Thursday, August 16, 2007

Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer

This is my third Peter Singer book, and so far I have not been disappointed. The other two were: the one he wrote about the ethics of George W. Bush. Yes, the title sounds like an oxymoron, but it was actually a really good book, written in that crystal clear transparent style.
There is an entry in my blog for it.
The other book I can claim to be a life changing book – that was the book he co-wrote with Bob Brown about the Greens. (Singer stood for a federal House of Reps seat in 1994 as a Greens candidate, and won some 29% of the vote.) Ever since I read that book I’ve voted Greens, except for the 1999 Victorian State election, where I voted Labor – I think it was 1999. Anyhoo, it was the election that kicked Kennet out.

Perhaps if I’d read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation earlier it too would have had a life changing effect. I’ve been vegetarian for perhaps about 3 years now, but have been walking towards vegetarianism for years, only eating meat at Christmas and the rare social function. If I’d read this book ten years ago maybe I would have become vegetarian then and there for good.
Animal Liberation was written in 1975, and updated again in 1990. I don’t know much about the history of the Animal Rights movement, but I’m guessing that this book must have had a massive effect on getting people converted to the cause.

First off let me speak about my first hand experience as a vegetarian. I’ve lived on the meat eating side of the fence, and know what it is to enjoy a meat pie or KFC. So I’m not stupid as to why people enjoy eating meat. Yet there always seems to be some sort of problem when people find out you don’t eat meat. (Meat, by the way, means solid food, not animal flesh. So any solid food can really be considered meat.) It’s assumed by most that you will fall away or pass out or become chronically malnutritioned unless you eat meat every day. I think it must be some atavistic thing, a pagan belief that you absorb the animal’s vitality and essential life-force when you eat it.

This may appeal to people’s superstitions, but in reality it is not the case. You simply don’t need to eat meat to live a very healthy life. Show me the nutritionist today who will tell you: oh, you should eat more meat and eat less fruit and vegetables if you want to be healthy. Why hasn’t this translated across the culture I wonder? There’s still an innate belief that vegetarianism will make sickly and weak.

As with anything, it’s all about the habits you form. Once you get used to eating only vegetables, you learn new recipes and start to enjoy a vegetarian diet immensely. I don’t miss eating beef or chicken one little bit.

Back to the book. Mr Singer takes the ethical view on eating and torturing animals. The book goes into some of the absolutely disgusting animal testing that is done, for the most spurious of reasons. The people who are engaged in some of these practices must have the mentality of brutal torturers. I could go into the details of some of the experiments, but they’re far too repulsive.

Peter Singer also examines in detail how animals are farmed for human consumption. Anyone with the faintest knowledge of the subject will know some of the horrendous things that are done to animals so they can be intensively farmed to maximise financial returns. This is a business afterall.

The irony is, meat production is very inefficient. Much more nutrients are produced by plant foods, when you consider how much land and water is used to produce meat. Why don’t economic rationalists denounce meat production as grossly inefficient and recommend healthy vegetarian diets?

All consumers of animal products should read this book to see if they can still support modern farming techniques and animal testing for science, after they know what actually goes on.

Animal Liberation shows what one book can do in the world of activism. The changes that have occurred in regards to animal welfare have been substantial, and are still ongoing.

1 comment:

Mr Pinky said...

I think you might be interested to know that Dan Mathews who is the founder of PETA has written his autobiography called "Committed - a Rabble Rousers Memoir". It has already been released in the States but Australia should get it in September.