"When did a sheep last die of old age? Sheep do not own themselves, do not own their lives. They exist to be used, every last ounce of them, their flesh to be eaten, their bones to be crushed and fed to poultry. Nothing escapes, except perhaps the gall bladder, which no one will eat. Descartes should have thought of that. The soul, suspended in the dark, bitter gall, hiding."
One of the more subtly developed issues in Coetzee's Disgrace is that of animal rights. In Elizabeth Costello, JMC takes on animal rights head-on (and it is fascinating to picture him writing the two "Lives of Animals" sections of that book, fully aware that he would have Martha Nussbaum and Peter Singer in the audience), but in Disgrace, though the theme is on the surface of the book, it is fully embedded in the story, as David Lurie moves from complete indifference to the issue to his involvement in the euthanasia of dogs at the end of the book (sick dogs, but also simply those that cannot find a home, excess dogs).
Here, I am struck by JMC's wonderful little barb against Descartes: the animal's soul in an organ that one can live without, the organ that nobody wants to eat. This passage is one to give serious consideration to in any complete analysis of "The Lives of Animals" from EC.
The Lives of Animals has appeared as a book, but I have never gotten around to reading it separately. The book also includes Nussbaum and Singer's responses to JMC's "lessons"; they must be fascinating.