You don't have to be an animal rights activist to take an interest in how we treat other creatures. All of us are complicit because all of us, with few exceptions, use animals in some way. How we define 'use' or exploitation should be broad: everything from enjoying a steak or poached eggs, to riding a horse, to keeping a cat as a pet. Animal use is so deeply engrained in our daily lives that we barely notice it. But also we might choose not to look because we are uncomfortable about how some animals are farmed. On the other hand, animal use might not be noticed because, in the case of wildlife 'management', it is unaccountable, taking place behind fences, or is deliberately secret as is the case in animal research.
An animal's capacity to suffer is not related to the way it is protected by the law, and most killing of wildlife uses methods known to be inhumane. The vast majority of decisions about animal exploitation take little or no account of public opinion and the science of animal welfare. Meanwhile, most vets spend a lot of their time facilitating society's exploitation of animals: helping them grow well so we can eat them, ensuring they recover from going lame so we can ride them, and stopping disease so they don't poison us. These are the veterinary services we don't like to talk about.
Unlike other considerations of animal ethics, this timely and incisive book offers practical insights into the various ways in which animals are exploited and sets out alternatives based on utility, a recognition of animal sentience and the involvement of wider society in key decision-making. It makes compelling reading for anyone who has an interest in animals, whether wild or domestic, free-living or captive, people intrigued about how their food is produced, and those keen to make informed and intelligent decisions.
1. The Exploitation of Animals
2. Why Aren’t All Animals Treated the Same Way?
3. The Welfare of Farmed Animals: an Overview
4. Grazing Animals: the Best, and Some of the Worst
5. Pigs, Poultry and the Rest
6. Snares, Guns and Poison: the ‘Management’ of Wildlife
7. Conservation: Exploitation with Clear Limits?
8. Recreation, Sport and a Little Food
9. Pets: Exploitation Begins at Home
10. Animals Used in Research
11. A Personal Ethical Framework
12. Making Sense of It All
Glossary and Abbreviations
Alick Simmons is a veterinarian and a naturalist. After a 35-year public service career controlling epidemic diseases of livestock, in 2015 he began conservation volunteering. As well as practical tasks such as surveying waders and catching cranes, he advises a number of conservation organisations on animal welfare and ethics.
"A rigorous, balanced and highly readable examination of the various ways we exploit the animals we live alongside. Full of good story-telling and the distilled wisdom from a distinguished career in the field."
– Ian Carter, author of Rhythms of Nature and Human, Nature
"Alick Simmons has written an important book. And he's written it well!"
– Hugh Brazier
"Treated Like Animals is a thought-provoking analysis of the inconsistencies in the way we treat both wild and domesticated creatures, told with passion, fascinating detail and a huge depth of knowledge and experience. Alick Simmons deserves praise for reminding us of the often-uncomfortable truth about our relationship with our closest relatives."
– Stephen Moss, author and naturalist
"This book shines an expert and unflinching light on the uncountable harms that we inflict on other animals. It could easily leave the reader mired in despair but, with great skill, and by recounting his own personal journey, mistakes and recent decisions, Simmons illuminates a path towards redemption. A book to convince us all that we can, and should, do better by our fellow creatures."
– Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare, Royal Veterinary College, University of London
"This is a gem of a book. Alick writes, 'Ethical dilemmas don't have easy solutions' and that statement becomes abundantly clear as you venture through the chapters, from pet-owning, livestock farming, animal research, through to conservation and wildlife management. Refreshingly, Alick neither castigates nor judges, but rather leads the reader through these contentious issues with gentle, considered and well-reasoned views that are hard to ignore and supported by a thorough reference section. I found a few of my own hard-wired views challenged and it's prompted me to reconsider and re-evaluate parts of my personal ethical framework. I know this is a book I'll keep returning to."
– Ruth Tingay, conservationist and co-director of Wild Justice
"Animals are sentient beings, with capacity to experience both suffering and joy. Alick takes this as his starting point and brings his huge veterinary experience to this book, along with his honesty and desire for reform. The result makes for a highly informative and thought-provoking read."
– Joyce D'Silva, Compassion in World Farming
"A thoughtful, well-informed contribution to the animal-welfare and conservation debate."
– Jane Dalton, The Independent
"An important book at a crucial time in our lengthy relationship with the animals we exploit. Thoughtful, informative and firm, Simmons skilfully leads us through the complex maze of animal welfare issues and brings us to a stark realisation – for all that we have done, we must do better."
– Professor Adam Hart, biologist, broadcaster and author of Unfit for Purpose
"This fascinating and engaging book challenges us all to make better lives for animals."
– Chris Packham, broadcaster and author of Back to Nature
"In Treated Like Animals Alick Simmons provides an insightful, informed and comprehensive account of how British society treats animals. As a former UK deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Simmons has held a ringside seat on animal health and welfare policy for 35 years. His observations are authoritative and informed, and compassionate but pragmatic. Essential reading for all those interested in how we treat animals, and what we can do in our own lives to make the lot of animals better."
– Steven McCulloch, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Studies, University of Winchester
"This is a brilliant book and I recommend that you buy it and read it."
– Mark Avery, author and environmental campaigner
"Anyone with an interest in welfare and standards when it comes to all aspects of human/animal interaction should be eagerly anticipating this insightful new book from Alick Simmons. He writes with expertise and knowledge, posing questions rather than passing judgement."
– James Chubb, farmer and conservationist
"Wide-ranging and extensively researched, cogently argued while impressively modest, Alick Simmons' debut is an accomplished, thought-provoking work that asks all the right questions of our relationship with animals while supporting us to provide our own answers."
– James Lowen, author of Much Ado About Mothing
"An extremely informative and thought-provoking book that everyone with an interest in animal welfare should read. Traditional farming, industrial rearing of livestock for food, game management, wildlife conservation, pest control, sport shooting, pets and vivisection all come under the microscope with the author's keen eye for detail and completeness. Fearless to the last page, this book dares ask the questions we all too often gloss over."
– Dr Steve Carver, @LandEthics, Director of Wildland Research Institute
"A brave and fearless book, asking us to explore our own relationship with the animals we exploit, from food, to pet ownership to animals used for sports."
– Gill Lewis, vet and children's author
"This important, readable, thoughtful, clear book forces us to confront head on the results of our relationships with animals, whether in farming, conservation, medical research, sport or pet ownership [...] I found myself mulling over the facts and the polemic and felt enriched by the obvious care and kindness the author feels for all life. There are no easy answers to many of the issues, not that are palatable to a wide range of people, but we can lay it all out, warts and all, and refuse to hide difficult truths, and this book does that admirably."
– Mary Colwell, author of Beak, Tooth & Claw
"Treated Like Animals provides the reader with a comprehensive, accessible and very readable insight into the myriad ways we exploit animals [...] The book also provides a template for how readers might better develop their own approaches to this complex and emotive subject, and how the choices we all make and the actions we take individually and collectively can make a difference, without preaching or proscribing. It's a must-read for anyone with an interest in our relationship with animals and will challenge many to think again about animal welfare issues we currently ignore or avoid."
– Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy, Born Free Foundation
"Building on his own long experience as a veterinarian working with farmers, government, conservationists and researchers, Simmons lifts the lid on some uncomfortable truths about the way society (especially UK society) treats animals. His approach pulls no punches, but it is thoughtful and broad-ranging – and ultimately hopeful: rather than pressing a particular conclusion, he encourages his readers to develop their own ethical framework for considering the consequences of their actions. It's an informative and thought-provoking look at a topic which is often out of sight and out of mind, which everyone should read."
– Rosie Woodroffe, Biologist, Zoological Society of London
"Marvellous: clear-headed, clear-sighted, rigorously unsentimental but compassionate, impeccably informed and researched, and downright wise. A companionable guide through complex and controversial territory. It deserves to be a canonical text in the welfare debate."
– Charles Foster, author of Cry of the Wild and Being a Beast
"Simmons writes with passion and authority on a wide spectrum of human-animal interactions. The evolution of his own personal perspective, based on utility – can animal suffering be justified by how people benefit? – will provide much food for thought for those of us who seek answers to these frequently difficult moral dilemmas. It is a thought-provoking and fascinating read which should appeal to scientists and the public alike."
– Amy Dickman, Director of WildCRU, University of Oxford
"Alick Simmons has written an engrossing and hugely important book taking us into the moral maze surrounding the human exploitation of animals. Treated Like Animals is a groundbreaking and timely book and should be required reading not only for vets but for everyone who is concerned about the way we use animals in every aspect of our lives."
– Dominic Dyer, animal welfare campaigner and writer
"This is a lucid, persuasive and deeply thought-provoking contribution on our relationship with animals. In what can be a highly polarised and contested debate Alick Simmons' view is characterised by clarity, honesty, conscience – and above all carefully argued positions across a wide range of circumstances. Whatever your view of our relationship with animals, this book will extend and deepen it – and with it our collective need to improve."
– Steve Ormerod, Professor of Ecology, Cardiff University
"Stimulating, challenging, and important."
– Hugh Warwick, ecologist and author of Linescapes