Animal Advocacy And Social Movement Theory: ‘New Ways Of Being’
Generally speaking, social movements can be broken down into three types: integrationist, antisystemic, and non-hegemonic. Integrationist movements seek to make small, gradual change through existing power structures. They are also known as “liberal” or “reformist” movements – an example in the United States would be the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Antisystemic movements are often called “revolutionary,” because they seek to establish change through the abolition and/or replacement of the current power structure, which they see as the source of oppression. The Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution would be one such example. Non-hegemonic movements ignore existing power structures, and instead focus on small-scale experiments in a different kind of society. Hippie communes of the 1960s would be an example of a non-hegemonic movement.
This sociological essay, written by two Australian academics, sought to examine the three types of social movements listed above, while focusing on two case studies from Australia: Aboriginal rights and animal advocacy. For the purposes of this summary, we focus on animal advocacy. The authors identify the “animal welfare” approach as an integrationist one. It does not dispute the notion that animals can be used for food, labor, or clothing, but argues that the animal we use for such purposes should be treated fairly and humanely. The vast majority of Australians agree with this perspective – they are not willing to give up animal products entirely, but they are willing to demand the animals are not mistreated. The example given in the essay is a campaign to end live-animal export from Australia. Australia sends many cattle to slaughterhouses overseas, often in developing nations. Since the standards of these foreign slaughterhouses are often lower than Australian facilities, many Australians object to this practice. While integrationists protest through political measures and peaceful protests, some take a more radical approach.
Antisystemic activism against live-animal export includes activities such as tainting animals bound for Halal slaughterhouses, accomplished by giving them feed containing pig flesh. This underpins the animal welfare focus of the movement to ban live-animal export; while animals are still slaughtered, they are not slaughtered on foreign soil. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a well-known animal advocacy group that uses primarily antisystemic measures, including illegal activity, such as property damage and sabotage. Importantly, antisystemic wings of the animal advocacy movement generally look outside of the state for solutions, as opposed to the state-focused activism of the integrationist wings.
Finally, some animal activists seek to create an alternative to animal exploitation by going vegan, and convincing others to do the same. Rather than accepting or challenging the current system of animal exploitation, they withdraw from it, and the study ties this with the non-hegemonic approach. While vegans may protest or engage in direct action alongside animal welfare activists, they do not accept the use of animals for human consumption. By creating this alternative, they challenge animal-dependent industries without directly engaging them. While the animal-exploiting industries still exist, their market is disrupted by an increasing number of people refusing to buy their products.
For advocates, the study presents veganism as a utopian ideal: if enough people convert to veganism, the alternative society would be realized, and there would no longer be a need for integrationist or antisystemic animal activism. However, in current society, vegans often cooperate with these activists to directly challenge animal exploitation. The authors of this study sought to introduce this third category of non-hegemonic social movements in order to challenge the dichotomy of reform/revolution that dominates current research – by introducing this category, the authors hope to inspire further research into social movements that do not directly challenge the target institution, but rather seek to create alternatives and withdraw from the current system, which they see as exploitative at their core.