Peter Singer was born July 6, 1946 in Melbourne Australia. His parents, Cora and Ernst Singer, escaped Nazi-Vienna in 1938. Singer grew up in Melbourne and eventually attended the University of Melbourne. He earned both his B.A in philosophy in 1967 and M.A in philosophy in 1969. He later enrolled at the University of Oxford, earning his B.Phil degree in 1971. He remained at Oxford for two years working as a Radcliffe Lecturer in Philosophy. While in England, Singer became a committed vegetarian. In 1975, he released his controversial publication Animal Liberation: A New Ethics For Our Treatment of Animals. His argument gave moral standing to animals, and brought light to the mistreatment of animals at factory farms and in laboratory research. Singer embraces the philosophy of utilitarianism, where the best actions are those than maximize happiness and reduce suffering. In 2004, Singer was named Australian Humanist of the Year and was also named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people.
Peter Singer and Animal Rights:
Singer contends in the book Practical Ethics that "having accepted the principle of equality as a sound moral basis for relations with others of our own species, we are also committed to accepting it as a sound moral basis for relations with those outside our own species - the nonhuman animals" (Singer 1979). As a pillar of the animal rights movement, Singer believes that animals should be treated with the same rights as human beings. Singer however, does not consider himself an animal rights advocate, as he doesn't think "rights" is the correct terminology for the issue. He looks at the issue in terms of equality between humans and animals. He understands that there are some platforms where humans and animals are not equal, like in politics, where animals couldn't be given the right to vote. Singer believes, however, that animals share our ability to suffer and enjoy, which should lead to a moral equality between all species. He thinks that an animal's pain should count as much as our own pain. Singer does not believe that we should ignore the pain of animals, just because they aren't a part of our own species. He believes we should give equal "consideration to the interests of all beings that have interests... irrespective of their species..." (Singer). Singer sees the line between human and animal as arbitrary, with a human and an ape being much more similar than an ape and an oyster, but latter two are considered animals while we as humans are not. He also popularized the term "speciesism", which is the practice of privileging humans over animals. Singer is additionally a proponent of veganism and is against animal experimentation, except when there is a clear benefit for medicine. He also believes that the Western production method for meat is cruel, unhealthy, and damaging to our ecosystem. He thinks the current methods are unnecessary to keep up with the growing population since these production animals have to eat food specifically grown for them, that are just used up by the animal's day to day metabolic needs.