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The Definitive Classic Of The Animal Movement

by Peter Singer

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1975
ISBN: 0061711306
Publisher: Random House

A tactless boor, this Peter Singer, who has the nerve not only to subject sophisticated audiences to a lengthy vegetarian and antivivisectionist argument, but to do it with great eloquence and intellectual force. Where most of us gracefully ignore the implications of eating animals or performing experiments on them, Singer proceeds with implacable logic from premises to conclusions. The premises are a) that all beings are morally entitled to equal consideration in respect of those capacities where they are equal; b) that the capacity of the higher vertebrates to feel pain must be presumed equal to that of humans. Only the narrow "speciesism" of the Judeo-Christian tradition ("into your hands are they delivered," says God in Genesis) lets us pretend we are entitled to treat an animal in any way we would not treat, say, a profoundly retarded human being—killing it for food, exploiting it for experimental purposes, or causing it unnecessary pain for any reason. Without hysteria, Singer points out the suffering much scientific research involves for animals, and the sheer uselessness of employing animal subjects to duplicate previous results (as is too often the case) or provide a cheap and convenient alternative to other investigative methods. He relates in chilling detail exactly how agribusiness turns animals into edible commodities, treating sentient creatures as nothing more than feed-converters and processing their short lives by the most economical assembly-line techniques. (See also Page Smith and Charles Daniel, The Chicken Book, p. 597.) The only method of boycotting agribusiness is of course vegetarianism, which Singer believes should be adopted anyhow on its own ethical and ecological merits. An inexorable, deliberately unemotional argument which reminds us that fundamental moral issues, like the Man upon the Stair, won't go away just by wishing.