Animal Rights

PUBLISHING YEAR: 2002de Grazia - Animal rights

SUMMARY: A pocket-sized review of the formal ethical framework around animal rights.

AUDIENCE: You will probably give up in disgust if you don’t have at least a smidgin of formal education in philosophy/ethics, or at least formal training in animal welfare issues. It gets pretty dry.

03 Academic


The author: David de Grazia is a moral philosopher specializing in bioethics, including animal rights. He is a researcher and professor at the George Washington University.

Style and contents:  Don’t be fooled by the innie-minnieness of the format. This is high-brow stuff. It reviews the main currents in animal rights philosophy: sliding scale, utilitarianism and equal consideration. It covers profound topics (like the moral status of animals, the question of harms in suffering, confinement and death, meat eating, and animal research) in a dispassionate yet ethically engaged discourse.

The gems

Where to start? This book manages to condense the moral questions on our treatment of animals in 120 pages in a rigorous way (grounded in solid logic, ethics and research).

And of course, always a winner for me, it has traceable references and full citations! The reference section covers the big names in ethics, ethology and cognition like Singer, Regan, Bekoff, and Bateson.

Possible points for optimization

Interestingly for a book examining animals’ rights, mental abilities, and capacity for suffering it doesn’t mention Jaak Panksepp (a giant in the neurobiology of emotions) or important frameworks like Bramwell Committee’s five freedoms.

The author takes an old fashioned view of dogs and wolves, one relying firmly on pack theory.

The book supposedly covers the mental lives of animals, yet it barely scratches the surface on animal cognition.

2002 is really outdated for a review. I can’t wait for a fresher edition.

The verdict: A little haphazard in what it covers, but a good introduction nonetheless to the formal ethical framework around animal rights. Don’t be fooled by the modest format, you will need to devote quite some time to interpret and digest it properly.

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Author: de Grazia David
Genre: survey of peer-reviewed literature
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