Thursday, March 3, 2011

Animal Liberation -- Peter Singer (eds. 1975, 1990, 2002) Part II: Factory Farming Is Horrific and You Don't Need Meat

I'm not going to talk much about the chapter of Animal Liberation that deals with factory farming, both because the frustrating way they updated the book made it a really confusing chapter to read, but also because the topic has been done to death. Factory farming is a blight on the environment, our moral fabric, and the economy, we get it.

At the end of the book, Peter Singer finds a better historical parallel for the struggle for animal rights than the Civil Rights Movement: he compares the Animal Liberation movement to the social change experienced by a Christianizing Rome.  Although he does neglect to mention that people were still being crucified well into the era of the Holy Roman Empire, the changes he does site: the fact that gladiators came to be viewed as murderers, the idea -- imported from Judaism -- that religion was supposed to give people moral guidelines to refrain from pursuing courses of interest that may damage other people, parallel the growing level of awareness that animals are not just appliances for our use, as Aristotle and Descartes would have us believe. 

I really enjoyed the Short History of Vegetarianism chapter.  It has become a cliche for the mass media to attribute all progressive social movements to the nineteen sixties, so it was doubly refreshing to read about Greek and Roman vegetarians.  There are also parallels to the modern animal activist movements: by the middle of the nineteenth century there had already been a few revolutionary thinkers who questioned the way animals were treated by human society. Voltaire protested against vivisection, the RSPCA won the battle to ban turnspit dogs from kitchens, the British Vegetarian Society was founded, and a bunch of American reformers got all freaky-deaky and vegetarian in communes in upstate New York.  We as vegetarians have a long heredity. 

Next on the Feast:  Vegan Cupcakes