- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reissue edition (February 24, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061711306
- ISBN-13: 978-0061711305
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement Reissue Edition
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About the Author
Peter Singer's other books include Writings on an Ethical Life, Practical Ethics, and The Life You Can Save, among many others. He is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University's Center for Human Values.
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Top Customer Reviews
When Singer's book first appeared, animal rights was on the fringe of the fringe. Animal rights advocates, to the extent that they could get any attention from the press at all, were treated as a bunch of nuts. CBS Evening News compared British animal rights advocates to Monty Python charachters.
But today, especially among young people, animal rights is a major part of political and social activism. So even if you think you're inflexibly opposed to animals having rights, Singer's book will help you understand the millions of people who disagree with you.
Folks who believe that animals have no rights will often assert that because animals are animals, they should have no rights. As Singer points out, the argument is simply a tautology. To say that animals should have no rights because they are animals is no more logical than to say that women should not have rights because they are women, or that Blacks should have no rights because they are Blacks. To say that status as a woman must, in itself, imply that women have no rights is sexism; to say the same about Blacks is racism. And, Singer demonstrates, to say the same about animals is "specisim."
Interestingly, when reformers in the late 18th century began arguing that Blacks should not be enslaved merely because of of their race, pro-slavery advocates had an immediate reply: Arguments which questioned the subordination of Blacks could also be used to question the subordination of women, and the subordination of animals. The defenders of slavery had a point, notes Singer. Once you knock out one kind of subordination, it's harder to defend the subordination that remains.
So if simplistic speciesism is an insufficient basis for denying animals rights, what logical justification is there for current treatment of animals?
It is true, of course, that animals can't do lots of things that humans can, such as write, build complex tools, or describe a religious belief system. But if you compare a profoundly retarded child with one of the higher primates, the primate may have much more advanced skills in the traits that we consider human (such as use of language or tools) than does the profoundly retarded child.
If we acknowledge that the retarded child has rights, then what philosophically plausible claim can be made that the primate does not?
The best test for rights, argues Singer, is a test first articulated by the 19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham: "Can it suffer?" If you saw someone using an electric cattle prod to torture an adult human, you would say that the person's rights were being violated. If the severely retarded child were being tortured, you would likewise say that the child's rights were being violated. And because gorillas, dogs, and eagles also feel intense pain when being attacked with electric cattle prods, their rights are likewise violated when they are tortured. In contrast, trees and rocks do not feel pain, as far as we know, and therefore using a cattle prod on a rock is merely a waste of electricity, and not the violation of rights on the part of the rock.
"How can you tell that animals feel pain?" is one rejoinder to the argument above. The theory that animals are mere automotons, and have no more feeling than does a clock, was first articulated by the French philosopher Rene Descartes.
In reply, Singer points out that: First of all, animals react in a manner which we would expect from a being in pain -- they scream, and they try to avoid the source of the pain. Second, all of the evidence we have regarding the nervous system of animals shows that their pain-sensing capacity is structurally similar to the pain-sensing portion of the nervous system in humans.
Having set up a philosophical basis for animal rights, Singer then examines current treatment of animals by humans, to see if violations of rights are involved.
Singer's approach has no sentimentalism about animals in it. He describes his disgust as meeting a woman who gushed "Don't you just love animals!" -- and then offered him a ham sandwich.
The book's discussion of factory farming of animals is particularly powerful. He describes how almost all of the chickens, pigs, and cattle that end up in a supermarket meat tray are subjected to squalid conditions of confinement that can be described as torture. Chickens are confined in cages too small even to lift a wing, and cages are stacked on top of each other so that the top chickens' feces fall on the ones below. To deal with the high death rates that result from these disgusting conditions, the animals are pumped full of high doses of antibiotics
Anyway, half way through the book, I converted to vegetarianism. By the end of the book which coincided with the end of the week, I was a vegan and haven't looked back since that day which was 20 years ago.
Read this book and inform yourself. You don't have to become a vegan but it would be nice if you developed an awareness of how mankind treats animals and how he has forsaken his role as "shepherd."
I enjoy this book greatly. I am not going to discuss about the book because I believe there had already been many reviewers on here who did an excellent job on writing about it. I am really glad, however, that a modern philosopher, like Singer, took great interests in ending animals suffering and believe it firmly to write such an excellent book. It is really difficult personally, for me to "persuade" others to re-consider the way they consume meat daily. I took me almost 2 years to persuade my husband to watch "Earthings" because he, like many other people that I know of, said: "I don't want to watch it....I like to eat meat and I like the freedom to choose whatever I want to eat...." I have heard this response many time from many people who will not change or reconsider the way they consume meat. The bottom line is, they only care about their individual "right"; to eat whatever they choose because they think they are entitled to. It is sad, but it also happens to the most dedicated, religious people whom I've known.
My hope is for Singer and many other writers to continue to deliver this important message to the mass - ending animals suffering and to learn how to be a compassionate human being.
This is a classic text in the animal liberation movement. If you are new to animal rights, this book will broaden your perspective. If you're already well versed in the animal rights literature then you probably won't get too much additional information from this book simply because this book is the foundation of many others on this subject. Still, I enjoyed the read, and recommend it highly!