Book Review: “A Vegan Ethic” by Mark Hawthorne

A Roadmap to Ethical Living and Social Justice


“If veganism is about doing your best to not harm any sentient life, we must logically extend that circle of compassion to human animals as well,” observes Mark Hawthorne in this concise, engaging guide to veganism and animal rights that illustrates in clear language the benefits of avoiding meat, eggs, and dairy, as well as clothing, entertainment, and other products that exploit animals.

AVeganEthicBookCoverAlong with proven advice for going and staying vegan, essential information regarding plant-based nutrition, and answers to common questions about ethical eating, such as “Isn’t ‘humane meat’ a good option?” and “Don’t plants feel pain?,” A Vegan Ethic draws on the work and experiences of intersectional activists to examine how all forms of oppression—including racism, sexism, ableism, and speciesism (a prejudice that assigns greater moral significance to human animals than to other species)—are connected by privilege, control, and economic power.

The book covers five main topics: animal rights, veganism, human rights, the environment, and creating a more compassionate world. The author argues that while the animal rights movement might be regarded as separate from other social justice movements, it is part of the same fundamental struggle against domination, inequity, and exploitation. To this end, he weaves into the narrative the work of activists who take a holistic approach to social justice; rather than being single-issue, they recognize how social justice issues overlap, and they work to develop collaborative strategies for finding solutions. They understand that part of living compassionately means not limiting one’s empathy to a single group.

“Only through cooperation and alliances among all liberation movements will we achieve our universal goal of emancipation,” writes Hawthorne, who proposes that fully embracing a life of compassion toward all—humans and nonhumans alike—is our best chance for creating the kind of world we dream of.

Photo: Mark Hawthorne
Photo: Mark Hawthorne

Review by Maria Barry

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