© 2018

Animal Ethics and the Nonconformist Conscience


  • Argues that debates about animal ethics draw on the linguistic resources of the prevailing culture

  • Offers a compelling analysis of the religious shaping of contemporary animal discourse

  • Uses primary sources to demonstrate the enduring influence of "nonconformist conscience"


Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series book series (PMAES)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 1-11
  3. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 13-26
  4. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 27-44
  5. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 45-61
  6. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 63-84
  7. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 85-102
  8. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 103-119
  9. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 121-132
  10. Philip J. Sampson
    Pages 133-154
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 155-160

About this book


This book explores the religious language of Nonconformity used in ethical debates about animals. It uncovers a rich stream of innovative discourse from the Puritans of the seventeenth century, through the Clapham Sect and Evangelical Revival, to the nineteenth century debates about vivisection. This discourse contributed to law reform and the foundation of the RSPCA, and continues to flavour the way we talk about animal welfare and animal rights today. Shaped by the "nonconformist conscience", it has been largely overlooked. The more common perception is that Christian “dominion” authorises the human exploitation of animals, while Enlightenment humanism and Darwinian thought are seen as drawing humans and animals together in one "family". This book challenges that perception, and proposes an alternative perspective. Through exploring the shaping of animal advocacy discourses by Biblical themes of creation, fall and restoration, this book reveals the continuing importance of the nonconformist conscience as a source to enrich animal ethics today. It will appeal to the animal studies community, theologians and early modern historians.


nonconformist conscience ethical debate religious discourse secular discourse history of language neo-Darwinian biology

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Centre for Animal EthicsOxfordUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Philip Sampson is a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, UK. His previous publications include Faith and Modernity (1997); Six Modern Myths (2001); and contributions to several edited volumes on animal ethics and philosophy.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Animal Ethics and the Nonconformist Conscience
  • Authors Philip J. Sampson
  • Series Title The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series
  • Series Abbreviated Title The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-96405-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-07186-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-96406-5
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XI, 160
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Ethics
    Animal Welfare/Animal Ethics
    Religion and Society
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“This is an innovative book that presents a largely unknown tradition of Christian thought that not only influences contemporary perspectives with regard to animals, but challenges conventional hang-ups stemming from enlightenment and neo-Darwinian reason. It will be of interest within both secular and religious circles, and to those working in animal ethics and more broadly within animal studies and environmental humanities.” (Reading Religion, December 19, 2019)