Ethics Updates


The Moral Status of Animals

Multimedia Resources on The Moral Status of Animals

  • Dr. Dale Jamieson
        Henry R. Luce Professor in Human Dimensions of Global Change at Carleton College.

Online Surveys

Internet Resources on the Moral Status of Animals

Recent Supreme Court Decisions on Animal Rights

Resources Relating to Animals and Animal Rights

On-Line Articles on Animal Well-Being

A Bibliographical Survey of Philosophical Literature on the Moral Status of Animals

Biliographical essays are drawn from Lawrence M. Hinman, Contemporary Moral Issues

Bibliographical Guides

See Charles Magel, A Bibliography of Animal Rights and Related Matters (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1981); and his Keyguide to Information Sources on Animal Rights (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1989).


In addition to the standard journals in ethics discussed in the bibliographical essay at the end of Chapter One of my Contemporary Moral Issues, there are two journals devoted solely to issues related to animals: Ethics and Animals and Between the Species.

Survey Articles

Tom Regan's "Treatment of Animals," in Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence Becker (New York: Garland Publication, 1992), Vol. I, pp. 42-46 provides an excellent, short survey of the principal ethical issues surrounding the treatment of animals; it includes a bibliography. Lori Gruen's "Animals," in A Companion to Ethics, edited by Peter Singer (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), pp. 343- 53 also provides a good summary of these issues along with a bibliography. For a broader social history of the animal rights movement, see "Man's Mirror; History of Animal Rights," The Economist, Vol. 321 ; No. 7733 (November 16, 1991) pp. 21 ff.


There are a number of excellent anthologies dealing with issues of the moral status of animals. Animal Rights: Opposing Viewpoints, edited by Janelle Rohr (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989) contains an excellent collection of short articles; it also includes a list of organizations involved in the animal rights issue and how to contact them. Animal Rights and Welfare, edited by Jeanne Williams (New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1991), in the series The Reference Shelf, Vol. 63, No. 4., is a well-edited, short (168 pages) collection of short and often popular articles on the issues of animal rights, animals in research, and changes in the animal rights movement. Ethics and Animals, edited by Harlan B. Miller and William H. Williams (Clifton, New Jersey: Humana Press, 1983) is an excellent anthology of philosophical articles by well-known philosophers (including Tom Regan, Jan Narveson, Annette Baier, Bernard Rollin, Dale Jamieson, Lawrence Becker, James Rachels, R. G. Frey, and many others) and includes a very good bibliography. On the Fifth Day: Animal Rights and Human Ethics, edited by Richard Knowles Morriw and Michael W. Fox (Washington, D.C.: Acropolis Books, 1978) is volume sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and contains twelve essays on the moral status of animals and a statement of the Principles of the Humane Society. The Animal Rights/Environmental Ethics Debate, edited by Eugene C. Hargrove (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992) contains eleven very good articles dealing specifically with the question of the relationship between animals rights issues and issues about environmental ethics. Animal Experimentation: The Moral Issues, edited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991) contains fifteen articles on animal rights and experimentation and a short bibliography. Also see R. G. Frey, Rights, Killing, and Suffering. Moral Vegetarianism and Applied Ethics (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983); Animal Sacrifices: Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in Science, edited by Tom Regan (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); In Defence of Animals, edited by Peter Singer (New York: Blackwell, 1985); and Animals' Rights: A Symposium, edited by David Paterson and Richard Ryder (Fontwell, Sussex: Centaur, 1979). Tom Regan and Peter Singer co-edited Animal Rights and Human Obligations (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1976). Peter Singer's Ethics (New York: Oxford, 1994) is not an anthology about animal rights, but rather a very interesting anthology about ethics from the standpoint of a philosopher who holds that the suffering of animals counts in the utilitarian calculus.

Single-Author Works

Although there are certainly some early works that defended the rights of animals, such as Lewis Gompertz's Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and Of Brutes (1824) and Henry S. Salt, Animals' Rights (1892), it was not until the last three decades that strong defenses of animals gained significant ground. Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, now in its second edition (New York: Avon Books, 1990), first appeared in 1976. Also see his Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Equally influential has been the work of Tom Regan, whose The Case for Animal Rights (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1983) and The Thee Generation: Reflections on the Coming Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), a collection of his recent essays, including "Christians Are What Christians Eat," have both had a wide impact. Mary Midgley, Animals and Why They Matter (Athens, GA.: University of Georgia Press, 1983) is admirably argued, as is James Rachels, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). Bernard E. Rollin, The Unheeded Cry. Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain, and Science, with a Foreword by Jane Goodall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) surveys changing attitudes toward animal consciousness and deals specifically with the issue of how we can know and measure animal pain, and his Animal Rights and Human Morality, revised edition (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992): well-written, articulate defense of animal rights. In The Animals Issue (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), Peter Carruthers, defends a contractualist account of ethics and argues that animals do not have direct moral significance. Michael P. T. Leahy's Against Liberation: Putting Animals in Perspective (London and New York: Routledge 1991) offers a Wittgensteinian critique of contemporary defenses of animal rights. In Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), R. G. Frey argues that animals are part of the moral community, but that their lives are not of equal value to adult human lives. For a nuanced discussion of these issues by a philosopher whose primary concern is with the concept of rights rather than animals, see Chapter Six of A. I. Melden, Rights in Moral Lives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988). Also see Steven F. Sapontzis, Morals, Reason, and Animals (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987); Richard Ryder, Victims of Science (London: David-Poynter, 1975); Marian Stamp Dawkins, Animal Suffering: The Science of Animal Welfare (London and New York: Chapman and Hall, 1980). In The Case for Animal Experimentation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), Michael A. Fox argues that animals lack the critical self-awareness necessary for membership in the moral community; however, he renounced this view always immediately after publication of the book. See Michael A. Fox, "Animal Experimentation: A Philosopher's Changing Views," Between the Species, Vol. 3 (1987), pp. 55- 60.

Andrew Linzey, in Animal Rights: A Christian Assessment (London: SCM Press, 1976) and Christianity and the Rights of Animals (New York: Crossroad, 1988) develops a critique of Christianity's neglect of animals and offers a theological foundation for a more positive Christian attitude toward the rights of animals.


In addition to the articles contained in the anthologies mentioned above, see Peter Singer's "Ten Years of Animal Liberation," New York Review of Books 31 (1985), pp. 46-52; Dale Jamieson, "Utilitarianism and the Morality of Killing," Philosophical Studies Vol. 45, (1984), pp. 209-21; R. G. Frey, "Moral Standing, the Value of Lives, and Speciesism," Between the Species, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Summer, 1988), pp. 191-201; and M. Kheel, "The Liberation of Nature: A Circular Affair," Environmental Ethics, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), 135-49.