Henry Salt Archive

Henry Salt (1853-1939) was the author of the Life of Henry David Thoreau, Animals Rights and A Plea for Vegetarianism which inspired Gandhi for follow a vegetarian diet.

Animals' Rights review

Nature, Volume 47 Number 1204, 24 November 1892

THIS little volume is divided into three main parts, the principle upon which the rights of animals are founded, the various ways in which they have been infringed, and the reforms necessary to secure their full recognition. Notwithstanding, however, the logical form in which the subject is thus set forth, the book is absolutely useless both from the ethical and the practical points of view. In the first place the author nowhere attempts to define the relative value of the lower animals as compared with the human race, and although he certainly allows that they possess less “distinctive individuality,” he condemns the use of the terms by which they are commonly designated (such as dumb beast, live stock, or even animal), on account of the imputation of inferiority which is involved in them.


He seems to be totally unaware that not only is the natural affection of animals far less enduring, and their intellect immeasurably weaker, but that of morality, i.e. the doing of right for right's sake alone, unswayed by personal feeling or the influence of others, they have absolutely no conception whatever. Ignoring, however, these fundamental distinctions from which the subjection of animals inevitably follows, Mr. Salt at once proceeds to enunciate his theory of their rights. This whole question, however, is thrown into absolute chaos by the fact that, for subsequent dealing with the practical aspects of his subject, the author has equipped himself with not merely one but two definitions of animals' rights, differing from each other so widely that while the one involves the unconditional prohibition to kill, eat, or use any harmless animal, the other would admit of all these things being done for good cause shown. Thus on page 9 we find that they have the right to live their own lives with a due measure of that restricted freedom of which Herbert Spencer speaks, i.e. the freedom to do that which they will, provided they infringe not the equal liberty of any other.


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