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35 of 122 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Right argument, perhaps the wrong person arguing, October 10, 2007
This review is from: In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave (Paperback)
I have thought for several days about posting this review, but in the end I felt I could not remain silent. The ethical treatment of living beings is something my wife and I believe in very strongly. You do everything in your power to give those beings in your care a comfortable, fulfilling life be they animal or plant. Every day we grapple with the fact that for us to live we must destroy others, and we do not take this fact lightly. So when someone comes along with the powers of persuasion and the well constructed arguments Mr Singer has you tend to embrace the book, and say, "see this is what I meant."

The problem is that Mr Singer also justifies the killing of human infants if they have some kind of "grave physical abnormality" like hemophilia. Mr Singer does not consider these infants "persons" because they do not have a sense of their own future; but the same argument could be made about the animals he is supposedly trying to save. A calf has no sense of its future, and it knows nothing about running and gamboling outside if it has never done it, so by extending Mr Singers arguments even the cruelest forms of producing veal is justifiable.

The eugenics movement of the last century advocated the improvement of the human race by castrating or eliminating the physically and mentally imperfect. Mr Singer has taken the stand that it is justifiable to kill the imperfect to make room for the, supposed, perfect. A concept Adolf Hitler took to its terrible limits.

I just find it sad that a movement as important as animal rights should have as one of its major voices a man who would have no philosophical problem killing me sixty year ago, or my grandson two years ago. You can kill a bleeder because they aren't really a person, but don't you dare kill a chicken.
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 4, 2007 10:35:16 AM PST
God says:
I am 64. All my life I have been vegetarian (lacto-ovo). In recent years I have been trying to stop eating any animal products. I will put an extra effort into this quest due to reading just the reviews of several books on Amazon.com. I have fully read "Animal Liberation" and a couple of Books by James Mason. The arguments pro and con for equal and loving treatment of animals (and plants) all are logic oriented and are ingrained in the development of the thinking/feeling of the human mind over thousands of years (at least hundreds).

As I see it, all these kinds of arguments, even though I buy into them strongly on the side of compassion and equal rights for other life, lack the simple and most basic idea for each person to consider: "does it make me (each person) feel sad or not to see animal suffering brought on by the ways we treat our "friends" the animals, plants, minerals, and others"?

Posted on Dec 12, 2007 9:31:39 AM PST
Planet Pine says:
I don't think you should attribute these beliefs to Mr. Singer without quoting him -- in full context. There are many people who claim this is what he MEANT -- but this is their interpretation. In his original Animal Liberation and related essays, what Singer points out is the fact that all our justifications of killing animals simply for the pleasure of eating them, or because they aren't "rational" like us, are equally valid justifications for brutality toward any human who isn't "just like us" (whoever "We" are: most likely wealthy, powerful white western males who like to kill animals and profit from the brutal living conditions of other humans). Singer in no way pointed out this horrifying analogy as a justification for mistreatment of humans, but simply to demolish through the illogic of our current ruling "reasons" for mistreatment of animals.

Your comments are in a grand tradition of creating a "side argument" and turning that into a strawman -- that is, an inaccurate and incomplete understanding -- of Singer's actual point. None of your comments, therefore, have anything to do with him. Rather, they reflect poorly on the misunderstandings of those you speak for.

Posted on Jan 4, 2008 7:45:52 PM PST
You may not yet be informed enough in what you speak of to properly argue against it. I'll be straight about this:

Peter Singer wants beings without consciousness to legally be (if the parents and doctors give consent) euthanised. It's not to create the perfect race, in fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with fascism. He's doing this to relieve suffering. The suffering of the parents and the money it costs to fund the life of a being without consciousness. If you put emotional dispositions aside, it's logical, or at least logic enough for many.

It is generally thought that many farm animals do have the ability to see into the future, or at the least, their immediate future. An easy example is how their behavior suggests great panic at the sight of their fellow beings which are being slaughtered. Also being able to see into the future like this is of notable evolutionary gain to these animals.

You really think an Oxford philosopher would really make such a foolish mistake as to not find a parallel in his ethics between the humans and the non-humans? ..Especially since his book was released decades ago and still argues for his same points.

Posted on Jan 11, 2008 11:36:44 PM PST
Unfortunately you've misrepresented and misunderstood Mr. Singer. If that is what you've got out of his writings, you would be right to be shocked! (Have you read Practical Ethics, by the way?)

An earlier commenter was right in stating that that the overall objective is to reduce "suffering" and create "pleasure," or, to use Mr. Singer's subtly but quite different terminology and approach, to fulfill the interests of a given agent/being. For instance, your veal comment is completely wrong. Veal causes immense suffering for the calf, therefore, it is wrong to produce it (however, instantly and without any suffering, physical or otherwise, killing the calf would be less of a tragedy, but it could still be argued that it's wrong on some grounds). It is difficult to say what the mental capacities of a calf or an adult cow or bull are, so we can only assume there is a difference. But for all practical considerations, we treat cows as beings that are entitled to not suffering, and furthermore may be borderline cases for "personhood."

Now, we can attest to the differences between human infants and adult humans. Mr. Singer by no means encourages infanticide, especially in the case of a relatively minor condition such as hemophilia (again, in Practical Ethics he specifically refers to this example). His most clear cut case for illuminating the point at which sanctity of human life theory becomes absurd is in the case of anencephalic infants, which are routinely allowed to die yet it is illegal to kill them (which segues into acts/omissions). His argument is that, <i>from the perspective of that infant</i>, it does not have an explicit, conscious interest in the continuance of its own life. However, the extraneous reasons for preserving that life are readily apparent and extremely important. If those extraneous reasons are removed, or if there is a valid concern that the resulting person will experience constant suffering and not be able to lead a fulfilling life (arguably, none of us may have the right to make this call, but on a theoretical level it is important to acknowledge it), non-voluntary euthanasia may be the compassionate choice. Now, if the infant will certainly die, but unless euthanized will suffer for some number of days or longer, I think it is an absolute tragedy to allow the suffering to continue. We may here want to ask why we should be concerned with such a temporary receptacle, if you will, for suffering. But then we must ask why be concerned about the temporary suffering of any being, and begin to assault our original premise, which is one of compassion despite how Singer is demonized in some instances.

And for the record, Singer has never to my knowledge made the argument that a chicken is a person.

Hope that clears some things up. Singer really is a thoughtful and compassionate man, judging from his books and lectures (I've only seen videos), and it's important to clarify his points since they can easily be capsulized with the end result of shocked, angry people.

Posted on Feb 6, 2008 5:45:47 PM PST
Your review is not about this book but about your opinion of the author. It does not belong here. I bet you didn't even read it.

Posted on Jun 21, 2008 7:25:33 PM PDT
J. Flood says:
I find your review so far off the point of what Singer was really trying to say!!! I just find it sad that you misinterpreted it. I do agree with the post by "God" above, as well as the other commentators. You should become more educated in these areas, and not just take it so literal. It is that type of narrow mentality that prevents those who do care a with a way to move forward for all living things. Just too bad.

Posted on Jan 31, 2009 10:13:00 PM PST
I've read other books by Singer. This "review" is both false and irrelevant. Please, take your anti-abortionist lies somewhere else, G. Boss.

Posted on May 19, 2009 2:56:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 19, 2009 2:57:11 PM PDT
I have to agree with Gerald and most of the posters here. From what I've read, Singer is very consistent about decreasing suffering. He has nothing in particular against any race, mental disability or physical disability. He does have something against extending the pain that would occur if a baby were born with its heart on the outside because we arbitrarily assume all human life should be perpetuated as long as technology will possibly allow. If I were that baby, I'd rather die than have three weeks of agony ... and then die anyway. That's really all it comes down to; it really is that simple. We need to get more logical about our "morality". When used for legitimate reasons (and, admittedly, defining that would run into some grey areas) euthenasia is, by far, the more moral and civilized course of action. You know this when you apply it to your terminally ill and suffering pets, and humans are no different.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2009 10:24:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 28, 2009 10:30:41 AM PDT
Thank you, Planet Pine, for posting an articulate clarification of Singer's argument. Although I have not yet read this book, I have read excerpts, and you have expressed what I have seen thus far. G. Boss seems to be missing the point.

Posted on Oct 13, 2009 3:00:17 PM PDT
Cary Stegall says:
G. Boss states "Mr Singer also justifies the killing of human infants if they have some kind of "grave physical abnormality" like hemophilia". This is simply not true. I am glad that you use the term justifies, because Mr. Singer does that, rather than advocate for euthanasia, as many claim. Here are his exact words (from "On Being Silenced in Germany") - "...the parents of severely disabled newborn infants should be able to decide, together with their physician, whether their infant should live or die. If the parents and their medical adviser are in agreement that the infant's life will be so miserable or so devoid of minimal satisfactions that it would be inhumane or futile to prolong life, then they should be allowed to ensure that death comes about speedily and without suffering. Such a decision might reasonably be reached, if, for instance, an infant was born with anencephaly (the term means "no brain" and infants with this condition have no prospect of ever gaining consciousness); or with a major chromosomal disorder such as trisomy 18, in which there are abnormalities of the nervous system, internal organs, and external features, and death always occurs within a few months, or at most two years; or in very severe forms of spina bifida where an exposed spinal cord leads to paralysis from the waist down, incontinence of bladder and bowel, a buildup of fluid on the brain, and, often, mental retardation."

That quote should give you a very different concept of what Mr. Singer truly says. He is not about ending the life of a child with hemophilia, which is easily treated in our society. He advocates the option of parents and a doctor humanely ending the life of a child that will never be conscious or have the ability to know the difference between life and death. This is a very difficult issue for individuals and our society to grapple with, and even discuss, and I understand perfectly if you don't agree with his position. But we should all start from an honest first point based on his actual position - not the fake positions put forward by his opponents.
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