08 November 2004

Lawrence Finsen and Susan Finsen on Peter Singer

Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation has had a profound influence; many activists refer to this book as a turning point in their thinking about animals and in their lives generally. It is largely as a result of Singer’s pioneering work, together with that of Tom Regan, that questions about the treatment of animals have become a serious topic of discussion today, within both moral philosophy and American society. Of course others have raised serious questions about our relations with animals, especially in the English tradition (Singer, though Australian, did his graduate work at Oxford University, where he was influenced by others to take up issues concerning animals), but the contemporary scene is much more profoundly influenced by Singer than by his predecessors. Perhaps the influence of Animal Liberation is to be traced to Singer’s success in bringing philosophical argument about the moral status of animals to bear in a straightforward way on factual information about the treatment of animals in modern farms and laboratories. When juxtaposed with a hard look at self-interested human bias, the facts (of which most people remained happily ignorant) lead to some startling questions and conclusions about our cherished institutions and personal habits.

(Lawrence Finsen and Susan Finsen, The Animal Rights Movement in America: From Compassion to Respect [New York: Twayne Publishers, 1994], 179-80 [endnote omitted])

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