Animal Rights and Islam

Animals and other living things were created by Allah, the Lord of the Universe. They have their own independent existences and modes of living. (55:10) Allah has said in the Holy Qur'an that every animal has its own communal life and its own way to do 'Ibadah, or service, to Allah. Every animal praises Allah, the Exalted, in its own way. (6:38)

It is Allah who gave every animal its ability. He enabled birds to fly, fish to swim and horses to gallop. Animals were here on Earth long before humans. The first man and woman on Earth were Adam and Hawwa. Allah gave them the responsibility to be caretakers on Earth, or, as the term used in the Qur'an states, a Khalifa in the world.

Humans, who have been created with a greater intellect than animals, have a special responsibility to be fair, just and kind to all other living things. The Blessed Prophet Muhammad (p) once said that every injustice will be paid back on the Day of Judgment, even if one goat hits another with its horns it will be taken account of. Therefore, in our use of animals for our own survival we must do justice.

Allah gave us the free use of the plants and animals of this Earth. He said, "Eat and drink of the good things of the Earth." He also said, "It is Allah Who has provided you livestock of every kind. You can ride some kinds and others you eat..." (40:79) But we must balance our use of animals and plants with our primary role as a caretaker on the Earth.

For example, we are not allowed to harm animals or plants for no reason. The Blessed Prophet forbade people from capturing baby birds, burning ant hills and whipping animals cruelly. All the people he stopped from doing these things were doing them "for fun." Well, as the Prophet pointed out, it wasn't fun for the animals.

If we use animals for our work, we must feed them and not over work them. If we eat animals we are supposed to slaughter the animals according to Dhabiha rules which prevent all cruelty to animals and if we have them as pets we are to feed them and care for them. The Prophet once told a story in which he noted that a woman who starved her pet cat to death will be tormented by that cat on Judgment Day by way of revenge.

So as we can see, we have a responsibility to all living creatures around us and even though many non-Muslims assert that animals have no rights, Islam says otherwise.

The Prophet on Humane Treatment of Animals

1. Allah has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease.

2. If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, "O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose."

3. Any part cut off a living animal is dead flesh.
(Unlawful to eat. The implication is that it is not allowed to mutilate a living animal.)
(Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Hakim).

4. The Prophet said, "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment." The listeners asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He replied, "That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away."
(Nisai, Hakim).

5. When you set your dog (for the chase), mention the name of Allah, if he catches the game, and you reach it while it is still alive, cut, its throat quickly (so it won't suffer)."
(Bukhari, Muslim).

6. If you send your dog after the game, and it eats part of it, you should not eat of it, for the dog has hunted for itself and not for you; but if you send the dog and it kills the game without eating it, you can eat it, as it has caught it for its master.
(Ahmad, Bukhari, Muslim).


Here's a paper on animal rights and Islam....

Animal Rights and Islam

Animal Rights

Interview with Regan: animal rights

Interviewer: Professor Regan, you are widely accepted as a founder and prominent leader in the animal rights movement. Could you describe what is meant by animal rights and what do you mean when you speak of the "rights view"?

Professor Regan: There are many people who feel that we have an obligation to be kind to animals, and not to be cruel to them. But this view doesn't make it a matter of justice that we treat animals in a certain way-just that it is nice if we are kind and not very good if we are cruel. Many people think that we should be nice to animals because if we are not nice to animals we will not be nice people, and then we will end up beating up our children and our neighbors and so on. The problem is, these views don't focus on our duty to animals but only on the effects our treatment of animals has on us. The rights view says, "We owe it as a matter of strict justice to treat animals in a certain way." In particular we owe it to these animals not to eat them, for example, or not to put them in cages for our entertainment, or not to use them in education or in surgery, which is so anachronistic and yet characteristic of modern medical education in the United States. The current view is, "These animals are ours, we may do with them as we wish." The rights view says, "No you may not. They cannot claim their rights, they cannot understand their rights, and in this way they are very much like mentally enfeebled human beings. But they have them none the less."

The important thing to see is that the animal rights position, properly understood, is the human rights position. It's not that we are saying that non-human animals have a right to be treated with respect but human animals don't. We're dealing with the rights of all animals, and since we humans are animals, it follows that we have the same basic kinds of rights as they do.

Interviewer: Your fate, you have said, is to help others see animals in a different way-as creatures who do not belong in cages or skillets. How would you have people see animals?

Professor Regan: It's a very difficult thing. It's something we all struggle towards and I'm not sure that I have perfected it myself. To quote from Dustin, "... see them as other nations, see them as sharing the earth with us, co-inhabitants with us," but essentially having the capacity, as in the case of wild animals, of living quite separately from us. In the case of domestic animals the great challenge is to figure out how to live in a mutually respectful symbiotic relationship. It is very difficult to do that.

Interviewer: What were some of your main reasons or motives for writing The Case For Animal Rights? And do you feel these objectives are being accomplished?

Professor Regan: I think the main reason I wrote the book was to finally say in a very disciplined, rigorous, and in some ways an emotionally detached style, that animals in fact do have rights and are entitled to he treated accordingly because of strict justice. Many people talked about animal rights and it had become a slogan-part of the political rhetoric of America and its talk of rights. But no one had set out to make the case for animal rights in a very disciplined, sustained way. So I thought it was important to do that. Certainly it is not a popular book, one that you can race through. It is a book to be studied rather than to be read. But I also think of it as a weapon. Frequently those of us who advocate animal rights are considered uninformed, illogical, sloppy, sentimental and so on. And I take the book to be a philosophical tool for ramming those accusations down the throats of those uninformed, emotional, illogical and sloppy thinkers who make these accusations.

Interviewer: I understand that the Vietnam War, Gandhi and, believe it or not, the death of your own pet dog all became impetuses to your involvement in the animal rights movement. Can you fill in the missing parts?

Professor Regan: Regarding the Vietnam War, it occurred to me that if I was going to be an effective activist in the streets, I'd have to combine my activism with scholarship. So I began to research the fields of nonviolent conflict resolution, pacifism, aggression, war, and so forth, and in the course of doing that it was inevitable that I read Gandhi. Gandhi was obviously very relevant to the question of violence and war and so on. He was the first one who challenged me to think about what I call the invisible violence in our life, in particular the food that we eat. We normally don't think of the violence that goes into the production of animal products-meat and other by-products. Gandhi was the first person who taught me that the fork is a weapon of violence. I was worried about napalm and M-17's and flame throwers, and here I was participating in violence myself and yet blind to it. So intellectually I derived the arguments for vegetarianism from Gandhi's influence. But what opened my heart to the issue was the death of our dog. It was before we had children, and as so often happens the dog was like a surrogate child for us. When we returned home one day the dog had been killed, which caused us tremendous grief. But I realized in the course of that experience that there was in me (although suppressed or repressed by society) a great caring for animals that wasn't considered appropriate for a man. This was part of the aculturization in our macho society in which men are not supposed to care about animals. Nonetheless I felt a deep love for this particular animal, but it was too great a love, too great a sense of compassion, to be reposed in just one creature; it was a more boundless compassion. I was very fortunate that my head and my heart came together at that particular time in my life. And from then on there was no turning back.

Interviewer: Rene Decartes holds a very influential position in the history of Western philosophy. What were his views regarding animals and consciousness, and how has that influenced the modern world view?

Professor Regan: Decartes, a Catholic thinker, argued that animals are nature's machines. He thought of them as unthinking, unfeeling creatures who are not aware of anything, who are essentially like wind-up toys, except that you don't have to wind them up. It was an enormously influential view, because it happened to coincide with the development of experimental physiology. This was during the 17th century in France. The Cartesian scientists were intellectually given a license not to worry about how the animals responded, and of course this was before anesthesia. They literally nailed dogs up by all four paws, then simply opened up their stomaches and studied the circulation of their blood- on live, un-anestheticized animals who were screaming in agony. In many ways, I think that today's fields of research involving non-human animals were birthed by Decartes' ideas. And to this day there are many closet Cartesians out there who are still part of the scientific establishment, who still wonder whether animals feel pain. It was not only historically influential, it continues to be influential.

Interviewer: In the realm of religion, I can see Christendom uniting against cruelty, but they haven't as yet seen the fork as a weapon of violence. What do you, and Judeo-Christian leaders you know, find in that tradition that would support animal rights and vegetarianism?

Professor Regan: It's going to be difficult to persuade the great masses of Christians to give up the meat on their plate. What we can do is to persuade them to give up supporting the factory farm. In effect this would be to give up eating meat, because it's very difficult to get any meat that has not been raised on a factory farm. So we may end up having defacto Christian vegetarians without their being de joure. In other words they will be vegetarians so long as the meat comes from a certain source, but otherwise not.

It is absolutely clear that in Eden our diet was vegetarian. So, Biblically speaking, what we have now is a fallen world; and one step back to Eden would be to stop eating meat. Biblically this is absolutely clear. When I speak to Christians and to Jews in those terms, then they at least begin to think, maybe it is not just factory-farmed veal that I should be saying no to, maybe there is something deeper here. After all, why remain alienated from God over a hamburger?

Interviewer: In your interview in The Animals' Agenda magazine you stated, "There is no way out of our own bondage and current predicaments without helping animals." And you have also said, "There will be no peace in the world until there is peace at home." How would you support these statements?

Professor Regan: They may be more declarations of faith than they are hard core scientific claims. Most people are unaware of the invisible violence in their lives. They go and buy toothpaste and shampoos and deodorants and so on, unthinkingly. These are items that we need, and we bring them home and we use them, and when we are out of them we go and replenish them. People must begin to realize that these products have a history of violence to them in which animals have been used in testing them in excruciatingly painful ways, like eye irritancy tests, skin irritancy tests and other sorts of tests. All the products in our home have been tested in these ways, unless we go to the trouble to find products that have not been tested in those ways and buy them. I have got to believe that supporting that kind of thing in ignorance is a terrible human failing. We are just fooling ourselves if we think we can bring peace to the world, and change the opinions and the visions and the desires and the ideals of people all throughout the world, if we can't even say to ourselves, "By God, I've got to get rid of this stuff in my house." I mean, whom are we fooling?

My view is that those over whom we have control are ourselves. That's where we should start. Peace begins at home. Nonviolence begins at home. Progress begins at home. I'm not saying not to work as a political activist. Of course, I do that myself. But I think we have to work to clean up our own act, to get our own house in order. But then people say, "We will lose so much. You are asking us to give up so much." And my view is, "No, you don't lose, you gain." What you gain is control of your life-through the knowledge of what you are doing with a dollar bill. Take those ideals of harmony and justice and nonviolence and caring and compassion and express them in the marketplace. That's where it begins.

Interviewer: You have described that animals are used in the field of science nowadays in three subcategories: education, toxicology or poisons testing, and research. What are your views on the age old argument about stopping progress if we don't use animals in these ways?

Professor Regan: Let's go through them: education, toxicology testing and research. In the field of education the United States is an anachronism. We normally require our young people, sometimes from grade school up, to dissect and vivisect animals, and if a young person says, "No, I have an objection to doing this," then they are ridiculed, they are punished, or something happens. In fact there is a recent case in California of a fourteen year old girl standing up and saying, "I'm not going to dissect this frog," and she was hassled. So the school board says, "Okay, you don't have to dissect the frog, but we are going to put a little note on your permanent record that says you didn't do all the work that was required of you." Well, I hope that all the young people and their parents reading this say, "Enough is enough!" We should not brutalize our children in this way by forcing them to do something which, if they did on their own in a public place, they would be arrested for. If you take a frog into a shopping mall and prepare to dissect it, you are going to get arrested. But you take that same situation and put it in a school and require somebody to do that and punish them if they don't. Now that kind of schizophrenia is unfathomable to me!

In medical education in Great Britain, both in human medicine and in veterinary medicine, no student is ever required to dissect or vivisect an animal. In seventeen British universities, including Cambridge and Oxford, it is a written policy that if you have a conscientious objection to doing any dissection or vivisection you need not do it. Now, are we in America seriously going to say that this fourteen year old girl, or all those for whom she speaks, can't get a decent education in the life sciences without dissecting and vivisecting? Heavens no. Gandhi, my hero, says, "You can judge the character and greatness of a society by how it treats its animals." There are always two victims in a laboratory situation. One is the non-human animal and the other is the student. And sometimes I think it's the instructor too who has been victimized.

Now let's consider product testing, toxicity testing. First I would like to mention that there are nonviolent, cruelty-free cosmetics and household items that are available. (If people write to me I will send them a list of cruelty-free products,) Very often people say, "If we don't do these toxicity tests on animals then it is a great risk for public health." That is just propaganda produced by the animal exploiters. In the November 1986 issue of Nature magazine it was shown that if you do a battery of ten non-animal tests (such as cell and tissue culture and mathematical modeling tests), you can get results that are superior to all the animal tests regarding carcinogenic and other effects. Now, there are sixty thousand human-factured chemicals in the marketplace. Sixty thousand. And only two thousand have been tested on animals. If we started right now and tried to test on animals the other fifty-eight thousand that are out there-that we are breathing, eating, inhaling and getting exposed to through our skin and so on-it would take us a hundred years and it would cost between two and four million dollars for each test. We neither have the time, nor the will, nor the financial ability to do this. But if we do the battery of non-animal tests we can do it in two to four days for two hundred dollars per chemical. Now, anyone who says, "You are against progress, you are going to set back science, you are against public health, you really hate human beings, you just love animals," and so on, this is, I think, ridiculous.

The only people who are going to say that with a straight face are the people who are in the business of making money from the sale and use of animals. And my view is, don't believe them, don't trust them. They always say, "We love animals; we wouldn't use them if we didn't have to." Well, that's just rhetoric. I have never known a research scientist who said that who went to the trouble to buy cruelty-free cosmetics. And those alternatives already exist. If they really loved animals they wouldn't buy products of pain. I've never known a research scientist who said, "I wouldn't use animals unless I had to; I love animals," who is a vegetarian. But if they really did love animals the way they say they do, they wouldn't eat them, because there is an alternative there, and a healthier alternative as well. So don't believe these people for a minute. They use animals because they have been trained to use animals, because they have a career tied up in using animals, and because if they didn't use animals they wouldn't have a job any more!

In a very important book called Alternatives to Pain For Experiments on Animals Dallas Pratt reports on a hundred or so cases that he investigated in which scientists used animals in painful experiments when valid nonviolent scientific alternatives already existed. In terms of research, there is every reason to believe that animal experimentation is actually retarding the progress of science rather than helping it go forward. All we have to do is look at cancer research as a case in point. They have put twenty billion dollars into cancer research. And as the recent report from the Office of Technology Assessment states, they have really made no significant progress in twenty years of research. Why? Because they give cancer to mice and rats-that's their methodology. Then they try to extrapolate that to human beings. I think that the future of- all advances in medicine and research is at the cell and tissue level, which doesn't have anything to do with whole animal model testing.

I think the thing that people need to realize also is that science is just big business, an enormous business. In fact, I refer to the medical-industrial complex, which is much larger and more sinister than the military-industrial complex because it gets away with more. It's not in the business to keep people well. It's in the business to have people sick, and this is a great failing, a social failing. So, what we need to do is not only change laws and change attitudes and so on, but also to change the whole complexion of science and medicine as practiced in this country.

Interviewer: In the epilogue of your book, The Case For Animal Rights, you stated that the rights view is not anti-business, nor anti-science, nor anti-freedom of the individual, and yet those whose business it is to use animals in research and in trade might disagree. How would you defend your statement?

Professor Regan: To say that a certain business should end is not, in and of itself, anti-business. There was a business in the trade of slaves, and when we said, "Look, you can't do this anymore, you can't buy and sell slaves as pieces of property," that wasn't anti-business. We were just saying that there are some things that are not to be bought or sold. So similarly, if we arrive at the point where animals are not bought and sold for scientific purposes or for gustatory delight, that will not be anti-business. People will still be encouraged to make a living. There is nothing in the animal rights movement or philosophy that follows any particular party line or economic line, It is not conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. It is not against the free market. It just says, if you do have a free market then you are going to have to make a living without exploiting animals. And that's not anti-business. In fact, what it does is create all kinds of new businesses, alternatives like tofu-burgers for example. So, it's not anti-business and it's certainly not anti-freedom of the individual. No one has the freedom to violate the rights of anybody else. That's not one of our freedoms. If we agree that animals have rights, then no one has that freedom. So it's not against human freedom, it's against the excess of human freedom.

Animal rights could hardly be characterized as anti-science. In fact. I think the animal experimentation methodology that characterizes Western science is anti-science-stagecoach methodology, something that fits the 19th century. Here we are almost in the 21st century and people are still dissecting rats and pithing frogs. What does that tell us? It tells us that rather than animal rights being anti-scientific it is very pro-scientific. We want to see science outgrow its past; grown-up science is what we want. I think of Galileo's contemporaries when he said, "I want you to look through this telescope to see what's out there.'' And of course they all said, "No. No. We have no need. We know what's out there. We don't have to look." When contemporary scientists say, "There are no alternatives," that is like Galileo's contemporaries saying, "We already know, we are not going to look." Again, almost to a person, when the scientists that I have dealt with say there are no alternatives, they have never made the slightest conscientious effort to find them.

Interviewer: There is a rise of interest in preventive medicine, and a growing acknowledgement that indeed diet has something to do with health. Gandhi influenced you dietarily. If you will, talk about your dietary convictions and practices.

Professor Regan: When I read Gandhi he challenged me to think about the violence that I was supporting by eating animals. That made a profound impact on me. So when I entered the animal rights movement my first step was at the dinner table, so to speak. Since that time I have learned a great deal about what others have to say about diet, its effect on the environment on the one hand, and its effect on the human body on the other. If we look just at the health aspect of it, the arguments against eating animals are so overwhelming. We are what we eat, and if we eat a lot of fat we are going to be fat-in the wrong ways, in the wrong places, and in the wrong times. It just makes sense not to eat meat.

When people say, I don't eat red meat, just chicken, that really cracks me up, because somehow they think that if they eat white meat they will minimize their health risks. In fact, back East the pork industry has a major campaign to convince people that pork is white meat.

We have recently seen the statistics about the effects of eating chicken. According to a report issued by the National Resource Council, there are millions of cases per year of people becoming sick from the Salmonella bacteria in chicken-millions of cases of Americans having flu-like symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting, fever and so on. And people say, Oh, it's the flu. It's not the flu, it's Salmonella poisoning! There are people dying of this bacteria. So the idea that we can avoid serious health risks by eating white meat is just laughable.

The way to prevent illness most effectively is through our life style. If we stop smoking, stop drinking heavily, stop eating meat, and get enough exercise, we will become healthy- either to sustain our health or to recapture it if we have lost it. People say, "If you don't eat meat, look at what you are giving up." My message is always the same: Look at what you are gaining. Not only are you getting your health again, you are gaining your life again!

Interviewer: I'm sure the animal rights movement has something to do with the fact that now as many as a hundred thousand philosophy students a year are discussing such issues as the moral basis of vegetarianism.

Professor Regan: That's true, there has been more written by philosophers in the past decade on animal rights than has been written in the previous two thousand years. What we have is an enormous outpouring of interest in this particular issue, and it has found its way into the classroom, into the textbooks. Typically, where students are taking courses about contemporary issues like abortion, euthanasia, nuclear war, famine and pollution, now animal rights is also on the agenda of moral concern. It is in these sorts of courses where animal rights is making its presence felt. It's not a fad. This is not going away. On the contrary, intellectual activity in this area is increasing all the time. People are writing their dissertations on animal rights. Now animal rights is part of mainstream academic intellectual life in the United States, in England, in Australia and in Europe. Throughout the ages we have had wonderful, important, articulate, influential people speaking for animal rights, but until now it never made it into the classroom.

Interviewer: To quote directly from your writings, you said, "There is another revolution coming and it is going to be a big one." At the same time, you see animal rights issues as a cause celebre on America's college campuses. Will this issue of animal rights supply the same intense motivation that, say, free speech, minority rights and other issues did to recent past generations?

Professor Regan: My hope is that the rising generation of students will see animal rights as their issue, and not just in terms of the laboratory animal issue, but a larger issue of the integrity of creation and respect for nature. It's going to be bigger and broader, but it's still going lo be their issue. It'll be for them to say, "Enough is enough. We are not going to continue to do what our parents did, what our grandparents did, and so on. We are going to take charge of something here." I am very hopeful that the revolution is coming, and the philosophy of youth-which is question authority, question authority-will find its focus in the animal rights movement. In particular I encourage young people to see the connection between the animal rights movement and students' rights. I am a quaint person, I .suppose. I still think that students have rights. In the Sixties we thought we did and we certainly let the world know that. My guess is that in the Seventies and the Eighties the students forgot about that. They were like intoxicated yuppies thinking about BMWs and their latest Sony stereo. My hope is that they will he yuppied out. that we will see the pendulum swing the other way now and they will say. Wait a minute. Things...things are not the source of human fulfillment. Things are not what satisfy a human's longing to make something good and creative and positive out of this mortal flesh. It's really what we do that matters, it's the testament of our life not the car in our garage that counts. I think that philosophy is going to be reborn and that is certainly what I am committed to. I am going to work very diligently to raise the consciousness of students to say, "I will not dissect this animal, I will not vivisect this animal, and you will not punish me. I have a right here." And even the students who don't want to say that, I want those students to say that that student has that right and they will back that student's right. And I want to challenge the .system, every chance I get, in the public schools, in universities and so on, on the basis of the students' rights.

Interviewer: How do people interested in the animal rights movement get more information and participate?

Professor Regan: I always tell people to investigate the organizations. There are a lot of good organizations out there. I never say join this one rather than that one, although of course 1 would hope that people would be interested enough to support mine. The way to study it on one's own is to subscribe to a magazine called The Animals' Agenda, the magazine of the animal rights movement. It doesn't favor any one organization over any other. It just tries to report on what's going on in the movement. Write to: The Animals'Agenda, P. O. Box 5234, Westport, Connecticut 06881. As I said before, if people are interested in a list of cruelty-free cosmetics and also in finding out more about what our foundation is doing, they can write to me at Eden Croft, Raleigh. North Carolina 27612.

Interviewer: Thank you very much. Professor Regan.

Professor Regan: My pleasure, thank you.

(Taken from Clarion Call Magazine.)

10 reasons for animal rights

The source for the below is here

The other animals humans eat, use in science, hunt, trap, and exploit in a variety of ways, have a life of their own that is of importance to them apart from their utility to us. They are not only in the world, they are aware of it. What happens to them matters to them. Each has a life that fares better or worse for the one whose life it is.

That life includes a variety of biological, individual, and social needs. The satisfaction of these needs is a source of pleasure, their frustration or abuse, a source of pain. In these fundamental ways, the nonhuman animals in labs and on farms, for example, are the same as human beings. And so it is that the ethics of our dealings with them, and with one another, must acknowledge the same fundamental moral principles.

At its deepest level, human ethics is based on the independent value of the individual: The moral worth of any one human being is not to be measured by how useful that person is in advancing the interest of other human beings. To treat human beings in ways that do not honor their independent value is to violate that most basic of human rights: the right of each person to be treated with respect.

The philosophy of animal rights demands only that logic be respected. For any argument that plausibly explains the independent value of human beings implies that other animals have this same value, and have it equally. And any argument that plausibly explains the right of humans to be treated with respect, also implies that these other animals have this same right, and have it equally, too.
It is true, therefore, that women do not exist to serve men, blacks to serve whites, the poor to serve the rich, or the weak to serve the strong. The philosophy of animal rights not only accepts these truths, it insists upon and justifies them.

But this philosophy goes further. By insisting upon and justifying the independent value and rights of other animals, it gives scientifically informed and morally impartial reasons for denying that these animals exist to serve us.

Once this truth is acknowledged, it is easy to understand why the philosophy of animal rights is uncompromising in its response to each and every injustice other animals are made to suffer.
It is not larger, cleaner cages that justice demands in the case of animals used in science, for example, but empty cages: not "traditional" animal agriculture, but a complete end to all commerce in the flesh of dead animals; not "more humane" hunting and trapping, but the total eradication of these barbarous practices.

For when an injustice is absolute, one must oppose it absolutely. It was not "reformed" slavery that justice demanded, not "re- formed" child labor, not "reformed" subjugation of women. In each of these cases, abolition was the only moral answer. Merely to reform injustice is to prolong injustice.
The philosophy of animal rights demands this same answer-- abolition--in response to the unjust exploitation of other animals. It is not the details of unjust exploitation that must be changed. It is the unjust exploitation itself that must be ended, whether on the farm, in the lab, or among the wild, for example. The philosophy of animal rights asks for nothing more, but neither will it be satisfied with anything less.

10 Reasons FOR Animal Rights and Their Explanation
1. The philosophy of animal rights is rational
Explanation: It is not rational to discriminate arbitrarily. And discrimination against nonhuman animals is arbitrary. It is wrong to treat weaker human beings, especially those who are lacking in normal human intelligence, as "tools" or "renewable resources" or "models" or "commodities." It cannot be right, therefore, to treat other animals as if they were "tools," "models and the like, if their psychology is as rich as (or richer than) these humans. To think otherwise is irrational.

"To describe an animal as a physico-chemical system of extreme complexity is no doubt perfectly correct, except that it misses out on the 'animalness' of the animal."
-- E.F. Schumacher

2. The philosophy of animal rights is scientific
Explanation: The philosophy of animal rights is respectful of our best science in general and evolutionary biology in particular. The latter teaches that, in Darwin's words, humans differ from many other animals "in degree," not in kind." Questions of line drawing to one side, it is obvious that the animals used in laboratories, raised for food, and hunted for pleasure or trapped for profit, for example, are our psychological kin. This is no fantasy, this is fact, proven by our best science.

"There is no fundamental difference between humans and the higher mammals in their mental faculties"
-- Charles Darwin

3. The philosophy of animal rights is unprejudiced
Explanation: Racists are people who think that the members of their race are superior to the members of other races simply because the former belong to their (the "superior") race. Sexists believe that the members of their sex are superior to the members of the opposite sex simply because the former belong to their (the "superior") sex. Both racism and sexism are paradigms of unsupportable bigotry. There is no "superior" or "inferior" sex or race. Racial and sexual differences are biological, not moral, differences.
The same is true of speciesism -- the view that members of the species Homo sapiens are superior to members of every other species simply because human beings belong to one's own (the "superior") species. For there is no "superior" species. To think otherwise is to be no less predjudiced than racists or sexists.

"If you can justify killing to eat meat, you can justify the conditions of the ghetto. I cannot justify either one."
-- Dick Gregory

4. The philosophy of animal rights is just
Explanation: Justice is the highest principle of ethics. We are not to commit or permit injustice so that good may come, not to violate the rights of the few so that the many might benefit. Slavery allowed this. Child labor allowed this. Most examples of social injustice allow this. But not the philosophy of animal rights, whose highest principle is that of justice: No one has a right to benefit as a result of violating another's rights, whether that "other" is a human being or some other animal.

"The reasons for legal intervention in favor of children apply not less strongly to the case of those unfortunate slaves -- the (other) animals"
- John Stuart Mill

5. The philosophy of animal rights is compassionate
Explanation: A full human life demands feelings of empathy and sympathy -- in a word, compassion -- for the victims of injustice -- whether the victims are humans or other animals. The philosophy of animal rights calls for, and its acceptance fosters the growth of, the virtue of compassion. This philosophy is, in Lincoln's workds, "the way of a whole human being."

"Compassion in action may be the glorious possibility that could protect our crowded, polluted planet ..."
-- Victoria Moran

6. The philosophy of animal rights is unselfish
Explanation: The philosophy of animal rights demands a commitment to serve those who are weak and vulnerable -- those who, whether they are humans or other animals, lack the ability to speak for or defend themselves, and who are in need of protection against human greed and callousness. This philosophy requires this commitment, not because it is in our self-interest to give it, but because it is right to do so. This philosophy therefore calls for, and its acceptance fosters the growth of, unselfish service.

"We need a moral philosophy in which the concept of love, so rarely mentioned now by philosophers, can once again be made central."
-- Iris Murdoch

7. The philosophy of animal rights is individually fulfilling
Explanation: All the great traditions in ethics, both secular and religious, emphasize the importance of four things: knowledge, justice, compassion, and autonomy. The philosophy of animal rights is no exception. This philosophy teaches that our choices should be based on knowledge, should be expressive of compassion and justice, and should be freely made. It is not easy to achieve these virtues, or to control the human inclinations toward greed and indifference. But a whole human life is imposssible without them. The philosophy of animal rights both calls for, and its acceptance fosters the growth of, individual self-fulfillment.

"Humaneness is not a dead external precept, but a living impulse from within; not self-sacrifice, but self-fulfillment."
-- Henry Salt

8. The philosophy of animal rights is socially progressive.
Explanation: The greatest impediment to the flourishing of human society is the exploitation of other animals at human hands. This is true in the case of unhealthy diets, of the habitual reliance on the "whole animal model" in science, and of the many other forms animal exploitation takes. And it is no less true of education and advertising, for example, which help deaden the human psyche to the demands of reason, impartiality, compassion, and justice. In all these ways (and more), nations remain profoundly backward because they fail to serve the true interests of their citizens.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

9. The philosophy of animal rights is environmentally wise.
Explanation: The major cause of environmental degradation, including the greenhouse effect, water pollution, and the loss both of arable land and top soil, for example, can be traced to the exploitation of animals. This same pattern exists throughout the broad range of environmental problems, from acid rain and ocean dumping of toxic wastes, to air pollution and the destruction of natural habitat. In all these cases, to act to protect the affected animals (who are, after all, the first to suffer and die from these environmental ills), is to act to protect the earth.

"Until we establish a felt sense of kinship between our own species and those fellow mortals who share with us the sun and shadow of life on this agonized planet, there is no hope for other species, there is no hope for the environment, and there is no hope for ourselves."
-- Jon Wynne-Tyson

10. The philosophy of animal rights is peace-loving.
Explanation: The fundamental demand of the philosophy of animal rights is to treat humans and other animals with respect. To do this requires that we not harm anyone just so that we ourselves or others might benefit. This philosophy therefore is totally opposed to military aggression. It is a philosophy of peace. But it is a philosophy that extends the demand for peace beyond the boundaries of our species. For there is a war being waged, every day, against countless millions of nonhuman animals. To stand truly for peace is to stand firmly against speciesism. It is wishful thinking to believe that there can be "peace in the world" if we fail to bring peace to our dealings with other animals.

"If by some miracle in all our struggle the earth is spared from nuclear holocaust, only justice to every living thing will save humankind."
-- Alice Walker

"I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being."
-- Abraham Lincoln
Other sites by Tom Regan

Regan v Singer: Animal Rights

Regan's most recurrent strategy for validating animal rights is to demonstrate that if human beings can be said to have rights, some animals can likewise be said to have rights. (3) (1) This argument is based, in turn, on the propositions that (a) human and animal experiences and interests may be "comparable" or even "equal", (b) Human and animal experiences differ in degree but not in kind , and (c) no traits that are universal among humans are exclusive to them . (4) There is a large body of published opinion that would deny (a) and (b), and which would hold that (c), though true, is unsupportive of Regan's conclusion.

It is crucial, at the outset, to point out that, in attempting to derive animal rights though an analogy between animals and humans, both Regan and Singer fail to come to terms with the strongest rival position: namely, the argument that so-called "human rights" attach, not to "humans" (a biological category) but to "persons" (a moral category) and "potential persons." "Personhood" refers to a set of capacities -- self-consciousness, a self-concept, abstraction and time perception, rationality, ability to act on principle, etc. -- which are possessed by most members of the species homo sapiens, and, to the best of our knowledge, by no other animals in a remotely comparable degree and kind. This close (though imperfect) correlation between species and the capacity-set called "personhood" leads to the common, though strictly incorrect, term "human rights." Regan's analysis takes advantage of this linguistic inaccuracy. (The error is also rampant in public discussions of "the right to life" of fetuses which focus on the question of "human life" rather than "personal life"). The defender of "person-rights" (rather than "human-rights") will have a much easier time responding to Regan's arguments, for the simple reason that he will readily accord these rights to any non-human being (animal, cybernetic, or extra-terrestrial) shown to possess personal traits. However, it is a simple empirical fact that no such beings have yet been shown to exist.

It does not follow from this analysis that non-humans possess no rights whatever. Several philosophers have argued that sentient animals have a right to humane treatment. (5) However, no animals can be said to have such "person-rights" as "freedom of worship," or a "right to a college education," not because we humans are tyrants, but simply because these animals lack the capacities to exercise such rights.

What, then, of so-called "marginal cases" of human beings with only partial or potential person-traits? As with animals, they might be accorded such rights as they have the capacity to exercise. Also, potential persons, such as infants or temporarily comatose individuals, are plausibly accorded rights "in anticipation" of later capacities. To the best of our knowledge, no animals warrant such "anticipations." But again, personal capacity, not species membership, is the key to such an analysis of rights. Surely it is, to say the least, a prominent presumption among philosophers who deal with this issue. (6) Yet it is not the approach adopted by Regan and Singer who repeatedly write of "humans" (as a species) and only rarely of "persons." (7)

Why should "personhood" loom so large in a philosophical analysis of human and animal rights? Essentially for these reasons: (a) the quality of personal life, and of the experience therein, may be fundamentally different from that of non-personal life; (b) this qualitative difference is such that personal life may be said to be richer, more comprehensive, and more valuable to the person, than a life of a non-personal being to that being; and (c) "personhood" denotes a set of capacities that appears to be exclusive to the human species (a contingent fact), though not universal thereto. (8)

If these claims can be sustained, then it follows that the rights of persons (i.e., most humans) are both more comprehensive and more morally significant than the rights of relevant non-persons (i.e., some animals). This, of course, is a conclusion to which Regan and Singer strenuously object.

Why, then, should personal life, contrary to the contention of "animal rights" advocates, be qualitatively different? The key, most commentators agree, is language, defined, not as "sign communication," but as a syntactically structured system of significant symbols. (9)

With language, an organism is able to respond, not only to mental images of objects of experience (a capacity perhaps attainable without language), but also to types (abstractions), facts (as propositions), projections, hypotheses, time frames, argument forms, and moral principles. Furthermore, all this and more can, through grammar, be combined and structured in an inexhaustible variety of ways. Finally, through language, one may acquire a self-concept, and view oneself as an entity continuing through time.

In view of all this, Regan's treatment of "the language difference" is remarkably restrictive. Though the point of view that we have sketched above has been extensively and recently argued by philosophers (such as Mead, Dewey, Cassirer, Langer, Wittgenstein) and many linguists, psychologists and anthropologists, Regan chooses instead to take on Rene Descartes -- and no one else. (6-7) Regan writes: "one might dispute the view that being able to use a language is a necessary condition of being a conscious being." (6) Later he asserts: "whether or not a person is experiencing pain. . . does not depend on his being able to perform one or another linguistic feat." (7, cf 32) However, by "linguistic feat," Regan seems to mean the capacity to speak or write -- i.e., to "produce" discourse. He thus dismisses "the linguistic difference:"

Imagine a person whose vocal cords have been damaged to such an extent that he no longer has the ability to utter words or even to make inarticulate sounds, and whose arms have been paralyzed so that he cannot write, but who, when his tooth abscesses, twists and turns on his bed, grimaces and sobs. We do not say "Ah, if only he could still speak, we could give him something for his pain. As it is, since he cannot speak, there's nothing we need give him. For he feels no pain." We say he is in pain, despite his loss of the ability to say so. (6-7)

Here Regan attacks a position with no adherents, and draws our attention away from a significant rival position. Of course, animals and language-deprived humans can suffer pain, and may therefore be said to have a right not to endure gratuitous pain. However, paralyzed humans who cannot "perform linguistic feats" may not be language-deprived, since there may be a great deal "going on inside." Speaking and writing, in fact, are not even the most significant "linguistic feats." They are, instead, the outward manifestations of an inward accomplishment which supports advanced thought -- the basis of uniquely personal (presumably human) experiences.

With language and personhood, life-quality is transformed. The life and experiences of persons and of non-persons are no longer "comparable;" they are "different in kind." Regan and Singer would have us believe otherwise. Their advocacy of "animal rights" and "animal liberation" stands repeatedly on the contention that human and animal experiences might be regarded as "comparable," or even "equal," and thus that human and animal "interests" and "rights" might be "equal." Such a contention seems to rest upon a presumption that human and animal lives, like safe-deposit boxes containing coins and notes of debit, are composed of discrete and transferable experiential (and derivatively moral) counters. But surely, this is not how it is. On the contrary, because human experiences are interactive, organic, intentional and systemic, an "autobiography" is more than a sum of discrete sequential experiences. Because human experiences are contextual, they come out of an ongoing life, and effect the future of that life. Experiences which "happen to" a life -- a stubbed toe, a toothache, an unexpected prize, etc., have sense, meaning, value, in the context of that life. Thus the quality of a pleasure or pain can not be assessed apart from the quality of the life it happens "in" or "to" -- apart from the matrix of attitudes, expectations and evaluations that make up that life. Now if, as Regan and Singer contend, the differences between human and animal lives are simply matters of degree (not kind, cf. Regan 159) among isolated phenomenal bits, then some sense and use may be made of this arguments by analogy. Our account of "personhood" seems to suggest, however, that this position is radically mistaken. Humans, qua persons, deal with each other in conversation and with themselves in thought, with and through concepts articulated through syntactical language. They think abstractly of themselves, of others, of community, of time, of their past and future, of concepts such as rationality and of morality. As persons, humans experience unique dimensions of mental and emotional pain; self-reproach, dread of impending loss, regret for abandoned projects, fear of death, and such moral sentiments as guilt and shame. Persons also uniquely enjoy such pleasures as self-respect, intellectual and creative accomplishment, patriotism, irony, humor and pride. In sum the transcending and transforming fact that human beings are persons gives them a moral considerability far beyond that of animals. Thus, once we seriously reflect upon and evaluate the human condition of personhood, talk of "comparability" or even "equality" of experiences of animals and human beings becomes unsupportable.

Having said all this, we must not coast off the deep end. In particular, acknowledgment of these significant differences does not entail that animal experiences do not morally "matter," and that gratuitous torture of animals is not morally reprehensible. However different and even unknowable animal pain may be, it is pain nonetheless. Furthermore, this point of view need not be regarded as what Singer calls "species chauvinism." If homo sapiens is the only terrestrial personal species, this is a contingent fact. Personal capacities, and the entailed transformation of experience, are logically attributable to any creatures. The limitation thereof is based upon empirical fact and circumstance. If we were to discover that chimps or dolphins could be educated to personhood, our moral stance toward them would and should be radically transformed. So too if we were to encounter an extra- terrestrial person. Indeed, if recent experiments with "ape language" are as significant as some claim then a reassessment of our moral stance toward these cousins is overdue.

In an persuasive defense of human rights, Regan points out that: "The world contains individuals (e.g., human beings) who not only are alive but have a life; these individuals are not mere things (objects), they are the subjects of a life; they have, in James Rachels' helpful phrase, autobiographies." (70, cf. 94, 135) Predictably, he then attempts to extend this argument to animals. (10)

It won't do. While some non-personal animals may be said to "have a life," being without time- and self-consciousness they can scarcely be said to have "autobiographies." Given these dimensions of consciousness in personal life, the significance of one's life to oneself is utterly transformed. A steer does not look upon its scheduled slaughter with the sense of dread and foreboding suffered by a condemned prisoner. "Capital punishment" for beasts simply makes no sense (as Regan himself tacitly admits, 150-2). To a person, a life -- his life -- is a continuity and a unity, of which he is perpetually aware and concerned. This phenomenological fact entails rights to life that are unique to persons.

Regan asks: "on what grounds, precisely, might it be claimed that no animals can reason, make free choices, or form a concept of themselves?"(13) The answer is richly represented in recent philosophical, linguistic and psychological literature: on the grounds that animals lack articulate languages -- a rejoinder that Regan has utterly failed to address. He continues, "what one would want [to support this claim] are detailed analyses of these cooperative concepts together with rationally compelling empirical data and other arguments that support the view that all non-human animals are deficient in these respects." (13) Again, there are such arguments, based upon well-known studies of problem-solving skills with and without language, studies of aphasia, of animal behavior, of children raised without language, of language-using blind-deaf (e.g., Helen Keller), and more. In addition, there is a vast philosophical literature on the function of language in personality. Among the prominent contributors to this field of study are Mead, Dewey, Cassirer, Langer, Wittgenstein and Chomsky (to offer only a small sample). None of the above are indexed in Regan's book and, after two careful readings of the book, I can recall none of them being mentioned in this regard. All these studies, and more, are crucially relevant to Regan's arguments and theories. His failure to face them and respond critically must seriously compromise his case.

To close my argument, I will move beyond these scholarly and scientific studies to a case study of much greater familiarity: that of Lassie. Those who can remember far back into the ancient history of commercial television will recall the plot line of (it seems) most of the episodes. Timmy and Lassie go outside to play. Timmy gets into some kind of trouble - he is stranded in a tree or by a flash flood, or falls down a mineshaft - whatever. Timmy says, "Lassie, get help!" Lassie runs back to the ranch, barks at the door, leads Mom and Pop to Timmy. Saccharine theme music. Credits. Fade out.

The following is a plot that we never saw: Returning for help, Lassie encounters an impassable gorge or swollen river. However, on the other side within earshot is "Rover." Lassie "tells" Rover, "Timmy is caught in a mineshaft on the side of yonder hill. Go to the ranch and tell Mom, and lead them to the mine." Rover does exactly what he is told. Timmy is saved.

We never saw this episode because we all know that it was utterly incredible. To be sure, animals do "communicate." But they are incapable of conveying such simple abstractions as "third-person" messages. Lacking this capacity, animals are incapable of "funding knowledge," and thus they lack "culture" and a species "history." The behavior of wild squirrels, wolves and hawks today is essentially identical to the behavior of their ancestors hundreds of years ago. If there is any change in that behavior, it is due, not to the "funding" of their knowledge and experience through language, but through alterations in their genome through natural selection.

We homo sapiens are, in short, very different sorts of critters - and for reasons that can be readily understood and appreciated. No "natural history" or philosophy which fails to take these differences into account deserves to be taken seriously.

And yet, the basic strategy of such "animal rights" philosophers as Tom Regan and Peter Singer, is to stress the similarity between humans and non-human animals while, at the same time, de-emphasizing and perhaps devaluing that which sets humans apart from the animals; namely, the moral significance and dignity of personhood. That, I submit, may be an exorbitant and unacceptable moral cost -- especially so, since there are other grounds upon which to articulate and justify a humane treatment of animals.


Regan, Ryder, Singer: Animal Rights

Emeritus professor of philosophy and American advocate for animal rights. Among his many books The Case for Animal Rights (1983), translated into several languages, made him a public name.

Regan asserts that animals have inherent worth (that is intrinsic value) because they have feelings, desires, beliefs, preferences, memories, expectations, purposeful behaviour, and so on. He calls animals with such features "subject's of a life" because "what happens to them matters to them". He says, "All animals are somebody - someone with a life of their own. Behind those eyes is a story, the story of their life in their world as they experience it." (1) Regan maintains that animals who have the features of a subject of a life should have the same rights to life as humans and sees the animal rights movement as part of the human rights movement.

Regan's position clashes with his contemporary, Peter Singer (see below). Singer argues that subjective human preferences can occasionally outweigh the interests of animals. To avoid this, Regan counters that it is better animal rights is based on intrinsic value. Regan says this will thwart people putting their own interests before animals whenever it suits them, prevent exploitation of individual animals for the greater good (of humans), and stop morality being an exclusively human club.

Among Regan's books on animal ethics are: All That Dwell Therein: essays on animal Rights and environmental ethics (1982); The Case for Animal Rights (1983); Defending Animal Rights (2001); and Empty Cages: facing the challenge of animal rights (2004).

Richard Hood Jack Dudley Ryder, British animal ethics philosopher and animal welfare campaigner. Was a psychologist who experimented on animals but now speaks out for animal rights.

Ryder denounces Utilitarianism because it justifies the exploitation of some animals if there is a net gain in happiness for the majority of other animals (such as humans). Instead, he advocates his philosophy of Painism: that all animals who feel pain should be worthy of rights and that moral worth should be based on reducing the pain of individuals.

He coined the term speciesism in the 1970's, popularised by Singer (below) in his book Animal Liberation, and coined painism in the 1990's to describe his ethical philosophy.

Ryder's books include Victims of Science (1975), on the use of animals in research; Animal Revolution (1989), on the recent history and development of animal rights; Painism (1992), on ethics, animal rights and environmentalism; Painism (2001), on the moral theory of Painism; and Putting Morality Back Into Politics (2006).

Australian ethicist and professor of philosophy. Peter Albert David Singer first took part in a public demonstration for animals in his twenties while at Oxford University. The protest was held in the street against factory farming and featured caged paper-maché ¨ens and a stuffed calf in an imitation stall.

Singer is widely credited with kindling the modern animal rights movement. His book, Animal Liberation (1975), questions the human treatment of animals. It is the book for which he is most well known to the public - its second edition was translated into over 17 languages, including Hebrew, Korean and Chinese. The book gave the animal rights movement a philosophical basis and, along with Singer's status as a reputable philosopher, awoke interest in academic circles setting off a chain reaction of thought and publications about animal ethics.

Singer believes our treatment of animals is one of the foremost ethical issues of today. He says toleration for the mistreatment of animals is a prejudice that, like sexism and racism, does not have a rational basis, and failure to take into account animal suffering is to be guilty of speciesism.

Singer's ethical philosophy is practical, following Utilitarian principles: the best solution to a moral problem is the one with the best likely consequences for the majority concerned. Hence, you may be morally justified if you cause relatively little harm to a few beings to minimise a greater harm to more beings. Thus, you might experiment on (but not kill) some humans or animals to save the lives of many more humans or animals; but it would be wrong to kill or cause severe pain to the many to save a little distress to the few.

Although Singer argues in Animal Liberation that we should not give greater preference to the interests of humans over animals, he also argues that some individuals are more valuable than others and deserve higher priority in moral disputes. In Singer's view, a sentient animal, a subject of a life, like a rat, has a higher priority to life as he has more to lose than a non-sentient being, like a worm. Similarly, a being who is more sentient, like a chimpanzee, has more to lose than a being who is less sentient, like a rat.

Among his many activities, Singer is a founder member of the Great Ape Project that is trying to influence people to confer on the great apes the same basic rights as humans. And Singer sets an example to us all; he does not just lecture about ethics, he gives away a fifth of his income to good causes.

Singer's many books include: Practical Ethics (1979 ); Animal Factories, with James Mason (1980); The Expanding Circle (1981); In Defence of Animals, editor (1985); Applied Ethics, editor (1986); Ethics into Action: Henry Spira and the animal rights movement (1998); One World: ethics and globalization (22002); In Defense of Animals: the second wave, editor (2005); The Way We Eat: why our food choices matter with Jim Mason (2006); and over 300 articles on ethics in books, magazines and newspapers.


(1) Giving Voice to Animal Rights. The Satya Interview with Tom Regan, Kymberlie Adams Matthews. (Accessed online February 2007.)

Why animals do NOT have rights!

Tom Regan - Animal Rights

Regan - animal rights philosophy

Tom Regan didn't start out worrying about the rights of the furry and finned to live a full and happy life. As a young man growing up in gritty Pittsburgh, he earned his cash from butchering meat in a store.

Today, some 40 years later, Mr. Regan is firmly on the other side of the farmyard fence. His day job is as a professor at North Carolina State University, but he's also a devoted vegan, philosopher, filmmaker, and author. And he's become known as an intellectual firebrand for the animal-rights movement - a once-esoteric subject that is now common in philosophy departments from Harvard to Stanford.

Regan's extensive archive of drafts, notes, and memorabilia - "a time slice of the conversations about animal rights over the past 40 years," as he calls them - went on display last week at N.C. State's D.H. Hill Library. When the exhibit closes, his will become the first animal-rights annals ever included in a public university's permanent collection.

"The animal-rights movement has been around long enough to start becoming a ... historical subject in and of itself," says Bernard McTigue, head of special collections at N.C. State. He acknowledges that it's a sensitive issue, especially for a land-grant university whose roots are intertwined with agriculture, but adds, "We're not advocating animal rights; we're simply documenting a cultural and social phenomenon."

Regan's decision to forgo meats and cheeses is not rooted in a sense that animals have a soul. Instead, it's that they are, in many ways, on the earth for the same reasons as humans.

"The animals that we raise for food or trap for fur are like us in fundamental ways," says the gray-bearded professor. "They are in the world, they're aware of the world, they're aware of what happens to them as beings in the world.... They have a life whose quality matters to them, just like you and me."

Often called the intellectual leader of the animal-rights movement, Regan "is the foremost philosopher in this country in the field of the moral status of nonrational animals," says Bob Bryan, former chairman of the N.C. State Philosophy and Religion Department.

Regan has lectured from Stockholm to Melbourne about the importance of recognizing animals as part of the evolving field of ethics. His books, "The Case for Animal Rights" and "In Defense of Animal Rights," are widely acknowledged as having cemented the roots of the modern animal rights movement in academia.

To be sure, vegetarianism harks back to Plato and Plutarch. And in America, the first cruelty busts happened in the late 19th century in New York. But society viewed animals largely as chattel, until Regan and a handful of other philosophers (including Peter Singer, a controversial professor at Princeton) pushed animal-rights issues into the academic mainstream.

Indeed, this academic focus has dramatically altered how Americans approach the ethics of husbandry, some observers say. Once-radical ideas have been firmly woven into society: Today, you can find vegetarian platters at rural hospitals, unthinkable 10 years ago. This summer, Orange County, Calif., banned the use of animals in entertainment acts. And consumer patterns have changed, too. Non-animal-tested cosmetics, for instance, are often sought after.

Regan envisions a type of 'bill of rights' for animals, including the abandonment of pet ownership, elimination of a meat-based diet, and new standards for biomedical research on animals. Essentially, he wants to establish a new kind of solidarity with animals, and stop animal husbandry altogether.

"In addition to the visible achievements and changes, there's been what I might call an invisible revolution taking place, and that revolution is the seriousness with which the issue of animal rights is taken in the academy and in higher ed," Regan says. "Thirty years ago, I can tell you that there was no interest, no respect, no work being done by people in the academy when it comes to animal rights. In contrast, there's been more written by animal-rights philosophers in the past 30 years than had been written in the previous 3,000 years."

But with Regan planning to retire in December, a growing number of farmers, doctors, and others are questioning the sustainability of his ideas.

Increasingly, Americans who feel their rights have become secondary to animals' rights are speaking out against a wave of arson attacks on farmers and pies thrown in the faces of researchers. A man in Jacksonville, N.C., wonders why the Marines stop training because spawning sea turtles are threatened, but not because humans in the neighborhood suffer emotionally from bomb training. When hunters in Iowa went to sign up for the dove hunt this year, they were turned away, because the governor called off the hunt after being pressured by animal-rights groups. Radical groups, with sometimes-violent tactics, have been accused of scaring farmers away from speaking up for traditional agrarian values.

Indeed, tensions are only rising between animal-rights activists and groups that have traditionally used the land with an eye toward animals' overall welfare, not their "right" to be happy or to live long lives.

The controversy around Regan is heightened by the fact that he's no pacifist. He says he believes it's OK to break the law for a greater purpose. He calls it the "greater-evil doctrine," the idea that there's moral hierarchy to crime. "I think that you can win in court, and that's what I tell people," Regan says. "I don't believe that you should run and hide."

As Regan recedes from the academy, leaving his notes and memorabilia behind, he's satisfied with how far it has come since the day during the time of the Vietnam War when he realized that "my fork could be as violent a weapon as a gun."

The shift in the level of respect has been "seismic," he says. "Contrary to what a lot of people think, there really has been a recognition that there are some things that human beings should not be permitted to do to animals. Where the human heart has grown is in the recognition of what is to be prohibited."