Books that have changed the World
Animal Liberation by Peter Singer (1975).
2 May 2006
Animal Liberation by Peter Singer is one of the most important books of the last 100 years. It expands our moral horizons beyond our own species and is thus a significant evolution in the development of ethics.
Singer identified sentience as the common bond that unites all animals, human and non-human; obligating us to confer rights on other species and to treat them with compassion.
All living, thinking, feeling animals (including humans) have a right to be spared physical and psychological suffering.
This simple principle is the moral basis for opposing every degradation of humanity, including war, poverty, colonialism, female genital mutilation, environmental pollution and discrimination against people because of their race, class, gender, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation and so on.
The right to be spared physical and psychological suffering should, says Singer, be extended to non-human animals. Their abuse in farming, sport, entertainment and medical research involves the violation of their right to not suffer pain and distress.
Singer calls this abuse speciesism - the doctrine of human superiority that is used to justify the exploitation of non-human animals.
Speciesism supposes that the intelligence and technological mastery of the human species gives us the right to lord it over all other species, regardless of the misery caused.
Singer argues that speciesism is an ideology of oppression, comparable with racism, imperialism, misogyny and homophobia.
These are powerful, ground-breaking ideas, which represent a major advance in moral philosophy.
Animal Liberation, first published in 1975, is a book that truly has challenged and changed our moral understanding of the world.
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