Ten Years of Animal Liberation

Modern Meat: Antibiotics, Hormones, and the Pharmaceutical Farm

by Orville Schell
Random House, 337 pp., $17.95

Farm Animals: Husbandry, Behavior, and Veterinary Practice

by Michael W. Fox
University Park Press, 285 pp., $25.00

Of Mice, Models, and Men: A Critical Evaluation of Animal Research

by Andrew N. Rowan
State University of New York Press, 323 pp., $39.50

Victims of Science: The Use of Animals in Research

by Richard D. Ryder
National Anti-Vivisection Society (London), revised edition, 190 pp., £3.75 (paper)

Man and Mouse: Animals in Medical Research

by William Paton
Oxford University Press, 174 pp., $6.95 (paper)

All That Dwell Therein: Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics

by Tom Regan
University of California Press, 249 pp., $18.95

The Case for Animal Rights

by Tom Regan
University of California Press, 425 pp., $24.95

Animals and Why They Matter: A Journey Around the Species Barrier

by Mary Midgley
University of Georgia Press, 158 pp., $7.95 (paper)

Rights, Killing, and Suffering: Moral Vegetarianism and Applied Ethics

by R.G. Frey
Basil Blackwell, 256 pp., $29.95

Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals

by R.G. Frey
Oxford University Press (Clarendon Press), 176 pp., $27.95


The rise of the animal liberation movement, in the view of a number of commentators, is to be traced back to the publication of my essay “Animal Liberation” in these pages just over a decade ago. That essay was followed by the book of the same title, which was also published by The New York Review.1 What has happened, in theory and in practice, in the intervening years?

The essential aim of the essay and the books was to show, on a rational and philosophical level, that nonhuman animals are an oppressed group. We treat them as if they were things to be used as we please, rather than as beings with lives of their own to live. In both the essay and the book, I singled out two practices as involving the largest and yet least known forms of animal exploitation: animal experimentation and factory farming. To see whether the animal liberation movement has made any practical difference, then, we must look at what has happened since to both practices.

One change is that animal experimentation is no longer a little-known form of animal exploitation. Ten years ago there were long-established antivivisection organizations which had kept alive a tradition of concern for laboratory animals; but their followers were widely regarded as irrelevant cranks, and their effect on curbing the use of laboratory animals was nil. When some of these organizations were founded, more than a century ago, the number of animals used each year in the United States was in the hundreds; it has since risen to somewhere between 60 and 100 million. Ten years ago, there was not a single recorded instance of an experiment on animals being discontinued because of the activities of those opposed to animal experimentation.

As far as farm animals were concerned, the situation was even more depressing. There simply were no organizations interested in the fact that hundreds of millions of factory farm animals are, every moment of the day, denied such elementary freedoms as the space to walk a few steps, to turn around, and even to stretch their limbs.

The animal liberation movement has yet to have an effect on the conditions of American farm animals. Here the United States lags behind other countries. In Europe and Australia there is now considerable public concern about the confinement of laying hens in small wire cages, and of pigs and veal calves in stalls so small they cannot walk a single step or even turn around. Switzerland has passed legislation to phase out the cage system for hens; the West German state of Hesse recently announced that it would follow suit; in Britain a House of Commons agriculture committee recommended the same step. Throughout Western Europe and Australia, “free range eggs” from unconfined hens are widely available in health food stores, and consumers understand the difference. Yet Americans buying their eggs at the supermarket still seem wholly unaware of the fact that the hens who laid them live crammed five…

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