Norm Phelps

Norm Phelps (born Norman Nelson Phelps, III; May 16, 1939 – December 31, 2014)[2][3] was an American animal rights activist, vegetarian and writer. He was a founding member of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV),[4] and a former outreach director of the Fund for Animals.[5] He authored four books on animal rights: The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible (2002), The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights (2004), The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA (2007), and Changing the Game: Animal Liberation in the Twenty-first Century (2015).

Norm Phelps
BornNorman Nelson Phelps, III
May 16, 1939
DiedDecember 31, 2014(2014-12-31) (aged 75)
Meritus Medical Center, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA
Resting placeMaryland
OccupationAuthor, animal advocate
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Maryland, College Park
Periodlate 20th century; early 21st century
GenreReligious philosophy
Subjectsvegetarianism, veganism, animal rights, spirituality
Literary movementAnimal rights; religion and animal rights; religion; animal advocacy
SpousePatti Rogers[1]


Phelps spoke at numerous conferences, including the National Conference on Organized Resistance, the University of Oregon's Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, several of the annual Animal Rights Conferences sponsored by the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), and the Compassionate Living Festival. He also published articles, essays, and book reviews in several periodicals: Journal of Critical Animal Studies,[6] Philosophia, Satya, The Animals’ Voice, and VegNews.

Phelps had become a vegetarian and then a vegan following the death of his dog Czar in 1984. As Phelps describes this change process on his website, "Czar was a person. He had a personality as individual and well-defined as any human being. He could love, he could trust, he could share, he could enjoy, he could fear, he could worry, he could look forward to the future and remember the past, he had a sense of who he was, and he would have sacrificed himself for me without a moment's hesitation. . . . If Czar was a person, what about other animals? What about cows, pigs, chickens and sheep? Weren't they people, too? How could we love some and eat others?"

In 1994, Phelps retired from the federal government and joined the campaigns office of The Fund for Animals in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he became active in the campaign to end the live pigeon shoot which was then held every Labor Day in the village of Hegins, Pennsylvania. The shoot ended in 1998. When The Fund for Animals merged with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Phelps joined the staff of the HSUS wildlife protection campaign, where he worked until he resigned for reasons of age and health in 2011. From 2002 until his death in 2014, Phelps had suffered from myasthenia gravis, an auto-immune neuromuscular condition that causes severe fatigable weakness.

As an animal rights theorist, Phelps argues that the animal rights movement must: 1) Engage religious communities on the side of animal rights, 2) Join with progressive movements for social and economic justice and environmental protection to create a genuine universal rights movement, and 3) pursue a "two-track" strategy of advocating veganism and the abolition of all animal exploitation while simultaneously campaigning for more moderate reforms, such as Meatless Mondays and the abolition of battery cages for laying hens. Although he is generally opposed to militant direct action on the grounds that it is counterproductive, Phelps supported live rescues of animals from farms and laboratories. In 1994, he was arrested at a pigeon shoot in Pikeville, Pennsylvania for releasing 200 pigeons who were slated to become living targets. He spent two days in Berks County Prison and was subsequently convicted of malicious mischief.

He lived in Funkstown, Maryland (USA) with his second wife, Patti Rogers. Phelps died on December 31, 2014, at the age of 75. He was survived by his wife Patti Rogers and 2 children, his son Nelson and his daughter Kyra.[7]




  • The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible. Lantern Books, New York, 2002. 208 pages.
  • The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights. Lantern Books, New York, 2004. 240 pages.
  • The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA. Lantern Books, New York, 2007. 368 pages.


Audio podcasts

Published Interviews

  • The Dominion of Love: Interview with the Abolitionist Online
  • The Great Compassion: Interview with the Abolitionist Online

Book Reviews

Video lectures

See also


  1. Biography at
  2. Norm Phelps – 1939-2014, Compassion Over Killing
  3. "Norm Phelps, 75, spiritual mentor to the animal rights movement". Animals 24-7. 2015-01-12. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  4. Website of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians
  5. Phelps, Norm (2007). The Longest Struggle. Lantern Books.
  6. Phelps, Norm (2008). "Rhyme, Reason, and Animal Rights", Journal for Critical Animal Studies, vol 6, issue 1
  7. "Norm Phelps - 1939-2014". Animal Outlook.
  8. LinkedIn profile, Norm Phelps

Further reading

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