Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Reactions to "Animal Rights" Advocacy

[Please note that this version of this text has been recovered from an early draft due to a server crash. There may be a few typos and even mistakes in the following]


Since the animal rights and even ‘new welfarist’ critique of human attitudes and behaviour in relation to other animals goes a good deal beyond the traditional welfarist advocacy of ‘kindness to animals’ which, as discussed earlier, is postulated on the acceptance of the practical feasibility of their non-cruel exploitation, ‘animal rights’ messages are often taken to represent new and somewhat controversial ideas.  Although the economic advantages of nonhuman exploitation has been more implicit than explicit in the current work, it has been a feature throughout; and it may be re-emphasised at this point in that, perhaps the most strident voices raised against the ‘animal rights’ approach, are those raised by individuals and industries with the greatest financial incentive to see the maintenance of the status quo (see Guither 1998). 

          It is clear that many longstanding and indeed routine cultural and normative activities and attitudes concerning other animals are currently being presented as ethically problematic by the perspectives more radical than conventional animal welfarism.  As stated, this effectively makes ‘animal rights’ the same type of potential ‘problem-making stranger’ that Bauman (1990) claims for sociology in relation to forms of common sense knowledge.  In essence, then, ‘animal rights’ thought, even of the rhetorical kind, ‘de-familiarises’ existing social attitudes toward human-nonhuman relations. 

          Noting this ‘controversialising’ of what human societies systematically do to other animals has been a central theme throughout this thesis, especially in the second part.  From a sociological standpoint, it seems interesting to note that longstanding and generally ‘non-controversial’ aspects of human behaviour are now being questioned in ways rarely experienced before.  At least it may be said with some confidence that this recent ‘questioning’ comes from numbers of people in organised social movement mobilisations, and this itself is a fairly novel social phenomenon.  It seems quite evident, also, that until the emergence of ‘second-wave’ animal advocacy, the ‘animal question’ had been adequately ‘answered’, for most of those who ever bothered to considered it, from within the precepts of traditional animal welfarism.  Although it is asserted in this thesis that the orthodox welfarist position shows every sign of continuing strength and resilience; and so animal welfarism still provides the basis for answers to the ‘animal question’, present debate inspired by animal rights or non-traditional welfarist views effectively hinge on the extent to which mainstream animal welfarism will bear up to new claims about human-nonhuman relations. 

          Will conventional animal welfarism ever be fundamentally threatened by ‘animal rights’ principles; or will the latter views be ‘contained’; perhaps ‘softened’; and effectively ‘integrated’ within the moral orthodoxy?  To date, animal welfareism as shown itself as a formidable socio-economic and political force, while a genuine rights-based approach has struggled to emerge even within the nonorthodox animal protection movement.  Nonhuman rights have failed to gain thoughtful recognition in society, except in the rhetorical sense discussed.
         

While Howard Becker’s (1963) term ‘moral entrepreneur’ appears to contain a rather distasteful and negative connotation in its construction, it is nevertheless true to say that many activists who claim membership of the ‘animal rights movement’ are engaged in a moral enterprise which, its campaigners and philosophers will assert, involves a number of crucial, far-reaching and vital ramifications.  As Peter Singer notes in the title of one of his books, the questions being asked by the animal movement are often as fundamental as, ‘How Are We to Live?’ (Singer 1993). 

          In a similar way that Pierre Bourdieu (1973) argues that individuals have the ability to accrue and utilise ‘cultural capital’, social movements can collectively accumulate ‘moral capital’ or ‘moral resources’ (Goode, quoted in Munro 1999).  This moral capital can be used in movement-countermovement debates and combative encounters in what Klandermans (1990) calls the ‘multi-organisational field’ of social movement contestation.  Clearly, an animal rights mobilisation is a claims-making enterprise about a moral issue.  To ask animal rights and animal liberation questions is to ask ethical questions about human behaviour, and many members of the animal protection movement urge a reflexive reassessment of human attitudes and practice.  To this extent, Tester (1992) is correct to claim that animal rights is actually about human beings, especially about some of their firmly embedded social attitudes and behaviours (for a critique of Tester’s ‘distinctive and contentious’ perspective on animal advocacy, see Baker 1993). 

          This view of radical animal advocacy is not a surprise, however, since rights messages are constructed to appeal to moral agents.  Lyle Munro (1999), citing Douglas’ book from 1970 on ‘deviance’ and ‘respectability’ within ‘the social construction of moral meanings’, states that much animal activism involves stigmatising and marking out as deviant many activities that mainstream views may see as entirely legitimate.  In doing so, nonhuman advocates put themselves up against two forms of resistance: the ‘vested interests’ of the scientific and medical fraternity, agribusiness, hunting and gun lobbies, and ‘the individual who sees nothing wrong with using nonhuman animals to provide for human needs and wants’ (ibid.)     

          Notwithstanding some persistent suggestions in animal movement discourse (and particularly during demonstrations) that this or that ‘animal abuser’ is ‘born evil’, on reflection the majority of animal campaigners seem to accept that acts of human violence toward other animals are on the whole culturally and socially produced.  Therefore, since innate biological ‘instinctual drives’ are generally regarded as secondary factors in the formulation of social actors’ attitudes and behaviour, many animal advocates believe it is therefore possible to devise social systems in which exploitation of, and deliberate violence toward, all other sentients plays little or no part.  Moreover, while ‘peace on earth’ is without doubt a rather grand, subjective, and probably an utterly unobtainable utopian objective, it seems evident from thousands of contributions to ‘animal rights’ and environmental email networks that many animal advocates will nevertheless consistently construct their motivational explanations for campaigning with such idealistic notions as their eventual goal (see Jasper & Nelkin 1992 for an account of ‘animal rights’ as a ‘moral crusade’).  In other words, if one asks animal movement activists to recount their aspirations, many will talk quite seriously about ‘ending all forms of exploitation’, ‘living in peace’ and ‘struggling against violence to any living or sentient being’ (for North American examples of such expressions, see ‘Animal Rights Activists’, in Sperling 1988: 105-32; for British examples, see Windeatt 1985; Gold 1998).

What reactions might one expect to the arguments put forward by such people who apparently aspire to a non- or less violent future?  Perhaps vociferous accusations that they are obviously ‘insane’, ‘emotional’, ‘irrational’, ‘confused’ and, ‘violent’; or just plain ‘wrong’, anti-‘freedom’, ‘backward looking’, ‘stupid’, ‘anti-human’ and ‘dangerous’?

The animal movement must be shown to be not only anti-science but also...responsible for violent and illegal acts that endanger life and property (American Medical Association 1982: 2).

           
The animal rights movement is, in large part, a young person’s movement, and is    made up of young people who tend to substitute sentiment for reason (Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., formerly of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Association (USA), quoted in Regan 2001: 157).
Animal liberation, as a revolutionary philosophy, has generated something of an eccentric and peculiarly British hybrid, lurching uncomfortably between low farce and pure terrorism (David Henshaw 1989: preface). 
“Lobster Boiling Is Murder!” might seem an insane remark, but the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is the most successful terrorist movement Britain has ever seen (Kevin Toolis 1998: 8).  
The tactics employed by the animal rights movement are nothing short of   terrorism...Calling animal rights activists’ destructive methods argument is giving them too much credit (Congressman Weber, quoted in Regan 2001: 158).
I have been called a dangerous zealot, a firebrand, and a rabble-rousing demagogue.  I have been likened to Hermann Goring and to monomaniacal mental patients who think they are Jesus Christ or Napoleon (Tom Regan 2001: 157).


As seen in the following chapter, there are a number of ‘defence mechanisms’ that human beings are able to deploy in order to deal with potentially painful (or just plain unwanted) ‘knowledge’.  This includes the ability to deflect or simply ignore messages altogether while dismissing concerns as utterly unimportant or trivial.  Bauman (1990) reveals that there is nothing so utterly disturbing to sedimented knowledge than actually having to think about it.  This outlook is not necessarily based on notions that ‘ignorance is bliss’; rather, common sense knowledge is often based on the notion that a given issue has been ‘dealt with’; or that understandings surrounding that issue are largely ‘settled’.  Plainly, ‘animal rights’ arguments may have at least the potential to disturb largely settled and long-held understandings of human-nonhuman relations, and evidence already presented suggests that it does just that, even given that the welfarist orthodoxy remains central to the issue.  Therefore, many responses to ‘animal rights’ messages are likely to be based an irritation that some issues ‘already largely resolved’ are unnecessarily being ‘stirred up’ again.

          The next chapter explores ‘non-responses’ or ‘evasions’ of knowledge or information.  However, evident in the quotes reproduced above, and the journalism already cited, the arguments of the modern animal movement have not always been universally ignored.  While Regan (2001) is clearly disappointed by some of the philosophical reactions to his and others’ animal rights advocacy, pro-use organisations may be expected to actively respond to all non-traditional welfare claims in a predictably negative manner.  Such a response may be expected if only due to assumed unfavourable economic consequences of adherence to ‘animal rights’ views: many commercial ‘animal users’ have huge monetary interests to protect.  In a detailed analysis, Guither (1998: 132-43) names pro-use organisations as ‘the emerging counterforce’ to contemporary animal advocacy.  He further notes that ‘those who produce, use, and enjoy animals have awakened to the potential consequences of a successful animal rights crusade’ (ibid.: 132, emphasis added).  Of course, Guither acknowledges that pro-use groups - is it possible any longer to be surprised by this? - ‘often emphasise their strong support for humane treatment of animals, lending credibility to the animal welfare advocates, but, at the same time, make every effort to discredit the animal rights activists’ (ibid.)  One interesting aspect of the pro-use stance suggests that the ‘anti-intellectual force’ of animal rights has been ‘accepted by the public’ (ibid.) which appears to be an extraordinarily exaggerated claim. 

Guither describes how the North American ‘Farm Animal Welfare Coalition (FAWC)’ was formed in 1981 to ‘promote education against animal rights activism’.  This organisation is made up of 45 ‘major farm animal associations’[1] whose stated mission is to:-

* unite all farm organisations into a coalition committed to continued well-being and safe treatment of farm animals;

* study public opinion, attitudes, and knowledge about farm practices and modern farm technology; and
* educate the consumer, public officials, media, and other audiences about the farmers’ essential concern for the well-being of their animals and the production of safe, low-cost food (quoted in ibid.: 133).
         

This umbrella organisation appears to be agitated and apparently gravely concerned by the effects, potential or real, of present-day ‘animal rights’ campaigning.  It identifies ‘six basic issues’ within ‘animal rights’ advocacy, including the promotion of vegetarianism, arguments about food shortages in ‘developing’ nations and the ‘humane treatment’ of animals.  The FAWC responds to such issues with a campaigning programme that include commitments to:-

*continuing to monitor the direction of the animal rights movement, its attempts at coalition building, and themes used to alter public perceptions;

* establishing an effective system of monitoring state legislative and legal action;
* monitoring all studies on animal stress and advising members on implications for farming practices related to animal rights issues;
* developing positive themes to neutralise what coalition members see as irresponsible attacks on animal farming practices by animal rights groups;
* maintaining communications with other animal-rearing or user groups, particularly those concerned with laboratory animals;
* preparing their organisations to deal effectively with the challenge of the animal rights movement and implementing an ongoing communications programme, and
* researching the attitudes and knowledge level about animal rights issues prevailing in the wider circle of agribusiness (quoted in ibid.: 133-34).


Guither (ibid.: 136) goes on to detail other pro-animal farming organisations set up to counter dangerous and unwarranted ‘animal rights’ views, with descriptions of some of their campaigns. For example, there is the ‘I care’ programme run under the auspices of the ‘American Farm Bureau Federation’ designed to ‘foster humane treatment of animals’ and ‘demonstrate that young people do believe in good animal welfare’.  This particular federation also publishes handbooks such as Meeting the Animal Rights Challenge, published in 1991, and Handling the 20 Toughest Animal Rights Assertions, published in 1994.  Another pro-use organisation, the ‘Pork Producers’ Council’, advise members to respond to ‘animal rights’ claims in measured tones, suggesting lines such as: ‘We share with them their concern about the welfare of farm animals.  We wish they were better informed about the way pork producers take care of their livestock’ (NPPC Handbook, quoted in ibid). 

          Their handbook concludes with good advice for all those fashionably waging ‘war against terrorism’: ‘The animal rights movement is acquiring the earmarks [!] of international terrorism... animal rights activists want the entire farm industry to life in a state of anxiety.  Don’t give them the satisfaction.  On the other hand, don’t be careless’ (quoted in ibid.: 137).

          While the ‘United Egg Producers’ stress the ‘safety factor’ of chickens being locked into battery cages (and the importance of allowing ‘adequate freedom of movement’), the ‘Fur Farm Animal Welfare Coalition’ speaks of ‘responsible management’ techniques and the clear dominionist notion of a ‘controlled harvest of fur-bearing animals’ (in ibid.: 137-38).  Further organisations supporting the use of animals in experimental procedures follow a similar pattern, stressing ‘sensible use’ and ‘humane care’ of laboratory animals.  Citing Barbara J. Cultin’s 1991 article in Nature 351.6327, Guither notes that the ‘biomedical research community’ believes that ‘the animal rights movement is not about reason.  It is about eliminating the use of animals in research...’ (in ibid.: 139).[2]  The ‘Scientists’ Center for Animal Welfare’ says it promotes the ‘well-being’ of laboratory animals, and while some pro-vivisectionists suggest that mice are currently ‘helping’ in the fight against the ‘anthrax threat’ which may or may not be connected with the events of ‘September 11th’.[3]  The ‘Livestock Conservation Institute’ relies on theological constructions as it talks of farmers being ‘responsible stewards of livestock’. 

          While the ‘National Animal Interest Alliance’ note that ‘meeting the animal rights challenge’ amounts to educating the public about the ‘critical difference between animal welfare and animal rights’, an organisation know as ‘Putting People First’ (PPF) defines its objectives as enlightening ‘middle America about the work of animal rights groups, to provide balanced education about animals and their use with school-age children, and to protect human health through disease control and support for biomedical research’ (ibid.: 140-41).  The founder of Putting People First, Kathleen Marquardt, characterises her materials produced for school use as ‘balanced’, while she dismisses what the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) organisation has to say about human-nonhuman relations as a form of ‘brainwashing’ (ibid.: 141).  One of PPF’s most original campaigns is called the ‘Hunters for the Hungry project’ which entails hunters donating venison to church shelters to feed the ‘needy’ (ibid.: 143).


More ‘Media Dancing’.


Research suggests that many social movement activists are extremely sensitive to, and actively engaged with,[4] the media reaction to their activities (see Goldberg [1991] for an account of the ‘high-risk media dance’ that occurs between many social movements and the media, and Yates [1998] for details of how animal activists’ perceptions of press coverage of their campaigning changed over the years in Britain: 1970’s-1990’s). 

          Data (Yates 1998) on the British animal protection movement suggests that some animal activists have perceived a general (downward) qualitative shift in the media coverage of their cause in recent years.  Indeed, British activists subjectively report what they once regarded as generally positive media coverage of their campaigns during the early 1980’s, but many note that recent years have seen an increase in reports which they view as examples of largely ‘negative coverage’.  One apparently common form of media coverage of ‘protest’, according to Rochon (1990), focuses on militancy and law breaking but with little or no articulation of the issues involved.  While Rochon talks about the ‘exacting criteria’ of the media, other social movement theorists note that ‘media communication industries’ actively ‘filter’ reports of the activities of social movement advocates (Zald 1992: 338). 

          There is some evidence (Yates 1998) - supplemented subsequently by material from animal protection email networks - to suggest that contemporary animal advocates are just as curious about the media’s reporting of their campaigning as all other social movement activists, and have frequently experienced the style of coverage identified by Rochon.  Responding to the increased use of electronic mail among animal advocates, one or two animal groups have organised the dissemination of media reports, encouraging their supporters to write to media outlets to express ‘animal rights’ views.[5]  As noted above, interpretations of media coverage are subjective.  For example, views were reported (in ibid.) ranging from ‘whoever said all news is good news was wrong’ to suggestions that even perceived negative coverage at least kept the issue ‘in the public eye’.[6]  Rochon’s (1990) point about selective coverage of protest apparently underlines suggestions that media constructions may play an ideological role in society (see Miliband 1969; Cohen & Taylor 1973; Habermas 1976 - and also Thompson’s 1995: 7 seemingly misplaced assertion that early Frankfurt School accounts of ‘the culture industry’ were ‘too negative’). 

If not direct examples of press coverage of action with little or no elaboration of the protesters’ motivations and aspirations, a good deal of recent journalistic analysis of ‘animal rights’ in British media appears to be ideological in intent.  It certainly is not difficult to find example in which ‘the case for animal rights’ is grossly misrepresented or interpreted in misleading ways.

Furthermore, as seen in the journalistic treatment of Barry Horne’s hunker strike cited above, a great many critical evaluations of what is often called ‘animal rights activism’ contain blanket assertions that self-evidently, the proper and most appropriate way to approach any ‘animal question’ is through the philosophy and regulatory mechanisms of animal welfarism.  Many commentators and journalists display an extraordinary inability or disinclination to ‘break free’ of conventional thinking about human-nonhuman relations.  It was suggested that such an inability may be a product of the cultural dominance of animal welfarism, this not aided by the philosophical confusion within the animal protection movement.  However, it was also suggested above that many examples may be found in which authors appear to actively be motivated by a desire to discredit the entire notion of ‘animal rights’.  A number of commentators, such as Mike Hume, Germaine Greer, Kevin Toolis, Clare Fox, Stephen Rose and Dea Birkett, none ostensibly connected or employed by pro-use mobilisations, may be cited in this regard.  For example, in 1990, Germaine Greer wrote about what she called the ‘fallacy of animal rights’ (Independent Magazine, 13 Jan 1990). 

Having decided that ‘animal rights’ is really about class antagonism, she seems to charge the animal movement with the apparently grave misdemeanour of queue-jumping.  In other words, she confidently asserts that ‘animal rights’ thought and action inevitably places nonhuman animals’ rights above those of women and children who, being human, must quite naturally come first.  Animal advocacy certainly must be seen, she suggests, as at least an unwarranted distraction from children’s and women’s issues.[7]  Pointing out that the second-wave ‘animal rights’ movement has invented the ‘crime of speciesism’, Greer concludes her piece with a quite typical appeal toward the logic of conventional animal welfarism.  Thus, although she identifies ‘an innate conviction to superiority’ in animal advocates, along with an allegation of their display of ‘garbled arguments’, she nevertheless accepts that ‘man [sic] has no right to harm animals’.  In the characteristic move common in discussions of ‘animal rights’ views, animal welfarism yet again is inevitably suggested as the transparently appropriate paradigm by which we should consider the plight of nonhumans.  Therefore, Greer accepts that ‘some of the uses we make of animals’ are ‘barbarous’ and therefore should be ‘outlawed’.  However, again entirely consistent with animal welfarist thought, she defends eating animals and killing farmed ones for their fur; presumably within the welfarist understanding that general uses and exploitation of ‘animal resources’ can be organised and regulated without (or with very little) ‘unnecessary’ cruelty or suffering.  As a commentator apparently committed to producing sustained attacks on ‘animal rights’ thinking, Greer made sure she took the opportunity to reiterate her critique of ‘animal rights’ during a radio discussion concerned with the events of ‘September the 11th’ in October 2001. 

Guardian journalist Kevin Toolis makes a habit of writing about what he calls the ‘animal rights’-inspired ‘Vegan Wars’ (Toolis 1998; 2001).[8]  Apparently taking some elements of Keith Tester’s (1992) perspective on ‘animal rights’ activists, Toolis describes animal advocates as ‘victims’ or adherents of a type of ‘fundamentalist religion’ based on the vegan diet.  Even though he states that attending a British ‘animal rights’ demonstration means coming face to face with a ‘cross section’ of British society - from ‘grey-haired matrons’ to ‘black-hooded anarchists’ - he nevertheless asserts that ‘to the majority of Britons, most of the animal rights agenda is just madness’ (Toolis 2001: 7).  Extrapolating from one or two interviews conducted with ‘animal rights’ campaigners, Toolis also maintains that the movement argues for the need for ‘de-industrialisation’ (1998: 18); the ‘elimination’ of most of humanity; ‘the rejection of Western science’; and a return to some ‘past Utopia’ (ibid.: 21). 

Rochon’s (1990) suggestion that a great deal of social movement coverage may be focused on action and militancy rather than discussing or elaborating the campaigners’ views is seen explicitly in Toolis’ commentaries on ‘animal rights’ and animal activism.  For example Toolis engages (1998: 16) - but extremely briefly - with Singer’s non-rights thesis in the sense that he allows a single sixteen-line paragraph of discussion about pro-animal philosophy within seven pages of magazine text and pictures.  He not once mentions the writing or existence of Regan or Francione, perhaps the foremost contemporary animal rights thinkers, preferring to conflate some of the activities of militant activists with general animal advocacy, and suggests that the position of one or two individuals are the generalised view of all. 

          At the end of his lengthy attack, he perhaps reveals a direct and personal source of his antipathy toward ‘animal rights’ thought and activism.  It transpires that Toolis believes he was ‘saved’ by animal experimentation after he contracted tuberculosis in 1971 at the age of twelve (ibid.: 21).  This belief has apparently led the journalist toward a severely critical assessment of ‘animal rights’ views, dismissing rights views outright as the ideas of ‘cranks’ and ‘lunatics’.  Since Toolis states near the end of the article, ‘It is not true that animal experiments do not work’, it is at least evident that he bases his critique on his understanding of his own medical history.  However, not once does he acknowledge the work of scientific anti-vivisectionist experts and medical historians such as Richard Ryder (1983), Robert Sharpe (1988; 1994), Tony Page (1997) and Hans Ruesch (1979; 1982) who extensively cite medical and academic opinion that suggests that animal experimentation is a seriously flawed and limited medical methodology. 

          The works of such anti-vivisection medical authorities suggest that animal experimentation is sustained more for commercial reasons than medical ones.  If they are correct (and it is beyond the scope of this thesis to assess this matter) then vivisection experiments on nonhumans may hinder medical progress and human sufferers of diseases and injury are ill-served by them.  Given his personal history, one might expect a journalist such as Toolis to be interested to genuinely explore this suggestion for its implications for general human health when he writes about the activities of elements of the social movement that suggests it.  Besides all of these factors, Toolis also fails to address the issue of vivisection from an animal rights position which would focus on the morality of the practice rather than its methodological validity.

          If an intensely personalised reason for rejecting ‘animal rights’ views may be identified, Toolis’ perspective also has connections with other themes of this thesis.  For example, he reproduces the common assertion that ‘animal rights’ means ‘choosing’ between the lives of guinea pigs and the lives of human beings, while no genuine animal rights philosopher has stated that such a choice is necessary or desirable.  Reflecting fellow Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee’s perspective (cited above) that animal activists are ‘rent-a-mob’ personalities in search of a cause in the so-called ‘postmodern condition’, Toolis suggests that, given the ‘triumphant era of capitalism’, ‘animal rights’ may be regarded as the sole radical alternative. 

          However, what ‘animal rights’ fundamentally represents for Toolis is ‘a terrible, terrible, childish dream’ (1998: 21).  Reflecting a point made earlier in the thesis, Toolis makes it clear that this is because pro-animal attitudes appear to be interpreted as a kind of ‘denigration of humanity’.  He suggests that campaigning for nonhumans may be associated with a denial of the ‘glories of our own species,’ incorporating (and bringing his analysis once again to a personal level) ‘the daily miracles of our technologies’ resulting in ‘medicines that save millions, and even the lives of animals’ (ibid.)[9] 

          The position adopted by Kevin Toolis is almost exactly mirrored by that of Clare Fox of the Marxist-inspired ‘Institute of Ideas.  On the 7th of July, 2001, the BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze ‘team’, including Fox, discussed the notion of ‘animal rights’ in the light of the on-going campaign against vivisection experiments at Huntingdon Life Sciences laboratories in Cambridgeshire, England, which reportedly kills around 500 nonhumans every day.  In language reflecting conventional institutionalised and internalised attitudes to human-nonhuman relations, Fox states that she thinks ‘animal rights’ views ‘tells us a lot more about how we view humanity than animals’. 

          She believes that a rights view must ‘denigrate our view of humanity’.[10]  This is because, she claims, nonhuman rights intimates that ‘we’ humans are in a reductive sense ‘no better than animals’.  Therefore, any talk of a ‘holocaust of rats’ serves only to highlight a terribly ‘low view’ of humanity.  On the same programme, Roger Scruton can make little sense of fundamental rights without a connection to apposite duties, therefore, for him, as for many philosophers, this simply rules out the whole notion of nonhuman rights.  However, even though this entire radio programme was directed toward an exploration of the notion of ‘animal rights’, and included a lengthy contribution from Andrew Tyler, the director of the British organisation Animal Aid, once again the discourse frequently turned to the precepts of animal welfarism in order to talk about human-nonhuman relations.  For example, Scruton had no absolutely difficulty in understanding humanity’s ‘duty of care’ toward animals.  Thus, he said, using a central tenet of animal welfarism, ‘due care’ should be taken when ‘killing animals for food’.  Yet again, any notion of ‘due care’ toward other sentients does not mean that their lives cannot be systematically ‘sacrificed’ for human interests.  However, Scruton persists - as if reading from a script, nonhuman animals should not be subjected to ‘unnecessary suffering’; and thus human beings must behave in a ‘humane’ way toward them.

          The apparent general inability to differentiate genuine rights arguments from animal welfare positions,[11] can result in some commentators on animal advocacy making outrageously inaccurate observations.  As suggested, some such inaccuracies often appear to stem from a real confusion and misunderstanding of the complexities of differentiation, rather than being the product of a deliberate debunking of the ‘animal rights’ stance.  Nevertheless, such confusion can result in a serious misrepresentation of genuine animal rights motives and ideas.  For example, in a piece about animal activists who openly express ‘militant’ views, the leader comment in the New Scientist of December 12th, 1998, presumes that animal advocacy must have some intrinsic connection with ‘loving’ nonhuman animals: ‘Those at the core [of the Animal Liberation Front] seem to be motivated as much by a hatred of society as any love for animals’.  The writer seemingly cannot conceive of the reason why some activist ‘leaders’ are reported to regard pets as ‘slaves’.  The conclusion is drawn that perhaps this view represents the perspective of extremists out of step with ‘appropriate’ mainstream positions which are, of course, welfarist in nature. 

          The leader comment further suggests that, ‘We need a “peace process” where the many people concerned about animal welfare can express their views democratically and the extremists can be seen for what they are’.  Perhaps it may be taken as given that the phrase ‘seen for what they are’ does not mean: ‘not adherents of traditional animal welfarism’, and does not mean ‘animal advocates who may stress non-traditional welfare or rights views’.  It seems clear that it means being regarded as ‘human-hating extremists’ who fail to adhere to any ‘normal’ orientation toward other animals: that is, being concerned with ‘loving’ them as ordinary people love their pets; being interested in their welfare-in-use as every vivisectionist and circus owner claims to be; and interested in what some of them taste like once ‘humanely’ slaughtered.

          Similar confusion, although contradictory in part, is present in a Daily Telegraph ‘opinion column’ of December 9th, 1998, in another piece discussing activist Barry Horne’s hunger strike.  Suggesting that ‘we should learn to balance human need with proper animal welfare’, the writer declares that ‘Horne has turned animal welfare into animal warfare’, which may be neat journalese but carelessly misses out on understanding the perspective of the animal advocate in question.  The writer also unaccountably suggests (as Sperling [1988] does) that ‘animal rights’ is solely concerned with anti-vivisection initiatives.  The author, however, points out many problems of pet keeping and treatment stating, for example, that keeping parrots in cages is “cruel”.  However, it is further asserted that such legitimate concerns are ‘not something the animal rights activists like to mention’. Why? Apparently because ‘pet lovers are their staunchest allies’.[12] 

          Moreover, and quite mistakenly, the claim is made that ‘animal rights’ campaigners will not ‘launch a crusade against carnivores, who make up 93% of the population’.  This wholly erroneous and grossly misleading statement would greatly surprise the international rights-based anti-factory farming organisation VIVA!, as much as the national Animal Aid mobilisation, especially since the latter organisation was founded in England in 1977, and has always taken at least a pro-vegetarian, and latterly, pro-vegan, stance against meat eating.  So, what exactly is the ‘animal rights’ agenda according to the Daily Telegraph?: ‘They just attack those “callous” scientists who are using animals in research.  But animal experimentation is used in only five per cent of research projects.  Even then it is guided by 20 different codes of practice and the animals are anaesthetised’.[13]

          Clearly, such contributions may add heat but not a great deal of light to the ‘animal rights debate’ or Regan and Ryder’s ‘battle of ideas’.  Those seeking a clear elaboration, and perhaps a cool assessment of animal rights claims, would simply have to look elsewhere.  Indeed, future sociological research on this would be most interesting; perhaps investigating with the methodology of content analysis the extent of ‘animal rights coverage’ which may be said to contain little or no ‘animal rights content’ and comparing this to coverage which genuinely appears to attempt to report on the published ideas of authentic animal rights philosophers and activists.

***************


This section has been primarily concerned with examples of the reaction to so-called animal rights advocacy from groups and organisations that support the use of nonhuman animals as a human resource.  It has also included some of the reactions to nonhuman advocacy from a number of media commentators.  It is suggested that most of these reactions have been based on economic incentives, personal reasons and understandings of rights and duties.  However, a common factor in each and every case is a strong ideological orientation toward orthodox animal welfarism, seen, almost ‘naturally’, as the most appropriate and, certainly, realistic lens by which society can, and should, view human-nonhuman relations.  If orthodox animal welfarism may be seen as the dominant paradigm in terms of assessing such relations, no widely-advocated genuine rights position appears to have emerged to successfully or seriously challenge its societal influence. 

          The next chapter elaborates on the social psychology of the reaction to messages like those emanating from the animal movement.  Various advocates of nonhuman interests claim that the general public are their principal ‘target audience’ (Yates 1998): the following section explores research on how the public may react to such ‘providers of information’.





[1]   Including the American Dairy Science Assoc., American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Manufacturers Assoc., American Meat Inst., American Society of Animal Science, American Veal Assoc., Animal Health Inst., Commission on Farm Animal Care, Farm & Industrial Equipment Inst., Holstein Assoc., Livestock Conservation Inst., Livestock Marketing Assoc., National Broiler Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc., National Lamb Feeders Assoc., National Livestock & Meat Board, National Livestock Producers Assoc., National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, National Wool Growers Assoc., Poultry Science Assoc., Provimi, and United Egg Producers.  ‘In addition to those industry groups, the US Dept. of Agriculture is also listed as a member’ (Guither 1998: 133).
[2]   The strength of this linguistic construction suggests that a wish to abolish animal experimentation is incompatible with a rational assessment of the subject.
[3]   ‘September 11th’, and lately ‘9-11’, appears to have become the widely accepted shorthand for the terrorist acts of retaliation in New York and Washington on that date in 2001.
[4]   Indeed, Gamson (1992) suggests that social movement activists are often engaged with the media reaction to their campaigns on a weekly, daily, or even on a hourly basis.
[5]   Not surprisingly, pro-use organisations, such as the Countryside Alliance, are also involved in similar media monitoring and encouragement of members to contribute to newspaper letters pages and media ‘message boards’ (via media web sites).  Another consequence of this constant monitoring of the mass media and the encouragement of supporters to make contact is the apparent distortion of ‘public’ opinion polls on contested issues such as foxhunting and ‘culling’ badgers.
[6]   I have been struck by modern activist reaction to press inquiries compared to how activists responded to the press in the past (meaning 1970’s & 1980’s when I often acted as a ‘press officer’ for ‘animal rights’ mobilisations).  Modern advocates appear to be much more cautious about press contacts than the earlier generation of campaigners.  Typically, they will alert other activists of journalistic interest, accompanying such information with requests for knowledge about the ‘track record’ of the journalist in question.  Those thought to be potentially unsympathetic or downright hostile to ‘animal rights’ messages are avoided or warned against.  However, given the increase in media outlets, this factor alone could explain changing patterns in social movement contact with the mass media.  In other words, modern advocates may be able to afford to ‘pick and choose’ who they talk to with no apparent loss of column inches.
[7]   Here Greer reasserts her oft-repeated notion (first articulated in the BBC2 video referred to earlier in the thesis) that acceptance of ‘animal rights’ would eliminate the use of ‘beasts of burden’, leading to an increase in the incidence of women (obviously mainly in ‘developing’ countries) having to fetch and carry.
[8]   Toolis is the partner of reporter Dea Birkett who also takes a strident anti-‘animal rights’ stance.  One of her articles revealed that she ‘always dreamed’ of working in an animal circus.
[9]   It is common to find ‘animal rights’ opponents emphasising that some animal experiments have been beneficial to other animals.  Since this point fails to acknowledge the animal rights position on the property status of nonhuman animals (not to mention objections to exploiting one right holder to benefit another), it does not address the issue from an animal rights understanding.  Again the tendency is seen that commentators approach human-nonhuman issues with anything but a rights view of the matters at hand.
[10]   A similar line is taken in the USA by the National Institute on Medical Health (NIMH) which states that ‘the [animal rights] movement’s philosophy is based on a degradation of human nature’ (Adams, quoted in Munro 1998).  Guither (1998: 143) reports that the founder of the North American countermovement, Putting People First, Kathleen Marquardt, co-wrote a pamphlet warning of the dangers of ‘animal rights fraud’, entitled Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights.
[11]   As noted above in comments on the hunger strike carried out by Barry Horne, it is not difficult for welfare and rights issues to become confused.  Journalist John Arlidge, writing in the Observer of December 6th, 1998, contributes to the confusion in an article entitled: ‘Animal lover ready to die to end vivisection’.  Arlidge notes the animal rights credentials of Barry Horne but also recognises that the provisions in New Labour’s 1997 manifesto (part of which Horne’s hunger strike became ostensibly aimed at enforcing) were purely based within the purview of animal welfarism.  For example, Labour’s leaflet about their plans, New Labour: New Life for Animals, states only that: ‘Labour has consistently shown itself as the only party to trust on issues of animal welfare...We will support a Royal Commission to review the effectiveness and justification of animal experimentation and to examine alternatives’.
[12]   This position is the exact opposite of that taken by some pro-use countermovemnt mobilisations who delight, as seen, in telling ‘pet owners’ and animal welfarists that ‘animal rights’ means ‘having your pets taken away’.
[13]   Garner (1993: 123) suggests that 60% of animal experiments take place without anaesthetic, while activist Juliet Gellatley (2000: 87) states that ‘most’ take place without anaesthesia.  Gellatley also notes concerns that animals do not receive analgesics after procedures to reduce post-operative pain.

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Abstract

The Social Construction of Human Beings and Other Animals in Human-Nonhuman Relations. Welfarism and Rights: A Contemporary Sociologica...