JnU hosts discussion on philosophy of animal rights

The Department of Philosophy of Jagannath University (JnU) hosted a day-long workshop on the life and philosophy of American philosopher Tom Regan at the university premises on Tuesday.

The workshop was conducted by Dr Rainer Ebert, a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in the United Kingdom, and Wilson John Simon, a researcher at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Dr Ebert and John Simon were invited by the Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy, Professor Siddhartha Shankar Joarder, who also moderated part of the discussion.

Regan (1938-2017) was a professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State University. He was known largely for his work on ethical questions regarding the treatment of non-human animals. He developed a theory of animal rights, which he put forward in his well-known book, ‘The Case for Animal Rights’. The book was translated into several languages and had an enormous impact, securing a place for the idea of animal rights on both the philosophical and the public agenda.

About 60 students and faculty members attended the workshop, exploring Regan’s life as well as his philosophy of animal rights. Students worked in groups and prepared presentations on a wide range of topics, including Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifism, which was Regan’s original inspiration to think about our duties towards non-human animals, the concept of speciesism, and its relation to racism and sexism, Gandhi’s and Regan’s moral arguments for vegetarianism, and the distinction between legal and moral rights. Workshop participants further talked about the challenges of first-generation college students and college students from working-class backgrounds, and the relationship between scholarship and activism. The discussion was passionate, diverse in opinions, and at times heated, but always respectful and constructive, as good philosophy should be. It was a lesson in how philosophy can help us think more clearly about issues we face in our everyday lives, and call into question beliefs we normally take for granted.

At the conclusion of the workshop, each participating student received a free copy of the Bangla translation of Regan‘s ‘The Philosophy of Animal Rights’, which was published by Dhaka-based Dyu Publication last year. The translation, which was produced with the help of philosophers from the University of Dhaka and Jahangirnagar University, is available online at animalrightsinbangla.wordpress.com.