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Animal Liberation

Posted by tinako on February 18, 2011

“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 over in recent years.” – Opening salvo of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation

I’m reading Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer.  This is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.  I’ve read books about slaughterhouses and so forth that were more distressing, but none so disturbing on a philosophical level.  I think until I read his first chapter I was not so sure that specesism was really a bias.  Even as a vegan I took it for granted, a fact of nature, a reasonable way to think: There’s people, and then there’s animals.  We should be kind to animals, we shouldn’t hurt them, including eating them, they’re not food, I’d even say they had rights.  But to decide that there was no justification for withholding from them any consideration we would give to a human – I’m not sure I would have agreed.

But Peter Singer makes a case, a logical, relentless case that specesism is just as ugly as racism and sexism and any other bias you can be repulsed by.  He sets out a fact-based, justifiable criteria for judging whether someone or something’s interests should be given consideration, and animals fall squarely inside that circle.

This book was originally written in 1975 and was revised in 1990.  There are probably parts which are out of date (though sadly many things have not changed), specifically what’s going on in factory farms and laboratories, and anyway I pretty well know the score – there were not many facts new to me.   But that is only a few chapters, and the more philosophical chapters are timeless.

He is endlessly quotable; I find myself regretting, from a literary standpoint, reading on past his powerful, unblinking words without bringing them out into the open.  I’m going to be indulging myself by including quotes in my upcoming blog postings.  See if you find them as moving as I do.

Singer continues the above quote:

“Most readers will take what they have just read to be a wild exaggeration.  Five years ago I myself would have laughed…  Five years ago I did not know what I know today.  If you read this book carefully… you will then know as much as what I know about the oppression of animals…   Then you will be able to judge if my opening paragraph is a wild exaggeration, or a sober estimate of a situation largely unknown to the general public.”


One Response to “Animal Liberation”

  1. […] not going to explain speciesism here; I refer you to the first chapter of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation for an argument which is difficult to deny.  No, here I’d like to share some of King’s […]

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