If you’re passionate about animal welfare, you’ve probably seen movies like Blackfish, The Cove, or Project Nim. But what about books about animal rights? If you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding about the complicated and (often) sad history of the relationship between humans and animals, here are some animal rights classics to put on your to-read list.
Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer
No list of animal rights books would be complete without Animal Liberation, written by philosopher Peter Singer. Animal Liberation was first published in 1975 and is considered by many to be the “bible” of the animal rights movement. Animal Liberation had a huge impact when it first came out, and did more to raise awareness about animal suffering caused by human actions like laboratory experiments and factory farming than any other book at the time.
The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
What do your food choices have to do with animal welfare and the health of the environment? Pretty much everything, as this eye-opening book explains. The author argues that it’s perfectly natural for humans to eat a plant-based diet, and that even if we don’t eat meat, we are in denial about consuming animal products like milk, eggs, and cheese that are supposedly produced in “cruelty-free” environments. Oh, and about that fish you think it’s OK to eat…
The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Marc Bekoff
Marc Bekoff is a biologist who specializes in animal communication. He has studied a wide range of animals--from wolves and dogs to elephants to birds--and based on his observations has come to the conclusion that animals lead rich emotional lives. He describes how animals experience pain, empathy, cooperation, and even morality. As a young man, he famously quit medical school after being required to kill a cat as part of an experiment.
Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, by Matthew Scully
You might be surprised to learn that Matthew Scully was a speechwriter for conservative Republican politicians after you read his thoughtful and moving book Dominion. Scully outlines many of the horrible things humans have done to animals over the centuries, such as hunting, factory farming, and capturing wild animals for zoos and aquariums. Scully makes a compelling moral argument that it is fundamentally wrong for us to treat animals with anything less than empathy and kindness.
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, by Melanie Joy
What does “carnism” mean? Melanie Joy coined this term to describe the pervasive way society conditions people to eat certain kinds of animals. In this important book, Joy argues that we have been taught to believe that eating meat is a necessity, not a choice. She also notes that society perpetuates carnism through a series of defenses, like hiding the realities of factory farming from the public, objectifying animals, and invalidating veganism.
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