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Rattling The Cage: Toward Legal Rights For Animals Paperback – January 9, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0738204376 ISBN-10: 0738204374 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Publishing; 1st edition (January 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738204374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738204376
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Steven Wise has spent his legal career in courts across the United States, championing the interests of dogs, cats, dolphins, deer, goats, sheep, African gray parrots, and American bald eagles. In Rattling the Cage, Wise--who teaches "animal rights law" at several academic institutions, including Harvard Law School--presents a thorough survey of the legal, philosophical, and religious origins of humankind's inhumanity toward citizens of the animal kingdom. Wise's devotion for animals is evident as he explains how the bigoted notion that nonhuman creatures possess mere instrumental value rather than intrinsic value has led to their worldwide enslavement for human benefit.

Rattling the Cage offers Wise's argument to secure the blessings of liberty for chimpanzees and bonobos. Despite the cognitive, emotional, social, and sexual sophistication exhibited by both species, Wise acknowledges that advocating the legal personhood of what others might consider hairy little beasts leaves him vulnerable to ridicule and marginalization as a fringe academic. He compares his struggle to that of Galileo, recognizing that anachronistic cultural and religious beliefs may disable modern judges from ruling according to correct principles just as the irrational convictions of Galileo's contemporaries forced them to cling to an Earth-centered universe that no longer existed. "Think of a Fundamentalist Protestant faced with a decision about teaching evolution in the public schools or a Roman Catholic deciding a question of abortion rights," Wise suggests, then turns the rhetoric up a notch: "Is it surprising that Nazi judges dispensed Nazi justice and that racist judges dispensed racist justice?" Wise seems certain, though, that our concept of justice eventually will evolve to the point where no chimp or bonobo will be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law--perhaps the best for which any primate can hope, at least until apes preside over courts to administer a justice of their own making. --Tim Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a groundbreaking study, Harvard lecturer Wise argues that chimpanzees and bonobos (sometimes called "pygmy chimpanzees") should be granted the status of legal personhood to guarantee the basic protections of bodily integrity and freedom from harm. A lawyer who lectures on animal rights law, Wise has spent 20 years fighting for the interests of nonhuman primates, dolphins, deer, cats, dogs, bald eagles, goats and other species. Documenting the treatment of our close primate cousins, which are routinely kidnapped for biomedical research, slaughtered for their meat and caged in roadside zoos, Wise notes that chimpanzees and bonobos are nearing annihilation. Their DNA structure is a 99% match to humans', and our brain structures are incredibly similar. Furthermore, Wise cites studies of primate social life revealing that chimps exhibit keen sensitivity to others, conflict resolution, reciprocal exchanges and toolmaking abilities; "enculturated" chimps can add numerals and learn abstract symbols. Indeed, an increasing number of biologists insist that chimpanzees and humans should be grouped in the same genus, Homo. Ten years ago this book would have been ridiculed or ignored, but the tide is turning: in 1996, the British government banned the use of great apes in biomedical research, and respected international law commentators now support whales' legal right to life. Although one could argue that overlegislation is not the best way to combat society's maltreatment of animals, Wise's proposal to accord animals fundamental legal rights could some day be adopted (as chimpanzee expert Goodall believes it will be). This impassioned, closely argued brief presents a formidable challenge to the treatment of animals perpetrated by agribusiness, scientific research, the pharmaceutical industry, hunters, live-animal traders and others. It's a clarion call for rethinking the animal-human relationship. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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I highly recommend the book "The Souls of Animals".
Matthew DeLuca
If you are of a conservative, traditional bent, you will find that, in one most basic and generic sense, the book can be seen a conservative argument.
Paul Waldau
Moreover, it does so in an articulate, humorous, and extremely readable way.
Pamela Dein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By David Hoch on January 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
RATTLING THE LAW
Just as Peter Singer and Tom Regan dramatically influenced the world of philosophy and environmental ethics by suggesting that nonhuman animals are worthy of moral consideration, this remarkable book by Steven Wise is a major contribution, if not the seminal work, in a developing body of jurisprudential writing that makes a case for the granting of appropriate legal rights to at least some non-human animals.
Rattling the Cage is a comprehensively researched and captivating argument for the extension of legal rights to chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees). It begins with an historical look at the origins of our pervasive and convenient cultural assumptions about the supposed inferiority of nonhuman beings and how that seemingly insurmountable prejudice is rooted in classical philosophy's concept of a Great Chain of Being that hierarchically places humans just below the Godly realms and all other animals far beneath man, and therefore deservedly subject to every human whim.
Wise argues that the untold suffering of nonhumans at the hands of our species has been dubiously justified through the ages by seemingly infinite variations of this Great Chain of Being theme, and that the time has come, with the assistance of scientific revelations modern technology has afforded us (through such disciplines as psychology, anthropology, physiology, and ethology), to show that some nonhumans are far closer to us in both cognitive capacities and emotional makeup than we have previously believed or allowed ourselves to realize.
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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie Cramer, MD, FACS on January 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Steven Wise, a professor of law at Harvard University presents a compelling case for re-defining the legal status of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos (pigmy chimps) from "thinghood" to "personhood". He traces the history of the legal staus of animals from early middle- and near-eastern writings such as the Code of Hammurabi and the Pentateuch, through European and English common law up to the present, using material and precedents derived from the great human rights struggles of the past century. He demonstrates that the materials for such a shift in legal definiton already exist. All that is missing is a great judge who will make a decision that radically restructures already existing precedents while reaffirming fundamental principles. Professor Wise draws on a wide body of knowledge including the legal history of slavery, definitions of consciousness, similarities of chimpanzee and bonobo DNA and brain structure, the work of Jane Goodall and Roger Fouts and childhood developmental stages. This scholarly, excellently researched book (which is also very readable) brings us up to date on the arguments for re-defining creatures, who share with us 97% of DNA, as persons under the law.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Paul Waldau on January 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
These words came to mind again and again when I read this groundbreaking book about law, animals, and ethics --- engaging, creative, connecting, disciplined, encompassing, compassionate. Because the book weaves together many different modern concerns, it will challenge any reader's understanding of the nature of law and ethics generally, but especially as they relate to any living being, human or otherwise. And its readable style will force you to grapple with its many descriptive accounts and prescriptive suggestions. If you are of a conservative, traditional bent, you will find that, in one most basic and generic sense, the book can be seen a conservative argument. It honors traditional values such as dignity, liberty, and equality by examining them with an open mind. On the other hand, if you are of a liberal bent, you will resonate with the author's disciplined critique of the inherited paradigms that dominate contemporary American law. This is a book that any informed person should read, and it would make a good gift for those acquaintances who have strong opinions one way or the other about nonhuman animals or the current climate in which humans are re-thinking their relationship to the earth and its creatures.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Dein on February 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
A must read for anyone who has an interest in justice, human and nonhuman animal psychology, jurisprudence, or simply cares about animals. This book intellectualizes what many know in their heart: that the way the law treats nonhuman animals is illogical, anachronistic (not to mention shameful), and ripe for change. Moreover, it does so in an articulate, humorous, and extremely readable way.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on August 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
The author's main goal is to effectively motivate the importance of establishing the legal "personhood" of chimpanzees and bonobos based on, among other things, their astounding genetic similarity to humans. His arguments are strong and convincing. Early on, the book guides the reader through the basics of modern and ancient legal systems. Later, many cases of chimpanzee and bonobo intelligence are meticulously documented. I learned a lot not only about animal cognition, but also about legal traditions. The possibilities for grand-scale changes are tantalizing. I predict this book will be the first rumble in an earthquake of changes to the way non-human animals are viewed by the law.
A book like this will inevitably generate controversy and harsh criticism. Back when women were considered inferior to men, there were countless opponents to granting all humans the right to vote regardless of gender. Similarly, people who enslaved African Americans spoke out against establishing human rights that would apply to all regardless of race; in fact many threatened or even physically harmed folks who took a view counter to their own. Along the same lines, there will be many cowardly individuals who feel falsely endangered by an argument that paves the way toward the introduction of basic rights for non-humans. But the revolution has begun.
Steven Wise has earned my profound respect. This is an excellent book.
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