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Europe’s ethical eggs

By Peter Singer PRINCETON: Forty years ago, I stood with a few other students in a busy Oxford street handing out leaflets protesting the use of battery cages to hold hens. Most of those who took the leaflets did not know that their eggs came from hens kept in cages so small that even one bird …


The death penalty – again

By Peter Singer PRINCETON: Three significant events relating to the death penalty occurred in the United States during September. The one that gained the most publicity was the execution in Georgia of Troy Davis, who had been convicted of the 1989 murder of Mark McPhail, an off-duty police officer. Davis’s death sentence was carried out despite …


Can we increase gross national happiness?

By Peter Singer PRINCETON: The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is known internationally for two things: high visa fees, which reduce the influx of tourists, and its policy of promoting “gross national happiness” instead of economic growth. The two are related: more tourists might boost the economy, but they would damage Bhutan’s environment and culture, and …


A planet for all apes

By Peter Singer MELBOURNE: Two new movies released this month — one a science-fiction blockbuster, the other a revealing documentary — raise the issue of our relations with our closest non-human relatives, the great apes. Both dramatize insights and lessons that should not be ignored. Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the …


Does anything matter?

By Peter Singer OXFORD: Can moral judgments be true or false? Or is ethics, at bottom, a purely subjective matter, for individuals to choose, or perhaps relative to the culture of the society in which one lives? We might have just found out the answer. Among philosophers, the view that moral judgments state objective truths has …


When prevention is better than relief

By Peter Singer PRINCETON: When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March, Brian Tucker was in Padang, Indonesia. Tucker was working with a colleague to design a refuge that could save thousands of lives if — or rather, when — a tsunami like the one in 1797 that came out of the Indian Ocean, some …


A universal library

By Peter Singer MELBOURNE: Scholars have long dreamed of a universal library containing everything that has ever been written. Then, in 2004, Google announced that it would begin digitally scanning all the books held by five major research libraries. Suddenly, the library of utopia seemed within reach. Indeed, a digital universal library would be even better …


Global justice and military intervention

By Peter Singer MELBOURNE: The world has watched in horror as Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi uses his military to attack protesters opposed to his rule, killing hundreds or possibly thousands of unarmed civilians. Many of his own men have refused to fire on their own people, instead defecting to the rebels or flying their planes …


Sticking to it

By Peter Singer MELBOURNE: Sometimes we know the best thing to do, but fail to do it. New Year’s resolutions are often like that. We make resolutions because we know that it would be better for us to lose weight, or get fit, or spend more time with our children. The problem is that a resolution …


Is open diplomacy possible?

By Peter Singer PRINCETON: At Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson, who was president of the university before he became president of the United States, is never far away. His larger-than-life image looks out across the dining hall at Wilson College, where I am a fellow, and Prospect House, the dining facility for academic staff, was his family …


Clarity about diamonds

By Peter Singer PRINCETON: Diamonds have an image of purity and light. They are given as a pledge of love and worn as a symbol of commitment. Yet diamonds have led to gruesome murders, as well as widespread rapes and amputations. Charles Taylor, a former president of Liberia currently facing war crimes charges at a special …


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