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Tom Regan and His Wife Nancy and Me

February 2nd, 2016 No comments
Nancy and Tom Regan and myself.

Nancy and Tom Regan and myself.

I first met Tom and Nancy Regan at the RSPCA’s Rights of Animals symposium at Trinity College Cambridge in 1977. Recently, I caught up with them at their home in Raleigh, NC.

Tom and Nancy always inspired me to learn as much as I can about animal rights and showed me the importance of ethical action as the capstone to our action for animals.

In 1977, I was the campaigns organiser at Compassion In World Farming. Compassion’s founder, Peter Roberts, took me to the RSPCA’s symposium. This was a special moment in the history of the animal rights movement. With the notable exception of Peter Singer, leading philosophers, advocates, authors, and politicians came together for two days to consider animal ethics and the emerging animal rights movement.

The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan (University of California Press; 1983)

The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan (University of California Press; 1983)

I was an angry young vegan who, unbeknown to myself, was beginning a career with some of the world’s leading animal rights organisations. Tom was already an acclaimed moral philosopher and a prominent speaker in animal rights. But not everyone present at the conference was a card carrying vegan animal rights advocate.

As I recall in my book, Growl, I remember Tom and Nancy, and Peter Roberts and myself, and other vegans being exiled to what was called the ‘vegetarian table’ in the college’s baronial dining hall. We were fed meagre rations of dull 1970s veggie food. Everyone else at the conference dined on venison that was the charred remains of body parts of deer who had once grazed Trinity College’s grounds. We ate our veggie food in disgust, tut tutting our fellow conference attendees and speakers.

Since then, Tom and Nancy’s and my life have crossed many times and, in particular, after I moved to the USA in 1987.

I heard Tom speak often at animal rights conferences throughout America. He was always an inspirational speaker. In particular, I appreciated how he situated a commitment to nonviolence as central to his animal rights declaration.

The philosophy of animal rights stands for peace, and against violence. The fundamental demand of this philosophy is to treat humans and other nonhuman animals with respect. This philosophy, therefore, is a philosophy of peace. But it is a philosophy that extends the demand for peace beyond the boundaries of our species, for there is an undeclared war being waged everyday against countless millions of nonhuman animals.

His unique contribution to moral philosophy is, of course, much more than animal rights and particularly The Case for Animal Rights published in 1983. In addition to nonviolence, his writings on environmental ethics were instrumental in challenging environmentalists to consider animal rights.

Empty Cages by Tom Regan (Rowman & Littlefield; 2004)

Empty Cages by Tom Regan (Rowman & Littlefield; 2004)

The philosophy of animal rights demands only that the logic be respected for any argument that plausibly explains the independent value of human beings implies that other animal have the same value and have it equally. And any argument that plausibly explains the rights of humans to be treated with respect also implies that these other animals have the same rights and have it equally also.

With our respective organisations, the Animals and Society Institute and the Culture and Animals Foundation, we coproduced the International Compassionate Living Festival for a number of years.

Tom helped me to understand the importance of bringing together animal advocates with moral philosophers, authors and artists engaged in animal issues, and business leaders with musicians. Compassionate change is needed on many fronts, he always said.

Tom and Nancy and their fellow directors at the Culture and Animals Foundation work tirelessly since its foundation in 1985 to promote cultural change for animals.

By appealing to individual intellect, creativity and compassion, the Culture and Animals Foundation believes we can awaken people to the plight and grandeur of kindred animals–and ultimately build a deeper understanding of human-animal relationships and a greater respect for basic animal rights.

On Tom’s retirement the North Carolina State University established the Tom Regan Animal Rights Archive, which is the only archive of its kind in the world. Tom introduced me to the librarians and archivists at NCSU Libraries. Thanks to him, we convinced NCSU Libraries to accept the valuable collections I had established at the Animals and Society Institute. This included The Animal Rights Network Archive, The Animals’ Agenda Archive, the Argus Archives, the Animal Welfare Institute Archives, and the Claire Necker Collection of Cat Books and Collectibles.

Defending Animal Rights by Tom Regan (University of Illinois Press; 2001)

Defending Animal Rights by Tom Regan (University of Illinois Press; 2001)

As much as I am a republican and not a monarchist, Tom is the only person I would accept as a ruling monarch. King Tom would rule us as the very best of benign dictators. With one sweep of his hand across this realm he would stop people from eating meat, he would liberate animals from research laboratories, and he would inspire compassion for all.

What of democracy, may you ask? Its sacrifice would be a small price to pay.

But, thankfully, King Tom is not our ruler but he is the animal rights philosopher and elder statesman. But he is more than that as I consider him to be my friend and mentor. He continues to inspire me—personally and professionally—to work harder and better for animal rights.

It was great fun to spend the day with Tom and Nancy and reminisce the past and speculate the future of animal rights.

New to Tom Regan and want to learn more but unsure where to begin?

I recommend starting with his book Empty Cages: Facing the Challenge of Animal Rights (2004)  followed by Animal Rights Human Wrongs: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy (2003) and Defending Animal Rights (2001). There is a selection of videos of Tom Regan to watch on his website, too.

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Cats in Virginia

November 9th, 2015 No comments

I’m working on an assignment with Alley Cat Allies, the U.S.-based organisation dedicated to advocating for cats, and working closely with Becky Robinson, the president and founder. I helped to produce recently Becky’s book, The Evolution of the Cat Revolution: Celebrating 25 Years of Saving Cats, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at their achievements in their first quarter of a century advocating for cats.

Becky Robinson speaking with the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers.

Becky Robinson speaking with the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers.

Currently, I’m in Bethesda, MD where Alley Cat Allies is based. This past weekend I accompanied Becky on a three-day trip to Norfolk, VA and Chincoteague Island, VA  to learn more about her work for cats in the community. In Norfolk, we met with Rob Blizard, Norfolk SPCA’s Executive Director, who kindly showed us around their facility, and was introduced to his enthusiastic and helpful staff. They showed us their cats and dogs in the shelter and talked about the wide range of services they provide to their human and nonhuman clients. Norfolk SPCA is a very impressive operation and, like many others, achieves a great deal for the animals in their care with minimal resources. Becky later made a presentation to the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers, who can be found on Facebook. Some 30-40 of their members listened attentively to Becky as she described the history and development of trap-neuter-return and Alley Cat Allies.

The spay-a-thon was held in a school gymnasium. The floor was covered in large sheets of plastic. Cats arrived in different types of carriers. Sheets and towels were laid over the cages to help keep the cats calm.

The spay-a-thon was held in a school gymnasium. The floor was covered in large sheets of plastic. Cats arrived in different types of carriers. Sheets and towels were laid over the cages to help keep the cats calm.

We then made our way back up the Eastern Shore to Chincoteague Island, VA  where Caring Hands Animal Support and Education (CHASE) organised a two-day spay-a-thon for 200 kittens and cats. Of course, it took more than two days to do because the research, preparation, organisation, and clean-up to such a worthwhile endeavour took up many additional days. I have read about and heard described temporary clinics where large numbers of cats are spayed or neutered but I have never had the opportunity to witness one until now. It was an amazing operation in many ways — no pun intended!

In describing the experience here, I may get wrong some of the details and happy to be corrected if you would like to get in touch.

The Recovery Line--the last stage in the spay-a-thon.

The Recovery Line–the last stage in the spay-a-thon.

A team of four veterinarians and their trained assistants and some 10-20 volunteers were led by Jeffrey Newman, DVM, President of CHASE and implemented a strategy in which each kitten and cat was processed through a number of stages. These mass spay/neuter cat clinics were developed by Alley Cat Allies. It was a very impressive operation put together temporarily in a local school gymnasium. The surgeries were undertaken in the Reiss Mobile Vet vehicle, parked in the adjoining lot, which belonged to Jonathan Reiss, DVM. The kittens and cats were a mixture of those who were people’s companions or were outdoor or community cats. The services provided were free and everyone donated their time and expertise.

I volunteered by making sure every cat had a dish of cat food on the top of their cage waiting for them as they came out from the medication.

I volunteered by making sure every cat had a dish of cat food on the top of their cage waiting for them as they came out from the medication.

I found it to be a remarkable experience. The atmosphere was palpable in that the carefully organised operation hummed along with a wonderful sense of community, giving, sharing, cooperation, and fulfilment. The only ones who did not share these powerful feelings were the beneficiaries who wanted to be anywhere else other than in a cage! Even a local artist had brought in a cat to be attended to, made some characterful sketches and left them on display to raise funds. I heard stories about how local people and businesses supported the endeavour by, for example, donating supplies and food. Most of the cats were brought in and later picked up by residents.

The stages that each feline client went through were a medical pre-screening; the necessary paper work that kept track of who they were and where they came from and in which container; and then pre-op preparation, the operation itself, a post-op careful monitoring and, finally, an area where they were left quietly to sleep off the medication.

This was a great weekend in which I learnt much from some wonderful people about the how-to of trap-neuter-return and companion animal advocacy generally.

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Peace News reviews Growl

September 28th, 2015 No comments
Past issues of Peace News, stretching back over its 75 years of publication.

Past issues of Peace News, stretching back over its 75 years of publication.

The prestigious magazine, Peace News, publishes a review of Growl. Published since 1936, Peace News is the U.K.’s only grassroots newspaper covering the full spectrum of peace and justice issues and currently publish 6 bi-monthly issues a year. Peace News Ltd is a not-for-profit limited company.

Here’s a lengthy extract:

The four key values that are examined in Growl are compassion, truth, nonviolence and justice – values which are shared by most Peace News readers and anti-war campaigners. The author explores these themes and his own journey to becoming a genuinely compassionate activist. One of the concepts discussed in the book is that of ‘The Misanthropic Bunker’ (a place I‘m sure all passionate campaigners have some experience of). Stallwood describes it as a place of anger and hatred that vegans retreat to when the world of unremitting violence towards other animals becomes too much to cope with: “We’ll never achieve animal rights,” he tells himself. “Speciesism will never end. Animal rights will never be accomplished in my lifetime.”

Over the years, Stallwood learns that whilst there is a need for the misanthropic bunker to hide in once in a while, the way to avoid being consumed by hatred and intolerance is to exercise compassion and be kind to ourselves – and other humans – as well as to the non-human animals he campaigns on behalf of.

He explores a scenario where his pre-vegan self, ‘Kim the Chef’, is confronted outside the slaughterhouse by ‘Kim the Vegelical’ – waving a ‘Meat is Murder’ placard and shouting angry slogans: ‘In spite of their proximity and the fact that the conscience of Kim the Chef might have been unwittingly stirred by Kim the Vegelical’s protest, neither Kim is actually communicating with or seeing the other.’

However, Stallwood doesn’t dismiss angry protest as useless: ‘Remember. Compassion doesn’t have to be passive or even polite; compunction sometimes requires a rude awakening. Moral shocks are, by their very nature, unwelcome.’

The reviewer, Erica Smith, concludes

Throughout his long career as an animal campaigner, Stallwood has learned from the successes and failures of human rights campaigns. And 40 years of campaigning means that there are lessons to be learned – and experience to be fed back into the wider sphere of nonviolent action, making this an excellent resource for any nonviolent campaigner.

It’s a great honour to have Peace News publish such a positive review of Growl and highlight how its message of four key values (compassion, truth, nonviolence, justice) will resonate with social justice campaigners.

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Vegan Campaigning

September 25th, 2015 No comments

Vegan Vision Workshop 2 at London Vegfest

The second in a consecutive series three workshops at the People’s Vegan Activist Summit at the London Vegfest on Sunday, October 11, 2015. The workshops includes brief presentations from the panelists and opportunities to ask them questions. 

Panel 2: 12noon – 12:50pm

What’s the most effective way to campaign for living as a vegan and make vegan values mainstream?

Panel includes:

Tobias Leenaert is the founder and CEO of the Belgian non profit organisation EVA, which informs people about the benefits of eating less or no animal products. He studied English and Dutch Language and Literature and anthropology at the University of Ghent, and after graduation founded EVA,

Tobias Leenaert

Tobias Leenaert

which in 2005 was probably the first vegetarian organisation in the world to receive structural support from its national government. EVA is the organisation behind the successful Thursday Veggieday (Donderdag Veggiedag) campaign, and is all about mainstreaming plant based eating in a positive and encouraging way. In 2010, Tobias was elected as a Fellow of Ashoka, an international organisation supporting 3000 high impact social entrepreneurs worldwide.

 

Sean O'Callaghan

Sean O’Callaghan

Sean O’Callaghan is the Fat Gay Vegan — a blogger, event planner and PR person working to create plant-based opportunities for individuals, charities and businesses. He is the founder of London Vegan Beer Fest, London Vegan Potluck and London Vegan Drinks, as well as being the host of numerous vegan dining, cooking and social events around London. FGV is not afraid to travel for good food and beer. His blog is one of the most-read vegan platforms in the UK and was voted Best Blog in the 2013 VegfestUK Awards. Fat Gay Vegan is set to launch the monthly Queer Vegan Disco in January 2015.

 

Louise Wallis

Louise Wallis

Louise Wallis is a singer, DJ and writer with a passion for food and lust for life. With her partner Frank, she runs the vegan venue Kabaret@Karamel, recently Time Out’s ‘Most Loved Restaurant in London’, where Sara Pascoe, Omar, Tom Robinson and Lene Lovich have all performed. Man of the moment Jeremy Corbyn recently paid a visit too. Voted one of the World’s Top 100 Female DJs, Louise has created two vegan-themed DJ mixes. She’s interviewed many vegan artists, including Johnny Marr, Moby, Benjamin Zephaniah, Sara Pascoe, and Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), and regularly writes for The Vegan, and Vegan Life magazines. In the early 90s she carried out an undercover investigation into two animal research labs, achieving national press coverage and a major campaign by the National Anti-Vivisection Society. A former President of the Vegan Society, Louise is also the founder of ‘World Vegan Day’.

Vegan Vision — Three Workshops To Create A Vegan World
Vegan Vision is three one-hour consecutive workshops in vegan advocacy and living with internationally-respected experts in food and nutrition, animal rights and cruelty-free living. Vegan Vision shows how to live as a vegan in a non-vegan world. Join author and activist Kim Stallwood for all three workshops or select the ones you would like to attend. Each workshop includes a panel of international experts and opportunities for you to ask questions.
Learn more about the Vegan Vision Workshops and the London Vegfest.

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Going Vegan?

September 8th, 2015 No comments

Vegan Vision Workshop 1 at London Vegfest

The first in a consecutive series three workshops at the People’s Vegan Activist Summit at the London Vegfest on Sunday, October 11, 2015. The workshops includes brief presentations from the panelists and opportunities to ask them questions. 

Panel 1: 11am – 11:50am

What’s the most effective way to encourage and help people go — and stay — vegan?

Panel includes:

Matthew Glover

Matthew Glover

Matthew Glover is the co-founder of Veganuary. After being vegetarian for 10 years, Matthew watched ‘the video the meat industry doesn’t want you to see’ and was shocked to see the cruel realities behind the dairy and egg industries. He then went vegan. And now he wants the whole world to join him! Veganuary is Matthew’s solution to making veganism an easy and tasty experience for everyone.

Jane Land

Jane Land

Jane Land is the co-founder of Veganuary. She was a vegetarian for 10 years before she met Matthew. Now she wonders why it took her so long to become a vegan too! Jane thinks that Veganuary is the perfect way for people to try vegan food and learn about the suffering of farmed animals and the impact that meat-eating has on people’s health and the natural world.

Dobrusia Gogloza is an animal rights activist from Poland. After gathering experience in various informal groups, she

Dobrusia Gogloza

Dobrusia Gogloza

cofounded Otwarte Klatki, an animal rights organization that focuses on investigations and vegan education. She is also a cofounder and coordinator of the Network For Eastern European Animal Rights – an association of organizations with a goal to facilitate the growth of animal rights activism in this area. Dobrusia frequently speaks at animal rights events in Poland and abroad, consults various organizations on the issues of volunteer management and fundraising, and organizes trainings for activists.

Dr Tushar Mehta

Dr Tushar Mehta

Dr. Tushar Mehta received a Bachelor of Arts and Science from McMaster University, and then completed medical school at the University of Toronto, doing his residency in family medicine.  In addition to family medicine, Tushar also practices emergency medicine and addictions medicine.  Tushar founded Run for the Earth in order to help people sort through the mass of environmental information and misinformation, and develop a systematic understanding of ecological issues, and the real priorities.  He believes in a systematic understanding of environmental issues for all, as well as causing people to reflect on compassion and philosophy.

Vegan Vision — Three Workshops To Create A Vegan World

Vegan Vision is three one-hour consecutive workshops in vegan advocacy and living with internationally-respected experts in food and nutrition, animal rights and cruelty-free living. Vegan Vision shows how to live as a vegan in a non-vegan world. Join author and activist Kim Stallwood for all three workshops or select the ones you would like to attend. Each workshop includes a panel of international experts and opportunities for you to ask questions.

Learn more about the Vegan Vision Workshops and the London Vegfest.

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London Vegfest Vegan Visions Workshops

August 14th, 2015 No comments

Vegfest UK London 2015The Vegan Vision Workshops

 

Join me at the Vegan Vision Workshops, which are part of the People’s Vegan Activists Summit, at the London Vegfest on Sunday, October 11, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Olympia Central Levels 1 and 3.

Vegfest ExpressThe Vegan Vision Workshops are three one-hour consecutive expert panels in vegan advocacy and living. The workshops feature internationally-respected panels of experts in food and nutrition, animal rights and cruelty-free living. Each workshop, which is chaired  by Kim Stallwood, includes an opportunity to ask questions.

Attend all three workshops or select the ones you would like to attend.

Kim Stallwood says,

People become vegan for a variety of reasons, including animal cruelty, environmental protection, food production, and human health. While vegans are united in boycotting animal ingredients and products, there is a variety of viewpoints and perspectives on how to live as a vegan in a non-vegan world. Join me at the Vegan Vision Workshops to learn from and share with an outstanding, international panel of experts in medicine, campaigning, cooking, and much more.

Workshop 1 — 11am – 12noon

What’s the most effective way to encourage and help people go — and stay — vegan?Veganuary
Panel includes:

  • Matthew Glover & Jane Land, Co-founders, Veganuary, U.K.
  • Dobrusia Gogloza, Co-founder, Open Cages (Otwarte Klatki), Poland

Workshop 2 — 12noon – 1pm

What’s the most effective way to campaign for living as a vegan and make vegan values mainstream?
Panel includes:

Why We Love DogsWorkshop 3 — 1pm – 2pm

What do we imagine a vegan society to be like?
Panel includes:

  • Dr. Melanie Joy, author of Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, and Founder and President, Beyond Carnism, U.S.A.
  • Kerry McCarthy, Labour Member of Parliament for Bristol East, U.K.
  • Kay Peggs, Professor of Sociology and Animal Studies, Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester, and author, Animals and Sociology

Click here for more information on the Vegan Vision Workshops and the London Vegfest.

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Eurogroup for Animals

June 26th, 2015 No comments
Reineke Hameleers, Director, Eurogroup for Animals and me with the EU Parliament in the background.

Reineke Hameleers, Director, Eurogroup for Animals and me with the EU Parliament in the background.

Earlier this month I had the honour to be the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of Eurogroup for Animals when it met in Brussels. Its mission is to “build a Europe that cares for animals” and is a “confederation of 46 like minded organisations that can mobilise millions of citizens to defend the welfare of animals and act to ensure European, national and local decision makers take note and respond to our concerns.”

Eurogroup is an example of a mutually-supportive coalition of diverse pro-animal organisations that I have always advocated for. Check out their priorities here and follow them on Twitter as @Act4AnimalsEU.

Eurogroup is led by a board of directors representing a cross-section of its organisational membership and their director, Reineke Hameleers.

I’m truly grateful to Reineke for encouraging her colleagues to agree for me to be the keynote speaker. She had read my book Growl on holiday last year and found it to be engaging and inspiring. In the introduction to my presentation, she encouraged everyone to read Growl. The keynote presentation was an opportunity to explore some of what I have to say in Growl, including the four key values in animal rights and the five stages of social movements. I concluded with a series of recommendations which provoked a positive discussion about the various ways forward for animals.

As someone who is an enthusiastic supporter of a united Europe with the UK’s active participation, I welcome Eurogroup for Animals as an important force for the moral and legal status of animals in society.

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Animal Liberation 40 Years On

June 9th, 2015 No comments
This is the cover of the first edition of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer published by New York Review Book in 1975.

This is the cover of the first edition of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer published by New York Review Book in 1975.

In 1975 Peter Singer published Animal Liberation, which became one of the impulses for the contemporary animal rights movement. Singer is a utilitarian philosopher and the moral philosophy he espouses in Animal Liberation is based upon the recognition of sentience in nonhuman animals and the consequent necessity that their interests ought to be included in any decision making.

If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering—insofar as rough comparisons can be made—of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. So the limit of sentience (using the term as a convenient if not strictly accurate shorthand for the capacity to suffer and/or experience enjoyment) is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some other characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary manner. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin colour? (9)

It was not until 1983 and the publication of The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan that we had a comprehensive and thorough account for moral rights for nonhuman animals. Utilitarianism and the natural rights view, along with ecofeminsim, have become the three traditions in Animal Ethics.

The University of Rennes recently held a conference, La Liberation Animale: Quarante ans plus tard, to

return to the link between the animal liberation movement and the theories of Peter Singer who, rightly or wrongly, is seen as its founding father. How was Singer’s animal ethics greeted after the publication of Animal Liberation? What feedback did it get from the animal rights movement? What are the conceptual and practical developments of contemporary animal liberation? What place does the utilitarian doctrine and its consequentialist basis occupy in the work of Singer and in the discussion it generated? What are the approaches in animal ethics to which Singer’s publication led?

The keynote speakers were Peter Singer and philosophers Lori Gruen, Jean-Yves Goffi, and Tatjana Visak. The presentations were roughly divided between French and English. I couldn’t understand the former. My French is limited to ordering coffee or beer. I also had trouble with the latter. I’m self-taught in philosophy and unfamiliar with some of the ideas and issues discussed–even when they were in English! Nonetheless, I appreciated listening to Peter Singer’s assessment of the impact of Animal Liberation forty years on and Lori Gruen’s description of entangled empathy as an alternative animal ethic.

Here's the cover of my much-read copy of Practical Ethics by Peter Singer. It still contains as a book mark the receipt from Foyles book shop when I bought it on March 3, 1981 for £2.95.

Here’s the cover of my much-read copy of Practical Ethics by Peter Singer. It still contains as a book mark the receipt from Foyles book shop when I bought it on March 3, 1981 for £2.95.

I was honoured to be selected–perhaps even as the only speaker who isn’t a philosopher–to present at the conference. My presentation, in a workshop called “Law and Politics,” was a specially adapted version of my talk, “Animal Liberation: Moral Crusade or Political Movement?”

I recalled my working with Peter Singer since the 1970s and 1980s and how reading Animal Liberation and Practical Ethics had been influential in my understanding of animal rights. I recommend Practical Ethics as an overview of Peter’s philosophy as it relates to such issues as abortion and euthanasia. Subsequent revised editions have been published.

I described how my thinking in animal ethics has evolved from reading and hearing speak Singer, Regan and such ecofeminists as Carol Adams, Marti Kheel, and Lori Gruen. In short, when I speak about animal rights as a matter for the law I draw from Regan’s natural rights view but my heart is more with ecofeminism. I turn to utilitarianism to help inform my everyday decision making.

Speaking at this conference was an opportunity to recognise Peter Singer as more than just the author of Animal Liberation. While I made it clear that I don’t always agree with everything that he says and writes, for example, I don’t identify as a utilitarian, I recognise Peter as a philosopher whose influence is significant. Particularly I admire how he addresses such issues as environmental protection, climate, poverty, world hunger, and the effectiveness of charities while situating animal liberation as part of these issues which, in turn, is part of a larger, progressive agenda of social change.

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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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