Two New Peter Singer Interviews
First I have to again say that Peter Singer was influential in the veganization of Mary Martin: in my evolution from cat person to animal person during my college years.
For me and my delicate, cat-person sensibilities, college was a caustic, offensive world that compelled me to examine my relationship with animals wherever there was one, which turned out to be everywhere. And in case I forgot that tidbit of real life, or chose denial for a moment, there were plenty of belligerent, black boot-wearing, CBGB-going, no meat-eating, no drug-doing, Peter Singer-reading, pesky, activist types to remind me.
Though I outwardly chided them for their distasteful techniques and relentless prodding, I credit them for the bulk of my transformation into an animal person. They thought it was their job to make everyone they came in contact with think about how their actions affected animals. They had perfected the art of raising awareness and educating potential animal people with learning tools including: pictures, trips to slaughterhouses (a.k.a., a one-way trip to vegetarianism), statistics, facts about how the animal industries abuse the earth, and of course, the names of famous people who are vegetarians (as a budding English major, I was particularly intrigued when they tossed out H.G. Wells, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Voltaire, and my personal crush, William Blake). They had something for everyone’s hot button.
I read Animal Liberation, probably in 1986, after already ceasing my use of animals, and what I recall as my aha moment was speciesism. I hadn't heard the word before and it helped me make sense of our relationship with sentient nonhumans in a different way.
Regardless of Singer's utilitarianism or his thoughts on infanticide or bestiality, no one can deny his impact on budding vegans and animal rights activists.
Both Shari Rudavsky's "Interview with Peter Singer" and Jill Owens' interview (at Powell's) are in promotion of his new book The Life You Can Save and its companion site www.thelifeyoucansave.com (where we learn that Singer is now on Twitter). I don't disagree with his premise, but it does smack of a pet peeve of mine: judging the philanthropy of others. Each of us is moved to address a unique combination of causes and issues, and I don't know if you can say that the 27,000 children who die, each day, from preventable, poverty-related causes are more important than (fill-in-your-cause), in point of fact. They're more important to Singer, but perhaps finding a cure for bone cancer is more important to you. Or combatting female genital mutilation. Or genocide.
I do agree that many of us can do without much of what we have and do in order to put a larger percentage of our disposable income toward charitable causes (and Singer proposes a very modest percentage allocated to extreme poverty, so it's tough to argue with that part of it). I'll read the book this weekend and give you some highlights/save you some time.
I like the way he talks about what we choose to do also makes a statement about what we choose not to do in this clip: