Feminism and Animal Ethics

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In the latest issue of Tikkun, Josephine Donovan illuminates animal ethics through a feminist lens.  Developed in the 1980s largely in response to books like Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation and Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights, the feminist approach to animal care interrogates systems that govern human interaction with animals, such as hierarchical dualism, which values humans over animals.  Donovan questions Singer and Regan’s utilization of natural rights theory to justify their arguments, since it assumes an inherent similarity between humans and animals in order to defend the individual rights of animals.  She calls for an animal care ethic that instead recognizes the differences between humans and animals without privileging one over the other.  In this way feminist engagement with animal care theory attends to both the suffering of individual animals and the political and economic systems which support that suffering.

It should be interesting to note how evolving language around the ethical treatment of animals will infuse related issues, such as sustainable agriculture and global food supply.


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