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Uplifting Literature

“The Lives of Animals”: A Powerful Discussion on the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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“Animals can’t speak for themselves. It’s up to us to do it.”– Dr. J.M. Coetzee “The Lives of Animals” is a short novel written by South African-born Dr. John Maxwell Coetzee, or J.M. Coetzee, a novelist, linguist, essayist, activist, and translator. Dr. J.M. Coetzee has been acclaimed internationally and received many awards for his work, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003, as well as two Booker Prizes. A strong advocate for the animal rights movement, John Coetzee is vegetarian. He is also a patron of Voiceless, an Australian non-profit animal protection organization. In 2008, he wrote to “The Irish Times” newspaper to oppose the use of vivisection on animals at Trinity College in Dublin, saying: “There is no good reason — in fact there has never been any good reason, scientific or pedagogical - to require students to cut up living animals.” “The Lives of Animals,” published in 1999, is a short novel which began as a Tanner Lecture on Human Values at Princeton University. “The Lives of Animals” is a powerful speech about the need for a change in consciousness in human attitudes and practices regarding animals. Dr. J.M. Coetzee tells the story of a famous fictional novelist named Elizabeth Costello. She is speaking at the fictitious Appleton College in Waltham, where her son, John Bernard, is an assistant professor of astronomy and physics. Elizabeth Costello presents various points of view on the moral status of animals. She focuses on the fact that animals, like humans, have bodies with feelings and senses. On the basis of this similarity, animals should be given the same rights as humans. Elements of philosophy, literature, and deep human conviction unite in this prized literary work, as Dr. J.M. Coetzee uses this debate format to present his own beliefs on an ethical reorganization of human relationships with animals.
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