Why Suffering Matters

Andrew Linzey / Oxford University Press / 224 pages

The very title of Andrew Linzey’s book is likely to evoke an emotional response, but Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics makes a rational, ethics-based case for treating animals humanely. With well-supported arguments, it debunks the twin ideas that emotion is all there is to support the proposition that animal suffering is wrong, and that there are “no rational grounds for objecting to our current treatment of animals.”

The author juxtaposes “differences” and “morally relevant” differences, and examines those between animals and humans that humans use to justify exploiting animals. He doesn’t deny that differences exist, but he demonstrates that "the moral conclusions drawn from [them] are almost entirely mistaken....The differences so often regarded as the basis for discriminating against animals are…the grounds for discriminating in favour of them.”

At the end of the book, Linzey summarizes his position trenchantly: “...the world would be a better...place if we worked on the assumption that the infliction of suffering on all sentient beings, both human and animal, should be regarded as morally unacceptable and proscribed by law. We need to reject the institutionalization of animal suffering.” To his adherents, Linzey has provided the tools for making this case on moral, ethical and rational, rather than emotional, grounds. To his opponents—and society at large—he has given the opportunity to reconsider their treatment of animals and the rational basis for changing their behavior.

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