BOOKS: The Case for Animal Rights
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2004:
The Case for Animal Rights, 2004 edition
by Tom Regan
University of Calif. Press
(2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704), 2004.
425 pages, paperback. $21.95.
Moral philosophy tends to cause the general reader to either
fall asleep or develop a headache.
Knowing this, Tom Regan in 2002 produced a demystified,
simplified version of his 1983 volume The Case for Animal Rights,
entitled Empty Cages. That is the book for the general reader.
The Case for Animal Rights, 2004 edition is primarily a
textbook for moral philosophy students. Regan responds in an updated
preface to some of the criticisms of the first edition.
Most thoughtful people consider how much they should adjust
their lifestyles to avoid causing animal suffering. Typically this
judgement proceeds from personal intuition. But beliefs coming from
such a subjective and emotional origin are not necessarily convincing
to others, and do not provide a consistent approach to resolving
moral conflict when the resolution must be translated into public law
Regan seeks to provide a proper philosophical basis for
The Case for Animal Rights is written for Americans, and
assumes a common culture in which consideration for animal welfare
has long been acknowledged as a legitimate public concern, even
though what “animal welfare” consists of remains hotly debated.
Cross-cultural effects upon moral intuition are mentioned
briefly, but are not fully explained. For example, the reviewers
work with wildlife in a remote province of South Africa, where
virtually the entire farming community speaks little English, views
all wild animals as either game to be hunted or vermin to be
exterminated, and regards white supremacy as God-given.
Our intuitions are the same as Regan’s, but we are among a
tiny, despised minority here. Most of our neighbors regard our
beliefs as radical, extremist, and perhaps even heretical.
Since Regan’s view of animal rights, and many other moral
theories which do not have a single ultimate authority (e.g religion)
must rest upon moral intuitions, upon what moral basis must the
reviewers ground our contention that a compassionate ethic is as
morally right in South Africa as anywhere else?
Do we not leave ourselves open to charges of elitism,
arrogance, and trying to impose First World values upon the Third
Professor Regan’s magnus opus is so important a foundation
for the whole effort to explain animal rights as a moral imperative
that dedicated animal advocates might risk the odd cranial twinge in
order to read it–a few pages at a time.
–Chris Mercer & Bev Pervan