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Animal advocacy
Animal husbandry
Animal protection
Animal rights
Animal welfare
Animal welfare industrial complex
Animal-using industries
Conflict of Interest
Conscientious objection
Critical thinking
Doctrine of necessary evil
Happy Meat
Humane myth
Humane slaughter
Non-participation and Non-cooperation
Non-violent social change
Open Rescue
Path of Conscience
Plant-based diet
Privilege of domination
Values-based activism


An approach to animal ethics championed by philosopher Peter Singer, an advisor to a number of prominent animal advocacy organizations. Singer's Utilitarianism is based on the idea that right and wrong are determined not by principle or a code of values, but by the consequences of our actions. In simple terms, the ends justify the means. This has troubling implications for a cause based on justice and compassion.

While Singer believes that the interests of both humans and nonhumans should be considered, and that we should generally make decisions that advance the preferences and decrease the pain for the greatest number, he does not speak in terms of individual rights for any beings, human or nonhuman. This opens the door to the idea that under the right circumstances, it is acceptable to use others as a means to an end, even if such use involves taking the other's life.

Singer makes it quite clear that according to his philosophy, using and killing other animals is not in itself morally wrong, and that the results may even be savored as a "luxury." In a 2006 magazine interview he said, "I can imagine a world in which people mostly eat plant foods, but occasionally treat themselves to the luxury of free-range eggs, or possibly even meat from animals who live good lives under conditions natural for their species, and then are humanely killed on the farm."

Hence, while Singer's organization is called "Animal Rights International," and he is frequently and mistakenly described as the "father of animal rights," it may be more accurate to describe him as the father of the humane myth.

Singer's teachings have persuaded many to believe that living according to a code of values is little more than indulgence in a sense of personal purity, and that those who truly care for animals must be willing to put their values aside and adopt the ends-justify-the-means approach in order to serve the greater good. This has led many animal advocates to recommend to the public "humane" animal products and husbandry practices that actually violate their own personal values, presumably because by doing so, they are "reducing suffering" more than they would with a values-centered approach.

The extent to which Singer is willing to approve the use, domination, and manipulation of others is remarkable for someone who claims to be an advocate for compassion and justice. He has, for example, spoken favorably of genetically engineering chickens with no brains, no wings, and making other "improvements" that would remove behavioral characteristics such as the instinct to nest, all as means of "reducing suffering."

As critics point out, Singer's comfort with assuming the privilege of determining whose life is worth living, and whose is not, becomes a matter of great concern when it influences cultural norms or is implemented in the form of policies that actually affect the lives of vulnerable individuals. His arguments in favor of euthanizing infants with birth defects, for example, have drawn considerable protest and condemnation from advocates for differently abled people.