The Universal Kinship

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The Universal Kinship
The Universal Kinship (1906).png
Cover of the first edition
AuthorJ. Howard Moore
CountryUnited States
SubjectAnimal rights, ethics, evolution
PublisherCharles H. Kerr & Co.
Publication date
1906 (reissued edition 1916, reissued edition 1992)
Media typePrint

The Universal Kinship is a 1906 book by American zoologist, philosopher, educator and socialist J. Howard Moore. In the book, Moore advocated for a secular philosophy focusing on the ethical consideration and treatment of all sentient beings, based on Darwinian principles of shared evolutionary kinship, and a universal application of the Golden Rule.[1]


The book is split into three parts—physical, psychical and ethical—each exploring and evidencing the sources of kinship between humans and nonhuman animals. To support his claims of kinship in the first two parts, Moore drew "extensively upon the fields of geology, paleontology, and biology, together with the works of evolutionary scientists such as Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel, Romanes, and John Lubbock."[2]


In the book, Moore argued that arrogance prevents humans from recognizing their kinship with nonhuman animals and grievously mistreating them, likening their "provincialist" attitude to national chauvinism and racism: "The denial by human animals of ethical relations to the rest of the animal world is a phenomenon not differing either in character or cause from the denial of ethical relations by a tribe, people, or race of human beings to the rest of the human world."

He also criticized the "anthropocentricism" of human beings who "think of our acts toward non-human peoples [...] entirely from the human point of view. We never take the time to put ourselves in the places of our victims."[1] These ideas anteceded the concept of speciesism, coined 63 years later by Richard D. Ryder.

Moore also claimed that exploitation—by considering some beings ends and others means—as the only and greatest crime in the universe, carried out throughout the history of life, and that all other crimes stem from this.[1]

Another point that Moore raised was that animals—like humans—are sentient beings and criticized the use of nonhuman animals as a means for human ends and arguing that we they are deserving of rights and that we should aim to maximise their happiness and minimise their suffering, in a utilitarian manner.[1][3]


The book was well-received by several contemporary figures. Fellow animal rights advocate and Moore's friend, Henry S. Salt later described it in his autobiography as "the best ever written in the humanitarian cause"[4] and upon the book's publication in the UK, widely publicized it using his Humanitarian League network.[2] Eugene V. Debs declared "[i]t is impossible for me to express my appreciation of your masterly work. It is simply great, and every socialist and student of sociology should read it."[5]

Moore sent a personal copy to Mark Twain, who replied:[6]

The book has furnished me several days of deep pleasure and satisfaction; it has compelled my gratitude at the same time, since it saves me the labor of stating my own long-cherished opinions and reflections and resentments by doing it lucidly and fervently and irascibly for me.

In an endorsement, Jack London stated:[7]

Mr. Moore has a broad grasp and shows masterly knowledge of the subject. And withal the interest never flags. The book reads like a novel. One is constantly keyed up and expectant. Mr. Moore is to be congratulated upon the magnificent way in which he has made alive the dull, heavy processes of the big books. And, then, there is his style. He uses splendid virile English and shows a fine appreciation of the values of words. He uses always the right word.

In his personal copy, London marked the passage "All beings are ends; no creatures are means. All beings have not equal rights, neither have all men; but all have rights."[8]

English feminist and writer Mona Caird was so deeply moved by the book, she wrote Moore a personal letter, declaring:[9]

It leaves me in a glow of enthusiasm and hope. It seems like the embodiment of years of almost despairing effort and pain of all of us who have felt these things. That which we have been thinking and feeling — some in one direction and some in another, some in fuller understanding and breadth, others in little flashes of insight here and there — all seems gathered together, expressed, and given form and color and life in your wonderful book.

G. M. A.'s review in The American Naturalist, was less positive "[w]hile agreeing with the author that "the art of being kind" is in sore need of cultivation among us, one cannot but be amused at the mixture of fact and error, observation and travelers' tales, seriousness of statement and straining after absurd expressions, that characterizes this not unreadable book."[10] J. R. Stanton in American Anthropologist was also critical, stating "[i]ts failing, as in the case of so many works of similar nature, is that in sweeping away impassable gulfs it ignores real differences."[11]

The National Anti-Vivisection Society's review approved of Moore’s illustration of "the ethical kinship" between humans and animals but objected to the idea that evolution could explain the evolution of human mental capacity. The RSPCA's review felt that while Moore's arguments were well supported, they took exception with his Darwinian perspective, stating that "there is much in it that cannot be agreed with".[2]


The book was reissued by Centaur Press in 1992, edited by animal rights philosopher Charles R. Magel, with added appendices, including "letters from Moore to Salt, a biographical essay and the eulogy Clarence Darrow delivered at Moore's funeral."[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Moore, J. Howard (John Howard) (1906). The Universal Kinship. University of Connecticut Libraries. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co.
  2. ^ a b c Li, Chien-hui (2017). Mobilizing Traditions in the First Wave of the British Animal Defense Movement. Springer. ISBN 9781137526519.
  3. ^ Walters, Kerry S.; Portmess, Lisa (1999-01-01). Ethical Vegetarianism: From Pythagoras to Peter Singer. SUNY Press. p. 127. ISBN 9780791440438.
  4. ^ "J. Howard Moore". Henry S. Salt Society. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  5. ^ "Publishers' Department" (PDF). The International Socialist Review. 7: 509. February 1, 1907.
  6. ^ Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain: A Biography: Volume 2: 1886 - 1910. Jazzybee Verlag. pp. 216–217. ISBN 9783849672614.
  7. ^ Simons, A. M. (Algie Martin) (1907). Class struggles in America. 3d ed., rev. and enl., with notes and references. University of British Columbia Library. Chicago C.H. Kerr.
  8. ^ Bruni, John (2014-03-15). Scientific Americans: The Making of Popular Science and Evolution in Early-Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture. University of Wales Press. p. 90. ISBN 9781783160181.
  9. ^ Algie Martin Simons (ed.). International Socialist Review (1900) Vol 07.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ A., G. M. (1906). "Review of The Universal Kinship". The American Naturalist. 40 (479): 805–806. doi:10.1086/278684. ISSN 0003-0147. JSTOR 2455038.
  11. ^ Swanton, J. R. (1906). "Review of The Universal Kinship". American Anthropologist. 8 (4): 706. doi:10.1525/aa.1906.8.4.02a00140. ISSN 0002-7294. JSTOR 659194.
  12. ^ Helstosky, Carol (2014-10-03). The Routledge History of Food. Routledge. ISBN 9781317621133.

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