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Kevin Heckman RSS Feed (Bellevue, WA, USA)

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Animal Liberation
Animal Liberation
by Peter Singer
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.38

45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The premiere introduction to modern animal-welfare advocacy, July 21, 2001
This review is from: Animal Liberation (Hardcover)
Peter Singer is possibly the most famous living philosopher in the world, and this book is an excellent reason to find out why. His arguments start from premises that almost everyone accepts, and they carefully and logically proceed to conclusions which are definately outside the mainstream of typical opinion (to put it mildly). This book is at once accessible and controversial, and evokes strong opinions -- you either love it or hate it, with very few people in the middle.
The good: The book is comprehensive, attempting to answer both the "why" and the "how" of animal liberation. It provides a decent, although not thorough, overview of most of the shocking treatment of animals raised for human consumption and at times might be very difficult to read. Singer's arguments are not mere emotive appeals and are top-notch.
The bad: Although understandable in a book that is aimed at a popular audience, Singer doesn't really go into the foundations of his ethics at all -- there's no answer to "why be ethical?" addressed in the book; instead it assumes that the reader already agrees that one should be ethical and procedes from there. The footnotes are decent but could be more comprehensive, and at times Singer gets a little wordy, which detracts from the impact of his arguments. However, these detractions are minor compared with the overall quality of the book.
The ugly: Most people who read and disagree with Animal Liberation fall into one of two traps. First, they assume that Singer is arguing for animal rights, and trot out a bunch of arguments about moral agency and so forth. However, Singer specifically does not argue for rights, and his ethical system in general is not based on them (he's a utilitarian). (For a look at a rights-based animal welfare defense, please check out some books or articles by Tom Regan.) The second mistaken criticism people tend to make is essentially "Singer's conclusions are very different from mainstream thought! They're obviously ridiculous!" -- i.e., they don't address the quality of the arguments themselves.
This is not to say that there aren't any good rebuttals to Singer's positions, merely that these ain't them.
In conclusion, this book is required reading for anyone interested in the way humans treat and think about other species, or anyone interested in the genesis of the modern animal-welfare movement. Highly recommended!

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