cover image Ethics Into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement

Ethics Into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement

Peter Singer. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, $22.95 (222pp) ISBN 978-0-8476-9073-2

The eminent philosopher of the animal rights movement skillfully profiles pioneering animal rights activist Henry Spira, whose organization, Animal Rights International, operating on a shoestring budget, has taken on corporate giants like Revlon, Procter & Gamble and Perdue Farms, waging influential campaigns against cruel animal experimentation, against the eating of meat, against the mistreatment of animals on factory farms. Born in Belgium in 1927, Spira, who fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and settled in New York with his family two years later, had no interest in animal liberation until his late 40s. Yet several formative experiences paved the way for his animal rights activism--immersion in left-wing and socialist causes in the 1950s, which led to an undesirable discharge from the Army for ""subversive activities""; his work as a civil rights activist and reporter in the South in the 1960s; his militant unionism as a merchant seaman. Personal tragedies, including the suicides of Spira's father and sister, also propelled Spira's quest to give his life meaning by living according to his values and beliefs. Singer, a meticulous, empathetic biographer, is himself part of the story--Spira was his pupil in a 1974 ethics course, and in 1997 they launched the International Coalition for Farm Animals, meeting with McDonald's executives in efforts to promote more humane treatment of animals used in the firm's products. Without being preachy or polemical, this brilliant, consciousness-raising life story makes a strong case that it's time to phase out the needless suffering of animals. The strategic lessons Singer distills from Spira's career will prove inspirational to a broad range of activists fighting many different types of injustice. Photos. (Sept.)