Jagannath University students discuss the philosophy of animal rights

On Tuesday, December 3, 2019, the Department of Philosophy at Jagannath University in Dhaka, Bangladesh hosted a day-long workshop on the life and philosophy of American philosopher Tom Regan. The workshop was conducted by Wilson John Simon, a researcher at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and me. We were invited by the Chairperson of the Department of Philosophy, Professor Siddhartha Shankar Joarder, who also moderated part of the discussion.

About 60 students and faculty members attended the workshop, exploring Regan’s life as well as his philosophy of animal rights. Students worked in groups and prepared presentations on a wide range of topics, including Mahatma Gandhi’s pacifism, which was Regan’s original inspiration to think more deeply about our duties to non-human animals, the concept of speciesism, and its relation to racism and sexism, Gandhi’s and Regan’s moral arguments for vegetarianism, and the distinction between legal and moral rights. Workshop participants further talked about the unique challenges of first-generation college students and college students from working-class backgrounds, and the relationship between scholarship and activism. The discussion was passionate, diverse in opinions, and at times heated, but always respectful and constructive, as good philosophy should be. It was a lesson in how philosophy can help us think more clearly about moral issues we face in our everyday lives, and call into question beliefs we normally take for granted.

At the conclusion of the workshop, each participating student received a free copy of the Bangla translation of Regan‘s The Philosophy of Animal Rights, which was published by Dhaka-based Dyu Publication last year. The translation, which was produced with the help of philosophers from the University of Dhaka and Jahangirnagar University, is available online at animalrightsinbangla.wordpress.com.

The Bangladesh Post reported about this event on Thursday, December 5, 2019: