15 February 2004

Is Peter Singer Good for Animals?

I admire and respect Peter Singer, but sometimes I wonder whether he has been good for animals. I have no doubt that many people, having read his books and essays, became vegetarians. But how many people who might otherwise have entertained vegetarianism chose not to as a result of not liking Singer personally? I've received several e-mails from readers expressing indignation toward Singer. They don't like him for lots of reasons. (See here and here for some of them.) For many people, Singer is the face of the animal-liberation movement. To reject him, in their minds, is to reject the movement.

I plead with those who dislike Singer to separate him from the animals and from the movement to protect animals. Singer is not the animal-liberation movement. The movement is much larger than one person, even if that person has played a prominent role in it. Would you cease working for civil rights for African-Americans because you find fault with Martin Luther King Jr? Would you not fight for your country because you dislike its president? Our politics has become so personalized that we find it hard to separate the idea, theory, or argument from the person propounding it. But we must. If you care about animals, act in their behalf. Don't worry about who else is acting in their behalf.

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