Animal rights movement
The animal rights movement, sometimes called the animal liberation movement, animal personhood, or animal advocacy movement, is a social movement which seeks an end to the rigid moral and legal distinction drawn between human and non-human animals, an end to the status of animals as property, and an end to their use in the research, food, clothing, and entertainment industries.
It is one of the few examples of a social movement that was created, and is to a large extent sustained academically, by philosophers.
All animal liberationists believe that the individual interests of non-human animals deserve recognition and protection, but the movement can be split into two broad camps.
Animal rights advocates, or rights liberationists, believe that these basic interests confer moral rights of some kind on the animals, and/or ought to confer legal rights on them; see, for example, the work of Tom Regan. Utilitarian liberationists, on the other hand, do not believe that animals possess moral rights, but argue, on utilitarian grounds — utilitarianism in its simplest form advocating that we base moral decisions on the greatest happiness of the greatest number — that, because animals have the ability to suffer, their suffering must be taken into account in any moral philosophy. To exclude animals from that consideration, they argue, is a form of discrimination that they call speciesism; see, for example, the work of Peter Singer.
Despite these differences, the terms "animal liberation" and "animal rights" are generally used interchangeably.
The movement is regarded as having been founded in the UK in the early 1970s by a group of Oxford university post-graduate philosophy students, now known as the "Oxford Group". The group were led by Roslind and Stanley Godlovitch, graduate students of philosophy who had recently become vegetarians. The Godlovitches met John Harris and David Wood, also philosophy graduates, who were soon persuaded of the arguments in favour of animal rights and themselves became vegetarian. The group began to actively raise the issue with pre-eminent Oxford moral philosophers, including Professor Richard Hare, both personally and in lectures. Their approach was based not on sentimentality ("kindness to dumb animals'), but on the moral rights of animals. They soon developed (and borrowed) a range of powerful arguments in support of their views, so that Oxford clinical psychologist Richard Ryder, who was shortly to become part of the group, writes that "rarely has a cause been so rationally argued and so intellectually well armed."
It was a 1965 article by novelist Brigid Brophy in The Sunday Times which was pivotal in helping to spark the movement. Brophy wrote:
|“||The relationship of Homo sapiens (humans) to the other animals is one of unremitting exploitation. We employ their work; we eat and wear them. We exploit them to serve our superstitions: whereas we used to sacrifice them to our gods and tear out their entrails in order to foresee the future, we now sacrifice them to science, and experiment on their entrail in the hope — or on the mere offchance — that we might thereby see a little more clearly into the present.||”|
The philosophers found this article and were inspired by its vigorous unsentimental polemic. At about the same time, Ryder wrote three letters to the Daily Telegraph in response to Brophy's arguments. Brophy read Ryder's letters and put him in touch with the Godlovitches and John Harris, who had begun to plan a book about the issue which was also partly inspired by Brophy's polemic. The philosophers had also been to see Brophy about the possibility of a book of essays on the subject. They initially thought that a book with contributions from Brophy, Ruth Harrison, Maureen Duffy and other well-known writers might be of interest to publishers, but after an initial proposal was turned down by the first publisher they approached, Giles Gordon of Victor Gollancz suggested that the work would be more viable if it included their own writing. This was the idea that became "Animals, Men and Morals' (see below).
In 1970, Ryder coined the phrase "speciesism," first using it in a privately printed pamphlet to describe the assignment of value to the interests of beings on the basis of their membership of a particular species. Ryder subsequently became a contributor to Animals, Men and Morals: An Inquiry into the Maltreatment of Non-humans (1972), edited by John Harris and the Godlovitches, a work that became highly influential, as did Rosalind Godlovitch's essay "Animal and Morals," published the same year.
It was in a review of Animals, Men and Morals for the New York Review of Books that Australian philosopher Peter Singer first put forward his basic arguments, based on utilitarianism and drawing an explicit comparison between women's liberation and animal liberation. Out of the review came Singer's Animal Liberation, published in 1975, now regarded as the "bible" of the movement.
Other books regarded as important include philosopher Tom Regan's The Case for Animal Rights (1983); Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism by James Rachels (1990); Animals, Property, and the Law (1995) by legal scholar Gary Francione, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals by another legal scholar Steven M. Wise (2000); and Animal Rights and Moral Philosophy by Julian H. Franklin (2005).
Current status of the movement
The movement is no longer viewed as hovering on the fringe. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was joined by a wide variety of academics and professionals, including lawyers, physicians, psychologists, veterinarians, and former vivisectionists, and is now a common subject of study in philosophy departments in Europe and North America. Animal law courses are taught in 92 out of 180 law schools in the U.S., and the movement has gained the support of senior legal scholars, including Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School. Chapters of animal rights law have been created in several state bar associations, and resolutions related to animal rights are regularly proposed within the American Bar Association.
Michael Socarras of Greenberg Traurig told the Association of American Medical Colleges: "There is a very important shift under way in the manner in which many people in law schools and in the legal profession think about animals. This shift has not yet reached popular opinion. However, in [the U.S.], social change has and can occur through the courts, which in many instances do not operate as democratic institutions. Therefore, the evolution in elite legal opinion is extremely significant ..."
Philosophical and legal aims
The movement aims to include animals in the moral community by putting the basic interests of non-human animals on an equal footing with the basic interests of human beings. A basic interest would be, for example, not being made to suffer pain on behalf of other individual human or non-human animals. The aim is to remove animals from the sphere of property and to award them personhood; that is, to see them awarded legal rights to protect their basic interests.
|“||Who are we that we have set ourselves up on this pedestal and we believe that we have a right to take from others everything—including their life—simply because we want to do it? Shouldn't we stop and think for a second that maybe they are just others like us? Other nations, other individuals, other cultures. Just others. Not sub-human, but just different from being human.||”|
Liberationists argue that animals appear to have value in law only in relation to their usefulness or benefit to their owners, and are awarded no intrinsic value whatsoever. In the United States, for example, state and federal laws formulate the rules for the treatment of animals in terms of their status as property. Liberationists point out that Texas Animal Cruelty Laws apply only to pets living under the custody of human beings and exclude birds, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other wild animals not owned by humans, ignoring that jurisdiction for such creatures comes under the domain of state wildlife officers. The U.S. Animal Welfare Act excludes "pet stores ... state and country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, purebred dog and cat shows, and any fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences." There is no mention in the law that such activities already fall under the jurisdiction of state agriculture departments. The Department of Agriculture interprets the Act as also excluding cold-blooded animals, and warm-blooded animals not "used for research, teaching, testing, experimentation ... exhibition purposes, or as a pet, [and] farm animals used for food, fiber, or production purposes".
The Seattle-based Great Ape Project (GAP), founded by Peter Singer, is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt its Declaration on Great Apes, which would see chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans included in a "community of equals" with human beings. The declaration wants to extend to the non-human apes the protection of three basic interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture (see also Great ape personhood).
Legal changes influenced by the movement
Regarding the campaign to change the status of animals as property, the animal liberation movement has seen success in several countries. In 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals as beings and not things. However, in 1999 the Swiss constitution was completely rewritten. A decade later, Germany guaranteed rights to animals in a 2002 amendment to its constitution, becoming the first European Union member to do so. The German Civil Code had been amended correspondingly in 1997. The amendment, however, has not had much impact in German legal practice yet.
Perhaps the greatest success of the animal liberation movement has been the granting of basic rights to five great ape species in New Zealand in 1999. Their use is now forbidden in research, testing or teaching. Other governments had also previously implemented a ban on these experiments, such as the UK government in 1986. Some other countries have also banned or severely restricted the use of non-human great apes in research. Also, on May 17, 2013, India declared that all cetaceans have the status of "nonhuman persons."
Animal liberationists usually boycott industries that use animals. Foremost among these is factory farming, which produces the majority of meat, dairy products, and eggs in industrialized nations. The transportation of farm animals for slaughter, which often involves their live export, has in recent years been a major issue for animal rights groups, particularly in the UK and Scandinavia.
The vast majority of animal rights advocates adopt vegetarian or vegan diets. They may also avoid clothes made of animal skins, such as leather shoes, and will not use products known to contain animal byproducts. Goods containing ingredients that have been tested on animals are also avoided where possible. Company-wide boycotts are common. The Procter & Gamble corporation, for example, tests many of its products on animals, leading many animal rights advocates to boycott the company's products entirely, whether tested on animals or not.
There is a growing trend in the American movement towards devoting all resources to vegetarian outreach. The 9.8 billion animals killed there for food every year far exceeds the number of animals used in other ways. Groups such as Vegan Outreach and Compassion Over Killing devote their time to exposing factory-farming practices by publishing information for consumers and by organizing undercover investigations.
The movement espouses a number of approaches, and is bitterly divided on the issue of direct action and violence, with very few activists or writers publicly advocating the latter tactic as a justified method to use. Most groups reject violence against persons, intimidation, threats, and the destruction of property: for example, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) and Animal Aid. These groups concentrate on education and research, including carrying out undercover investigations of animal-testing facilities. There is some evidence of cooperation between the BUAV and the ALF: for example, the BUAV used to donate office space for the use of the ALF in London in the early 1980s.
Other groups do not condemn the destruction of property, or intimidation, but do not themselves engage in those activities, concentrating instead on education, research, media campaigns, and undercover investigations: for example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
A third category of activists operates using the leaderless resistance model, working in covert cells consisting of small numbers of trusted friends, or of one individual acting alone. These cells engage in direct action: for example by carrying out raids to release animals from laboratories and farms, using names like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF); or by boycotting and targeting anyone or any business associated with the controversial animal testing lab, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), using a campaign name like Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). Some arson, property destruction and vandalism has been linked to various animal rights groups
Activists who have carried out or threatened acts of physical violence have operated using the names; Animal Rights Militia (ARM), Justice Department, Revolutionary Cells—Animal Liberation brigade (RCALB), Hunt Retribution Squad (HRS) and the Militant Forces Against Huntingdon Life Sciences (MFAH).
Some activists have attempted blackmail and other illegal activities, such as the intimidation campaign to close Darley Oaks farm, which involved hate mail, malicious phonecalls, bomb threats, arson attacks and property destruction, climaxing in the theft of the corpse of Gladys Hammond, the owners' mother-in-law, from a Staffordshire grave. Over a thousand ALF attacks in one year in the UK alone caused £2.6M of damage to property, prompting some experts to state that animal rights now tops the list of causes that prompt violence in the UK.
There are also a growing number of "open rescues," in which liberationists enter businesses to remove animals without trying to hide their identities. Open rescues tend to be carried out by committed individuals willing to go to jail if prosecuted, but so far no farmer has been willing to press charges.
Many of the ideas used by those who engage in direct action were developed by British activists.
Overwhelmingly, though, the animal rights movement is peaceful, and instances of violence have been used in efforts to try to tarnish the entire movement.
Criminalization of direct action methods
A November 13, 2003 edition of CBS News' 60 Minutes charged that "eco-terrorists," a term used by the United States government to refer to the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, are considered by the FBI to be "the country’s biggest domestic terrorist threat."  John Lewis, a Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism at the FBI, stated in a 60 Minutes interview that these groups "have caused over $100 million worth of damage nationwide", and that "there are more than 150 investigations of eco-terrorist crimes underway".
"Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act", the legislation which allows federal authorities to "help prevent, better investigate, and prosecute individuals who seek to halt biomedical research through acts of intimidation, harassment, and violence" was adopted in the USA in 2006. It has also been described as having 'a chilling effect' on free speech.
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