LETTER:Philosophising about the rights of animals

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The Independent Online
From Dr Richard D. Ryder

Sir: May I please defend Peter Singer from the assertion that he "invented animal rights" ("A moral life in this godless world", 13 November).

The concept of animal rights goes back 200 years, to writers such as Thomas Young. Singer avoids the use of this term, adopting instead my concept of speciesism. Singer differs from the rights tradition in ethics and takes a Utilitarian line, in which the interests of the individual can be overruled by the interests of many.

None of this denies Singer's importance culturally; his book Animal Liberation (inspired by the modern revival in this country) was an important trigger for the American revival of interest in animal protection which followed from 1975 onwards.

Yours faithfully,

Richard D. Ryder

Haytor, Devon

13 November

The writer is the author of 'Speciesism' (1970).