Beyond Animal Rights: Humanity’s Relationship with Pets


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In Beyond Animal Rights, Tony Milligan is very clear in establishing his intent on investigating the basis of humanity’s current connection and relationship with animals. Humans have pets for personal pleasures and entertainment, wish no harm upon them yet the majority, will comfortably consume meat of other animals whilst petting their own. This sense of contradiction that humans carry regarding animals, is one Milligan investigates throughout the book by bringing light to the process of how humans consume and constantly mass produce animal products without a second thought.

First of all, the book includes a fine selection of stimulating debates that consider ethical demands when assessing the treatment of animals by humans. Milligan’s approach to tackle these topics is successfully completed by breaking down each aspect into a chapter. These chapters vary from ‘Meat-eating’ debates to shedding light on the ‘Unwritten Contract’, ‘Vegetarianism and Puritanism’, ‘Diet and Sustainability’, ‘Impossible Scenarios’, ‘Love for Pets’ and the controversial topic of ‘Experimentation’. It is clear that the correlation between every chapter is the focus on what humans are choosing to eat and understanding that this choice is potentially bringing unwarranted suffering upon other creatures and themselves– since the harm is inevitably moving towards humanity itself [lactose intolerance rates increasing]. During the first few chapters, Milligan aims to find the moral justification behind cultural demands, animal interests and humans subjective reasonings.

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Moreover, the impact of the high demand in the meat industry it has on the planet correlates heavily with increased environmental concerns, upon which Milligan challenges throughout the book by evaluating the insensitive business model within markets, conveying rational debates and statistics. The next chapters focus on humanity’s relationship with pets and animal experimentation where the topics start to significantly differ in comparison to the food matters presented in earlier chapters. Yet, Milligan delivers them in a thought-provoking method that complements the book in a crucial and provocative manner. For instance, humans are very aware of the concept that [every act, every choice, has a consequence]. In Beyond Animal Rights, Milligan showcases these consequences involve harming ‘sentient beings’ which humans have a duty to care for – and choose to do so in many cases (pets). This is apparent when Milligan investigates ethical consequences within animal experimentation, bringing light to the hypocritical treatment of pets as compared to other animals.

As such, the topics in which Milligan presents throughout the book are investigated in a refreshing and explanatory way that attracts a variety of readers with different background knowledge on animal ethics. Whether the reader consumes meat on a regular basis, or is absolutely a raw vegan, they will surely find a way to enjoy the book in a valuable manner. This is further proven by Milligan’s dedication to not commit solely to ‘virtue ethics’ and [rival theories] since he believes that the points written within the book will be better understood when having a different mental position. It is therefore assumed that the book will be of much interest to those who potentially carry the same position as him – ‘pluralists about ethics’. He believes this brings him and the reader to deliberating ethical matters in a way where it is possible to be [constrained by a variety of reasons] instead of a [simple binary matter] where either [one thing should be done or the opposite]. Again, this is bound to interest readers from different fields of literature as his position relies on context-based points where most cannot deny upon deliberation.

Although much of the ‘vegetarianism’ material that is given within Beyond Animal Rights relates to and is addressed formerly in academic works by Peter Singer and Stephen Law, Milligan is able to have an original and personalised style that makes the book an appreciated written piece of work that caters to all. Instead of lecturing the reader, his writing form is presented as a conversation-style. With that being said, it is clear that Milligan has an expertise in the field as the research is evidence-packed with sources reliant on scenarios. This means that the book is bound to establish its own important contribution to its field. One of the many strengths within this book, is that the writing is presented in an appealing format that showcases his arguments in a very structured and persuasive approach. For instance, it is obvious to the reader that Milligan’s opinions come from a vegan standpoint, yet he successfully establishes an objective and impartial point of view when addressing both sides to every argument. Another strength is the factual quantitative data used to provide evidence, garnering a deeper insight on meat-eating and vegetarianism, i.e. the [UK has 1.8 million vegetarians which is more than the number of Muslims in the country]. This is clear when he recognises that a big problem with deliberating whether animals have the right to not be eaten, is the fact that it [encourages an all or nothing approach], which humans will most often have difficulties trying to adjust to or find as ‘morally acceptable’.

In conclusion, the book pursues to make the reader aware that whilst it is important to assess and understand the full picture of how as a collective of humanity, we have arrived to consume animals, it remains unjustifiable. In many conditions, Milligan recognises and stands by the belief that it is unnecessary for humans to consume in such mass rates. Despite so, he reassures the reader throughout the book that his standpoint is not one of extreme ‘moral absolutism’, but of one that recognises the causes and subjective needs of individuals that follow lifestyles other than that of vegetarianism or veganism. Hence, Milligan effectively accomplishes writing his arguments in a both wholesome and academic style that is delivered in a meticulously transparent way. Utilising this style is bound to invite readers from many different positions as their opinions are assured to be voiced within the arguments of Beyond Animal Rights. As such, it can be deemed that this is what makes a book successful in its field – when it effectively caters to all – as this guarantees a positive impact that may unknowingly lead to a change of habit or lifestyle. In this case, our food consumption. 

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