Review by Tim Beaumont of
The Moral Status of Animals by Stephen R.L. Clark
Review in the Catholic Herald dated 12 October 1984:
The reader with a soft spot for animals will pick up this book with
eager anticipation. First issued by the Oxford University Press as a
hardback in 1977, and written by a distinguished Christian Professor of
Philosophy, it is guaranteed not to be another of the rather hysterical
books on animal welfare, more heart than head, which flood from the
publishers these days.
But the reader is in for a rude shock. It is indeed a well-thought
out book and he will pursue the first two chapters with approval. But
then he will find that the argument has led him into a discussion of
vegetarianism and there the book stays. The Whole Status of Animals,
Professor Clark declares, demands that you do not eat them!
I suspect that when they realise this a lot of people who, like me,
are omnivores will lay the book aside. If they wish to continue with
their accustomed diet they will be wise. For, with sledgehammer blows
and at times, not without acrimony, the author will demolish the
arguments they have always relied on (if they have seriously thought
about the matter at all).
Michael Frayne once divided people into "herbivores or gentle
ruminants who look out from their lush pastures, which are their natural
station in life, with eyes full of sorrow for less fortunate creatures,
guiltily conscious of their advantages, though not usually ceasing to
eat the grass" and "the carnivores who believe that if God had not
wished them to prey upon all smaller and weaker creatures without
scruple he would not have made them as they are".
This is a brilliant and most disturbing book. Be warned.
Return to Reviews