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Animal Liberation

by Peter Singer

352 pages, paperback, Ecco, 2001

Since its original publication in 1975, Animal Liberation has inspired a worldwide movement to give increased rights to animals. In this revised and expanded edition, Singer includes new information about today's factory farms and product-testing procedures. An important and persuasive appeal to conscience, fairness, decency and justice.

Praise for Animal Liberation

"This book is a must . . . for every civilized reader."-- Cleveland Amory

"Singer's documentation is unrhetorical and unemotional, his arguments tight and formidable, for he bases his case on neither personal nor religious nor highly abstract philosophical principles, but on moral positions most of us already accept."-- The New York Times Book Review

About Peter Singer

Quotes from Animal Liberation

"This book is about the tyranny of human over nonhuman animals. This tyranny has caused and today is still causing an amount of pain and suffering that can only be compared with that which resulted from the centuries of tyranny by white humans over black humans. The struggle against this tyranny is a struggle as important as any of the moral and social issues that have been fought in recent years."

"This book is an attempt to think through, carefully and consistently, the question of how we ought to treat nonhuman animals. In the process it exposes the prejudices that lie behind our present attitudes and behavior."

"This book is not about pets. It is not likely to be comfortable reading for those who think that love for animals involves no more than stroking a cat or feeding the birds in the garden. It is intended rather for people who are concerned about ending oppression and exploitation wherever they occur, and in seeing that the basic moral principle of equal consideration of interests is not arbitrarily restricted to members of our own species. The assumption that in order to be interested in such matters one must be an 'animal lover' is itself an indication of the absence of the slightest inkling that the moral standards that we apply among human beings might extend to other animals."

"Noting that if we were all vegetarians there would be far fewer pigs, cattle, chickens and sheep, a few meat-eaters have claimed that they are actually doing the animals they eat a favor, since but for their desire to eat meat, those animals would never have come into existence at all!

"In the first edition of this book, I rejected this view on the grounds that it requires us to think that bringing a being into existence confers a benefit on that being--and to hold this, we must believe that it is possible to benefit a nonexistent being. This I thought, was nonsense. But now I am not so sure. (My unequivocal rejection of this view is, in fact, the only philosophical point made in the earlier edition on which I have changed my mind.) After all, most of us would agree that it would be wrong to bring a child into the world if we knew, before the child was conceived that it would have a genetic defect that would make its life brief and miserable. To conceive such a child is to cause it harm. So can we really deny that to bring into the world a being who will have a pleasant life is to confer on that being a benefit? To deny this, we would need to explain why the two cases are different and I cannot find a satisfactory way of doing that.

"The argument we are now considering raises the issue of the wrongness of killing--an issue which, because it is so much more complicated than the wrongness of inflicting suffering, I have kept in the background up to this point. . . . But in the absence of some form of mental continuity it is not easy to explain why the loss to the animal killed is not, from an impartial point of view, made good by the creation of a new animal who will lead an equally pleasant life."

"On a purely practical level, one can say this: killing animals for food (except when necessary for sheer survival) makes us think of them as objects we can use casually for our own nonessential purposes. . . This argument against killing for food relies on a prediction about the consequences of holding an attitude. . . . If this prediction is not persuasive, though, the argument we are considering still remains very limited in its application. It certainly does not justify eating meat from factory-produced animals, for they suffer lives of boredom and deprivation, unable to satisfy their basic needs to turn around, groom, stretch, exercise, or take part in the social interactions normal for their species. To bring them into existence for a life of that kind is no benefit to them, but rather a great harm. At the most, the argument from the benefit of bringing a being into existence could justify continuing to eat free-range animals (of a species incapable of having desires for the future), who have a pleasant existence is a social group suited to their behavioral needs, and are then killed quickly and without pain."

Table of Contents of Animal Liberation

  1. All Animals Are Equal
  2. Tools for Research
  3. Down on the Factory Farm
  4. Becoming a Vegetarian
  5. Man's Dominion
  6. Speciesism Today

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