The Five Best Books on Animal Ethics

Lennox Johnson Books

This page contains a list of the best books on animal ethics. Just to be clear, there is no single best book on animal ethics. The best book for you will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time that you want to spend reading about animal ethics. An 800-page scholarly overview is unlikely to be best for someone looking for a short beginner-friendly introduction, for example. This list aims to take this ambiguity into account by featuring books that will appeal to a variety of learning styles.

Secondly, this is not a list of personal recommendations. It was created by compiling recommendations from a variety of online sources including bibliographies, course syllabi, and community recommendations. You can find out more about this process here. Links to the sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a wider range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.

Here are the best books on animal ethics in no particular order.

Ethics and Animals: An Introduction – Lori Gruen

Category: General Introduction | Length: 250 pages | Published: 2011

Publisher description: In this fresh and comprehensive introduction to animal ethics, Lori Gruen weaves together poignant and provocative case studies with discussions of ethical theory, urging readers to engage critically and empathetically reflect on our treatment of other animals. In clear and accessible language, Gruen provides a survey of the issues central to human-animal relations and a reasoned new perspective on current key debates in the field. She analyses and explains a range of theoretical positions and poses challenging questions that directly encourage readers to hone their ethical reasoning skills and to develop a defensible position about their own practices. Her book will be an invaluable resource for students in a wide range of disciplines including ethics, environmental studies, veterinary science, women’s studies, and the emerging field of animal studies and is an engaging account of the subject for general readers with no prior background in philosophy.

The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics – Tom L. Beauchamp & R.G. Frey

Category: Overview | Length: 1008 pages | Published: 2014

Publisher description: Humans encounter and use animals in a stunning number of ways. The nature of these animals and the justifiability or unjustifiabilitly of human uses of them are the subject matter of this volume.

Philosophers have long been intrigued by animal minds and vegetarianism, but only around the last quarter of the twentieth century did a significant philosophical literature begin to be developed on both the scientific study of animals and the ethics of human uses of animals. This literature had a primary focus on discussion of animal psychology, the moral status of animals, the nature and significance of species, and a number of practical problems. This Oxford Handbook is designed to capture the nature of the questions as they stand today and to propose solutions to many of the major problems. Several chapters in this volume explore matters that have never previously been examined by philosophers.

The authors of the thirty-five chapters come from a diverse set of philosophical interests in the History of Philosophy, the Philosophy of Mind, the Philosophy of Biology, the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, the Philosophy of Language, Ethical Theory, and Practical Ethics. They explore many theoretical issues about animal minds and an array of practical concerns about animal products, farm animals, hunting, circuses, zoos, the entertainment industry, safety-testing on animals, the status and moral significance of species, environmental ethics, the nature and significance of the minds of animals, and so on. They also investigate what the future may be expected to bring in the way of new scientific developments and new moral problems.

This book of original essays is the most comprehensive single volume ever published on animal minds and the ethics of our use of animals.

The Animal Ethics Reader – Susan J. Armstrong & Richard G. Botzler

Category: Anthology | Length: 768 pages | Published: 2016 (3e)

Publisher description: The Animal Ethics Reader is an acclaimed anthology containing both classic and contemporary readings, making it ideal for anyone coming to the subject for the first time. It provides a thorough introduction to the central topics, controversies and ethical dilemmas surrounding the treatment of animals, covering a wide range of contemporary issues, such as animal activism, genetic engineering, and environmental ethics.

The extracts are arranged thematically under the following clear headings:

  • Theories of Animal Ethics
  • Nonhuman Animal Experiences
  • Primates and Cetaceans
  • Animals for Food
  • Animal Experimentation
  • Animals and Biotechnology
  • Ethics and Wildlife
  • Zoos and Aquariums
  • Animal Companions
  • Animal Law and Animal Activism

Readings from leading experts in the field including Peter Singer, Bernard E. Rollin and Jane Goodall are featured, as well as selections from Tom Regan, Jane Goodall, Donald Griffin, Temple Grandin, Ben A. Minteer, Christine Korsgaard and Mark Rowlands. Classic extracts are well balanced with contemporary selections, helping to present the latest developments in the field.

Animal Liberation – Peter Singer

Category: Classic | Length: 368 pages

Publisher description: Since its original publication in 1975, this groundbreaking work has awakened millions of people to the existence of “speciesism”—our systematic disregard of nonhuman animals—inspiring a worldwide movement to transform our attitudes to animals and eliminate the cruelty we inflict on them.

In Animal Liberation, author Peter Singer exposes the chilling realities of today’s “factory farms” and product-testing procedures—destroying the spurious justifications behind them, and offering alternatives to what has become a profound environmental and social as well as moral issue. An important and persuasive appeal to conscience, fairness, decency, and justice, it is essential reading for the supporter and the skeptic alike.

The Case for Animal Rights – Tom Regan

Category: Classic | Length: 474 pages

Publisher description: More than twenty years after its original publication, The Case for Animal Rights is an acknowledged classic of moral philosophy, and its author is recognized as the intellectual leader of the animal rights movement. In a new and fully considered preface, Regan responds to his critics and defends the book’s revolutionary position.


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