Tom Regan, Pioneer Animal Rights Philosopher Died February 17 But His Work & Influence Endure

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

“My tribute to philosopher Tom Regan, who wrote The Case For Animal Rights,
and*
*who died on February 17, 2017 after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease, is
a*
*slightly expanded version of the Comment I posted yesterday morning to
Merritt*
*Clifton’s beautifully composed obituary for Tom in Animals 24-7 which you
can*
*read here: Tom Regan, 78, made the case for animal rights
<http://www.animals24-7.org/2017/02/18/tom-regan-78-made-the-case-for-animal-rights>.*

Thank you Merritt Clifton for your informative tribute to animal rights
philosopher Tom Regan, whom I met in the early 1980s right around the time
that
his book *The Case For Animal Rights* was published in 1983. Since that
book was
more academic than Peter Singer’s *Animal Liberation*, published in 1975,
was, it
probably was more dipped into by activists than read cover to cover. But
Regan
transcended Singer by arguing that nonhuman animals have not only
“interests”
but RIGHTS and INHERENT VALUE. Sentient beings, in his famous phrase, are
Subjects-of-a-Life in the sense that “their experiential life fares well or
ill
for them, logically independently of their utility for others and logically
independently of their being the object of anyone else’s interests.”

Accordingly, he wrote that nonhuman animals “have a distinctive kind of
value
– inherent value – and are not to be viewed or treated as mere
receptacles,” a
point he stressed at length in *The Case For Animal Rights* and throughout
his
career.

In later years, Regan criticized Singer’s acquiescence in scientific
experiments
on nonhuman animals if the experiments were claimed by the experimenters to
have
a potential to save more HUMAN lives or to mitigate more HUMAN diseases.
Regan
challenged the media’s reflexive reference to Singer as the “father of
animal
rights” which, he said in a discussion about making monkeys suffer for human
benefit, is not so. He wrote: “The Peter Singer interviewed on the BBC2
program
does not believe that nonhuman animals have basic moral rights. As early as
1978, three years after the publication of Animal Liberation, he explicitly
disavowed this belief.” (Tom Regan Replies to Peter Singer
<http://animalfreedom.org/english/column/peter_singer.html>)

Tom Regan in his work following *The Case For Animal Rights* evinced a
lyrical
gift, writing expressively and movingly about animals and about his own
early
life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and his evolution from being an avid
boyhood
fisherman and meat eater to becoming a passionate vegan advocate for
animals and
animal rights.

A True Pioneer

Tom Regan is a true pioneer of the Animal Rights Movement. He laid
philosophical
groundwork even for those who may not now know him as well as they should
and, I
hope, will. Regan had an emotional and artistic sensibility which he
combined
with his academic polemics to produce powerful speaking and writing for
animals
and animal rights.

I attended his outdoor presentations in the 1980s and later, where he said
of
the Establishment versus himself: “They say we’re EXTREMISTS for caring
about
animals! I AM an EXTREMIST. I am EXTREMELY against animal abuse, and I am
against it All the Time!”

This is a paraphrase of a speech I heard him give one year. It was
passionate
and fiery and interesting too when you compare that oratory with his
earliest
foray into animal rights in a clip from The Animals Film
<http://www.theanimalsfilm.com> where he appears
reading from a paper with his head down, but delivering words that echo in
all
of us who are working for animals and animal rights to this day and always
will.

I am eternally grateful to Professor Tom Regan for his establishment, in
philosophy and the arts, of the case for animal rights. And I am honored by
his
kind words of appreciation for my own animal rights work through United
Poultry
Concerns in his 2013 Interview with the Eugene Veg Education Network, which
you
can – and must! – read here:

Eugene Veg Education Network Interview with Tom Regan
<http://www.eugeneveg.org/pdf/Interviews/Interview-Tom_Regan.pdf>

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2 thoughts on “Tom Regan, Pioneer Animal Rights Philosopher Died February 17 But His Work & Influence Endure

  1. So sad to hear about Tom Regan. He was such a tireless worker, writer, and advocate. The earth is an emptier place for the animals who needed him so much.

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