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Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  270 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Zoopolis offers a new agenda for the theory and practice of animal rights. Most animal rights theory focuses on the intrinsic capacities or interests of animals, and the moral status and moral rights that these intrinsic characteristics give rise to. Zoopolis shifts the debate from the realm of moral theory and applied ethics to the realm of political theory, focusing on t ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 17th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published November 2011)
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Kramer Thompson
Nov 15, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting political theory of animal rights, although I have three concerns with the general argument.

Firstly, Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that we should grant animals certain political rights (citizenship, denizenship, or sovereignty) based largely on an appeal to autonomy - without these rights, animal communities can't be autonomous. But it's not obvious to me that autonomy (at least in the strong sense we associate with human communities) really is valuable to animals. Animals don't se
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had the pleasure of seeing Will Kymlicka speak this past summer (2012). He set me on fire with his passion and conviction and at that point getting my hands on Zoopolis ceased to be a choice.

The primary premise laid out this text is: The animal welfare movement has gone horribly awry. It has been radically marginalized and has failed to make any meaningful progress towards achieving its goals.

The question then is as follows: What has gone wrong? Why is animal advocacy so ineffective, and wha
Tobias Leenaert
Jul 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
A refreshing and necessary compliment to classical animal rights theory books. Loved the books pragmatism, and the way the authors emphasize that animal rights should not be only about negative things (things not to do to animals) but also about positive duties. It also leaves room for helping animals in the wild (a subject dear to my heart), though it doesn't go as far there as I would go. ...more
Sean Richardson
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
As I understand it, Donaldson and Kymlicka's Zoopolis is something of a must-read for those interested in understanding the contemporary political turn in animal ethics. In this post, I'll discuss the first half of Zoopolis, where Donaldson and Kymlicka explain the theory underlying their proposed way of incorporating animals within political communities.


The book begins by portraying the modern animal advocacy movement as more or less a failure. Although we can find moderate victories
Feb 09, 2019 added it
Really interesting approach to Animal Rights. Highly recommended.
Sergei Moska
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a contribution to the animal rights literature, and is aimed at people who are already invested in that field. This doesn't mean that the book is hard to read. Donaldson and Kymlicka are wonderful authors, and this book is extremely easy to read even though it contains some quite nuanced arguments. It means that if you're a normal person who is never really thought about animal rights, this book probably won't convince you to go vegan and get on board the animal rights bandwagon.

Nov 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Readable and excellently thought provoking. Highly recommended. It provides a fresh take on many important issues in animal rights theory by embracing a "practical" approach that leverages existing, neoliberal political structures--namely the concept of national citizenship. Their basic argument is that non-human animals should be treated as citizens, in the same way that humans are citizens. Wild animals should be citizens of their own, sovereign states, domesticated animals should be co-citize ...more
Pier-andré Doyon
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece that redefine the basis of animal right theory. Kymlicka is a great scholar that draw interesting parallels between animal studies and other political fields to build his theory.
Jyothis James
Oct 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is so fraught with an investment in a citizenship model rooted in Western concepts of dignity and obligation while simultaneously trying to reconcile critiques of non-whites and disability advocates.

Major critiques:
1) the conflation of how non-whites have been disenfranchised with forms of animal abuse and killing without distinguishing what the salient determiners were. (Donaldson was very close to being able to sophisticatedly distinguish these, but there is not enough room in this
Apr 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
If I could give this book zero stars I would. The book is inherently racist and comes from the stance of two incredibly privileged individuals. I was repulsed reading it and cannot believe it was ever published. I tried reading it multiple times to get anything from this book, and every time was truly revolting.

Chapter 7: Animal Rights and Aboriginal Rights was especially repugnant. In an effort to address the "avoidance strategy" (Animal Rights activists exempting Indigenous people from hunting
Dan Slone
Jul 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I've read in a long time. I wish that I had read it years ago. The challenge in reading much of the animal rights literature is that each portion is drawn from a fairly narrow band - a branch of philosophy, an interpretation of a religion's teaching, a biological cost benefit analysis, or a human welfare critique. Reading this rich debate is like watching a series of small battles won, while watching the war be lost. Moreover, no battle is won without an i ...more
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was a very smooth read, and packed with a lot of concise arguments and new ideas.

I loved this book for several reasons:
- I believe it gave me a good introduction to political theory (I haven't studied in the field)
- It gave me a better idea on how a society which doesn't treat other animals unjustly could look like. Quite stimulating, and I believe it generally gave me a more positive outlook on the future.
- It also provided some concise introduction into the more classical animal ri
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it

This became somewhat of a slog to finish because the writing was a bit convoluted and the theories seemed to get more & more divorced from political feasibility as it went on.

Having stepped back, however, I now recognize that the authors do propose some valuable changes to animal rights theory. How we think about animals could definitely be improved by leaving room for different relational duties (i.e. our responsibility towards pets is different from our relationship with wild animals).

Zen Zoo
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Interesting approach to animal rights. It is more practical and easier to project than the typical "you should not interact with animals in any way" motto that seems to be the base of many animal rights theories.

It felt like one of these (few) books that unveil in front of you a whole new line of thinking you never knew existed and change your values forever.

The book was not always pleasant to read, the writing is quite average and dry at times, but I am glad I read it and will definitively be a
Heather Browning
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a very different way to think about animal rights - from a political philosophy perspective based in the theories of citizenship. It was well-argued, though quite dense in parts, and provided plenty of detail about how this might look in practice. I'm still quite skeptical that this is something we could ever really achieve, given how people are, but it's certainly an interesting perspective to look at. ...more
Christine Pompeo
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A well written book that even a non-philosopher like myself can easily read and enjoy. This book opened my eyes and mind to animal rights and much more. It got me thinking about things that I usually take for granted and rarely consider deeply. Thank-you to the authors for making these topics so accessible!
Mar 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I had to take notes because I'm not familiar with political theory. Applying political categories used for people to animals in order to determine their rights and obligations is interesting and I can see how it would be useful. The authors raise many possible objections to their theory and they did a fantastic job of addressing those. It gave me a lot to think about. ...more
John Babich
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone interested in animal rights and the issues associated with current AR theory. Donaldson & Kymlicka show us a vision for a more just future that includes inviolable rights for all animals, human and otherwise, as well as positive obligations for non-human animals depending on how the interact with our societies (or don't). ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Only read the intro + theory sections, but it is super interesting. Read it with the intention of trying to potentially use some of the arguments towards rights/citizenship for non-animals, as well as general animal rights arguments.
James O'Heare
Mar 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed reading Zoopolis. It provides some very challenging ideas that are less commonly seen in other books on the topic of animal rights. It has been a great influence on my own thinking and writing on the topic.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's a quite critical view to the current understanding of animal rights. However, the book is written in a very boring fashion ...more
May 20, 2021 added it
Shelves: animal, politics
One pivotal book in the thinking about other animals and generally in the broad fields concerning human-animal studies.
Maïté Grisard
Jun 08, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Really good book with realistic and respectful approaches on co-living with other species.
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
A vital and original approach to animal ethics, focusing on our positive obligations to nonhumans in different contexts: domestication (dogs, chickens, etc.), the wild, and in between (urban crows/coyotes, feral cats, suburban deer, pigeons, house mice, etc.). The writing is kind of dense and I think the authors are too committed to simply extending conventional liberal political theory (which I'd argue falls short in some respects even as it applies to humans, let alone nonhumans) instead of ch ...more
Joshua Duffy
May 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonhumans
Very unique in the Animal Rights literature. This book presents a political theory of animal rights, arguing that the concepts of citizenship (for domesticated animals), denizenship (for liminal animals), and sovereignty (for wild animals), be ascribed to the animals we share our communities, etc., with. Upon rereading this one, I enjoyed it far less. The theory laid out at the beginning is fantastic, but when he gets into ascribing citizenship status to domestic animals, I think his analogy fal ...more
Jul 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Colossal project for getting our society closer to an animal utopia. Despite the utopian flavor, this book proposes totally realistic ideas. The approach is deep, multilayered, logical, precise, practical and, most importantly, done from the heart.
Kim Stallwood
Jul 16, 2012 is currently reading it
Great book, which I'm currently reading. Fascinating ideas about how to advance moral and political status of animals. ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well written but very dense. Quite creative in their application of political theory to animal rights.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
A very compelling argument for a revaluation of animals... a little 'out there' in a few parts. ...more
Christophe Al-Saleh
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
anyone who is concerned by animals should read this book.
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Sue Donaldson (also known as Susan Cliffe) is a Canadian author and philosopher who is a research fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Queen's University, and an affiliate fellow in the department's Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law & Ethics (APPLE) research cluster. ...more

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