BOOKS: Beyond Prejudice: The Moral Significance of Human and Nonhuman Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:

Beyond Prejudice: The Moral Significance of Human and
Nonhuman Animals, by Evelyn B. Pluhar. Duke University Press (Box
90660, Durham, NC 27708), 1995. 370 pages, index and bibliography, no discernible
price.

Add Beyond Prejudice to the dusty
mountains ground out by pedantic philosophical
debaters concerning the strained relations
between humankind and animals.
Pluhar is meticulous and thorough in
researching and presenting her
argument––over 300 pages of small
type––but does that justify yet another tome
on a subject long since picked to death?


Hunting, vivisection, meat-eating,
farming, and most of the other things people

do to animals are fraught with emotion and
sublimated urges that even the brightest of us
only dimly understand. Does the endless
search for moral and intellectual consistency
actually have any application to psychological
truth?
Pluhar herself shows inconsistency
when she implies that it is wrong to give a
hissing, resistant cat a needle in order to perform
experiments, because that would violate
the cat’s rights, yet implies further that
it is okay to give the same cat the same needle
so that she can be spayed. Pluhar’s justification
of spaying for the animal’s own
good usurps some of her own arguments.
The great nature theme novelists,
e.g Herman Melville and Jack London,
explored the deeply ambivalent emotional
relationship that exists between humankind
and the animal world. Somehow, animal
rights proponents similarly must recognize
and explore this visceral aspect if they want
to reach the people who could make a difference:
everyday citizens.
––P.J. Kemp

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