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Animal Rights Movement Loses an Icon

February 17, 2017 Updated: February 29, 2024

The animal rights movement has lost one of its most influential voices – Tom Regan. As a renowned philosopher who specialized in animal rights theory, he helped pioneer the movement and paved the way for all those, including Animal Equality, who would come after him. His influential book, The Case for Animal Rights, helped create the modern animal rights movement. In it he points out that just like humans, all animals are what he called “subjects-of-a-life” and have “moral rights.” Just a few years after the release of The Case for Animal Rights, he and his wife Nancy co-founded the Culture and Animals Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes a positive concern for animals. Together with fellow philosopher, Peter Singer, he had also written Animal Rights and Human Obligations which examined ethical considerations in the treatment of animals by human beings. Like most of us Tom grew up eating meat and going to zoos but it was upon the untimely death of his beloved dog Gleco, that he began to grasp the moral truth that demanded he go vegetarian. He was morally unable to use animals for meat, clothing, or any other purpose that did not respect their rights. He once said, “It is not an act of kindness to treat animals respectfully. It is an act of justice.” He acknowledged the many challenges that lay ahead but as an activist, he was dedicated to fulfilling his vision for animals: “All great movements go through three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption. It is the realization of this third stage, adoption, that requires our passion and our discipline, our hearts, and our heads. The fate of animals is in our hands.” Tom Regan, through his intellect and wisdom, gave strength to a movement that has empowered millions of people to choose compassion towards animals.

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