AR-News: Philosopher makes case at UW for animal rights

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Sat Mar 6 03:26:06 EST 2004

Philosopher makes case at UW for animal rights

By Susan Troller
Special to The Capital Times
March 4, 2004

Can philosophy save animals' lives and prevent their suffering? Animal 
rights activist Tom Regan believes it can, and he brought that message to 
the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Wednesday night.

A mostly sympathetic student audience of about 200 listened to his public 
lecture, "If Only They Could Talk," an introduction to the animal rights 
movement. Regan used philosophical arguments to argue against the way humans 
use and abuse animals.

"When you look into an animal's eyes, we recognize our kin. There's somebody 
in there; they are subjects of their own lives, and what happens to them, 
matters to them," Regan said.

>From that intuitive observation, Regan builds the philosophical case that 
animals have certain moral rights, including rights of liberty and the right 
not to be harmed.

Regan advocates against any use of any animal for human purposes, including 
for food, clothing or entertainment. He proposes the elimination of all 
commercial animal-based farming, the total abolition of the use of animals 
in science and the elimination of all forms of hunting and trapping.

An emeritus professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University, 
Regan has published 20 books, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 
for his book "The Case for Animal Rights." His latest book is titled "Empty 
Cages." Along with Peter Singer of Princeton University, Regan is known as 
one of the fathers of the animal rights movement.

Animal rights advocates encourage a vegan or very strict vegetarian diet, 
using no animal products, including honey, dairy products or eggs. They 
discourage the wearing of leather, frown on circuses or any kind of animal 
show as exploitative, and are not sympathetic to keeping companion or pet 
animals. They are especially critical of modern factory farms and animal 
testing in science.

Professor Claudia Card of the UW's philosophy department introduced Regan, 
noting that he is a philosopher who has had significant influence on the way 
people think and act. In his teaching, writing and lectures, he has extended 
ideas about justice across species, she said.

Audience members asked Regan several pointed questions regarding hunting and 
how humans fit into a natural order of predator/prey relationships, the 
ethics of killing individual animals to benefit larger numbers of animals 
and whether humane farming methods could be beneficial to animals.

Regan believes that humans have a unique moral responsibility to make 
choices other animals are not capable of making.

"As omnivores, we can choose to be vegetarians," Regan said. He also stated 
humans have notions of morality, and animals don't.

"As a result, we've been asked to bear a burden that other animals haven't, 
actually," he said. "Every day, we make the moral choice to turn toward the 
Garden of Eden (where there are no predator/prey relationships) or we can 
turn toward McDonald's."

"In a perfect world, we would not keep animals for our benefit, including 
pets," he claimed. And although humane farming methods are better than the 
extreme cruelties perpetrated in factory farms, he said, the morally 
consistent position of an animal rights advocate is that farming is still 

When asked what would happen to species of domestic animals no longer used 
in agriculture, he said they should not be encouraged to breed. But he could 
imagine, for example, Holstein cattle in parks.

Regan will lecture today to a philosophy class on another subject at 4 p.m. 
at 1121 Humanities on campus. The main sponsoring group that brought Regan 
to Madison and organized last night's public lecture is the student-based 
Madison Coalition for Animal Rights.

Published: 9:49 AM 3/04/04

Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full 
breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit 
itself to humankind.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner

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