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