What Drives The Animal Advocacy Movement?
Today’s animal advocacy movement has many different organisations. Some organisations are active in many countries but there are also many smaller, more radical organisations. In this doctoral thesis, Nick Pendergrast looks at the different ideas, considerations and motivations that drive different organisations in the animal advocacy movement. His study focuses on the largest, US-based organisations (especially PETA and HSUS) and compares them to both large and small animal advocacy organisations in Australia.
Animal Rights Or Animal Welfare?
Pendergrast notes a difference between animal rights ideas and animal welfare ideas. The idea of “animal rights” is that animals have rights which can never be broken. On the other hand, “animal welfare” ideas try to protect animals but do not stop humans from using and killing animals. Through research into media coverage of the Australian live export industry, he concludes that the “animal welfare” perspective dominated the mainstream media. The “animal rights” perspective was mostly put forward by small animal advocacy organisations using the internet.
Pendergrast argues that philosophers and thinkers cannot be easily categorised as either “animal rights” or “animal welfare,” but are usually somewhere in between the two. Whilst Gary Francione clearly supports “animal rights,” Peter Singer’s ideas are more mixed, for example. Pendergrast goes on to show that most animal advocacy organisations also fall somewhere between the two but that many smaller organisations, like Animal Liberation Victoria, have moved towards a clearer “animal rights” stance.
He also argues that campaigns to abolish some types of animal use, like seal clubbing, focus on attacking individual, unpopular types of animal use. These campaigns still work within mainstream attitudes towards animals, rather than challenging them.
A Better Theory?
Since most organisations and thinkers fall somewhere between “animal rights” and “animal welfare” ideas, Pendergrast suggests using different categories instead. These are the concepts that groups and actions are either “anti-systemic” or “integrationist.” This is based on the theories by sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein. “Integrationist” campaigns seek to speed up gains within the existing system, while “anti-systemic” change seeks to destroy the existing system. Most animal welfare campaigns are “integrationist,” while most campaigns to promote veganism would be “anti-systemic.” There is overlap here too, however. Whereas some campaigns may be “anti-systemic” from the point of view of stopping humans using animals, they are still “integrationist” in the sense that they don’t try to stop other parts of society like capitalism and consumerism.
The Motivations Of Different Groups
Pendergrast argues that different organisations and individuals are motivated by different sorts of ideas. The most important type of “rationality” that motivates the animal advocacy movement is “ideological.” The ideologies of “animal rights” and “animal welfare” have played an important part in making “ideological rationality” so important.
Animal advocates are also motivated by “emotive rationality.” While some thinkers, like Francione, argue that animal advocates should focus on ideology rather than “compassion,” some feminist thinkers see emotions and caring as being just as legitimate.
Larger organisations tend to be driven by “organisational rationality.” This idea includes a variety of theories and concepts. It suggests that larger organisations are motivated, to a substantial degree, by the need to make sure that they have lots of support and money from donations. This means that they usually have to stick to “animal welfare” and “integrationist” tactics.
It also means that they have to ask their supporters for lower-effort actions like signing petitions or donating money, instead of more difficult actions like changing their diet. This is supported by research on the emails sent out by larger animal advocacy organisations. For example, of the 171 total actions that these organisations asked for in the emails that Pendegrast looked at, only 12 asked for changes in lifestyle, compared to 52 asking for people to sign a petition or a pre-written letter.
Pendergrast argues that larger organisations like PETA have moved away from their more radical, “anti-systemic” origins towards “integrationist” campaigns, due to “organisational rationality.” He sees this as a “drift” away from these organisations’ original “mission.”
He concludes that further research is needed to fully understand how far these organisational considerations have motivated the animal advocacy movement.
The Rise Of Veganism
Pendergrast argues that veganism has increasingly entered the mainstream media and public consciousness. He shows a gradual rise in the number of times that the word “vegan” appeared in Australian newspapers from around 100 in 2005 to nearly 350 in 2013. In 2011, for the first time ever, the word “vegan” was regularly getting a higher number of searches on Google than the word “vegetarian.” The mainstream media focus has primarily been on dietary change, as well as health and environmental effects, however, rather than animal rights ideas.
He also argues that animal advocacy organisations have moved towards a clearer promotion of veganism. This has included some larger organisations, like Animals Australia, who have moved towards promoting animal-free alternative products, rather than free-range products. Pendergrast argues that this shift is partially due to “animal rights” ideas.
But different organisations promote veganism in different ways, due to the different types of “rationality” that motivate them. Smaller, more “anti-systemic” organisations promote veganism as the moral “baseline” (the least that people need to do to take the interests of other animals seriously). If larger organisations do promote veganism, this tends to be by suggesting that it is just one of many ways that people can help animals.
Uses Of The Study
Pendergrast identifies his thesis as being part of the “critical animal studies” movement. Studies like this may help to link academia to activism and the animal advocacy movement. Pendergrast’s research findings and summaries may lead to better understanding of the animal advocacy movement. He hopes that this will “lead to better informed, more effective activism.”