Animal Liberation

Animal Liberation

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by Peter Singer

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The Book That Started A Revolution

Since its original publication in 1975, this groundbreaking work has awakened millions of concerned men and women to the shocking abuse of animals everywhere — inspiring a worldwide movement to eliminate much of the cruel and unnecessary laboratory animal experimentation of years past.

In this


The Book That Started A Revolution

Since its original publication in 1975, this groundbreaking work has awakened millions of concerned men and women to the shocking abuse of animals everywhere — inspiring a worldwide movement to eliminate much of the cruel and unnecessary laboratory animal experimentation of years past.

In this newly revised and expanded edition, author Peter Singer exposes the chilling realities of today's "factory forms" and product-testing procedures — offering sound, humane solutions to what has become a profound environmental and social as well as moral issue. An important and persuasive appeal to conscience, fairness, decency and justice, Animal Liberation is essential reading for the supporter and the skeptic alike.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
``The modern animal rights movement may be dated to the 1975 publication of Animal Liberation by Australian philosopher Peter Singer,'' declared Newsweek of the first edition, and this ``bible'' for animal rights activists has just undergone a second edition. Singer continues his ``blistering indictment of so-called humane use of animals in scientific research'' ( LJ 12/1/75), describes the current (and still atrocious) state of animal testing, and brings up to date the activities of the animal rights movement, nascent at the time of the first edition's release. This is a necessary purchase for any animal rights collection. See also Heidi J. Welsh's Animal Testing and Consumer Products , reviewed in this issue, p. 98.--Ed.-- Judy Quinn, ``Library Journal''

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.11(w) x 8.11(h) x 1.11(d)

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Animal Liberation

Chapter One

All Animals Are Equal . . .

or why the ethical principle on which human
equality rests requires us to extend equal
consideration to animals too

"Animal Liberation" may sound more like a parody of other liberation movements than a serious objective. The idea of "The Rights of Animals" actually was once used to parody the case for women's rights. When Mary Wollstonecraft, a forerunner of today's feminists, published her Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, her views were widely regarded as absurd, and before long an anonymous publication appeared entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes. The author of this satirical work (now known to have been Thomas Taylor, a distinguished Cambridge philosopher) tried to refute Mary Wollstonecraft's arguments by showing that they could be carried one stage further. If the argument for equality was sound when applied to women, why should it not be applied to dogs, cats, and horses? The reasoning seemed to hold for these "brutes" too; yet to hold that brutes had rights was manifestly absurd. Therefore the reasoning by which this conclusion had been reached must be unsound, and if unsound when applied to brutes, it must also be unsound when applied to women, since the very same arguments had been used in each case.

In order to explain the basis of the case for the equality of animals, it will be helpful to start with an examination of the case for the equality of women. Let us assume that we wish to defend the case for women's rights against the attack by Thomas Taylor. How should we reply?

One way in which wemight reply is by saying that the case for equality between men and women cannot validly be extended to nonhuman animals. Women have a right to vote, for instance, because they are just as capable of making rational decisions about the future as men are; dogs, on the other hand, are incapable of understanding the significance of voting, so they cannot have the right to vote. There are many other obvious ways in which men and women resemble each other closely, while humans and animals differ greatly. So, it might be said, men and women are similar beings and should have similar rights, while humans and nonhumans are different and should not have equal rights.

The reasoning behind this reply to Taylor's analogy is correct up to a point, but it does not go far enough. There are obviously important differences between humans and other animals, and these differences must give rise to some differences in the rights that each have. Recognizing this evident fact, however, is no barrier to the case for extending the basic principle of equality to nonhuman animals. The differences that exist between men and women are equally undeniable, and the supporters of Women's Liberation are aware that these differences may give rise to different rights. Many feminists hold that women have the right to an abortion on request. It does not follow that since these same feminists are campaigning for equality between men and women they must support the right of men to have abortions too. Since a man cannot have an abortion, it is meaningless to talk of his right to have one. Since dogs can't vote, it is meaningless to talk of their right to vote. There is no reason why either Women's Liberation or Animal Liberation should get involved in such nonsense. The extension of the basic principle of equality from one group to another does not imply that we must treat both groups in exactly the same way, or grant exactly the same rights to both groups. Whether we should do so will depend on the nature of the members of the two groups. The basic principle of equality does not require equal or identical treatment; it requires equal consideration. Equal consideration for different beings may lead to different treatment and different rights.

So there is a different way of replying to Taylor's attempt to parody the case for women's rights, a way that does not deny the obvious differences between human beings and nonhumans but goes more deeply into the question of equality and concludes by finding nothing absurd in the idea that the basic principle of equality applies to so-called brutes. At this point such a conclusion may appear odd; but if we examine more deeply the basis on which our opposition to discrimination on grounds of race or sex ultimately rests, we will see that we would be on shaky ground if we were to demand equality for blacks, women, and other groups of oppressed humans while denying equal consideration to nonhumans. To make this clear we need to see, first, exactly why racism and sexism are wrong. When we say that all human beings, whatever their race, creed, or sex, are equal, what is it that we are asserting? Those who wish to defend hierarchical, inegalitarian societies have often pointed out that by whatever test we choose it simply is not true that all humans are equal. Like it or not we must face the fact that humans come in different shapes and sizes; they come with different moral capacities, different intellectual abilities, different amounts of benevolent feeling and sensitivity to the needs of others, different abilities to communicate effectively, and different capacities to experience pleasure and pain. In short, if the demand for equality were based on the actual equality of all human beings, we would have to stop demanding equality.

Still, one might cling to the view that the demand for equality among human beings is based on the actual equality of the different races and sexes. Although, it may be said, humans differ as individuals, there are no differences between the races and sexes as such. From the mere fact that a person is black or a woman we cannot infer anything about that person's intellectual or moral capacities.

Animal Liberation. Copyright © by Peter Singer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet 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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Animal Liberation 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book again. I read it over 4 years ago and decided to try being a vegetarian. I had already considered doing so for sometime but had never fully commited. My goal was to try for one week and then go from there. I have not eaten any type of animal since. And whenever I have a discussion on animal rights, someone always says 'You eat meat don't you?' I am proud to respond that I do not and will never do so again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have ever met some one who did not consume animal products it is likely that the reasoning contained within this book led to their decision. For atleast the past decade in nearly every University level ethics class students have been asked to read and respond to the reasoning Singer puts forth in this book. In the thirty something years since it's release no one has successfully argued against him and this cannot be said for any other philosophers work on an issue as large as the one he addresses. In a short period of time those responsible for silencing Singer's voice will lose their ability to do so any longer. I recommend familiarizing yourself with his thought, specifically with this book, before you have it crammed down your throat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing and heart breaking. It is good for anyone, not just animal rights activists or vegetarians. It honestly describes the hell animals go through on a daily basis. I had considered becoming a vegetarian for quite some time, but after reading this book, I knew the time was now. I havent't eaten meat since finishing it. This book tells you of things that the medical, cosmetic, meat and milk industries don't want you to know. Very imformative.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must-read for anyone interested in animal advocacy or in learning more about how our lives affect the suffering of others, human or not.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This amazing book is generally considered the most basic and convincing introduction to the issue of our treatment of animals. It forcefully refutes the commonly asserted idea that humans are usually more important than animals, and doesn't shy away from description of exactly how animals are curently 'enslaved.' This book sparked the modern animal rights movement and is likely to remain a classic for years to come. Whatever your position on animal rights, Animal Liberation is a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read a philosophical book as clear, lucid, easy-to-read, and impeccably rational one as this. This book truly opened my eyes, challenging attitudes we all unthinkingly take for granted and showing them completely untenable. This book will completely change your worldview and make you rethink so much of what seemed obvious before. There is no better book to challenge your ideas, and to come out a better person for it. This is a magnificent work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is for everyone! Whether you are a vegetarian or an avid hunter, this book is one that demands to be read and taken into consideration. Everyone can learn and benefit from the extensive information that Singer has thoroughly researched and compiled into one indispensable book. I recommend it to everyone! Prepare to learn!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The concept of 'speciesism' is rather odious since it portrays as trivial the true evil that exists of oppressing people and making a moral distinction between this and using animals for human benefit. Is the sanctity of human life progressively 'evolving' toward a point where a group of self-appointed decision makers literally hold each of our deaths in their collective/individual hands? Beware of the subversion of their language-making 'moral' distinctions where none are/were ever intended. Let them choose amongst themselves whom will be the beneficiary of one of their organs when his/her time to 'die' draws nigh.