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Empty Cages by Tom Regan

EMPTY CAGES: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights is a non threatening, courteous but uncompromising book that explains animal rights to ordinary Americans and invites them to join in the struggle for animal liberation.

Tom Regan's journey from butcher to animal rights advocate is a common thread used throughout the larger narrative. For example, it helps explain who animal rights activists (ARAs) are (we’re not a motley crew of misanthropic social misfits hell bent on terrorizing the local furrier), how different people become ARAs (there’s no one-size-fits-all answer), what we believe, why we believe it, and how (when given the opportunity) we can defend our convictions against the most challenging objections.

The role the media plays in misinforming the public about ARAs is explained as is the power exercised by the major animal user industries. Roughly speaking, the public has a negative image of ARAs because this is the picture presented by the media, and the media presents this picture because this is the one that serves the interests of the major animal user industries—who just happen to pay a lot of advertising dollars, for example.

EMPTY CAGES unmasks the rhetoric of these industries and shows why what their spokespersons say about their treatment of animals (these industries treat animals “humanely”) is not sometimes false. It is always false. The book helps readers understand why these spokespersons should never be trusted.

EMPTY CAGES takes the reader inside fur mills, the leather industry, factory farms, and the slaughterhouse, among other places. What we find is not pretty. What we find is truth. And the truth is anything but “humane.” The public will never demand change in how animals are treated if they do not know how animals are treated. EMPTY CAGES provides readers with the necessary knowledge, far surpassing any other book on the market in the depth and breadth of its coverage.

The animal rights movement is not going anywhere (except backwards) if too few people want to make its goals a reality. Among the major impediments to real progress is the behavior of ARAs. Paradoxically, we can be the animals’ worst enemy. Sometimes we are self-righteous. At other times we get so caught-up in staging outrageous or tasteless media opportunities that we give animal rights a bad name. These and other “turn-offs” (including vandalism and other forms of violence) are explored. Readers are encouraged not to generalize on the basis of the behavior of a few. Not all ARAs engage in violence, for example, just because a small handful do.

EMPTY CAGES is written in a relaxed, conversational style. Although the topic is serious, humor finds a place. Above all, it tells a story filled with faith and hope: faith in the goodness of humanity, hope for a better future for the animals.

The foreword, a sample chapter, the contents, and reviews of the book may be accessed from the links below.


A few years ago, the Home Box Office network aired a program entitled “To Love or Kill: Man vs. Animals.” It told a fascinating and, at the same time, a disturbing story about how different cultures treat the same animals differently. One especially chilling segment took viewers out to dinner in a small Chinese village. You know how, in some American restaurants, patrons get to choose from among live lobsters or live fish? MORE

The book you are holding in your hands is, in my estimation, the single best introduction to the topic of animal rights ever written. Nobody has done more to articulate what “animal rights” means and should mean than Tom Regan. Universally recognized for decades as the leading philosophical spokesperson of the animal rights movement, Tom Regan’s views have always been radical, in the original sense of that word, going to the root. MORE

For an overview of the chapters and other sections of Empty Cages, please visit Contents.

Chapter One: Who Are You Animal Rights Activists Anyway?
Do animals have rights? Different people give different answers. Sometimes people give different answers because of a disagreement about the facts. For example, some people believe cats and dogs, chickens and hogs do not feel anything; others believe they do. Sometimes different answers are given because of a disagreement over values. For example, some people believe animals have no value apart from human interests; others believe the opposite. MORE

Leading advocates in the struggle for animal rights share their views about Tom Regan's groundbreaking book, Empty Cages. Read what Paul Watson, Jane Goodall, Jeffrey Masson, Kim Stallwood, and others have to say about this landmark publication.




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