Critical animal studies

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Critical animal studies (CAS) is an interdisciplinary scientific field and theory-to-activism global community, which originated at the beginning of the 21st century. The core interest of CAS is ethical reflection on relations between people and other animals, firmly grounded in intersectionality and anarchism. Its aim is to integrate academic research with political engagement and activism. As it overlaps with a number of other disciplines, CAS includes scholars from a diverse range of fields, as well as animal rights activists.


CAS traces its history back to critical social movements of the 1960s and 70s, which is when ecological and animal questions entered the academic debate. It was also the time when the first animal liberation movements, Band of Mercy and Animal Liberation Front, emerged. While CAS can be considered as a direct continuation of those movements, its institutional history began no earlier than in 2001 when the Centre for Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA) was established by Anthony J. Nocella II and Steve Best. CALA was created as a direct consequence of an anthology entitled "Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals", edited by Best and Nocella. This book was the first comprehensive publication devoted to the history, ethics and tactics of the Animal Liberation Front, viewed from both activist and academic perspective. Over the following years CALA conducted research on issues related to animal exploitation, provided education, analysis and advised on policy. Two major initiatives of this institution were the annual Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Conference and the founding of the Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Journal which was later renamed as the Journal for Critical Animal Studies. The name of the movement (CAS) emerged in 2006, as a consequence of long term discussions among activists and scholars who collaborated with CALA. At the end of 2006, CALA changed its name to the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS).[1]

Currently, ICAS is a private organization run by a Board of Executive Directors, who are responsible for making major decisions concerning its mission, strategic plans and principles. Since 2011 the institution has been an international network, with branches in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania. It has since established a series of initiatives, such as the Students for Critical Animal Studies, the Intersectional Research Collective, the Annual Tilikum Awards and the Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Críticos Animales (Spanish Journal for Critical Animal Studies). In 2014 ICAS published and edited volume entitled "Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach for Liberation" (co-edited by Anthony J. Nocella II, John Sorenson, Kim Socha, and Atsuko Matsuoka). The publication defines the basic aims and principles of the movement. ICAS also issues three journals—Journal for Critical Animal Studies, Peace Studies Journal, and Green Theory and Praxis Journal.

Ten principles[edit]

The principles guiding CAS's work were included in the article "Introducing Critical Animal Studies" which was published in the Journal of the Critical Animal Studies in 2007.[2]

  1. Interdisciplinarity: it supports collaborative work of scholars from different fields to provide a deeper, comprehensive insight into human-animal relations.
  2. Subjectivity: it questions the notion that academic analysis can be entirely objective, devoid of normative values and political commitments.
  3. Theory-to-practice approach: it perceives theory as a starting point for political action and social commitment.
  4. Intersectionality: it draws attention to common roots of many forms of oppression, such as speciesism, sexism, racism and other violence-based ideologies, considered as components of global systems of domination.
  5. Antihierarchical approach: it provides anti-capitalist stance, aimed at democratization and decentralization of the society.
  6. Solidarity: it does not concentrate solely on animal issues. Instead, it aims at making alliances with other social movements devoted to struggle against oppression.
  7. Total liberation: it emphasizes the need for human, non-human and Earth liberation and perceives them as a common struggle.
  8. Deconstructing binaries: it undermines socially constructed oppositions, such as human-animal and nature-culture.
  9. Radical politics: it supports all tactics promoting change used in social justice movements, such as economic sabotage and direct action.
  10. Critical dialogue: it promotes constructive dialogue between diverse academic groups, activists and individuals, public and non-profit sectors.

Animal studies[edit]

The term "critical animal studies" is often used as a synonym for animal studies and human-animal studies. However, there are significant differences between these movements.[3] CAS can be seen as a more radical option, overtly underlining the necessity of political engagement and advocating direct action, which may be considered controversial in traditional academic circles. Supporters of CAS often emphasize that although animal studies has made a large contribution to growing awareness about the complexities of human-animal relations, it lacks a deep moral engagement and remains detached from the most significant problems. It is worth considering, however, that the term 'animal studies' refers to diverse scholars and methodologies, some of which clearly state the necessity of ethical commitment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Best, Steve; Nocella, Anthony J.; Kahn, Richard; Gigliotti, Carol; Kemmerer, Lisa (2007). "Introducing Critical Animal Studies". Journal for Critical Animal Studies. 5 (1).
  3. ^ Nik Taylor, Richard Twine (2014). 'Locating the 'critical' in critical animal studies' [in:] 'The rise of Critical Animal Studies. From the Margins to the Centre'.

Further reading[edit]

  • The rise of Critical Animal Studies. From the Margins to the Centre, Nik Taylor, Richard Twine [eds.], 2014
  • Defining Critical Animal Studies: An Intersectional Social Justice Approach for Liberation, Anthony J. Nocella II, John Sorenson, Kim Socha, and Atsuko Matsuoka [eds.], Institute for Critical Animal Studies, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4331-2136-4. ISSN 1058-1634
  • Animals as Biotechnology. Ethics, Sustainability and Critical Animal Studies, Richard Twine, 2010
  • Critical Animal Studies: Thinking the Unthinkable, John Sorenson (Ed.) (2014). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Scholars' Press. 345 pages. ISBN 978-1-55130-563-9
  • Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-species Social Justice, Atsuko Matsuoka and John Sorenson (Eds.) (2018). (Rowman and Littlefield International—Intersections series). London: Rowman & Littlefield International. 374 pages. ISBN 978-1-78660-647-1
  • Critical Animal Studies: An Introduction, Dawne McCance. (2013). Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 202 pages. ISBN 978-1-43844-534-2