Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics

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"Concern for animals is often assumed to be an emotional issue with no rational basis. Making animals suffer for food, science, and sport arouses passionate debate. Our exploitation of animals rests on a range of assumed differences that are supposed to justify their inferior treatment. But when analyzed, Andrew Linzey contends that these very differences, so often regarded as a basis for discrimination against them, are the very grounds for discriminating in favor of them. When reconfigured, these considerations include the inability of animals to give or withhold their consent, their inability to verbalize or represent their interests, their inability to comprehend, their moral innocence, and, not least of all, their relative defenselessness and vulnerability. The rational case for extending moral solicitude to all sentient beings is much stronger than many suppose. When these considerations are fully taken into account, it becomes as difficult to justify the infliction of suffering on animals as it is to do so in the case of human infants." Linzey invites the reader to examine the rational case and then see how it can be applied to a detailed analysis of three practical issues: hunting with dogs, fur farming, and commercial sealing. He examines the economic, legal, and political considerations while retaining an ethical focus.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Linzey (Creatures of the Same God), director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, is a soft-spoken hard-liner about animal rights. In this philosophically and theologically dense treatise, cobbled together and revised from essays and presentations prepared between 2002 and 2007, he rationalizes why no animal should ever be killed or even harmed by humans. Linzey dwells at abstruse length on efforts to ban foxhunting in Britain, while other countries are condemned, America included, for "causing suffering for pleasure." A chapter devoted to fur farming slams the practice of raising animals for their pelts, subjecting them "to prolonged suffering for trivial ends, such as fur coats." A chapter devoted to commercial sealing dwells on the clubbing of baby seals. Such animal abuse is a precursor to serial murder and violence to children, the author suggests, before calling for an end to killing animals even for food, given that humans can live healthy lives "without recourse to flesh products." Linzey's proanimal extremism is admirable, but won't suit every reader.(Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Linzey (theology, Oxford Univ.) uses three cases—hunting with dogs, fur farming, and commercial sealing—to show that animal suffering matters, and that it matters morally. He starts by acknowledging that issues relating to animals are usually considered to be emotionally tinged, and he goes on to show that there is also a "rational" basis for extending moral solicitude to animals. He carefully examines three cases, noting the pros and cons of each, while referring to philosophical, theological, and ethical considerations throughout. His frequent comments about animals as "sentient," experiencing "stress, terror, shock, anxiety, fear, anticipation, trauma, and foreboding" as much as humans do, seems to imply that animals are conscious; but he also cites philosopher Thomas Nagel's famous question, "What does it mean to be a bat?," which implies how difficult it is to understand the subjective nature of experiences in animals. VERDICT This is a well-written, challenging, and important study of a subject that should have a wide readership, not only by academicians, but more so, by the vast majority of readers who are involved with and concerned about animals in one way or another.—Leon H. Brody, Falls Church, VA

—Leon H. Brody
From the Publisher

"[Linzey] brings fresh eyes to the tradition, discovers in it unexpected resources, and breathes new life into doctrines that have come to seem antiquated." --Commonweal

"Although a theologian, Linzey is clearly learned in moral philosophy. This ensures that a non-religious reader...does not feel excluded...Linzey's book provides a fine introduction to why animal suffering matters. It could, and arguably should, be utilised by universities, schools, and laypeople alike." --Times Higher Education

"A very compelling philosophical argument for the case for extending moral solicitude to all sentient beings...Far from being sentimental, [Linzey] demonstrates that a real concern for animals can be part of a radical expression of Christian faith." --Independent Catholic News

"Argues compellingly that concern for animals (chiefly mammals and birds) is not merely an emotional matter, but, rather, one that has firm rational basis, with concrete implications for human practice and social policy...The overall quality of the book...is excellent. Its seamless wedding of moral theorizing, cultural criticism, and political analysis is a paradigmatic example of how practical ethics ought to be done, and the power it might have in helping to change ideas and institutions." --Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

"The book is philosophically sophisticated without being excessively abstruse. It also engages in a serious way with what Christian thinkers and holy texts have said about animals, but without appearing relevant only to those who are committed Christians. It will thus appeal to a very wide range of readers...Linzey's book is a treat. It is written in a smooth and accessible style, and his arguments are, on the whole, lucid and powerful...Why Animal Suffering Matters matters. It is a smart, sensitive book from which academics and non-academics, philosophers and non-philosophers, the religious and the non-religious, and those with passionate and casual interests in animals, all will benefit." --Environmental Ethics

"A great resource if you're looking for an accessible and moderate introduction to a common sense and broad case for taking animal well-being and suffering seriously."--Not One Sparrow

"Andrew Linzey is virtually synonymous with the discipline of animal theology: a discipline that he has legitimate claim to have single-handedly invented. Therefore, we can safely say that a dearth of originality has never been among Linzey's faults. This book, I believe, ranks as one of his finest works--perhaps even the finest. It is original, engaging, and impressive, and comprises a skillful interweaving of theological and ethical argument, systematic analysis, and (mercilessly destructive) criticism of hugely significant public documents on hunting with dogs, fur farming, and commercial sealing, underwritten by a form of Chomskyan social criticism." --Mark Rowlands, Professor of Philosophy, University of Miami

"Philosophically astute, theologically sensitive, and eminently readable, the Reverend Professor Linzey's innovative thesis is that, far from grounding a secondary moral significance to animals, their (alleged) lakc of reasoning and linguistic capacities to argue for treating them with the care and concern that we extend to our very young. This is required reading for not only those interested in the plight of animals, but also for all who reflect upon how a moral life should be lived." --Mark H. Bernstein, Joyce and Edward E. Brewer Chair of Applied Ethics at Purdue University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195379778
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/17/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Linzey is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a Member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford, and Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. He is the author of Animal Theology, Creatures of the Same God and Animal Rites: Liturgies of Animal Care.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Reason, Ethics, and Animals 1

Pt. I Making the Rational Case 7

1 Why Animal Suffering Matters Morally 9

2 How We Minimize Animal Suffering and How We Can Change 43

Pt. II Three Practical Critiques 73

3 First Case: Hunting with Dogs 75

4 Second Case: Fur Farming 97

5 Third Case: Commercial Sealing 115

6 Conclusion: Re-Establishing Animals and Children as a Common Cause, and Six Objections Considered 151

Notes 169

Index 199

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