Thursday, January 6, 2011

If reading were required, and worked!

“On Their Own Terms: Bringing Animal-Rights Philosophy Down to Earth” – Lee Hall’s second book in behalf of animals – pretty well sums up its point of view in those first four words. If all animals could live “on their own terms,” that of course would not include their being eaten (and often bred for that purpose alone); used as lab guinea pigs; hunted; skinned or otherwise murdered for their skins and/or fur . . . and on and on.

Hall’s basic and oft-repeated recommendation is for people to become vegans. Then, animals would no longer be hunted or eaten. Nor would animal by-products be called for. If animals lived on their own terms, they would never opt for a laboratory life! Or for “service” (a.k.a. slavery) to humans, in its many unnatural and constraining forms. (Goodbye to K-9s, seeing-eye dogs and all the rest.) They would be free!

She carefully distinguishes between animal “welfare” and “rights.” Though often (erroneously) used interchangeably, they are not the same. Only free animals can have rights. As for animal welfare, that applies to captive animals – elephants in circuses and zoos; lab animals; dairy cows and their calves; pigs raised for slaughter -- and even domestic animals like cats and dogs.

Such captives obviously have no rights; that would be a contradiction in terms. Their lives have already been determined, alas. The most that can be done for them is look to their welfare – e.g., don’t separate baby elephants from their moms; ensure bigger crates for sows; stop docking cows’ tails; give chickens access to the outdoors. In other words, make their miserable, unnatural lives a bit more comfortable.

This book is so loaded with information, insight and commentary that a single blurb doesn’t suffice. That's why I'll be quoting from it in this blog, both separately and as part of other posts.

(On Their Own Terms. . . . by Lee Hall. Nectar Bat Press, Darien, CT and c. 2010)


Nicole said...

I read Lee Hall's first book, Capers in the Churchyard, and found it very intriguing. A lot of my own complex/intangible ideas about animals and advocacy were finally put into words that made sense! It helped me better understand what I already inherently felt. I am really looking forward to reading her second book. Thanks for the great review!

Lea said...

So happy that you are reviewing this book. On Their Own Terms is brilliant. It's the best animal rights book I have ever read. Nicole put it perfectly in her comment above- it helps me understand and put into words how I feel. Anyone who reads this book will be a better advocate for animals. I'm so grateful to Lee Hall for writing it. Love this book.

Jim said...

Thank you for reviewing this book. What a concept - On Their Own Terms. Imagine living your life on anything but your own terms. Sadly, this plays out 16 billion fold annually for land and sea animals consumed/used in the United States. Lee Hall's writing has made me pursue vegan outreach vigorously and animal activism passionately. Lee is urging us all to live our lives with integrity. Strength, courage and perseverance prevail when you have the necessary vocabulary to speak articulately on these issues. I now have the words that anchor and ground me and give me the confidence to speak clearly on these subjects. Thanks to Capers and On Their Own Terms and hearing Lee speak on two occasions in person I have freedom from fear for myself and the courage to bring myself fearlessly to others that don't have the luxury of quiet contemplation.

Ellie said...

I welcome "On Their Own Terms" by Lee Hall as essential to animal rights advocacy. I think it's good to see this viewpoint explored, and I appreciate this opportunity on your blog. Here's my view of the book.

Hall considers vegans in the context of veganism, which goes beyond rejection of animal products. There's more than one good reason for being vegan -- for our health; the environment we all depend on; and to spare nonhumans the inherent cruelty in farming and other exploitation -- but one reason might not include the others. If we are vegan for health or environmental reasons, we might not care about nonhuman animals or encourage veganism, which supports respect for all living beings, regardless of species, and rejects all forms of discrimination and oppression. Hall's book is also important, because if we don't understand animal rights advocacy, we may not act in that interest. It's veganism and understanding animal rights that will bring about change.

Hall explains the difference between "welfare" and "rights" -- and also the difference between real animal welfare and husbandry reforms. A genuine concern for animal welfare would reject animal farming and other exploitation. Moreover, it would admit these reforms are not significant improvements; cannot be monitored; can devastate the lives and habitats of free-living animals; and are a boon to the industries.

Cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals do not have rights, not even the right to stay alive when owners decide they should die. Add to the billions of nonhuman beings killed in agriculture and other industries, the millions of homeless animals who are killed each year -- that's to say nothing of the many healthy and treatable pets who are killed by private vets at the behest of owners who are unwilling or unable to care for them. Our right to own them and to deny their rights permits this. Clearly, as Lee Hall explains, we should take care of dependent animals and reconsider the pet keeping system. The realities of animal use are all the more reason to cherish the interests of free-living animals.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to discuss this book. Ellie Maldonado

Friends of Animals said...

"On Their Own Terms" is available for order on at: