Animals & Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights
Nathan Nobis, Morehouse College
Copyright Year: 2016
Last Update: 2018
ISBN 13: 9780692471289
Publisher: Open Philosophy Press
Conditions of Use
The text covers the subject appropriately and with appropriate references. Primary reading suggestions are listed at the beginning of the book. There is no formal index, readings and recommended resources are inserted in each chapter as links to... read more
The text covers the subject appropriately and with appropriate references. Primary reading suggestions are listed at the beginning of the book. There is no formal index, readings and recommended resources are inserted in each chapter as links to information and or readings on websites. These readings are specific to each chapter and significantly add to the content. Footnotes are used throughout the text that help define terms and explain their meanings in this context. There is no formal glossary of terms.
The author presents the content in non-bias ways and through a consistent philosophical approach in which opposing view points are well represented.
The text addresses ongoing issues and debates concerning morals, ethics and the rights of animals. It describes the foundations of ethics and morals in a variety of contexts in the first chapter. This serves as a touchstone for thinking about animal rights as the book progresses. It would be quite easy to maintain the main content of this text if updates were needed to the references and supporting texts, however this resource is highly dependent on outside reading assignments which may or may not be relevant in the future.
The clarity of the text is inhibited by the use of long footnotes. In addition, sentences are long and at times grammatically confusing. However, terminology is clearly defined and used consistently in appropriate context.
The text is consistent in terms of both terminology and framework. There is a logical sequence in the structure of the chapters, and questions following each chapter are in a consistent format. Terminology that could be confusing or ambiguous is explained within the context of the writing.
The text is organized as a detailed course description with a series of classroom lessons that include readings, discussions, and end of chapter questions. It seems naturally divided into sections (chapters) that can be individually assigned or grouped as assignments.
The first chapter sets the tone for the rest of the text by providing background information on morals and ethics theory that frame the discussion in the following chapters. The author is forthcoming in the very beginning about the intent to inform but not influence the readers' thinking about these issues. Each chapter presents issues from opposing viewpoints and provides questions to facilitate deeper thinking about one's own views. Each chapter is consistently formatted with an introduction, suggested readings, theories/arguments, discussion, questions, and assignment. This structure culminates in the final additional readings that revisit the original premise of how human to human interactions influence the way we consider human to animal interactions.
The author points out that at the time of the writing the links to web resources were active, however the reader may have to find the resources another way if they become inactive. This could be a problem since the text is heavily dependent on the readings in these links. A few other links were inactive at the time of this review. The text itself is in a straight forward format, it includes appropriately formatted illustrations with captions in the additional readings at the end of the book. There were no issues navigating through the pages or chapters.
Generally, the way sentences are structured throughout the text tends to be confusing for the reader and is distracting. At times, it is hard to understand the point of a given section of text without re-reading it several times. The slight grammatical (or typographical) errors and long sentences interrupt the intended content.
The nature of this topic and the way it is presented naturally lends itself to cultural neutrality. As philosophy does, the text confronts the established beliefs of the reader and challenges the reader to critically question their own ideas by reading and reflecting on the established ideas of others. There were no glaring insensitivities in the writing. It should be noted that references to issues surrounding human abortion in application to how animal rights are framed may be offensive to some.
This subject of this book is relevant and important in terms of current events and has considerable potential for addressing the subject matter. Just be aware it is a more of a detailed course outline that includes detailed descriptions of each class session than a textbook and it depends heavily on outside readings that may or may not be accessible in the future.
Though primarily focused on the works by Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Mark Rowlands, this book provides readers with a comprehensive list of ideas and arguments pertaining to the topics of animals and ethics. The content of the text is presented in... read more
Though primarily focused on the works by Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Mark Rowlands, this book provides readers with a comprehensive list of ideas and arguments pertaining to the topics of animals and ethics. The content of the text is presented in a very reader-friendly way while still maintaining its academic tone and texture. The book aims at being a comprehensive guide to the issues of animal ethics by covering or engaging with many of the popular questions in the field. The summary of moral theories on pages 14 &15 is a clear indication of the book’s ambitious plan to be as extensive as possible within the scope available to a supplementary text. The examples used in the book, and the discussion questions supplied at the end of each chapter also help readers get a detailed picture of the topics covered. Perhaps the most effective element of the book is the “Readings” section in which the author lists a bunch of sources with external links for the really inquisitive and adventurous learners. The author even tries to be “populist” by recommending YouTube videos of relevant figures. The result is an intertextual, interdisciplinary montage of sources, ideas and arguments. This book is ready to be used in an introductory course not just on animal studies but also on logic, ethics and even critical thinking in general.
The author clearly presents the arguments, and is faithful to the sources discussed.
This book will be quite useful and relevant to both the instructors and students looking for an easy-to-find and easy-to-follow textbook with ready discussion questions and ideas for short papers.
One of the strengths of this book is its lucid style. It reads as if the author was teaching a class, and we as readers were listening to the instructor explaining and expounding on the material.
The book presents its material in a consistent manner. In each chapter, the reader is guided through a nicely structured discussion of topics and questions.
The readings by all three authors (Singer, Regan and Rowlands) are distributed across the chapters in a very cohesive way; each new chapter builds its discussion on the last.
The book is divided into eight chapters. The opening chapter introduces the readers to ethics, logic and animal ethics. In the subsequent chapters, the author gradually moves from abstract philosophical issues (such as animal minds, animal rights to) more practical issues including wearing and eating animals, and petting and hunting animals. This shift from the abstract to the concrete culminates suitably in the last chapter on a discussion on activism.
The book is available in four different formats; and it clearly explains the conditions of use.
The book contains a few instances of grammatically inconsistent formulations: e.g. “Here this person probably does not mean to say your making these donations are [sic] morally obligatory, morally required, or a moral duty” (8).
Discussions of pets, hunting, factory farming, etc. make the text culturally relevant. The book is primarily written for a Western audience.
I am planning to use the book for my critical thinking course.
The book presents itself as supplemental to Singer's "Animal Liberation", Regan's "Empty Cages", and Rowland's "Animals Like Us." I would add that it is more of a teacher's guide than a book to ask introductory students to read. The questions... read more
The book presents itself as supplemental to Singer's "Animal Liberation", Regan's "Empty Cages", and Rowland's "Animals Like Us." I would add that it is more of a teacher's guide than a book to ask introductory students to read. The questions posed, the links to additional material, the argument summaries offered, the discussion questions collected, and the paper topics suggested are all excellent for helping a teacher craft their own class. These are the strengths of the book. But whereas many introductory texts expend much energy painting a story that will draw students along, motivating the questions posed, this book jumps straight to the meat of arguments. For some, this may be a strength as well. For others, this means that the book can be an excellent supplement and helpful preparatory tool, but that the student experience of context, narrative, and stakes will have to be presented in lecture or in other readings. While this text contains no index, the pdf is fully searchable. I was surprised that there is no discussion of animal euthanasia.
Nobis is careful to present as unbiased a view as possible, allowing students to draw their own conclusions from careful evaluation of the arguments presented. Feminist and indigenous scholarship could be presented more centrally to the dialogue and could inform the way in which the book is presented. Why focus so entirely on argumentation surrounding rights, obligations, and harms when it may be learning needs in basic empathy and appreciation of connectedness that are the primary root of why the types of questions presented in the book seem urgent at all?
When I noted that feminist and indigenous scholarship could be presented more centrally to the dialogue and could inform the way in which the book is presented, it is a point that has implications for the possible limits of the relevance of this text. As teaching shifts to more culturally relevant, inclusive practices, this book's focus on argumentation about rights and obligations can likely still be useful in the long run as a supplemental teaching guide, though some of the questions may seem less urgent as cultural awareness of our connectedness with the natural world increases. So, the questions will become versions of "how to do we think and act in environmentally inclusive ways?" instead of Nobis' various versions of "should we think and act in environmentally inclusive ways?"
As noted above, the book's mission is not primarily in building context or fleshing out a narrative. It is, however, very clear and analytic in presenting the arguments it's interested in.
The book is consistent and does build on it's own questions, such as ones surrounding "taking someone's interests seriously", criteria for "having a mind", and the centrality of "rights" discussions at all.
Short descriptions of the problems are followed by links to longer articles, short but deep dives into arguments, and suggestions for discussion questions and paper topics, all of which lead to a very modular, easily digested guide book for teachers looking to draw resources for their own classes.
The text is well organized, with a clear table of contents and a fully searchable pdf version
There are no interface problems that I noticed, and I appreciate that the pdf is fully searchable. The links I sampled all work, and Nobus even offers instructions for what to do in case of any technical difficulties in accessing the things he has linked to.
Some sentences are long and technical, but not grammatically incorrect. Very clear argumentation throughout.
This text is not culturally insensitive or offensive, though I would love to see an updated version that takes seriously feminist and indigenous perspectives, not just as abstracted argument artifacts, but as interlocutors for the form of the narrative, the learning objectives, and the very questions being posed.
As stated in the author's preface, this text is not quite a stand-alone book on animal ethics but rather a companion or guide that can be read alongside some influential books on animals and ethics (in particular, Peter Singer's _Animal... read more
As stated in the author's preface, this text is not quite a stand-alone book on animal ethics but rather a companion or guide that can be read alongside some influential books on animals and ethics (in particular, Peter Singer's _Animal Liberation_, Tom Regan's _Empty Cages_, and Mark Rowlands' _Animals Like Us_). The first chapter helpfully clarifies what the core question of animal ethics is (e.g., explaining that it need not be whether animals have moral rights), explains some basic logical concepts, and connects animal ethics to some general approaches to human ethics. I think it would be helpful if later chapters were fleshed out more fully so that they are a bit closer to being self-standing. For example, in Ch. 2, the particular argument for the claim that animals have minds based on inference to the best explanation could be explained in a bit more detail. Similarly, a bit more detail could be added to the rather schematic treatment of the major arguments in later chapters (e.g., the arguments against using animals for food or clothing in Ch. 5, especially on pp.53-54).
The text provides an accurate overview of influential arguments in animal ethics.
The extensive lists of further readings and internet sources for each chapter are especially interesting and helpful.
Overall, the writing is clear and concise.
The book's terminology is consistent throughout.
Each chapter is fairly independent of the others. I think that any course that discussed topics in animal ethics would want to include the material covered in Ch.1 in one form or another.
The book is well-organized overall. One way of making the book closer to a self-standing text might be to incorporate the two "bonus essays" into the main text. For example, material from the second bonus essay could be incorporated into Ch. 6, perhaps with some critical discussion.
Overall, the formatting is attractive and readable. However, seemingly unneeded blank pages appear after the list of readings in some chapters and after some chapters.
I noticed a few grammatical mistakes/typos: in a section title in Ch. 1 (pp. ix and 9); in a set of sentences of the form "This chapter we ..." (pp.42,45,51,67) (probably a result of using 'replace' when editing); an instance where 'it' should be 'is' (p.61).
I did not notice any culturally insensitive examples.
The content of the text is appropriately comprehensive for an introductory volume on animal ethics. The theoretical emphasis is on Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Mark Rowlands' ethical frameworks, as well as discussion of issues such as the use of... read more
The content of the text is appropriately comprehensive for an introductory volume on animal ethics. The theoretical emphasis is on Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Mark Rowlands' ethical frameworks, as well as discussion of issues such as the use of animals in research and for food/fur. No index or glossary is included, but the author does clearly organize assigned and suggested reading throughout the text.
Nobis accurately frames arguments without dogmatism, promoting the reader's ability to think for themselves and to evaluate the strength of different lines of reasoning.
The author drives home the perennial nature of debates regarding the moral status of, and moral obligations towards animals, and does so in a way that ensures the long-term efficacy of the book.
The book is very clearly written, and this clarity is reflected in the content of the book itself, which focuses on ways to clearly understand, articulate, and evaluate arguments regarding animal ethics. Technical terms are kept to a minimum and always clearly explained.
The text is completely consistent in its employment of terminology and philosophical/argumentative concepts.
This text would work wonderfully when covered in its entirety or when broken up into smaller readings. The text frames discussion within and between other readings in animal ethics, bringing these into conversation with one another in ways that spark the reader's critical thinking. At the same time, it is written in a way that is not overly self-referential, and it would be possible to use only excepts of the text without generating confusion.
The book begins with an introduction to the study of ethics and the nature of argumentation. It then moves into core theories in animal ethics, and ends by covering debates regarding various uses of animals and the ethics of animal-related advocacy.
The text's interface is straightforward and easily navigable.
The book's grammar is excellent throughout, making for a fluid, non-disruptive reading experience.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive, but examples and thinkers are fairly Anglo- and US-centric.
It is worth noting that this text was not designed to be a stand-alone volume. The author does a wonderful job of curating introductory readings in animal ethics and this text expertly serves as the "glue" that brings the readings together and cultivates argumentative/critical thinking skills on these topics. However, the text often references assigned readings that are listed but not included in their entirety (probably due to copyright). Links to web documents are included where available.
The book covers some common important animal use discussions. I do not believe it is meant to be definitive, but it does provide many commonly used resources for further investigation. This book is a great place to start the debate but future... read more
The book covers some common important animal use discussions. I do not believe it is meant to be definitive, but it does provide many commonly used resources for further investigation. This book is a great place to start the debate but future resources would be necessary for an in-depth approach.
The book is accurate. Sometimes in its lack of depth, some content is not fully developed (and perhaps some would view this a not accurate). It does seem to be slanted towards animal rights but it would not hinder me from using the text (as most students could be nudged further in that direction).
The links do not necessarily work so perhaps just using google searches for the appropriate materials might be more useful. It seems that the book could easily be updated. I found it to be relevant and helpful.
He assumes you know what Cohen, Regan etc say. He doesn't really go into their theories so to use this book I would need to expose students to these writers’ views. Would have been helpful to clearly summarize their theories. However, the book is very detailed in the common arguments later.
Extremely consistent. The book does an excellent job with terminology and approaches to animal ethics. The arguments for animal use are well separated and can be used individually or one argument building on the next. Very consistent approach.
It is easily divided into sections. I will be using chapters 3-7; that seems to speak to animal ethics and equine ethics most closely. It is helpful to have chapters on the specific areas of animal rights, so each area is accessible separately, such as medical research. It might be more helpful if the resources that remain in the chapters (not as footnotes) were attached directly to the arguments discussed.
Perhaps the resources could be elsewhere in the book so it wouldn’t disrupt the flow. . Perhaps as footnotes or reference section. Some of the links do not work so perhaps just suggesting google search terms would be more helpful?
The topics and text flowed very well.
The interface worked well, especially if you have PDF reader where you can annotate and highlight.
There were a few grammatical errors but not many.
n/a in my opinion
This is a great resource to use and I will be using this text. The offers of questions and essay topics at the end of chapters is also very helpful.
There isn’t an index as such, which is a shame, as this would be extremely useful. However, it is broken down into chapters which is good, and these are further broken down into sections which are well described, and the book is easily searchable... read more
There isn’t an index as such, which is a shame, as this would be extremely useful. However, it is broken down into chapters which is good, and these are further broken down into sections which are well described, and the book is easily searchable which helps.
The author does point out in the preface that the book is designed as a brief guide and companion to other in print books, which are listed in the ‘About this book’ section. This section is very comprehensive, going as far to describe the learning outcomes
The information in the book seems accurate and well balanced, it is based on readings by respected philosophers and gives links to these texts. The chapters seem well thought out and give an overview of the topics with information about further reading.
The main issue I foresee is ensuring links stay relevant. Aside from that the arguments covered seem current and the structure gives the impression it can be updated easily without loosing relevance to current issues in animal ethics.
Overall the text is written in an accessible, readable manner. The explanations are easy to understand. I especially liked the ‘About this book section’ as it gives a clear overview of the purpose of the book along with the earning outcomes the reader is expected to achieve.
The terminology and framework used are extremely consistent
I love the way the author has included an ‘About this book’ section as it gives meaning to the book, the structure of the chapters is accurate and clear, and helps break the book down into manageable sections.
The chapters are consistently organised with a clear overview, additional readings leading then on to the main chapter sections. I found this a refreshing way of organising a book and felt that this enhanced the learning experience.
There are no images or tables in the text, so there are no problems with the interface in the formats available.
I couldn’t find any obvious grammatical errors.
The book is not insensitive or offensive from a cultural perspective, but neither does it specifically discuss in detail animal rights in the context of race, culture, ethnicity or background.
An enjoyable read which gives a broad overview of the issues surrounding animal rights in the context of the learning outcomes the book describes.
There is a militant but minority school within the modern animal movement that calls itself the “Abolitionist” approach to animal rights. Championed by legal scholar Gary Francione, the approach strictly opposes incremental animal welfare reform... read more
There is a militant but minority school within the modern animal movement that calls itself the “Abolitionist” approach to animal rights. Championed by legal scholar Gary Francione, the approach strictly opposes incremental animal welfare reform and takes a hard line against all forms of animal use, treating veganism as the only defensible moral baseline. It has proven to be a divisive force within the animal rights movement, challenging some key assumptions behind mainstream animal advocacy, and as such deserves consideration in any discussion of the ethics and politics of animal use. Yet it is a minority view often ignored by philosophers and activists. I was pleasantly surprised that this text names Francione and “Abolitionism,” but discussion of its dispute with “welfarist” approaches was limited to about a page and a footnote. A more extensive textual treatment may do more justice to the many deep ethical and tactical issues raised by this controversy within the animal movement.
The text focuses on three main normative theories and explores their application to the human use of animals: one based on the demand for equal consideration of interests; another based on the right to respectful treatment; and another based on making moral choices via an impartial procedure. These approaches are surely different, but they do share an impartial/egalitarian thrust and an emphasis on rational procedures, rules, duties, rights, obligations, and so on. But not all moral theory (certainly not all ethical reflection) is like this, so this focus is somewhat restrictive.
One ethical framework that departs from many of the assumptions underlying these three theories is virtue ethics, whose emphasis is on what character traits make one the best sort of person, whose conduct is characteristically good and conducive to a worthwhile life. The text totally ignores this theory (besides mentioning that an author mentions it elsewhere), but discussing it could help bring out important features of the main views the text considers and illuminate questions about human-animal relations from a different direction, namely by examining character traits relevant to human-animal relations and ethics generally, such as cruelty, apathy, empathy, rationality, and so on.
Finally, the text ignores an extensive philosophical literature on feminist approaches to animal ethics, such as the “ecofeminist” critique of meat consumption offered by Lori Gruen, Greta Gaard, Carol J. Adams, and others. This is a significant oversight because feminist philosophy offers helpful and illuminating critiques of the commitment to liberalism (methodological individualism, ostensibly impartial, gender-neutral decision-procedures, and so on) underlying the three main normative theories the text considers.
The text does a good job of accurately describing and contrasting three normative theories as they apply to the moral relations between humans and between humans and other animals. I did not notice any mischaracterizations of the positions or arguments under discussion.
I worry that the text is apolitical in a way not helpful to students due to its tendency to avoid the intersection of animal ethics with questions about race, gender, sexuality, disability, and other embodied differences that invite comparison to supposed moral differences between species. The text offers a relatively abstract discussion of some conceptual tools commonly used by Anglo-American philosophers to analyze modern animal use (factory farming, zoos, hunting, etc.) without any systematic discussion of the history of these practices or their connection to other forms of oppression (racial, gendered, etc.). This is at least partly a question of style. But more abstract discussions of moral principle tend to involve lost opportunities to help students reflect critically and philosophically about their concrete circumstances and the social and political dimensions of the moral issues they face.
The text itself is largely clear and easy to follow. I found the “Learning Outcomes” section at the beginning of the book to be especially helpful, and think students will, too, in establishing expectations about the book’s central content and ambitions.
The “About This Book” section does a fairly nice job of laying out the project and the way there. It gives a good sense of the wide-ranging scope of the discussion, and flags some of the areas of investigation to be explored. The book's subsequent layout conforms to the expectations created by the introductory remarks (subject to a caveat I mention below under "organization/structure/flow”).
The text’s core chapters cohere fairly well but seem suitable for use separately or in other combinations. I would expect students to benefit from each of the chapters in isolation from the rest if my syllabus required doing it that way.
It was not as immediately clear as I would have liked what the primary business of the text was. The “About This Book” section mentions three main moral theories, but also a discussion of animal minds (clearly a metaphysical issue, not an ethical one), activism, some specific animal issues (wearing animals, owning pets, etc.), and other assorted topics. Looking at the table of contents, it was unclear to me where or how the three moral theories identified in the opening remarks fit into the broad structure of the text. I would have liked the introductory remarks to provide a roadmap for navigating the book that is more clearly reflected in the table of contents.
The text’s layout seems well-organized and fairly easy to navigate. Section headings are perspicuous and there are helpful “Overview,” “Discussion Questions,” and “Readings” headings to structure one’s attempt to navigate the text and find what one needs.
The text contains only a few minor grammatical and typographical errors (see e.g. p. v, vii, etc.).
Due to the text’s avoidance of feminist moral and political thought around human-animal relations (discussed above under “Comprehensiveness”), it fails to help prepare students to engage gender as an analytical category and a resource for thinking critically about, and keeping pace with, other political issues like race and sexuality with which debates about the status of nonhuman animals are interwoven. Generally speaking, the text takes seriously moral frameworks that fit comfortably within the liberal-democratic moral and political tradition to the exclusion of critical alternatives that, when contrasted with them, help illuminate their strengths and weaknesses.
I would suggest either eliminating or expanding the section entitled “Religion and Ethics: A Brief Comment,” found on p. 31. The section consists of two brief paragraphs explaining why the text adopts a secular approach, largely by quoting another philosopher’s argument that religious ethics rests on a rationally indefensible appeal to authority, as opposed to reasons and evidence. Such an offhand treatment cannot help being unfairly dismissive of theistic ethics and should be replaced with either a more extensive and balanced discussion that takes seriously the moral resources of actual religious traditions or a sentence in the Preface stating that the text will only consider secular frameworks.
Finally, I worry that the book may be too ambitious for its relatively short length. I do like that it strives to gather in lots of disparate philosophically important questions surrounding human-animal relations by contrasting and applying a few rival normative theories, exploring the nature of the creatures under discussion (the brief section on “animal minds”), handling specific practical issues of animal treatment as well as questions about activism itself, and so on. These are all important and related matters that raise serious questions. But in a book with roughly 100 pages of substantial discussion, it’s not surprising that (to me) much of the discussion seemed very cursory and elliptical. This is another question of style, but I find that a deeper dive into fewer topics produces better and more enduring learning outcomes for students (especially novices) than a longer series of more fleeting encounters. Teachers often have to fight for students’ attention, and students are less likely to remain engaged in any case when skimming over the surface.
The book does not offer much in the way of an index or glossary, but it is relatively short and searchable. read more
The book does not offer much in the way of an index or glossary, but it is relatively short and searchable.
The content of the book is accurate overall, and has no egregious errors. It comes across as unbiased. The approach seems to favor the thesis that harming animals is wrong, but this thesis itself, the extent to which it is true, and its possible implications are all carefully considered and up for question.
The book is meant to accompany three classic texts in the animal ethics literature. The most recent of these is from 2004 (although this is an updated version of a much earlier text, and the most recent original work is from 2002). This means that the relevant texts are not very recent, although their status as classics in the field is uncontroversial.
In terms of its discussion of these classical texts, the book will not easily be made obsolete. But in terms of where the debate is moving, insofar as it no longer limits itself to classically deontological and utilitarian theories and is becoming increasingly intersectional, the book remains much more traditional.
The primary issue with longevity is that there are a lot of online sources referenced that do not have a stable URL. This means that an increasingly large number of the link will cease to refer to the source listed. Although this is acknowledged in the text, it does date the work.
The book is exceedingly clear and suitable for an introductory audience in terms of its original content. The references to the other texts quickly become cumbersome to follow up on. Another potential problem is that the difficulty of some of the recommended texts far exceed the standards of the text, for instance the recommended readings on animal minds (page 50).
Overall, the text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
The text is relatively easily divisible into smaller sections. There is some cross-referencing that might make this process a little bit more difficult. The topics are clearly distinct, which lends itself well to a course division.
The topics are presented in a logical fashion. As noted above, some of the cross-referencing unnecessarily divides the same topic over distinct sections.
The interface is generally clear. However, it has a standard MS Word layout which means that the page-numbering is continuous and visible, even on empty pages. While this is not a big problem, it does make the book overall look less professional.
The texts contain no major grammatical errors. It has clearly been carefully edited.
The text is not necessarily culturally insensitive nor does it use offensive examples. However, the focus on traditional animal ethics theories means that the text lacks intersectionality.
(The following is my all-things-considered review of the book. Some of the comments will be repetitive given the notes above.)
Nathan Nobis’ Animals & Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights is not a standalone book that can be used as the primary text in an animal ethics course. It is best considered as an accompaniment to three of the major texts in the animal ethical literature.
It does well as a guided reading exercise for some of the animal ethics fundamentals, but it won’t meet the needs of anyone looking for a comprehensive introduction to the field. It might have been helpful for the title of the text to be more clear about the nature of the text. That being said, the rest of my commentary will judge the book as a guided reading text.
The texts the book focuses on are standard in the animal ethics tradition. On the one hand, this is understandable given the introductory nature of the text. On the other hand, it presents the debate in a very one dimensional way and this trend is continued in most of the recommended reading. That is to say, the vast majority of the voices represented are white and male.
The general approach of the text is to talk together a variety of other texts. This gets somewhat cumbersome. The reader is supposed to start a chapter, and then read a section from one book, another section from another, and so on, before getting back to this book from some unifying comments and further resources. These additional resources are offered in large numbers, but they are not contextualized. This means that sources that detract from the project of the book are not interpreted in the framework of the debate.
The section on activism is informative and does good work at covering a generally underrepresented topic. The final discussion considers the relation between animal ethics and abortion. The differences and similarities between these two topics is mutually elucidating, although the discussion is relatively long and feels somewhat detached from the rest of the project.
Finally, the text is a bit open ended. It comes across as unbiased, but being unbiased is not in every case a virtue. I think that the text could have taken a stronger position on the wrongs perpetuated against animals. The detached nature of the discussion reflects the emphasis on rationality of the classic utilitarian and deontological approaches to animal ethics. This underscores the lack of intersectionality.
In short, its a decent accompaniment to some of the classical texts in the animal ethics literature, but in my view it is not sufficient as an introduction to contemporary animal ethics more broadly.
Comprehensive would be an understatement as this text goes extremely in depth to explore and discover all aspects of how we as a society approach our rights, responsibilities and dangers of our interactions with animals. At times, this becomes... read more
Comprehensive would be an understatement as this text goes extremely in depth to explore and discover all aspects of how we as a society approach our rights, responsibilities and dangers of our interactions with animals. At times, this becomes very heavy reading as the author takes the reader into deep philosophical thought processes of each and every approach to a particular situation. I might have preferred to not get so bogged down with so much preparatory reading prior to getting to discussing the actual issue. It did give the reader a better idea of ALL points of view,but it often became burdensome to read all of this.
The book tends to make a lot of assumptions when discussing theories. The author seemed to lean slightly towards more protection for animals. Often there would be multiple approaches to a moral dilemma and the assumption made was for a protectionist viewpoint. I did not see over population control brought up during the discussion on the moral right/obligation to kill animals.
The judgements of the public on a particular issue can be changed almost overnight now. Harambe became a household name after being killed to protect a young boy who had fallen in the enclosure. This book wouldn't necessarily change a mind as much as confirm what you already thought. The moral issues aren't going away anytime soon so the longevity of discussion should maintain over time.
Text was heavy, with lengthy meandering discussions on different approaches to a topic that were too in depth before even discussing the actual topic. By the time I got to the topic, I hadn't digested the preamble yet. Many sentences could have been phrased in a way that would be much easier to understand what the author was trying to say.
Format was similar throughout the book. There was a preparation to discuss the topic,then the actual discussion followed by some moral questions followed by a written assignment of the expository type.
The first chapter was much more difficult than the rest of the chapters. The author proposes some theories like Regan's for example, be prepared to be referred back in the book so you must read the book sequentially to grasp the intended intent. Each chapter is it's own discussion in and of itself but requires understanding of previous chapters content.
The book was so comprehensive, it covered all contingencies. I don't think there was any particular flow to organizing the chapters that would be better than any other.
I did not notice any and I usually catch grammatical errors.
There is a movement right now to move to protect animals, be it a crackdown on sales of ivory, or the removal of elephants from a zoo, there are more people talking about animals rights right now than at any time in history.This book is very relevant to what is happening and will encourage more discussions hopefully.
Be ready to think, hard, while you are digesting the text of the book. Get through chapter 1 and the rest of the book becomes much easier to read.
The text provides an extensive set of links to both print and online material related to our interaction with animals. There are sections dealing with animal minds, our various uses of animals (including eating and wearing, experimentation,... read more
The text provides an extensive set of links to both print and online material related to our interaction with animals. There are sections dealing with animal minds, our various uses of animals (including eating and wearing, experimentation, hunting, pets and zoos) and activism for animals. There is no specific index or glossary, but the entire text functions as a companion to primary readings from Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Mark Rowlands.
The primary readings come from reputable philosophers, and the author includes links to critiques of their theories. Each section contains a brief overview of the topic which is an accurate representation of these philosophers’ views. The links to support material are accurate as well.
The issue of human to human ethics goes back to Plato, and our logic goes back to Aristotle, so the topic has a long history of relevance. By drawing on an analogy of our ethical and logical relationships with animals, the author establishes the relevance for a contemporary reader. Because of the layout, necessary updates will be easily implemented.
The author provides numerous examples to illustrate any of the technical terminology, and the text is jargon free. He also clearly states that instead of using the ambiguous term “morally right” it is of more value to use the terms “morally permissible,” “morally obligatory,” and “morally impermissible.”
Since it is a companion text, it is internally consistent in relation to the terminology encountered in the primary readings.
After Chapter One, each of the chapters could be included in a course independently. I could picture the chapter on activism for animals, for example, being used in an English composition class dealing with persuasion.
Again, since it is a companion text, there is a necessity to list the readings required for each chapter. Placing them at the end of the chapter would have given a better sense of flow. Being consistent with the discussion and paper topics was very helpful in terms of structure.
Since the text was entirely print in format, there were no issues with the interface. The font was fine.
It was discouraging to find a grammar error in the opening sentence of the Preface. There were similar errors on pages 23,46, and 57, to name a few. The text would benefit from a much closer proofreading.
The book deals with a controversial topic, but it does so in a respectful manner. There will obviously be cultural differences in how we feel animals should be treated, and these differences are taken in to consideration. The final chapter, a comparison of animal rights and abortion, shows the similarities between these two controversial topics.
Since the text is only 125 pages long, it is well worth a look if the topic is a part of your curriculum.
The author does a good job of outline the subject and defining the central focus of the chapters. Given these parameters the book is comprehensive. In the downloaded version I found a Table of Contents, however, there was no section distinctly... read more
The author does a good job of outline the subject and defining the central focus of the chapters. Given these parameters the book is comprehensive. In the downloaded version I found a Table of Contents, however, there was no section distinctly labeled as the glossary. A unique section with definitions of terms would be useful to those new to the subject.
Readings are reasonably balanced and supported with reference and links to major works. Overall the readings made sense and were current as the time of publication.
The book includes a number of links to websites which requires vigilance to avoid broken links, failed addresses, and deleted sites. A unique section at the end of each chapter that lists sites might help with updating by putting these connections all in one place rather than dispersed throughout the text. The flow of discussion in each chapter felt natural and logical. Overall structure allows for updating as the conversation on animal use evolves.
Overall, the book is quite readable. There were a few times where definitions of terms would have been helpful. In chapter 1, I expected a description of the term "premise" but was unable to find it. Since the book appears to be a publication based on a series of lectures the author may have assumed that readers were informed about basic terms. If wider use is expected, more definitions would be a good idea.
The book is consistent and flows easily from chapter to chapter. The discussion builds well. It does have a lecture feel and references to what "we" will be doing which can be distracting.
The modularity is with distinct sections and transitions between sections. The author's argument builds from chapter to chapter so reading in the order presented is the most likely approach.
The books organization is logical and easy to understand. More description and explanation of referenced works might be helpful.
The download was a pdf file with wide margins, spacing between short paragraphs, and use of indentation to offset subtopics. Sometimes references to works outside the book were confusing and left me wondering if I'd see more about that topic within the book or would need to jump out and read it elsewhere. This is where the book conveyed a "wrote down the lecture" feel that made it seem less like a book and more like a compendium. Overall formatting could be improved with clear distinctions between text and footnotes. Perhaps a small thing, but blank pages between chapters seem unnecessary.
The book's grammar was appropriate and consistent.
Animals & Ethics is relevant, strikes a cord, and provides a strategy for reasoning that is culturally flexible. I plan to use it as a reading book for my class which, interestingly, is not a philosophy course. It establishes common ground for an animal use conversation that is pertinent to eating behaviors and food choice, which is my field of work.
I enjoyed reviewing this book. I pondered, reflected, and learned. I will be using this book with my students in a nutrition course where meat consumption is of growing concern among students and a path for a reasoned conversation is needed. Thank you!
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introductions to Ethics, Logic and Animals & Ethics
- Chapter 2: Animal Minds
- Chapter 3: Defending Animals
- Chapter 4: Defending Animal Use
- Chapter 5: Wearing & Eating Animals
- Chapter 6: Animal Experimentation
- Chapter 7: Pets, Zoos & Hunting
- Chapter 8: Activism
About the Book
This book provides an overview of the current debates about the nature and extent of our moral obligations to animals. Which, if any, uses of animals are morally wrong, which are morally permissible (i.e., not wrong) and why? What, if any, moral obligations do we, individually and as a society (and a global community), have towards animals and why? How should animals be treated? Why?
We will explore the most influential and most developed answers to these questions – given by philosophers, scientists, and animal advocates and their critics – to try to determine which positions are supported by the best moral reasons.
About the Contributors
Nathan Nobis, PhD is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA. He has taught courses, given lectures and published articles and chapters on a wide variety of topics concerning ethics and animals, bioethics, ethical theory and other topics in philosophy.