The Seven Best Books on Animal Ethics

This page contains a list of the seven best books on animal ethics. It was created by crowdsourcing required readings from the following university course syllabi:

Having a browse through university course syllabi is probably the best way to find readings on whatever topic you’re looking for. However, some people will be looking for a short and easy introduction to animal ethics, while others would prefer a longer and more detailed analysis. That’s why each book on this list is sorted into one of the following categories to help you choose the type of book that suits you best:

  • Pop-Nonfiction
  • Short Textbook
  • Comprehensive Textbook
  • Anthology
  • Classic

For more information on what these categories mean and how this list was constructed, see: Methodology and Criteria for Building Reading Lists. Here are the seven best books on animal ethics in no particular order:

The Ethics of What We Eat – Singer & Mason

Category: Pop-Nonfiction | Length: 337 pages | Published: 2007

Peter Singer, the groundbreaking ethicist whom The New Yorker calls the most influential philosopher alive teams up again with Jim Mason, his coauthor on the acclaimed Animal Factories, to set their critical sights on the food we buy and eat: where it comes from, how it is produced, and whether it was raised humanely.

The Ethics of What We Eat explores the impact our food choices have on humans, animals, and the environment. Recognizing that not all of us will become vegetarians, Singer and Mason offer ways to make healthful, humane food choices. As they point out: You can be ethical without being fanatical.

Animals and Ethics: An Introduction – Lori Gruen

Category: Short Textbook | Length: 246 pages | Published: 2011

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.

Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions – Sunstein & Nussbaum

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 352 pages | Published: 2005

Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum bring together an all-star cast of contributors to explore the legal and political issues that underlie the campaign for animal rights and the opposition to it. Addressing ethical questions about ownership, protection against unjustified suffering, and the ability of animals to make their own choices free from human control, the authors offer numerous different perspectives on animal rights and animal welfare. They show that whatever one’s ultimate conclusions, the relationship between human beings and nonhuman animals is being fundamentally rethought. This book offers a state-of-the-art treatment of that rethinking.

The Animal Ethics Reader – Armstrong & Botzler

Category: Anthology | Length: 768 pages | Published: 2016

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.

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.

The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics – Beauchamp & Frey

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 1008 pages | Published: 2014

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.

Animal Liberation – Peter Singer

Category: Classic | Length: 368 pages | Published: 2009 (updated edition)

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 | Published: 2004 (updated edition)

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.

Related Topics

If you’re interested in animal ethics, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Consequentialism | Effective AltruismEmpathy | EthicsJusticeMoral Psychology | Vegetarianism

Not sure if you want to commit to reading a full book on animal ethics? You can find a collections of videos, podcasts, and articles on animal ethics on this page.


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And if you know of any books that should be on this list, please leave a comment below and I will add it. Or get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.

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