Nearly half a century after he helped raise global awareness about animal welfare and inspired the animal rights movement with the publication of his book, Animal Liberation, the Australian bioethicist and Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer has updated his influential work in a new edition titled Animal Liberation Now.
Released last May, the new edition of the 1975 book provides valuable insight into the evolving attitudes toward animals, including those shaped by Christian ethics.
Citing what he referred to as the “remarkable spread” of Singer’s ideas on how we ought to treat animals, author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted in a June 10 article that veal crates, hen cages and confined stalls for sows are now prohibited in at least nine states and the European Union.
Additionally, wrote Kristof, Pope Francis (who chose his papal name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism renowned for his famous gesture of embracing animals as if they were his own brothers and sisters) has hinted at the belief that not only do animals have a place in Heaven, but has also suggested that the Virgin Mary mourns the suffering of mistreated livestock.
Kristof went on to state that major American supermarket chains have committed to selling exclusively cage-free eggs by 2026, a move mirrored by McDonald’s. Further, he referred to a 2016 decision by a court in Argentina that the rights of habeas corpus extend to a chimpanzee, while both Israel and California have instituted bans on the sale of fur coats.
More recently, Charles C. Camosy, a Catholic moral theologian at St. Joseph Seminary in New York and a professor of Medical Humanities at the Creighton University School of Medicine, interviewed Singer for a Religion News Service article about the influence of Christian ethics on his book.
Asked about his involvement with Christian ethics regarding the sanctity of human life, Singer responded that the topic is highly significant in the realm of bioethics, because it has far-reaching implications for matters such as abortion, euthanasia and the ethical considerations surrounding the decision to allow individuals to die by either withdrawing or withholding treatment.
“It is also relevant when we try to answer when it is wrong to kill nonhuman animals,” Singer said, adding: “And I’m waiting for a pope to say that raising animals in factory farms is a misuse of God’s creatures, and Christians ought not to support this abuse by eating products from animals who have been treated in this way.”