Illustrations for animal rights, animal ethics, welfare & conservation
18 March 2014
What is a Subject of a Life?
We are all subjects of a life
What is a Subject of a Life? Just as your life story is uniquely yours, so every
animal also has a unique life story. We are all individuals going through life.
Each of us is a ‘subject of a life’, an expression that conveys a feeling for
how similar we all are. In other words we are all equally weird under the skin. The phrase ‘subject of a life’ was popularised by
the American philosopher and animal rights advocate Tom Regan (1938 - ). What
Regan means by subject of a life is that each animal is a unique life story,
just as the story of your life is peculiar to you and no one else, and in this
sense animals are like us. Regan says we must change our perception of animals
from things - objects we use - to animals with lives of their own, independent
of us and our use of them. Regan says that even if subjects of a life cannot
make moral choices or talk like humans, "what happens to them matters to
them", so they should have moral rights.