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Mad Cowboy Interview 03: Dr. Tom Regan

"Being kind to animals is not enough. Avoiding cruelty is not enough. Housing animals in more comfortable, larger cages is not enough. Whether we exploit animals to eat, to wear, to entertain us, or to learn, the truth of animal rights requires empty cages, not larger cages."

MS: "How does the concept of a biography not a biology fit into this debate?"

TR: "The central question in the animal rights debate is whether any other animals are like us being "subjects-in-a-life," whether any other animals are in the world, aware of the world, aware of what happens to them, and what happens to them matters matters to them. That's the fundamental question, and the answer to that is "yes," then we have made the case for "animal rights," in my judgment."

MS: "Essentially, you're adding on to what Jeremy Bentham said about the question being not whether they can reason or talk, but whether they suffer? You're adding something bigger onto this."

TR: "I am. What I'm trying to get at, is that there is somebody who is suffering, not only there is suffering occurring, there is an ongoing individual that has an identity over time. There is this subject of a life, rather than a life without a subject. That's what's crucial. Suffering is relevant, but so is deprivation, so is being able to act on your own without being forced to do so. There are lots of things that don't reduce the suffering to anything relevant."

--- excerpt from the Interview


Dr. Tom Regan (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, North Carolina State University) is universally recognized as the intellectual leader of the animal rights movement. During his more than 30 years on the faculty, he received numerous awards for excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching; was named University Alumni Distinguished Professor; published hunders of professional papers and more than 20 books; won major international awards for film writing and direction; and presented hundreds of lectures throughout the United States and abroad. Upon his retirement in 2001, he received the William Quarles Holliday Medal, the highest honor NCSU can bestow on one of its faculty.

In that same year, using his donated papers and extensive personal library, the NCSU Library established the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive, the world's leading archival resource for animal rights scholarship. With his wife, Nancy, he cofounded "The Culture & Animals Foundation."

This interview took place by phone in early August 2004. Parts 1 and 2 provide an overview of the acclaimed book "Empty Cages," general AR concepts, controversies, and about Tom's personal life. Parts 3 and 4 focus primarily on the book.

[2014 Note: some of the links have been changed since this interview was conducted. I've tried to flag as many as I could. Here's the primary link to Tom's current website for "Empty Cages" including Foreword, the insightful "cat thought experiment" Prologue, and Chapter One. You can also learn more about Dr. Regan, read interviews, see lectures, buy books, and more at the same website.]



ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND AND RESOURCES

(picture at top from Animal Rights Conference 2003 )