Animal Rights.

Author:Silverstein, Barry
Position:Book review

Paul Waldau (author); ANIMAL RIGHTS; Oxford University Press (Nature) $16.95 ISBN: 9780199739967

Byline: Barry Silverstein

According to the 2009/2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of US households own a pet, representing over 71 million households. Many pet owners treat the domesticated animals in their households as members of the family. It may therefore surprise these pet owners to learn that not everyone agrees animals should have rights.

Paul Waldau explains that the term "animal rights" has come to mean "moral rights and social values in favor of compassion and against cruelty," but in contemporary life, it also refers to "the possibility of legal rights" for animals. The extent to which societies create legal rights and protections for animals is the subject of current and active debate.

This is the intriguing issue Waldau raises in his remarkably comprehensive book, Animal Rights. Writing in clear, simple language and with considerable authority, Waldau begins with a discussion of "The Animals Themselves," a thorough examination of animal classifications, followed by the philosophical arguments, historical and cultural issues, political realities, social realities, and other key issues related to animal rights. Waldau also addresses what students are taught about animals in schools, how the field of "animal studies" has evolved, and the role of natural and social sciences in contributing to people's understanding of animals.

In each of the book's sections, Waldau uses the technique of asking and answering important...

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