For most people, animals are the most significant aspects of the nonhuman world. They symbolize nature in our imaginations, in popular media and culture, and in campaigns to preserve wilderness, yet scholars habitually treat animals and the environment as mutually exclusive objects of concern. Conducting the first examination of animals' place in popular and scholarly thinking about nature, Anna L. Peterson builds a nature ethic that conceives of nonhuman animals as active subjects who are simultaneously parts of both nature and human society.
Peterson explores the tensions between humans and animals, nature and culture, animals and nature, and domesticity and wildness. She uses our intimate connections with companion animals to examine nature more broadly. Companion animals are liminal creatures straddling the boundary between human society and wilderness, revealing much about the mutually constitutive relationships binding humans and nature together. Through her paradigm-shifting reflections, Peterson disrupts the artificial boundaries between two seemingly distinct categories, underscoring their fluid and continuous character.
"Being Animal is a wonderful and most welcomed book in which noted author Anna Peterson convincingly argues that, "The separation between nature and animals is both strange and destructive." Animals, domesticated and wild, are not 'Others', and human constructed boundaries that invariably trump our interests over theirs put us on a very slippery slope that leads us away from whom other animals really are and what they want and need from us. The safety, well-being, and very lives of individual animals count and these beings must be factored into decisions that center more on holistic and broader environmental matters."
– Marc Bekoff, author of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (with Jessica Pierce) and editor of Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation
"In this provocative and beautifully written book, Anna L. Peterson challenges us to think about real animals, not abstractions of them, as part of nature and, therefore, as a necessary consideration for a complete environmental ethic and theology. For too long, environmental and animal ethicists, philosophers and theologians have been taking different paths, rarely interacting directly with each other. Peterson calls for an alternative nature ethic, one that is holistic and includes serious consideration of animals. As she claims and supports through carefully researched examples, and a fascinating reinterpretation of Marx, nonhuman animals are the 'proletariat of environmental thought' and as such they 'demand and embody the negation of human exceptionalism.' Peterson makes a powerful contribution to environmental and animal ethics, building a necessary bridge between these two natural allies."
– Laura Hobgood-Oster, Southwestern University, author of The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals
"[A]n excellent introduction to the issues surrounding animal rights [...] Peterson weaves clear, down-to-earth writing with extensive knowledge of the philosophical debates in animal rights [...] Engaging, stimulating, and well written [...] "
– Quarterly Review of Biology
"Anna L. Peterson uniquely brings together divergent strands of philosophical inquiry and places competing ideas side by side, looking for areas of consensus. She brings into conversation a diverse span of thinkers and ideas, building upon the strengths of various philosophical approaches while avoiding weaknesses."
– Jessica Pierce, author of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
1. Introduction: Animals and Nature
2. Animals in Environmental Perspective
3. Animal Ethics
4. Wild Animals
5. Domesticated Animals
6. The Debate Between Environmentalism and Animal Advocacy
7. Between Animals and Nature: Finding Common Ground
8. Being Animal
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Anna L. Peterson teaches at the University of Florida. Her research focuses on environmental and social ethics and the relations between animal ethics and animal advocacy. Her books include Being Human: Ethics, Environment, and Our Place in the World and Everyday Ethics and Social Change: The Education of Desire.