From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on animal ethics, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on animal ethics. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader 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’s 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 Animal Rights Debate – Francione & Garner
Category: General Introduction | Length: 288 pages | Published: 2010
Publisher’s description: Gary L. Francione is a law professor and leading philosopher of animal rights theory. Robert Garner is a political theorist specializing in the philosophy and politics of animal protection. Francione maintains that we have no moral justification for using nonhumans and argues that because animals are propertyor economic commoditieslaws or industry practices requiring “humane” treatment will, as a general matter, fail to provide any meaningful level of protection. Garner favors a version of animal rights that focuses on eliminating animal suffering and adopts a protectionist approach, maintaining that although the traditional animal-welfare ethic is philosophically flawed, it can contribute strategically to the achievement of animal-rights ends. …
The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics – Tom L. Beauchamp & R.G. Frey
Category: Overview | Length: 1008 pages | Published: 2014
Publisher’s 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 Animal Ethics Reader – Susan J. Armstrong & Richard G. Botzler
Category: Anthology | Length: 768 pages | Published: 2016 (3e)
Publisher’s 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…
Animal Liberation – Peter Singer
Category: Classic | Length: 368 pages
Publisher’s 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’s 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.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Ethics and Animals – PHIL 174a | Harvard University
- Ethics and Animals – New York University
- Animal Ethics – Phil 381 | Eastern Kentucky University
- Animal Bioethics – PHIL 543 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on The Moral Status of Animals
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Animals and Ethics
If you want to learn more about animal ethics, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Eight Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Eight Best Introductory Books on Ethics
- The Seven Best Books on Applied Ethics
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.