Richard D. Ryder

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Richard D. Ryder (2012)

Richard Hood Jack Dudley Ryder (born 1940) is a British writer, psychologist, and animal rights advocate.


  • Since Darwin, scientists have agreed that there is no ‘magical’ essential difference between human and other animals, biologically-speaking. Why then do we make an almost total distinction morally? If all organisms are on one physical continuum, then we should also be on the same moral continuum. … The only arguments in favour of painful experiments on animals are: 1) that the advancement of knowledge justifies all evils – well does it? 2) that possible benefits for our own species justify mistreatment of other species – this may be a fairly strong argument when it applies to experiments where the chances of suffering are minimal and the probability of aiding applied medicine is great, but even so it is still just ‘speciesism’, and as such it is a selfish emotional argument rather than a reasoned one.
    • "Speciesism" (1970). Reported in Speciesism, Painism and Happiness: A Morality for the Twenty-First Century by Richard D. Ryder (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2011), Chapter 2.
  • Consciousness is of paramount importance to all of us. By definition it is the universe of our awareness. On the assumption that many other species are conscious or sentient I have suggested that our morality is based upon a concern for all sentients-which I have called sentientism, although I could equally have called it consciousism (but that is even more horrible as a word!). Pain and pleasure are the two great poles of consciousness, between which all sentients swing ... .
  • The 1960s revolutions against racism, sexism and classism nearly missed out the animals. This worried me. Ethics and politics at the time simply overlooked the nonhumans entirely. Everyone seemed to be just preoccupied with reducing the prejudices against humans. Hadn’t they heard of Darwin? I hated racism, sexism and classism, too, but why stop there? As a hospital scientist I believed that hundreds of other species of animals suffer fear, pain and distress much as I did. Something had to be done about it. We needed to draw the parallel between the plight of the other species and our own. One day in 1970, lying in my bath at the old Sunningwell Manor, near Oxford, it suddenly came to me: SPECIESISM!

Experiments on Animals (1971)

Experiments on Animals, in Animals, Men and Morals: An Inquiry into the Maltreatment of Non-humans, New York, 1971. ISBN 0-394-17825-4
  • Misleading may be the claims that procedures [of animal testing] are carried out under anaesthesia. Restraining devices and paralysing drugs can today be so effective that an anaesthetic is often unnecessary from the purely practical point of view. The risk of giving a dose too large and thereby losing an expensive chimpanzee, for example, may often tempt a scientist or technician, inexperienced with sophisticated anaesthetic techniques, to give a dose too small, from which the animal quickly recovers — but not of course until after it has been strapped securely to the operating table.
  • Differences in reaction to toxic substances vary considerably between species so that the value of these tests remains doubtful. Although thalidomide was extensively tested on animals in several countries, its terrible properties were not discovered. Conversely, penicillin, the greatest medical discovery of the century, was not extensively tested on animals before its miraculous therapeutic qualities were demonstrated in human patients. If it had been fully tested on animals its high toxicity for guinea pigs would have almost certainly prevented its clinical use.
  • Sometimes captured from the great arboreal freedom of their jungle homes, monkeys are closely confined in cages only three or four feet square. … They can never sit or lie down on a flat, soft or yielding surface. Little wonder that by the time they are needed for the knife or the needle they are so crazed or inert that they are no longer representative examples of animal life. Psychologists who study the behaviour of thousands of such creatures annually, rarely make allowances for the fact that their pathetic subjects have been so deprived that they have become more like monsters than animals. Many people who have experienced close affectionate relationships with individuals of other species testify to the considerable potential for emotional and intellectual development that animals have. When properly cared for a pet dog or cat can develop great subtleties of behaviour that the laboratory animal never shows. Those who have been fortunate enough to closely observe unfrightened animals living in the wild are often struck by the complexity and richness of the life they lead. These positive pleasures the laboratory animal never knows; for him the same four white walls and the smell of disinfectant.

Painism: A Modern Morality (2001)

  • Our first moral concern should always be with the individual who is the maximum sufferer.
    • p. 29.
  • It is always wrong to cause pain to A merely in order to increase the pleasure of B.
    • p. 30.
  • … it is less imperatively my duty to give pleasure than it is to alleviate pain. If someone else is not actually suffering then it seems more acceptable to leave to them … the provision of their own pleasures.
    • p. 56.
  • Their experiences may be more simple than ours, but are they less intense? Perhaps a caterpillar’s primitive pain when squashed is greater than our more sophisticated sufferings.
    • p. 64.
  • Perhaps there is too much talk of justice, equality and liberty in political philosophy, and not enough about suffering. It is suffering that matters morally …
    • p. 95.
  • We have an obligation to try to reduce the pains of others, wherever they are, and however the pains have been caused.
    • p. 100.

Putting Morality Back Into Politics (2006)

  • [P]olitical policy should be based, not upon mere opinion, nor upon a set of knee jerk reflexes, but upon a scientific concern for the facts and an intelligent and open moral argument.
    • p. 1.
  • Idealism itself can become dangerous. But going too far in the other direction, towards relativism, amoral expediency and opportunism, is equally perilous.
    • p. 4.
  • A sound moral argument requires both factual and moral premises. Yet there has been little intelligent dialogue at either level. The mumbling of slogans must no longer suffice. We must demand more of our leaders …
    • p. 7.
  • [C]ertain moral imperatives are, rightly, considered to transcend national boundaries. What, after all, is so imperative about geography? Suffering is global.
    • p. 65.
  • [W]hat, ultimately, should politics be aiming for? What is the underlying moral objective? … None of the traditional political ideals … provides a satisfactory moral basis for politics today.
    • p. 65.
  • Are there then any moral foundations on which we can all agree, at least to some extent? I believe there are and that they are these: pain is bad, and so, causing unnecessary pain to others is wrong.
    • p. 67.
  • [The] habit of totalling pains and pleasures across individuals is one of the main errors in ethics today.
    • p. 70.
  • Just as nobody pursues happiness in order to find anything other than happiness, so nobody strives to reduce pain to reduce anything other than pain. Pain is always at the end of the track: it is the ultimate and essential badness. 'Painful' and 'bad' are synonymous in the mind of the child and, at a basic level, in all our minds.
    • p. 73.
  • In judging who are the maximum sufferers politicians must, today, cast their eyes around the whole globe and take into account the sufferings of all races, religions and species.
    • p. 79.
  • What we should be concerned about is the happiness of individuals. Applying rights may be a rough and ready rule of thumb for doing this, but painism would be a far more accurate approach. It might require more detailed research into the consequences of policies on individuals but that, in principle, could be done. Indeed, to base public policy upon scientific findings would be a considerable step forward.
    • p. 91.
  • The implication of painism is that political policies should extend to individuals of all nations, races, and species on an 'equal pain equal treatment' basis.
    • p. 95.
  • Ethics, as a rational enterprise, will often conflict with other, more negative, aspects of our natures and help to curb our natural impulses to conquer, compete, and kill. By putting morality back into politics and basing our policies upon our compassion and upon the sufferings of all individuals, regardless of their superficial differences, we should be able to build a happier future.
    • p. 96.
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