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What Next for Animal Welfare in the UK?

May 12th, 2015 1 comment
The first animal welfare manifesto published by GECCAP for the 1979 general election.

The first animal welfare manifesto published by GECCAP for the 1979 general election.

In 2007 I returned to live in the UK from 20 years of working in the USA. Since then, there have been two British general elections: in 2010 that led to the formation of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition and this month with the election of a Conservative government. In the 1970s and 1980s I played a prominent role in the original ‘Putting Animals into Politics’ campaign which was organised by a coalition of national animal welfare groups called the General Election Coordinating Committee for Animal Protection. The sequel to my first book, Growl, is called The Animal Rights Challenge, which will argue that the greatest challenge the animal rights movement faces is making the moral and legal status of animals a mainstream political issue. It is from this starting point that I briefly evaluate here the effectiveness of the British animal welfare movement in the 2010 and 2015 elections, and how it is responding to the political mainstream challenge. An understanding of the situation in the UK will help to inform animal advocates not only in the UK but throughout the world on how they can improve their advocacy.

First, a note about terminology: While recognising the important ideological differences between animal welfare, animal rights, and animal protection, the tradition in the UK is to use animal welfare and not animal rights, whereas in the USA it is customary to say animal protection and animal rights. For the purposes of this commentary, I will use the terms animal rights and the animal rights movement but use animal welfare and animal welfare movement when I am specifically referring to the situation in the UK. I use animal rights and the animal rights movement as labels to describe an expansive interpretation of the moral and legal status of animals. I recognise this is problematic and will explore this issue further in my next book.

From my personal experience and from talking with many animal advocates over the years, I conclude we tend to believe animal cruelty and exploitation will inevitably stop when everyone goes vegan thereby enabling the animal rights movement to achieve moral and legal rights for animals. This was my view for many years; however, the more I learned about social movements and understood the animal rights movement as a social movement, the more I came to understand that the most effective role the animal rights movement can have is as a catalyst on society. It will be society that will determine if animals deserve rights and not the animal rights movement.

Further, I now see social movements, as with the animal rights movement, as having to be fully engaged in all of the following five stages to fulfil their mission:

  1. Public education: when people are enlightened about the issue and embrace it in their lives
  2. Public policy development: when the political parties, businesses, schools, professional associations, and other entities that constitute society adopt sympathetic positions on the issue
  3. Legislation: when laws are passed on the issue
  4. Enforcement: when laws are implemented and, if necessary, litigated
  5. Public acceptance: when the issue is embraced by the majority of society

ARC Five Stages Table JPEG.001As a social justice issue progresses through each stage, its influence and resistance to setbacks increases proportionately.

I see the animal rights movement as mostly in stage one with some activity in stages two, three, and four. I characterise this present situation for the animal rights movement as a moral crusade but we need to be also a social movement. In truth, we need to be both. In other words, animal advocates function presently as moral crusaders when we need to be also political operatives or social justice advocates. This is why I no longer believe in pressing for voluntary behavioural change, that is to say vegan, cruelty-free living, as the principal focus of the animal rights movement; and why our greatest challenge is to make animal rights a mainstream political issue. By saying the animal rights movement will neither achieve animal rights nor persuade everyone to go vegan is not to suggest that all we do is pointless. Our work for animals is vital and valuable. It is having an effect. We must continue. People are changing how they live and what they believe, and how companies use animals. But as a recent study from the Humane Research Council showed, optional personal lifestyle choice of vegan, cruelty-free living is fickle as is public opinion. In short, individual change is good but institutional change is better.

The best role we can hope for the animal rights movement to have is to act as a catalyst on society, particularly in public policy and legislation. Optional personal lifestyle choice of vegan, cruelty-free living is preferred. But institutional change is essential for those who will never care. Public policy and laws mandating legal and enforceable and effective animal protection force people to behave differently. Laws mandate how people behave. They also embody the values we hold in society. A failure to comply with legislation places the non-compliant in a position of breaking the law and the risk of penalty from enforcement. Now, I realise this is a simplistic interpretation. There is much to discuss about how democracies function. Or do not as the case maybe. We live in flawed democracies. Or worse. Nonetheless, this is the context in which we campaign for animal rights.

But is institutional change (e.g., political party positions, public policy, regulations, legislation, law enforcement) the focus and mission of the animal rights movement?

ZoopolisWhile there is some activity in these areas (stages 2, 3, 4), most of the attention of the animal rights movement is on saving animals from harm and campaigning for optional lifestyle choice (stage 1). While these are urgent actions the animal rights movement should be doing and continue to do, are they important? Well, yes, of course, they are important but their urgency is due to the animal rights movement not making important the strategy of pursuing animal rights as a mainstream political issue. We need laws to stop people and companies from behaving in ways that abuse animals because it will not always be done voluntarily. In the fulness of time, as more effective and enforced animal protection laws are passed onto the statute book, the urgent need for intervention to aid at-risk animals will be reduced. Smoking, for example, was reduced and restricted by public education (e.g., ads on cigarette packets) but it was until not public policy (e.g., legislation on smoking in public places) that the greatest impact was made on people’s behaviour.

If we accept that not everyone and not every company will go vegan, the only way forward is to make animal rights a mainstream political issue. Because the animal rights movement has not made this a priority is the reason why animal advocates perpetually face elected representatives, with a small number of welcome exceptions, who are indifferent at best and hostile at worst to how animals are treated. It is not a question of public education over public policy or vice versa. Both are needed. But presently our focus is more on voluntary individual lifestyle change than it is on institutional change and public policy and legislation.

General elections are important. Not only for such issues as the economy but also for determining the values we place in our relationship with animals. They are opportunities to advance the agenda for animals and elect individuals as candidates and political parties as governments who embrace animal rights and committed to a legislative agenda to meet this objective. I cannot be the only one who is fed up with living under governments and represented by elected people who do not care about animals!

Animal Revolution by Richard D. Ryder (Oxford: Blackwell; 1989)

Animal Revolution by Richard D. Ryder (Oxford: Blackwell; 1989)

When I compare the British animal welfare movement and its response to the general elections of 1979 and 1983 with 2010 and 2015, I am disappointed at the lack of overall progress made as a social movement in our sophistication in taking advantage of these opportunities. There should have been in the decades between the 1970s and 2010s more achieved in establishing animal welfare as a mainstream political issue. We failed to persuade the political parties of the importance of animal welfare as an issue that matters to the electorate, which is disturbing given how popular animal welfare is in opinion polls. In short, we are not transforming our moral crusade into a political movement. Instead, we have regressed to relying upon using general elections as opportunities to raise funds and launch websites. Moreover, there is more to political life than a general election every five years!

There is a lack of vision, understanding and long-term strategic thinking in the British animal welfare movement about itself and its role as a social movement. To be sure there is much good work that is done. There are many accomplishments to highlight. But we are not rising to the challenge of making animal protection a mainstream political issue. In Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights authors Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka challenge the status quo of the animal rights movement with insightful analysis and offer an innovative approach on how it is possible to move forward. They do not have all the answers. But this book is required reading if anyone wants to get serious about challenging the institution of animal cruelty and exploitation.

Compassion is the Bugler: The Struggle for Animal Rights by Clive Hollands (Macdonald Publishers, Edinburgh: 1980)

Compassion is the Bugler: The Struggle for Animal Rights by Clive Hollands (Macdonald Publishers, Edinburgh: 1980)

Animal advocates should also read such books as Compassion Is the Bugler by Clive Hollands and Animal Revolution by Richard Ryder to learn about the history of the animal welfare movement and what was accomplished and how it was achieved in the 1979 and 1983 general elections. There is also an informative chapter by Clive Hollands in the first edition of In Defence of Animals edited by Peter Singer.

The ‘Putting Animals into Politics’ campaign comprised of a coalition of organisations which published a manifesto that they took to the country nationally, by lobbying the central offices of the political parties, and locally, by mobilising in the constituencies. The participating organisations motivated their members collectively to question candidates individually and publicly at the hustings. The interests of individual organisations were put to one side as part of a greater coalition with shared objectives. Everyone benefitted, including the animals, who, for the first time, had their interests represented in the manifestos of the political parties. In 2010 and 2015 there was no such coalition. Instead, those groups which participated in the general election (not all did) published their own manifestoes and dedicated websites. There appeared to be very little encouragement in one-to-one contacts between animal advocates and candidates.

So, what is to be done?

In short, we need to make animal rights a mainstream political issue so that when political parties form governments they bring with them an understanding of the issue and a commitment to implementing an agenda of effective public policy. Then, it is our responsibility to ensure that governments fulfil them during their term in office. Then, at subsequent elections, we hold them to account, along with the other political parties to ensure at the very least unsympathetic parties are not elected to form governments. Moreover, the time between elections, which now occur with biannual frequency when local, national and EU elections are considered, provides an ideal opportunity to raise animal rights with candidates who seek our support.

Here are some ideas for what can be done:

  • Evaluate, develop and reassess long-term strategies with the Five-Stage Analysis of social movements to position animal rights as Public Education and as Public Policy
  • Build alliances with non-animal rights organisations, civic groups, professional associations, businesses, NGOs, etc., where shared interests and common ground exists
  • Invest in international coalitions with like-minded groups
  • Position animal rights within a larger social and political context
  • Establish a permanent movement-wide initiative targeting local, general and European elections
  • Stay focused on political parties, elected representatives and government employees to ensure accountability
  • Join the political party of your choice and work from within to advance animal rights without allowing oneself to become known as someone who only cares about animals
  • Support such groups as the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting who work within political parties in support of animals
  • Focus on marginal constituencies where a relatively small number of votes determines who gets elected and candidates are particularly sensitive to constituents’s concerns
  • Ensure the election and re-election of candidates who speak out for animals and are vegetarian or vegan
  • Encourage national groups to organise lobby groups of their own supporters within each political party
  • Target elected representatives who consistently oppose animal interests
  • Ensure that every action for animals has a public policy component
Elected MP for Sowerby 1949-1974; Minister for the Social Services 1964-1967; Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party 1967-74. President of Animal Welfare Year 1976-77. Vice-President of the RSPCA.

Elected MP for Sowerby 1949-1974; Minister for the Social Services 1964-1967; Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party 1967-74. President of Animal Welfare Year 1976-77. Vice-President of the RSPCA.

At the RSPCA Rights of Animals symposium at Trinity College in Cambridge, Lord Houghton of Sowerby who chaired GECCAP said:

My message is that animal welfare, in the general and in the particular, is largely a matter for the law. This means that to Parliament we must go. Sooner or later that is where we will have to go. That is where laws are made and where the penalties for disobedience and the measures for enforcement are laid down.

Lord Houghton’s words are as relevant today as they were in 1977. It is about time more attention was given to them.

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Party Political Conference at Vegfest UK Brighton

March 30th, 2015 No comments

The Brighton Vegfest UK held a special Party Political Conference where politicians from the UK’s major political parties presented manifestos on health, environment and food sustainability, and animal welfare. This special conference was held because of the general election to be held on Thursday, May 7. 

Vegfest UK is to be congratulated for not only hosting the conference but also for its success. The speakers included Caroline Allen (Green), Chris Bowers (LibDems) Paul Chandler (LibDems), Vanessa Hudson (Animal Welfare Party), Councillor Mary Mears (Conservative), Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour), Purna Sen (Labour), Henry Smith MP (Conservative), and Keith Taylor MEP (Green). 

These are the introductory remarks that I made at the beginning of the final session of the conference. The focus of which was animal welfare. For more on my views on making animal protection a mainstream political issue, please read my book, Growl, and visit the Animal Rights Challenge pages on this website.

By the way, Vegfest UK announced that 12,000 visitors attended the event over the weekend of March 28-29.

Opening Remarks

Henry Smith speaking with Caroline Allen listening.

Henry Smith speaking with Caroline Allen listening.

Some basic assumptions first based upon 40 years of experience as a full time vegan animal rights campaigner.

Not everyone is going to go vegetarian or vegan.

Not everyone is going to embrace animal rights.

The animal rights movement isn’t going to achieve moral and legal rights for animals.

Which begs the questions: What is the role of the animal rights movement? What is our single greatest challenge?

Our role is to act as a catalyst on society to educate and inspire individual action.

Vanessa Hudson

Vanessa Hudson

Our single greatest challenge is to make animal rights a mainstream political issue.

Because if not everyone is going care as we do, we need laws — progressive and enforced — to protect animals with moral and legal rights.

To achieve this we need to embed the values of animal rights into the ideology of the mainstream political parties.

And this is why this debate is very important.

As someone who was an organiser in the first Putting Animals into Politics campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s, my assessment of our track record in making animal rights a mainstream political issue is mixed.

Kerry McCarthy, Purna Sen and Kim Stallwood.

Kerry McCarthy, Purna Sen and Kim Stallwood.

Mixed in the sense that there is progress to report. A general shift in the direction toward awareness of animal issues and interest in vegan, cruelty-free living. Vegfest is testimony to the progress. But a recent study in the USA showed that of US adults age 17 and over:

2% are current vegetarian/vegan
10% are former vegetarian/vegan
88% have never been vegetarian/vegan

This substantiates my concern about relying upon social justice for animals as an optional, cruelty-free lifestyle choice and, in particular, framing vegan living as a fashionable thing to do. Trends come and go. Public opinion is fickle.

Individual change is good and essential.

But institutional change as well is better and enduring but more difficult to achieve. Enduing because once a law is a law it’s difficult to change it.

From here I improvised on closing remarks underscoring the importance of the conference.

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Common Decency and Animal Welfare

March 25th, 2015 No comments

Common Decency logoMusician and astrophysicist Brian May recently launched a new campaign from his charity the Save Me Trust. It’s called Common Decency with a mission to reform Britain’s democracy.

We want nothing less than a complete reform of the Parliamentary system. It’s about not just removing the unfairness and injustice that the present Government represents, but removing the corrupt system that spawned it and all recent Governments. And it’s about radically changing the composition of Parliament – moving it forward, consigning the failed two-party system to history.

Brian and Save Me’s CEO, Anne Brummer, kindly invited me to write the following article for publication on in the Experts section of the Common Decency website.

Common Decency and Animal Welfare

The common decency is to treat others as you would want them to treat you.

Perhaps this is easier said than done.

Certainly, it’s easier with those with whom we love. Our family and friends are special to us precisely because of our intense relationship with them. A bond that is grounded in love and respect, intimacy and loyalty. We know they will be there for us when we need them to be. As we would be there for them should they need us.

But what about those who are outside of our immediate circle? Other people whom we may know but not well or, if we do, we don’t like. Do we treat them as you would want them to treat you?

Maybe.

Then, there are strangers. People we’ve never met. We know nothing about them. Other than from what we see from looking at them. And then we may not always be correct in our assumptions. People often aren’t what they appear to be. Or how we think they should behave.

I’d like to think that if I saw someone — anyone — who needed help I would do my best to assist them. But I don’t always give change to the homeless people who I walk past. I don’t always think to wait for others when I board a train. I’m distracted. My mind is elsewhere. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. And I want to get home. I think of myself. Nonetheless, despite my failings in living up to the standard I hold in others, I would like to believe that if I ever needed help someone would come to my assistance.

Surely one of the definitions of a civilised society is that people generally help each other. We respect each other even if we don’t know or like them. We may not be perfect but we’re making progress. Within just a few generations, our feelings have changed toward others who we thought were not like us. But there’s still much to do. Clearly, prejudices persist. We don’t always treat others as we would expect them to treat us. Our society has yet to rid itself of racism and all the other prejudices that may appear to make us different. But on further study our differences reveal how we are all remarkably the same. ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?’ asked Shylock in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice.’

A kneeling African in chains in a logo designed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1780s asked, ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother?’ Whereas Black Lives Matter declares a contemporary US-based international movement with the same name. Is this not part of a continuum of struggle for recognition and rights, and compassion and respectful treatment, which speaks not only for those subjugated but also for everyone?

Those campaigning throughout the world for animals and their welfare, protection and rights push the boundaries of common decency further and beyond our own species. They demand nonhuman animals receive the same respectful treatment that we hold (or should hold) for the members of our own species. Animal advocates don’t demand that animals should have the right to vote. But animals are like us. They bleed when they are cut.

It’s time for the golden rule of respectful treatment to be extended to include all species. This is why Common Decency is committed to animal welfare. We see our treatment of animals not only as an important political issue — animals deserve far tougher laws than they have — but also as a reflection of ourselves and our own society.

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Book Review: Moti by Christine Townend

March 11th, 2015 No comments
Moti--An Indian Elephant by Christine Townend

Moti–An Indian Elephant by Christine Townend

Generally elephants fascinate me but one particular elephant has a special place in my heart. She is Topsy who was an Asian elephant killed by electrocution at New York’s Coney Island in 1903. She was murdered because she killed people through no fault of her own. She was a wild animal who people misjudged they could tame by dominating her. But, as I say in my presentations about Topsy: Yes, you can take wild animals out of the wild and believe they can be tamed. But you cannot take the wild out of a wild animal and make them tame. Topsy preoccupies my mind as I write her biography.

I gave my Topsy presentation at the third Minding Animals International (MAC3) conference in India in January and was discussing it with my MAI colleague, Rod Bennison, when he said that I must read a book called Moti by Christine Townend.

I first came into contact with Christine when I edited the Coordinating Animal Welfare bulletin in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then she was synonymous in my mind with Australia and animal activism but we had never met. Until the MAC3 conference when we did meet and I learnt about her book Moti: An Indian Elephant. Christine graciously made generous remarks about my presentation on Topsy.

Christine’s book is a novel about an elephant called Moti. She is the protagonist. Books, films, art and other creative expressions through the experiences of others other than humans are not always successful. They can be ridiculous, absurd, sentimental, incredulous, silly, etc. To succeed there must be, of course, a unique creativity that makes it special but also knowledge, insight and wisdom to make it believable. This helps to explain why, for example, such books as Watership Down by Richard Adams were so popular. The author knew what he was writing about because he had studied rabbits in the place where the novel was set. It helped greatly that he was a genius in telling a story. Further, I recall chairing a meeting at which Richard Adams was a guest speaker. In person, he was as entertaining as he was intimidating!

Anyway, I approached Moti with some caution because I was unsure as to whether it would be any good or not. I soon realised, however, that Christine had written a very special novel.

I read it slowly because it was a difficult book to read. Not difficult because it isn’t well written because it is. Not difficult because it is sentimental because it isn’t. It’s a difficult book because it’s a surprisingly damn fine book. Christine puts you into the lives of elephants. You know that because it’s a human-dominated world in which the elephants live and that’s why it’s going to be a difficult novel to read.

The elephants we saw--like Moti--at Amer Fort near Jaipur in Rajasthan.

The elephants we saw–like Moti–at Amer Fort near Jaipur in Rajasthan.

I don’t want to give the narrative away. Except to say that at one point Moti is an elephant who works with others carrying tourists up to the Amer Palace near Jaipur in Rajasthan. I visited Amer Palace after MAC3 and saw the elephants carrying the tourists up the mountain to the palace. (Me and my tour group from MAC3 went by jeep.) Even though I hated what the elephants were doing it was thrilling nonetheless to see them and be so close. How I wish I had read Moti by then and could have imagined her to be one of the elephants I saw.

Christine’s decades of work for animals in Australia and India and in particular her personal knowledge of elephants inform Moti to make it a compelling read. There’s much I could quote but there’s one aspect I’d like to focus on because I found it to be so intriguing.

At the beginning of Chapter Two, we’re introduced to the Elephant Mind.

Each elephant in our herd had her own gifts, her own skills, her own beauty. And over and above all the individual expressions of elephants, there was this template, this blueprint of the past of all elephants, our God, our Elephant Mind, the chitta and, although we could not see it, within that blueprint was also our future, the future of our kind, our elephant nature, our elephant being. (p. 21)

Later, in Chapter Six, Moti is in conversation with the Matriarch of her elephant tribe, who explains to Moti

‘You see dear,’ she answered, ‘we can’t judge things in a human way. You’re trying to ask the future for something to happen. This is how humans do things. They develop a desire and then do evil to make it happen. But elephants are not humans. Let’s be free of aims. Let the sensations of this phenomenal world wash over you — appreciate the touch of wind, the scent of the grasshoppers, the resonances of trees. Don’t live in the human dimension, the smudged dimension of wants and desires, where the mind is the driving force which makes things to happen, things which may not be good, which may not be natural. Let the movement of Life itself resolve events.’ (p. 60)

My fascination with elephants deepened after reading Moti. We know elephants communicate in ways which we’re unable to hear and ways in which we’re unable to know and at great distances that beg our disbelief. But what if the Elephant Mind, along with what Christine calls the Great Elephant Soul, are real? What if elephants communicate with each other in ways that make ours seem parochial and pedestrian?

Great fiction takes us to places in which we can only imagine. Christine Townend’s Moti took me to where I could imagine elephants in touch with each other in ways unimaginable to me. In doing so, Moti further strengthened my commitment to Topsy and the injustice she endured and in telling her life story so that it’s never forgotten.

How to Order Moti

Moti, An Indian Elephant is available from Help in Suffering at a cost of $US20 which includes postage and handling. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to Help in Suffering. After depositing the payment, please inform Mr. Nirmal Jain at nirmal@his-india.in that you have transferred money for purchase of the book.
Account Name: Help in Suffering
Account Number: 20085900605
Bank: Bank of Maharashtra
Bank Address: Park Street, MI Road, Jaipur, 302001

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MAC3 in India

February 17th, 2015 No comments

Minding AnimalsThe mission of Minding Animals International is to advance animal studies worldwide. Every three years we partner with a like-minded organisation or a university to co-produce an international conference for scholars, advocates, policy makers, artists, veterinarians, and others. By ‘we’ I mean me, as volunteer Executive Director, and my colleague Rod Bennison, founder and chair of the board, as well as all the other directors.

The first conference (‘MAC1’) was in Newcastle, Australia in 2009 and attracted 520 delegates from 23 countries. In 2012, MAC2 was produced in partnership with the Univeristy of Utrecht and was attended by 690 delegates from 42 countries.

MAC3 Conference logoMAC3 was held in January and was hosted by the Wildlife Trust of India, in collaboration with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. It attracted more than 320 delegates from 35 countries.

Discussions are already underway for MAC4 in 2018. Details will be announced later this year.

The MAC3 six-day conference program reflected the trans-disciplinary nature of animal studies. The program included special events, plenaries, workshops, and plenty of opportunities to network.

At the Pre-Conference Interfaith Programme and Multi-Faith Prayer Service at Baha’i House of Worship, Lotus Temple, representatives from the Hindu, Christian, Islam, Jain, and Baha’i faiths spoke about their respect for animals. It ended with me making some closing remarks. The irony!

Maneka Gandhi addressing MAC3.

Maneka Gandhi addressing MAC3.

Keynote presentations were made by Government of India Ministers Maneka Gandhi, Minister of Women and Child Development and Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change. I recall when we were at MAC2 in Utrecht, Vivek Menon, WTI’s Founder and CEO, said he wanted to host MAC3 because the will help to put animal studies on the map in India. Vivek’s dream maybe coming true as there was a discussion among the government minister’s of the possibility of federal government funding for an animal studies centre on the JNU campus. Clearly, this major development needs to be carefully monitored to ensure its fruition.

The program was full and diverse thereby reflecting the richness of animal studies. For example, Lori Gruen gave the first Marti Kheel Memorial Lecture. Other speakers included Will Kymlicka, co-author, Zoopolis; Jill Robinson, Animals Asia; Lisa Kemmerer, author, Animals and World Religions; and Clive Phillips, author, The Animal Trade. A particular focus of the conference was on differing aspects of animals in India. For example, Raman Sukumar spoke about ‘Gajatame and Ganesha: the sacred elephant of Asia’ and Norma Alvares and Varda Mehrotra, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, led a seminar on ‘Building a Movement for Animal Protection: The Experience from India.’ I also presented my paper about Topsy, the ‘elephant we must never forget.’

The Young Scholars Panel at MAC3 book-ended between Rod Bennison and myself from left to right: Upasana Ganguly, Jessica Ison, Kelsi Nagy, Yuan-Chih Lung, and Adam See.

The Young Scholars Panel at MAC3 book-ended between Rod Bennison and myself from left to right: Upasana Ganguly, Jessica Ison, Kelsi Nagy, Yuan-Chih Lung, and Adam See.

One of MAC3’s unexpected successes was an impromptu presentation I had to organise as one of our plenary speakers, Mahesh Rangarajan, was unable to join us at the last minute. Following on from the previous day’s panel which I chaired that was organised by Ken Shapiro, my fellow co-founder of the Animals and Society Institute, which considered the state and future of animal studies and included Lori Gruen, Colin Salter, Joe Lancia, Donald Broom, and Sandra Swart, I commissioned a panel of young animal studies scholars. This panel consisted of Upasana Ganguly, Jessica Ison, Yuan-Chic Lung, Kelsi Nagy, and Adam See. Each one rose to the challenge with 24 hours notice to speak about how they understood animal studies and saw the challenges they face in the field. Rod and I feel strongly that at MAC4 we would like to invite these scholars back as a panel to assess how things have progressed (or not!).

MAC3 was very successful. Among the many highlights was hearing speak for the first time the legendary Maneka Gandhi, who berated Indian governments for not doing enough for animals. It was encouraging to be told by delegates how much they valued the conference. Many spoke about making friends with others coming from different countries who share like-minded interests. I recall one delegate expressing delight at discovering a colleague from their university who was also interested in animal studies. This anecdote truly represents for me the strength and mission of Minding Animals International: to advance animal studies globally.

MAC3 also gave me my first opportunity to visit India—a country I had always wanted to visit. But this was no time for sight-seeing, which had to wait to afterwards. The post-conference tour will be the focus of another post here.

Here are links to what others said about MAC3:

Dr. Siobhan O’Sullivan is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

My animal studies year got off to the perfect start when I attending Minding Animals 3. Having attended the first conference (which was also the third Australasian Animal Studies Association conference in Newcastle, Australia) and then the second in Utrecht, it was my great pleasure to be at the third.

Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsey is a member of the Human Animal Research Network (HARN) at the Sydney Environment Institute and a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.

The conference covered six full days, each with 6 concurrent sessions, keynotes and invited talks. The papers were mostly social science/humanities oriented and the ones that were from the more science-y side were clearly committed to entering into interdisciplinary dialogue. To me, that represents a real maturing of the field – we’re getting more accustomed to having our work heard and discussed by those outside of our disciplinary homes.

Please email with any others to share!

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Year in Review for 2014

December 30th, 2014 No comments
Here I am in my office among the more than 2,000 books in my archive. Photo credit: Paul Knight

Here I am in my office among the more than 2,000 books in my archive. Photo: Paul Knight

This has been an extremely busy year for me and my work for animal rights as an advocate for animals who is an author and independent scholar.

The year’s highlight was the publication of Growl by Lantern Books. Part memoir and part manifesto, Growl is the book I wish I could’ve read when I first became a vegetarian, animal rights activist in 1974.

Many of my activities this year were centred around Growl and its publication and promotion, including a three-week, six-city trip to the USA.

To learn more about my year in animal rights please visit this special page. I also reveal my plans for 2015.

It’s important for me to recognise here the many friends and colleagues as well as a significant number of like-minded organisations who I have had the honour to work with throughout 2014 toward our shared mission of ending animal exploitation. In particular, I wish to thank the kind contributors to my Indiegogo campaign whose generosity helped to make possible my animal rights work this year. Thank you!

To keep up to date with me and work for animal rights, please follow me on my social media:

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My Travels in the USA

November 12th, 2014 No comments
Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth edited by Carol Adams and Lori Gruen (Bloomsbury)

Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth edited by Carol Adams and Lori Gruen (Bloomsbury)

Now that I’m at the end of the second week of my three week trip to the USA, it’s time for a further update on my activities. For example, in New York City I:

  • Spoke about animal rights to some 60 students at Pace University in two Ethics in the Work Place classes and one Animal Law class with Professors Len Mitchell and David Cassuto respectively
  • Met with and called ASI supporters and colleagues from the animal rights movement
  • Got together again with Mariann Sullivan and met for the first time Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House, who took me to a fundraising event in support of Mercy for Animals called Art of Compassion
  • Recorded a radio interview with Caryn Hartglass for her radio show, Real Radio
  • Filmed an interview with Nancy Kogel of Reaching Out for Animal Rights for a documentary she is making
  • Met with attorneys David Wolfson and Sarah Griffin from Milbank about Minding Animals International
  • Spoke to a packed room of some 100 people at Bluestockings radical bookstore to launch the new anthology, Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth edited by Carol Adams and Lori Gruen (Bloomsbury) along with Carol and fellow contributors pattrice jones and Sunny Taylor

I left New York City Friday afternoon for Baltimore for the second stage of my six-city, three week itinerary. My next update will focus on my activities in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC during this week. On Saturday, I leave Baltimore for the final stage in my itinerary in Portland, ME and Boston, which I will also share with you later.

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Update from NYC

November 3rd, 2014 No comments

USAIt’s great to be back in the USA and in New York City! I’m truly appreciative of the 20 years I spent living and working in this country. So, yes, it’s great to be back!

I arrived late Wednesday and I write this post early Monday morning. These past few days have been very busy. Here are some highlights.

Animals and Society Initiative at New York University

More than 70 students, faculty, advocates, and others joined me for my presentation, ‘The Animal Rights Challenge,’ at a public lecture hosted by NYU’s Animals and Society Initiative. It all went well with some excellent questions forcing me to come up with some thoughtful answers. Earlier versions of this presentation are on this website. Check out the section ‘Animal Rights Challenge.’ My research, writing and presentation in this subject is part of a larger project which will be part of my second book (see below Lantern Books and A Brighter Green). NYU’s ASI is an outstanding project and in the forefront of the development of Human Animal Studies. It is among a handful of universities who are investing in this emerging field of academic endeavour. I strongly believe HAS, along with Critical Animal Studies, will contribute to deepening our understanding of our relationship with other animals and help to redress our past wrongs in our treatment of them by informing public policy. Prior to my presentation, I met with Nicolas Delon, who is Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, NYU Animal Studies Initiative in the Department of Environmental Studies. Along with NYU’s ASI, please also check out Wesleyan Animal Studies at Wesleyan University and the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University, where I am a member of the Advisory Board.

James Jasper

Protest: A Cultural Introduction to Social Movements by James Jasper.

Protest: A Cultural Introduction to Social Movements by James Jasper.

Jim is a sociologist whose research and writing in social movements has been a major influence and is internationally recognised. When I was the Executive Director of Animals and Social Institute and co-produced with the Culture and Animals Foundation the International Compassionate Living Festival, we were honoured to have Jim present research from his book, Getting Your Way: Strategic Dilemmas in the Real World. This is recommended reading as is his classic work, The Art of Moral Protest. Jim is very informed and sympathetic to animal rights and his insights are invaluable to helping us understand more about how to make social justice happen. We had an excellent discussion about the challenges facing social movements and, in particular, the animal rights movement. Jim kindly gave me a copy of his new book, Protest: A Cultural Introduction to Social Movements, which includes animal rights and I look forward to reading it. To learn more about James Jasper, please visit his website. We met for lunch at Blossom vegan restaurant in Chelsea. Fabulous meal!

Lantern Books and A Brighter Green

I met with Martin Rowe of Lantern Books and Mia MacDonald of Brighter Green. As you no doubt know Lantern Books published Growl and the anthologies of articles I edited from The Animals’ Agenda magazine. For more information please visit my author’s page at Lantern Books.

It was an opportunity for us to bring ourselves up to date with news and developments. For example, Mia spoke about her work with Brighter Green, which is a ‘public policy action tank that works to raise awareness of and encourage policy action on issues that span the environment, animals, and sustainability.’ We discussed a number of projects, including, in my capacity as editor of Philip Lymbery’s website, the publication of a guest editorial from Mia in the coming months. Philip Lymbery is Chief Executive of Compassion In World Farming and co-author of Farmageddon.

Martin is my editor and I wanted to use the opportunity of our meeting to talk in person about the next book I want to write. Presently called, The Animal Rights Challenge, we discussed various aspects to it and approaches to take to get it produced. This included feedback on my NYU presentation and other matters. It’s too early to say more about my second book other than it will follow on from where Growl ends. This is to say that its focus will be on the status of the animal rights movement. Martin kindly gave me a copy of his The Elephants in the Room, which I look forward to reading as part of my research into my project about Topsy, the elephant electrocuted in NYC in 1903.

Animals and Society Institute

ASIFurther to these activities, there have also been other meetings related to my work with the Animals and Society Institute in which I have been getting together with our supporters and bringing them up to date with our activities and thanking them for their continuing support.

 

 

And What Else?

I’m in New York City until Friday and my schedule includes

  • Further meetings and calls with ASI supporters and colleagues from the animal rights movement
  • Meeting with attorneys David Wolfson and Sarah Griffin about Minding Animals International
  • Meeting with Jasmin Singer and Mariann from Our Hen House
  • Speaking to two Business Ethics classes and one Animal Law class at Pace University
  • Attending the Art of Compassion event in support of Mercy for Animals
  • Interview with Caryn Hartglass for her radio show, Real Radio
  • Book launch for the anthology, Ecofeminism, which includes a contribution from me

For information and links to these events, please go to the post that precedes this one.

From Friday evening onwards for one week I will be in Baltimore and from there will be doing events in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC. I plan to publish my next update from Baltmore during this coming weekend.

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Growling to America!

October 8th, 2014 No comments

Just three weeks to go before I leave the UK for the USA on Wednesday, October 29. This trip in support of my animal rights work and to promote my book, Growl, is made possible by the generous support of many people in my recent Indiegogo campaign.

I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who generously contributed and made possible this three-week long working visit to the East Coast. Thank you!

Further, your support has kept me very busy here in the UK with several speaking engagements promoting Growl, including at the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, London Vegfest, 2nd Annual Humanities in Public Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University, and the forthcoming inaugural launch conference of the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University.

Here’s my US itinerary:

Thursday, October 30: Presenting my talk, ‘The Animal Rights Challenge,’ at a public meeting hosted by the Animal Studies Initiative at New York University
Friday, October 31: Lunch with sociologist James Jasper, which is followed by an interview with Caryn Hartglass of REAL Radio
Saturday, November 1: Meeting with my publisher Martin Rowe at Lantern Books
Tuesday, November 4: Presenting my talk, ‘Growl,’ at Professor David Cassuto’s Animal Law Class, which is followed by making the same presentation to Professor Len Mitchell’s Business Ethics Class at Pace University
Wednesday, November 5: Second ‘Growl’ presentation for Professor Len Mitchell’s Business Ethics Classes at Pace University, which is followed by a meeting with Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House (we may be also, schedule permitting, recording an interview for the Our Hen House TV program)
Thursday, November 6: Speaking at the launch party for the anthology, Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals & the Earth, at Bluestockings radical bookstore, NYC
Friday, November 7: Meeting with attorneys Sarah Griffin and David Wolfson about Minding Animals International
Monday, November 10: Presenting ‘Growl’ at the vegan cafe, Grindcore House, hosted by The Humane League in Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, November 12: Presenting ‘Growl’ at Red Emma’s bookstore and vegetarian cafe in Baltimore, MD
Thursday, November 13: Lunchtime presentation of ‘Growl’ for the staff, volunteers and trustees of Alley Cat Allies, Bethesda, MD
Thursday, November 13: Presenting ‘Growl’ at a public meeting hosted by Alley Cat Allies at the Washington Humane Society’s Behavior and Learning Centre
Friday, November 14: Consultation with Dawn Moncrief, A Well-Fed World, which is followed by an afternoon presentation of ‘Growl’ for the staff of the ASPCA’s Washington DC office
Saturday, November 15: Evening presentation of ‘Growl’ hosted by Maine Animal Coalition at University of Southern Maine
Sunday, November 16: Eventing presentation of ‘Growl’ at the vegan Grasshopper Restaurant hosted by the Boston Vegetarian Society
Monday, November 17: Evening reception hosted by GREY2K USA Worldwide at their offices in Arlington, MA

Additional dates to my itinerary are being finalised. Please visit the Events section on this website to keep up to date with the latest news and information.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re interested in me speaking in your area or working with you on your animal rights campaigns.

Thank you for doing all that you do for the animals!

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Growl Feedback

October 1st, 2014 No comments

A pleasure from Growl I didn’t anticipate is receiving feedback from readers. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did think about negative comments and how I should react to them. Of which, I’m pleased to say I haven’t received any ….. yet! So, the favourable comments come as a very pleasant surprise, which goes along with the kind reactions I’m receiving from the public readings and talks I’m currently making. One comment from someone who asks to be known as ‘Ireene V’ has given me her permission to share it with you here.

We met at the animal rights conference in Luxembourg. Me and my husband bought your book and you asked as to send you a feedback after reading it. I did read it and liked it very much. I liked that it was written on a personal level, not just theoretical. Although it is important to read theoretical works about animal rights, from time to time one just needs to hear about personal stories and struggles to know how to cope better, to know that someone else has had a similar experience, that someone else has felt the same. So thank you for that! After leaving the conference I woke up next morning and went straight to the Misanthropic Bunker. I haven’t really experienced that before but the contrast between the “real world” and the atmosphere of the conference was too much to handle. I started reading the “Growl” and it helped me address these feelings. I also appreciated the history and the background information of British animal rights movement. I am very interested in history of veganism and animal rights. I share your view on non-violence. I think it is extremely important that animal rights movement differs from animal abusers and violence should not be accepted. As I don’t have any companion animals I haven’t felt that magical connection with animals yet. I do hope to experience it someday. I am sorry there are too many thoughts to write down coherently. But all and all I do think it is an important book and I do hope people will read it. I am definitely going to recommend it to my friends.

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