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Animal Liberation, written by influential Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer, was first published in 1975 and is credited with introducing none other than PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk to the idea of animal rights. Ingrid has said that Singer put into words what she had felt intuitively for a long time—that animals deserve to be recognized as individuals who have the same capacity to feel pain and suffer as we do. Indeed, in a very real way, were it not for this book, PETA (and, thus, this blog!) might not even exist.
Singer’s main argument is that one does not have to be a member of the human species in order to deserve protection from cruelty. Because all animals can suffer, it is only speciesism—the belief that others can be oppressed or abused simply for being of a different species from us—that draws a distinction between the family dog and a fish or allows people to ignore the level of intelligence that a pig and a human child have in common. Cruelty is cruelty, no matter who the victim is.
He illustrates some of the many examples of speciesism—most of which continue today—including factory farming and burning or torturing animals for experimentation. These are the practices that future generations will look back on and say, “How could we have allowed this to occur?” But if it weren’t for Singer’s book, this cruelty might not be on anyone’s radar at all.
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