BOOKS: Defending Animal Rights

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 200&

Defending Animal Rights
by Tom Regan
University of Illinois Press (1325 S. Oak St.
Champaign, IL 61820), 2006.
200 pages, paperback. $20.00.

Most of this collection of nine essays on
matters pertaining to animal rights originated as
lectures, originally published in 2001.
Though best known as a philosopher,
Regan ventures beyond moral philosophy. For
example, chapter eight, entiled “Ivory Towers
Should Not a Prison Make,” relates the hostility
and disparagement that Regan has encountered from
some of his academic colleagues.

In chapter six, “Patterns of
Resistance,” Regan delves into historical
parallels between today’s animal rights movement
and previous social reform movements, such as
those for the abolition of slavery and the
recognition of basic rights for women and
homosexuals. Regan describes how many scientists
and churches have historically offered defenses,
acceptable at the time, for the worst forms of
social inequality, and compares the rhetoric
used against other social reform movements with
the epithets thrown at animal advocates today.
In chapter seven, “Understanding Animal
Rights Violence,” Regan compares the arguments
of the great divide in the anti-slavery movement
between reformers and abolitionists, with the
divide he perceives between advocating for animal
welfare and advocating for animal rights.
Regan’s practical suggestion for bridging
the divide, echoing the late Henry Spira, is
for activists to pursue incremental abolition’
targeting specific abuses that are recognized as
affronts to both animal welfare and animal rights.
The aim is to create a shared agenda that
will attract the endorsements of most people who
are concerned about the issues. Advancing a
shared agenda, Regan believes, could defuse the
idea that animal protection can only be achieved
by acting violently, outside the democratic
system. Regan concludes “as things stand at
present, the wonder of it is not that there is
animal rights violence, but that there is not
more of it.”
–Chris Mercer

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