Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal Rights Philosophy Down to Earth – by Lee Hall

Saw this book reviewed on a site I follow. Sounds like a great and important read as I’ve always believed this movement needs to constantly reassess the course of action.


Book Review: On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal Rights Philosophy Down to Earth

by Catherine Burt - Jul 14th, 2010

On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal Rights Philosophy Down to Earth is the newest book by Lee Hall, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Friends of Animals. This book has two very simple, very straightforward central themes, which I love, and which make it distinct from other AR books I’ve read.

One: The world does not revolve around us.

Two: The earth is a finite space, with finite land mass, and finite resources.

Rationally, Animal Rights falls into place very easily for anyone who understands and accepts these two ideas. I think most people would agree that it would be outright silly not to accept them.

And yet, throughout the ages, humanity has behaved as though the world not only revolves around us, but also, as if it has infinite resources. The effects of that behavior are evident, as we watch the news and see the environmental devastation all around us – oil spills, air-quality alerts, toxins in our waterways, accelerated extinction of species, and more. We know that we are poisoning the earth by our own activities, and that we urgently need to mesh the way we live, with what we understand about the earth’s declining ability to support life. Nature is making the rules – clearly, it doesn’t revolve around us.

In the AR movement, we also urgently need to mesh that understanding with our advocacy. Since humans are the dominant force on earth, we do need to speak out – but not for animals so much as against that very domination of them. Can we relinquish our control over wild habitats and free-living beings? Can we simply allow nature to make the rules for animals, instead of continually foisting our dominion over them? That will require a good deal of stepping back for many of us, and a little more stepping forward for others. After all, we are the ones doing the most speaking on behalf of animals.

Advocates may also forget that the earth is a finite space. Groups that lobby for industrial animals to be kept in larger spaces or on pasture, will often simultaneously protest the hunting and removal of wild animals from wild spaces. But these two causes are actually in direct conflict with each other, on a finite landmass, with an ever-growing human and domestic animal population.

To add to the confusion, words like “welfare” and “welfarism” are increasingly being misused in AR dialog. With so many ideas and groups working in advocacy, we shouldn’t be too surprised when confusion about our goals and methods arise.

In On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal Rights Philosophy Down to Earth, Lee Hall cuts through the jargon, and is once again presenting whole solutions to underlying problems. This time not only in animal advocacy, but for a world that desperately needs to heal from our unrestrained exploitation of it.

And while we may expect to be guilted, grossed out, or otherwise have our senses assaulted reading an AR book, those are conspicuously missing. In their place, we have a practical and yes – down to earth – discussion about respecting the right of animals to live without interference from humans. Included is a detailed analysis of current thinking from Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Gary Francione, and new insights which, within the context of a finite world that doesn’t revolve around us, chart the most direct course for reaching AR goals.

This is a book not to be missed by anyone who is curious about what Animal Rights is really all about, as well as those who are already involved in advocacy.

Topics include:

Defining animal welfare vs. animal husbandry/handling vs. animal rights

The problem of domestication and the breeding of pets

The value of vegan cooking as activism

Why environmentalism is crucial to AR

The use of graphic videos and photos in advocacy

Discerning the effectiveness of advocacy campaigns

How to write good advocacy material

Determining your own best Animal Rights theory

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