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Animals Like Us (Practical Ethics Series) Paperback – 17 Aug 2002
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"...an impressive new work." Andrew Linzey, on Animal Rights "... Rowlands has written an important and provocative book." Lynne Rudder Baker, on The Body and the Mind
From the Back Cover
Foot and Mouth and Mad Cow Disease are but two of the results of treating animals as commodities, subject only to commercial constraints and ignoring all natural and moral considerations. Chickens hanging by their necks on conveyor belts, caged pigs covered in sores, bloated dead sheep with their legs in the air, mutilated dogs waiting to die after undergoing horrendous experiments in the name of science or even just product testing - are some of the more disturbing images that illustrate the indifference of a consumerist society to the suffering of animals. Few are willing to recognize that the packaged sanitized supermarket meat that materializes on their dinner tables every day is the result of an industrial process involving unimaginable pain and suffering. We would be horrified if our pets were harmed, yet every day we eat animals that have been tortured and executed.
In this clearly argued book, Mark Rowlands argues that it is simply unjust to harm animals. As conscious, sentient beings, biologically continuous with humans, they have interests that cannot simply be disregarded. Using simple principles of justice, he argues that animals have moral rights, and examines the consequences of this claim in the contexts of vegetarianism, animal experimentation, zoos and hunting, as well as the animal rights activism that has resulted from the recognition by a relatively small but vociferous group of political activists that animals cannot simply be considered in their relation to humans.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The first three chapters are a good introduction to basic ethics, explaining the principles of equality, desert, and the impartial position. I know, it sounds obscure, but Rowlands makes it very clear, almost tediously so sometimes, as he repeats the point again, and again, until you feel rather like a pupil obliged to repeat after him. But it is very educational, and useful if you want to debate with carnivores, scientists and the like.
Chapter four, Killing Animals, I found tedious, a prolonged debate about the lifeboat or burning house scenario, who would you save and why, how do you calculate the worth of a life. I don't know if you can, really.
The last half of the book is superb, however, Rowlands gets down to the nitty gritty of factory farming, animal experiments, zoos, hunting, and animal rights activism. I defy anyone to read the chapters on using animals for food and experiments and then rationally defend buying meat and/or products tested on animals. In fact I want everyone to read those chapters so much I might type them up, print them out and distribute them in the street. Perhaps I'd be breaking the law though.
This book, plus Straw Dogs by John Gray, are so far the best I've read which explain animal rights and which put humans in perspective, i.e. we're just an animal like any other, albeit a peculiarly selfish, myopic, devious and adaptable one.
The book is divided into three parts: the first sets out the principles underpinning an animal rights philosophy (of which more shortly), the second explores how these principles can be applied to a range of areas such as food choices, animal experimentation, zoos, hunting and pets. The penultimate chapter deals with the issue of animal rights activism, and explores the range of forms which activism can take, and which forms can themselves be unethical in certain circumstances. In a final chapter entitles 'What Goes Around Comes Around', Rowlands explores the myriad variety of ways in which, when we act unethically towards animals, we ourselves lose out.
In the first chapter, Rowlands establishes the conclusive evidence for animal sentience, apologising to many of his readers for spending time on the obvious, but asserts that there are still some people who would deny that animals are sentient, and who need to be convinced. In the following chapter, he argues that, logically, the fact of sentience means that animals are inside the moral club, and not outside it, ie. since they can suffer, we must take their interests into account in our actions towards them. He advocates two principles to support this, the principle of EQUALITY which implies NO MORAL DIFFERENCE WITHOUT SOME RELEVANT OTHER DIFFERENCE and the principle of DESERT, which asserts that it is irrational to make moral distinctions in our actions towards beings on the basis of characteristics which are beyond their control. Gender, race and SPECIES are all examples here. Rowlands shows that, in this context, being human, looking human, or being intelligent are not morally relevant, and that the argument from marginal cases destroys any attempt to distinguish between ALL humans and ALL non-human animals.
In the following chapter, Rowlands argues that in considering justice towards animals, we need to establish an impartial position. This is not a position in the real world, but a heuristic device to clarify our thinking. Imagine that we are considering options through a VEIL OF IGNORANCE. We don't know, for instance, whether we will become humans or chickens. In such circumstances, it would be rational to opt for a world in which humans are vegetarian and in which chickens lead free lives and die very quickly, rather than our current world, because we would have potentially far more to lose by opting for our present world than for the alternative. There are many other scenarios which could be examined utilising the same principle. From this, Rowlands develops the Golden Rule: IF A CHOICE IS IRRATIONAL IN THE IMPARTIAL POSITION, THEN IT IS IMMORAL IN THE REAL WORLD. It is then easy to see why much of what we do to animals is demonstrably immoral, and should be stopped.
An exciting, highly stimulating read, with truly radical implications for how we live and relate to others in our world.
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