It was a simple question: “Why are you avoiding meat?” Richard Keshan’s answer would ultimately change the course of Peter Singer’s life.
Singer posed the query to his fellow Oxford University student in 1970. Their conversation took place in the Balliol College dining hall, after Keshan had opted for a salad instead of spaghetti with meat sauce.
Singer expected his friend to offer religious or health reasons for refusing the meat. Instead, he recalls in the 2013 Vox interview posted below,“… he said that he just didn’t think it was right to treat animals in the way that animals are treated when they are turned into food.”
Surprised by the directness of Keshan’s answer, Singer pressed him for more information. That’s when he first learned of factory-farm animal abuse. He then met some of Keshan’s vegetarian friends and began reading about the importance of their lifestyle.
Within a week or two, he recalls:
“I said to my wife… ‘I think we have to change our diet…I don’t think we can justify participating in a practice that is exploiting animals the way they’re exploited to turn into food.’”
So a chance college encounter led him to become a vegan. Five years later, he wrote Animal Liberation.
Today, Singer’s book is regarded as the definitive classic of the animal-rights movement. It details his reasoning behind the decision to abstain from meat.
He exhorts all his readers to do the same and“…take responsibility for our own lives, and make them as free of cruelty as we can. The first step is that we cease to eat animals.”
Singer’s motivation, however, goes beyond his love of animals as an emotional issue.
To the bioethics professor, factory farm abuses are issues of practical ethics and morality. They became, he says, “… the first real issue in applied ethics that I took up, not merely as an academic question, but that I wanted to change the world about.”
Although Animal Liberation was originally published 45 years ago, its arguments remain relevant – and perhaps more necessary for the world than ever!