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Book Review: Why Animal-Suffering Matters

Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 2:09 PM

Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics


Professor Linzey has written many acclaimed books but this is surely his most important to date. It is an exhilarating read and its lucid and persuasive style and cogent marshalling and presentation of his powerful central arguments make it a classic philosophical and religious vindication of animal rights. (Feargus O'Connor, faith and Freedom 63:1 )

The book is excellently done... with exhaustive scholarship, meticulous argumentation, and clear organization, making it very suitable as a textbook... one can only welcome Linzey's latest book, which admirably reinforces why we ought to care enough about animal suffering at human hands to strive to end it. (Joel Marks, Philosophy Now )

Those skeptical folk who doubt that anything of practical importance could issue form a theology department will be confused by this book. Linzey, a theologian and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, here adopts a strategy of rational ju jitsu... A rights-based approach to animal welfare, he succeeds in showing, is not the only game in town. (Steven Poole, The Guardian )

Why Animal Suffering Matters sets out to show us that anthropogenic suffering is both real and morally relevant... [Linzey] combines arguments familiar in animal ethics with his own viewpoints - a mixture that provides an alluring introduction to the topic... The book is greatly enhanced by Linzey's lucid style of writing. Such lucidity is much needed in the contemporary society that tends to approach animals via what has been called "moral schizophrenia", within which essentially similar animals are treated in radically different ways based on their use-category (thus, pet dogs are members of the family, while cognitively similar pigs are food). Consistency and clarity rarely enter the picture... Linzey offers us a convincing alternative... Linzey's book provides a fine introduction to why animal suffering matters. It could, and arguably should, be utilised by universities, schools and laypeople alike. (Elisa Aaltola, Times Higher Education )

informed and balanced... Why Animal Suffering Matters offers a broad, engaging argument on an important, complex issue. Linzey writes his theory with knowledge and clarity, making this book accessible for newcomers as well as those who are already familiar with Linzey's work. (Georgina Lea, The Vegan )

Product Description

How we treat animals arouses strong emotions. Many people are repulsed by photographs of cruelty to animals and respond passionately to how we make animals suffer for food, commerce, and sport. But is this, as some argue, a purely emotional issue? Are there really no rational grounds for opposing our current treatment of animals? In Why Animal Suffering Matters, Andrew Linzey argues that when analyzed impartially the rational case for extending moral solicitude to all sentient beings is much stronger than many suppose. Indeed, Linzey shows that many of the justifications for inflicting animal suffering in fact provide grounds for protecting them. Because animals, the argument goes, lack reason or souls or language, harming them is not an offense. Linzey suggests that just the opposite is true, that the inability of animals to give or withhold consent, their inability to represent their interests, their moral innocence, and their relative defenselessness all compel us not to harm them. Andrew Linzey further shows that the arguments in favor of three controversial practices--hunting with dogs, fur farming, and commercial sealing--cannot withstand rational critique. He considers the economic, legal, and political issues surrounding each of these practices, appealing not to our emotions but to our reason, and shows that they are rationally unsupportable and morally repugnant. In this superbly argued and deeply engaging book, Linzey pioneers a new theory about why animal suffering matters, maintaining that sentient animals, like infants and young children, should be accorded a special moral status.


5.0 out of 5 stars RAISING THE BAR, 27 Nov 2009
By Nadia "Nadia" - Published on
This review is from: Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics (Hardcover)

Reverend Andrew Linzey: A Brilliant ethicist gets to the root of social mechanisms that perpetuate animal suffering & why it is important to recognize animals as sentient individuals & why animal suffering matters. This book should be among the number one choice books of all books on behalf of animals. This book is also an in-depth study of how our past & current western views on animals have influenced & influence the way things are as well as an in-depth & comprehensive study of our how society excludes animals and why this should not be the case. This book is not a theological account but rather very much a comprehensive study & a very deep non-religious ethical study that does include theological theories. Says Philosopher Joel Marks in his review of this book, "Linzey is very much the analytic philosopher in the way he employs logic to assist his opponents in being hoisted by their own petards. This is where philosophers typically come into their own, since the premises of an argument often rely on empirical knowledge, which is not our accustomed turf. Linzey must be especially commended, therefore, for the extensive groundwork he has done in researching the factual territory of his case studies."

I am a HUGE fan of Reverend Andrew Linzey who is both an accomplished ethicist and theologian. In this book Reverend Andrew Linzey DEEP DIVES into EVEN MORE powerful intellectual, ethical and theological arguments on behalf of valuing animal suffering and WHY IT DOES INDEED MATTER VERY MUCH (See Animal Gospel by Andrew Linzey). It is not enough to recognize that animals suffer, but it is crucial to learn WHY their suffering has value. WITH VERY SOLID ARGUMENTS on behalf of animals and why they should be viewed as special or exceptional cases, Linzey sets very solid grounds for why animal suffering matters. Reverend Andrew Linzey examines animal exploitation and suffering, views past and present philosophers, clergy, ethicists, etc., gets to the very roots of the problem, and states a very very powerful and complete case on behalf of animals who suffer at the hands of human beings. I want to stress the importance of education in the fight against the oppression of animals. Without proper knowledge and the willingness to learn about the mechanisms behind control and oppression of animals, the battle for animal liberation will not be won. There are just too many hidden determinants not always understood by the average activist. That is why I stress reading these highly educational books. Only through education does one learn what is behind oppressive attitudes, actions and speech, and only through education does one learn how to respond and help change the world.

Andrew Linzey transcends all narrow Christian views, and this book is indeed suitable and recommended for people of all faiths and especially the non religious who are indeed serious about learning about animal suffering in today's society. There are indeed a few strictly Christian views, and the identification with the crucifixion of Jesus as the crucifixion of love and compassion, the blameless, the innocent and the pure is indeed a central part of this thesis, but as a whole, this book transcends Christianity, and I highly recommend Andrew Linzey's books as MUST BUYS! As a person who has lived in Italy, I want to stress, as does Reverend Linzey, that the Church's role in animal oppression should not be underestimated or disregarded. In fact, the Church's silence indeed sends a very forceful message of control and oppression.

In this book, Reverend Andrew Linzey goes into deep hell researching almost all aspects of negative human attitudes and theories toward animals that justify cruelty toward animals and then shines a brilliant light on these failings that leave abusers absolutely no place to hide.

Here below I will include some excerpts or samples of Andrew Linzey's writings taken from this book. I believe the best way to sell sweet grapes is to offer samples, so here goes:

"The practical upshot is that we cannot continue to privilege human suffering as if it stands alone as a unique source of moral concern. Some animal friendly philosophers advance solicitude for animals on the basis that they are, inter alia, like us. But my thesis is that their very alterity in many respects should underpin their moral claim."

I am including very few selected passages of John Henry Newman, vicar of St. Mary's University Church in 1842 that are a part of this book.

"but there is something so very dreadful, so satanic in tormenting those who have never harmed us, and who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power, who have weapons neither of offence nor defence, that none but very hardened persons can endure the thought of it."

Andrew Linzey continues: ". . . why should the suffering of vulnerable, innocent, unprotected, defenceless beings be judged to be theologically significant?--the answer must be that there is something Christ-like about such suffering."

"Few institutions are morally neutral as regards animals because they reflect and reinforce past attitudes. They act as agents of thought control. What is required is the cultivation of a critical perspective to help counteract the dominant ideology about animals perpetuated by the media in particular."

"(i) Discovering the facts. By learning how facts are distorted or misrepresented, we are enabled to see the underlying perspective that the distortions serve. Fact cannot deliver values, but are important in order to begin ethical analysis."

"(ii) Retaining the focus on the ethical. Defenders of exploitation are adept at sidestepping the ethical issue . . . This is also helped by popular utilitarianism among media spokespeople, based on the assumption that only human suffering really matters."

"The institutions that govern our lives are the result of past vision, or lack of it. But they can and should change."

Animals have been controlled and oppressed by manipulative definitions that distort our perceptions.

"The power of mis-description"

"The first is what Denys Turner has called 'that most powerful of human tools, the power of mis-description.' In a paper provocatively titled 'How to Kill People,' he argues:"

"' . . . if we propose to kill a fellow human being and justify it, we have to re-describe him in such a way that he no longer belongs to us, becomes an alien being . . . . and in that way the inhibition against killing is effectively weakened.'"

Reverend Andrew Linzey makes reference to the media's connection in animal suffering. Indeed, I wrote the TV stations letting them know they should not treat hunting as if it were a matter of course. Bow and arrow hunting and any form of recreational hunting is a ghastly form of cruelty. It is a culture of cruelty and violence disguised under a heap of euphemisms and misrepresentations.

There is reference to the fact that it has been argued animals lack language as possessed by human beings. To this argument it is justly argued by Linzey that human language is not an unambiguous good: it can be used to spread falsity and deceit and is not an unmixed moral good. "The apparent inability of animals to deceive themselves might, on a less prejudiced understanding of the world, place them in a higher moral category." I believe it is an Eastern view that silence is the most perfect speech. In fact, love is given in silence--it does not require speech. (See Power vs. Force--a book.) Linzey in his Conclusion states: " . . . I haven't outlined the full case for animals, which now increasingly accepts scientific evidence that they are, for example, rational to some degree and display greater capacities for cognition and self-awareness than previously supposed." He later continues: "I fully accept that the case for animals may, and probably will, be buttressed by the further questioning of at least some of the differences that are now widely accepted." Then he later continues: "The case, even and especially dependent only on traditional formulations, is strong enough to deserve a hearing now, and should result in major changes to the way we treat animals."

In Chapter 2 titled: How We Minimize Animal Suffering and How We Can Change, Linzey's aim is to: "identify and illustrate what might be described as . . . "intellectual mechanisms that prevent us form recognizing sentience in animals or that help to limit its significance." "Second, I aim to consider ways in which animal abuse is socially perpetuated through the phenomenon called 'instutionalisation.'"

Under the subtitles of 1. The power of mis-description, 2. The power of misrepresentation, 3. The power of misdirection, 4. The power of misperception, Linzey goes to great lengths in analyzing social mechanisms that minimize and perpetuate animal suffering.

Another excellent point from this book:

"But is it true that rational comprehension always or generally heightens suffering? The general claim is less well founded." Linzey later continues, "They experience the raw terror of not knowing." " . . . the frustration of their natural freedoms may well induce more suffering than we allow. Human suffering, on the other hand, can be softened by an intellectual comprehension of the circumstances." Linzey, of course, continues with more very insightful ethical examples and arguments.

In the Conclusion, Linzey points out defects in Singer's ethical arguments (PETA's Singer): "1. flies in the face of the historic trajectory of concern for animals and children as constituting a common cause; 2. fuels the popular, but misguided, view that concern for animals is misanthropy or leads to the displacement of human rights; and 3. places in juxtaposition one of the strongest theoretical commonalities of ethical concern." (I know some hunters like to use the misanthropy "card" so they can continue having "rights" to laugh and enjoy shooting arrows into the faces of deer). This is what I dearly love about Linzey: he transcends Christianity and even transcends today's leading animal-friendly ethicists.

Andrew Linzey is an accomplished ethicist in his own right, and he is also an accomplished theologian. Linzey is a genius--he's absolutely brilliant, and you will NOT find a better leader or author in the animal liberation movement. He has dedicated more than 40 years to the animal liberation movement, has incredible insight, knowledge, does incredible research, and I HIGHLY recommend two of his other books, "Animal Gospel" another unbelievably excellent book, and "Animal Theology."

I suggest to fully appreciate this very brilliant man, brilliant ethicist, British Priest, Professor, and theologian who has great knowledge, a great mind, who does incredible research, represents Christianity as it should be, gets to the very roots of animal abuse and puts it all in writing. All you have to do is read this book. How easy does it get?! As I have mentioned in my previous reviews on Andrew Linzey's books, we did not have such studies and powerful allies to the animal rights movement back in the 60's. There were people and organizations that were unfolding, but I felt totally alone at 15 when a doctor defended vivisection by stating animals do not suffer--only humans suffer. Today, this statement is viewed as rubbish, but I felt helpless and angry at the time. Young people should take full advantage of the education available and spiritually powerful and educated people and writers--especially Andrew Linzey--to learn from and spread this knowledge. All the darkness in the universe cannot snuff out the light of a single candle. In fact Linzey says, "Ever more sophisticated arguments, with greater and greater nuance, can be devised in defence of the indefensible, so even breathtakingly obvious acts of barbarity can acquire an appearance of intellectual respectability." Activists need these kinds of books and allies as intellectual ammunition to cast light upon the darkness.

(I had anticipated using the title of this review, "Raising the Bar" and "Beyond the Expected" for "Levitate," Bruce Hornsby's new album, but I will instead use this title to honor this far more deserving book. (See my take on hunting & Bruce's lyrics in my "Levitate" review and in my profile. Linzey's ethics on Hunting in my "Levitate" review are included in this book.)

Note: Vivisection in Italy is done on fully-awake dogs--their vocal cords are cut in order that they do not disturb the medical students at the medical schools. This is still going on today as it was going on 40 years ago--under the eyes of the Catholic Church.

States Mark Rowlands, Professor of Philosophy, University of Miami, "This book, I believe ranks as one of his finest works--perhaps even the finest."

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