Tom wrote a brief autobiography, Bird in a Cage, in which he describes his childhood and emerging interest in social justice, animal advocacy, and philosophy. His reflections about his life and other biographical information were gathered by Laura Moretti for a special edition of her magazine, The Animals’ Voice. This material in turn was collected on the website she curates, tomregan.info. The Culture & Animals Foundation is grateful to Laura and The Animals’ Voice for her commitment to the life and work of Tom Regan, and for letting us use some of the information on the CAF website.
Tom had a long and distinguished academic career, most especially at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where he was Emeritus Professor of Philosophy. During his more than thirty years on the faculty, Tom received numerous awards for excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching; was named University Alumni Distinguished Professor; published hundreds of professional papers and more than twenty books; won major international awards for film writing and direction; and presented hundreds of lectures throughout the United States and abroad. In 2000, he received the William Quarles Holliday Medal, the highest honor NC State University can bestow on one of its faculty. He is widely regarded as a pioneering spokesperson for the philosophy of animal rights.
In 2016, Tom Regan was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame. That year, Lantern Books asked Tom’s friends, colleagues, and attendees of the International Compassionate Living Festival over the years to reflect on Tom’s life and CAF’s work. The nine videos can be found here. These videos are now archived at the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive.
- The Raleigh News & Observer
- Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at NC State University
- The Daily Nous
Tom was a prolific writer. Among his books, three are considered the most important in understanding his life work: The Case for Animal Rights (1983); Bloomsbury’s Prophet: G. E. Moore and the Development of his Moral Philosophy (1986); and Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights (2004).
When it was first published, The Case for Animal Rights was immediately recognized as a “modern classic.” “Unquestionably the best work yet to appear in its field,” one reviewer wrote; “beyond question the most important philosophical contribution to animal rights,” wrote a second; “[b]y far the best work on the subject, and will continue to be the definitive work for years to come,” wrote a third. Translated into Italian, Swedish, and Dutch soon after its original publication, The Case for Animal Rights was published in Chinese in 2010. A second edition of Case, with a new Introduction, was published by the University of California Press in 2004. Empty Cages was translated into Chinese, Spanish, Italian, and Swedish.
Other books by Tom that explore and defend animal rights are:
- All That Dwell Therein: Essays on Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics (1982)
- Animal Sacrifices: Religious Perspectives on the Use of Animals in Science (1986)
- The Struggle for Animal Rights (1987)
- The Thee Generation: Reflections on the Coming Revolution (1991)
- Defending Animal Rights (2001)
- The Animal Rights Debate, with Carl Cohen (2001)
- Animal Rights, Human Wrongs: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy (2004)
For its part, Bloomsbury’s Prophet helped re-energize and redirect scholarship on G. E. Moore in particular and the study of early twentieth-century British philosophy in general. In addition to Bloomsbury’s Prophet, Tom’s other major contributions to Moorean scholarship were Moore: The Early Essays (1987) and G. E. Moore: The Elements of Ethics (1991). He was co-founder and past president of the Moore Society.
Tom co-edited with philosopher Peter Singer the groundbreaking Animal Rights and Human Obligations (1976), and Animals and Christianity: A Book of Readings (2007) and Other Nations: Animals in Modern Literature (2010) with Rev. Andrew Linzey. Tom’s work on animal rights was the subject of considerable critical analysis over more than three decades. The most recent volume to examine his thinking and contribution is The Moral Rights of Animals, edited by Mylan Engel, Jr. and Gary Lynn Comstock (2016).
In 2014, Tom revisited a passion that had animated him before he became a philosopher: writing fiction. He published two books of short stories: A Better Life and Other Pittsburgh Stories and Maud’s Place and Other Southern Stories.
Tom’s major film awards for writing and directing included the Silver Medal for “We Are All Noah” (International Film Festival of New York, 1986) (Part One here and Part Two here.) and the Gold Medal for “Voices I Have Heard” (Houston International Film Festival, 1988). Tom also gave many public speeches and was interviewed numerous times. Here is a selection of some of those speeches and interviews (more can be found at tomregan.info):
North Carolina public television in 1987:
At a rally in Los Angeles in 1988:
At the Royal Institute in the UK in 1989 (excerpt]:
Interview by Pat Kenny on the Late, Late Show in Ireland in 2000:
In 2014, for a Greek animal and environmental advocacy group:
Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive
In 2000, North Carolina State University Libraries established the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive. This consists of notes, letters, manuscripts and typescripts, books and pamphlets, and audiovisual materials documenting Tom’s work, as well as other material relating to the history of the animal advocacy movement. You can access the Animal Rights and Welfare archive here. Tom Regan’s papers can be found here. To learn how you can support the archive, please click here.