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Animal Rights

October 28, 2020 - Vox

What philosopher Peter Singer has learned in 45 years of advocating for animals

What philosopher Peter Singer has learned in 45 years of advocating for animals
Peter Singer, author© Photabulous!

In his new book Why Vegan?, the pioneering philosopher of animal rights takes stock of the movement’s progress — and why there’s so much work left to do.

Forty-five years ago, Australian philosopher Peter Singer published the book Animal Liberation. The arguments it made — that animals can suffer; that it is morally wrong to inflict extraordinary suffering upon them; and that we consequently have to rethink our farming and food systems — are ones that many consumers today will have heard.

At the time, however, Singer’s perspective was a deeply unusual one. There were animal advocacy groups, certainly, but they tended to focus on the plight of abandoned pet animals, like cats and dogs, with no major organization working on the plight of farmed animals (more on this below).

In a 1999 New Yorker profile, journalist Michael Specter wrote that Singer “gave birth to the animal-rights movement.” Singer’s book, activist Ingrid Newkirk wrote, “was a philosophical bombshell. It forever changed the conversation about our treatment of animals. It made people — myself included — change what we ate, what we wore, and how we perceived animals.” Simply put, the animal welfare movement would not be where it is today without Singer and his book.

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