing, entertainment or even medical research of great benefit to humans. Regan, a leading philosopher in the animal rights movement, intends the book as a popular companion to his scholarly treatments of the subject. Animal rights activists are, he asserts, "Norman Rockwell Americans," not violent zealots, and while he describes a number of animal rights conversion experiences ("nothing else existed, just the elephant's gaze...looking through him"), his target audience is the unpersuaded "muddler" who needs step-by-step convincing to follow this path. He argues that all animals capable of caring about what happens to them-mammals, birds and (maybe) fish-are "subjects-of-a-life" and therefore on an equal moral footing with humans. The philosophical underpinnings of Regan's analysis are not overly rigorous, his treatment of counter arguments is sometimes impatient and exasperated, and his sentimentalization of animals ("our culture teaches us not to see hens like Penny and Sweet Pea as distinct individuals") can seem cloying. The real force of his appeal comes from his exposés of the heinous cruelty meted out to animals in factory farms, mink ranches, hunting preserves, dolphin shows (they're not having fun, they're desperate for fish) and research labs. Outrage sometimes gets the better of him ("is there no limit to the depths of betrayal to which we humans can sink?"), but many readers will experience equally visceral reactions.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Tom Regan's Empty Cages is a powerful call for justice on one of the most urgent issues human society faces. Calmly, lucidly, he asks readers to confront the miserable conditions we have inflicted on animals—not only in the familiar cases of factory farming, product testing, and hunting, but in less well-documented areas such as greyhound racing and circus performance. Answering the charge that advocates for animal rights are crazy extremists, he shows convincingly that they are, instead, thoughtful people who follow an argument to its logical conclusion. The reader has three choices: find a flaw in the argument, work for change, or throw the book away and try to forget it. The indelible force of Regan's argument makes the third course very difficult. (Martha C. Nussbaum, University of Chicago)

Empty Cages will do for the animal rights movement what Silent Spring did for the environmental movement. (Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy)

"If you are only going to read one book about animal rights, this is the one to read." (Ray Greek, M.D., co-author of Specious Science)

Tom Regan delivers a searing indictment of the way we treat animals in the world we have made for ourselves, and presents a trenchant case that animals have or should have rights in the same way that human beings have. (J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature)

The book you are holding in your hands is, in my estimation, the single best introduction to the topic of animal rights ever written. (Jeffery Moussaieff Masson)

Every veterinarian should read Tom Regan's Empty Cages, and every student of veterinary medicine should be required to read it. This book is important to the future integrity of our profession." (Jean Greek, DVM, DACVD, co-author of Specious Science)

Every so often a book is written that is destined to change the way people think. Tom Regan has written just such a book. Empty Cages is compelling because it is logical, rational, and written in an elegantly simple style. It will educate and sadden you, and make you angry, but never is it inflammatory. Reading it may not convert you into an animal rights advocate, at least not immediately, but it will most definitely give you an understanding of and sympathy for the movement. And all animals, everywhere, will benefit. Please buy this book, read it, and tell your friends about it. Everyone needs a copy on their bookshelf. (Jane Goodall)

Tom Regan is the Tom Paine of animal rights, the rational visionary who, while passionately defending the rights of man, no less passionately defends the rights of animals. His contributions are historically unprecedented. The animal rights movement may have evolved from the humane feelings of compassion and mercy. In Tom Regan, it has found the voice of reason. (Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Empty Cages is a long-awaited and much-welcomed personal and heartfelt book written by the 'dean' of the modern animal rights movement. Covering a broad range of important topics in an easy-to-read style, Tom Regan dispenses with misleading stereotypes about animal advocates and shows how nonsensical it is to label those who work on behalf of animals as 'radicals' or 'extremists.' . . . Empty Cages is a must-read and deserves the widest of audiences. (Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, Boulder)

Animal factory farmers hide behind such phrases as 'humane treatment' and 'responsible care.' Tom Regan gently but honestly takes you into the hog and chicken barns, onto the cattle feedlots; after that, it is up to you. This thoughtful book deserves a wide readership. (Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author of Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry (2000))

The major animal user industries and governments throughout the world say they treat animals 'humanely.' Empty Cages exposes the myth. Compassionate people will be outraged when they read about the mind-numbing cruelty inflicted upon our fellow creatures. The challenge of animal rights is simple: Treat other animals with the same respect that we would treat one another—a truly revolutionary idea. (Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Biotech Century and Beyond Beef)

Tom Regan's Empty Cages is for everyone who cares about animals: It will inform those new to animal advocacy, inspire those already on the front lines, and empower both. This book will define the future vitality and growth of the animal rights movement for generations to come. If you want the full story about animal rights, you must read Empty Cages. (Kim Stallwood, president, Institute for Animals and Society)

In a world where exploitation of other species has become mechanized and institutionalized, the animals need a spokesman. That voice belongs to Tom Regan, whose Empty Cages is a clearly written, eloquent argument in favor of compassion for the beings with which we share the planet. Far from a polemic, it's an appeal to reason. Like Matthew Scully's Dominion, the book is both a personal story of Regan's own evolution to animal rights and a ringing critique of the casual cruelty that has come to inform our daily lives. Read this book and you'll think twice about eating meat, watching a circus, wearing fur or supporting animal-based research. (Jim Motavalli, editor, E: The Environmental Magazine)

All who care for animals, and those who see animal rights advocacy as misanthropic extremism should read this book. It is a rude awakening—and a clarion call—exposing the sham of 'humane standards' and the lie of 'unavoidable necessity' touted by the industries of cruel animal exploitation. Tom Regan argues with logic and compassion why such outrageous mistreatment must be abolished for the good of all. (Michael W. Fox, veterinarian, author, and syndicated columnist)

Tom Regan is a brilliant visionary. His new book, Empty Cages, debunks myths and exposes unscrupulous practices hidden from public view. People who are willing to 'question authority' need to read this original, illuminating, and thorough examination of the case for animal rights. (Neal Barnard, M.D., president, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

This is the book that will inspire the next wave of animal rights activism. And the next wave after that one. (Gary Kowalski, author, The Bible According to Noah and Science and the Search for God)

Empty Cages is among the most important books ever written on the great subject of how we humans treat and relate to animals. A rare and special book that can help us to awaken to our humanity. (John Robbins, author of Diet For A New America and The Food Revolution)

[This book] is an invaluable introduction to a critical re-examination of our relationship to animals. It deserves to be widely read. (New Scientist)

Empty Cages' greatest contribution is the frank assessment of the current state of the movement and the blueprint for 'Moving Forward.' . . . Empty Cages was also an enjoyable read. (Robert Leonard The American Vegan)

Of value to everyone. (Vegnews)

Professor Regan's book is like no other. It has all the virtues of good philosophy, but is unique in that it tells the story of how he began to see that respect for animals requires vegetarianism.

Empty Cages is an excellent introduction for newcomers to the world of animal rights. (Animal Guardian)

"This book is persuasive." (M.L. The Environmental Magazine)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (July 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742549933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742549937
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 3.5 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,092,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This is a truly exceptional, and excellent, book. It is the best introduction to ethics and animals issues out there. Regan explains how he came to believe that animals have moral rights that make it wrong to eat, wear and experiment on them, and how he became involved in the growing movement to advance that cause. The book is really like no other; check out the book's companion webpage at [...] The book is highly readable and accessible, unlike a more standard strictly philosophical (and academic) discussion of the issues.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking the Place of Animal Liberation May 6, 2004
By Matt
Tom Regan has made his name through relentless philosophical rigor. However, Empty Cages is not written in the style of The Case for Animal Rights. In Empty Cages, Regan pulls out the core his philosophical argument and infuses it into a public friendly form. This book is written for the general public and is highly accessible. It is meant to speak not only to the animal rights faithful, but to those who have not fully considered the issue.
Among the highlights of this book is Regan's story about his personal relationship to animal rights. Regan tells of how his current views evolved, and in doing so empathizes those who have yet to make the move to animal rights. Regan's none judgmental style will make this work a remarkably effective tool in spreading the message of animal rights. Indeed, I believe Empty Cages can and should replace Singer's Animal Liberation as the flagship introduction to the movement.
If you're unsure about the merits of animal rights then read this book.
Those of us who already believe in animal rights need to put this book in the hands of friends, family, co-workers, and local libraries.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking the place of Singer's 'Animal Liberation' July 6, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I honestly can not think of a book that I have enjoyed more than this one in my lifetime. I am already an ARA, but I think this book is written in a way that it would be a perfect choice for someone asking the question, "What exactly is animal rights, and what do animal rights activists want us to change?'
Clearly and non-condescendingly written and thought provoking, this book might just change your world-view. Buy this book today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tom Regan (born 1938) is professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State University, where he taught from 1967-2001. He has also written The Case for Animal Rights: Updated with a New Preface, Defending Animal Rights, etc. He wrote in the first chapter of this 2004 book, "Animal rights is a simple idea because, at the most basic level, it means only that animals have a right to be treated with respect. It is a profound idea because its implications are far-reaching." (Pg. 9)

He recalls the effect on him of reading Gandhi's Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth: "I had learned how some people in India regard eating cow as unspeakably repulsive. I realized I felt the same way about cats and dogs: I could never EAT THEM. Were cows so different from cats and dogs that there were two moral standards, one that applies to cows, another that applies to cats and dogs? Were pigs so different? Were any of the animals I ate so different? These were the questions that would not go away." (Pg. 30)

He argues, "If you told us that the ice cubes want out of the freezer or that the gravel on the driveway is starving for attention, ordinary English speakers would wonder what on earth you were talking about. But no ordinary English speaker would have the slightest difficulty in understanding what you mean when you say what you do about your neighbor's dogs. There is SOMEBODY THERE, behind those canine eyes, somebody with wants and needs, memories and frustrations." (Pg.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant! September 22, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a must read. Regan is a great author and I look forward to buying more books from him.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to author's idea of Animal Rights February 24, 2006
By Y. Lu
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This introductory book summarized Mr. Regan's idea of animal rights in a very accessible way. The stories of his own "muddler's" journey were fun to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening.... January 30, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I still eat meat... very important to respect the humanity of those who can not speak up for themselves.... I will definitely be more cognizant of what kind of products that I buy, perfect book for all consumers!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
In "Empty Cages" Tom Regan offers a brief, articulate and surprisingly comprehensive introduction to the ideas of animal rights and living compassionately in our world. Read more
Published 5 months ago by James Van Alstine
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent articulation of reasons for animal rights
This book really articulated well all the reasons I feel in favor of animal rights. It gave me a new philosophical vocabulary of sorts to work with, and the author's writing and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sarah Swingle
4.0 out of 5 stars A noteworthy and valid call to action
Opening with quite a heart-wrenching tale that truly draws in the reader, and then never losing steam, Regan has written a highly intriguing argument in favor of animal rights. Read more
Published on August 20, 2007 by CreepyT
3.0 out of 5 stars Educating, but the logic needs work
This book doesn't provide an inescapable chain of logic leading to Regan's conclusion. Few people will be convinced of his position out of pure reason unless they were headed that... Read more
Published on September 11, 2004 by S. Sullivan
2.0 out of 5 stars More Muddling
It is difficult to find much novelty in Regan's latest iteration of his animal rights philosophy. Most of the content is recyled; either from Regan's extensive bibliography,... Read more
Published on August 1, 2004 by R. C Speth
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read
Tom Regan,is a professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University, and he doesnt come off as some goody two shoes who has all the answers, but the questions he asks and how... Read more
Published on May 22, 2004 by Beth DeRoos
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