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What I Did During the Blizzard

January 24th, 2016 No comments
The weather forecast on one of Washington DC's TV channels predicted 20-30" of snow for the area.

The weather forecast on one of Washington DC’s TV channels predicted 20-30″ of snow for the area.

Presently, I’m working on an assignment with Alley Cat Allies, which means that I’m spending significant amounts of time in their Bethesda, MD offices. One of my trips coincided with the blizzard that occurred over the weekend of January 23-24. For the duration of the blizzard, the U.S. government advised people to stay indoors and not venture out. The blizzard started at 1pm on Friday and later that day I returned form the Alley Cat Allies office to the hotel where I’m staying. I write this as of Sunday afternoon. The blizzard has stopped but there are mountains of snow everywhere.

I have just spent two days not leaving my hotel room. I haven’t gone outside since Friday afternoon but I hope to take a walk later today. In any event, I will be going to the Alley Cat Allies nearby office tomorrow to work for the day. Prior to the storm, I stocked up with chips and salsa, cartons of soup, bread, salad, humous, instant oatmeal, coffee, orange juice, and soy milk. I cook with an electrical kettle and a microwave.

This was taken late Saturday afternoon as the storm got worse. It was windy and snowing all through Saturday evening and into early Sunday morning. The storm cleared by breakfast.

This was taken late Saturday afternoon as the storm got worse. It was windy and snowing all through Saturday evening and into early Sunday morning. The storm cleared by breakfast.

It’s been a bit weird to not go outside for two days and watch from my 11th floor window the blizzard raging outside. But, on the other hand, it’s been rather nice to have the time to myself, catch up on sleep, and, of course, work. Lying in bed this morning, I began to make a mental list of projects and tasks I had worked on in the last two days. This led me to getting up and writing a list, which is now turned into this post.

So, for those who want to know what I did in the 48+ hours of the blizzard, here’s your answer and in no particular order:

  • Finished reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I had started reading it about four weeks ago but since then I’ve had long gaps when I hadn’t touch it. This is a novel that you have to concentrate on. I feel I haven’t benefitted from reading it as much as I should. This is the second time I’ve read it and the first time was also not conducive. What I would really like to do is to read Heart of Darkness without too many interruptions over a couple of days. Third time’s the charm?
  • Spoke with various friends via Skype and FaceTime.
  • Emailed and spoke with Becky Robinson at Alley Cat Allies about various ideas and projects.
  • Read six back copies of the London Review of Books and have a similar number to go.
  • Wrote in my journal.
  • Wrote and revised an appreciation of a key figure in the animal rights movement. The next step is to make a video file of myself reading it out.
  • Edited and prepared for publication for my client, Compassion In World Farming, an interview with a scholar. I also drafted a second interview with another scholar.
  • Listened to two podcasts from the Author MBA podcast, which I find interesting and full of useful advice to authors who ‘think like an entrepreneur and treat their books like a business.’
  • Listened to one podcast from the ARZone. The Animal Rights Zone podcast is excellent.
  • Answered email–there’s always email to answer.
  • Posted onto my social media throughout the blizzard photos taken from my hotel room and including some of them here.
  • Reviewed a proposal to revamp this website, which I hope to complete this spring.

Of course, I’m not making any claims of hardship here. I could not help but think of those outside–the homeless, dogs and cats, birds and wildlife and others–who had no choice.

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Brigid Brophy

October 14th, 2015 No comments
Brigid Brophy

Brigid Brophy

The University of Northampton, England, hosted the Brigid Brophy Anniversary Conference on October 9-10, 2015. The conference commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the death of Brigid Brophy (1929-1995) and the fiftieth anniversary of her article, ‘The Rights of Animals,’ published in the Sunday Times on October 10, 1965 (and later collected in the ground-breaking 1971 anthology, Animals, Men and Morals). The School of the Arts at the University of Northampton hosted the two-day conference to celebrate all aspects of Brophy’s literary career, as well as her leading contribution to animal rights, vegetarianism, anti-vivisectionism, humanism, feminism, and her advocacy of the Public Lending Right. The conference organiser was Professor Richard Canning. The following is the abstract and the paper I presented at the conference. The paper was called ‘A Felicitous Day for Fish.’ Click Brigid Brophy to learn more.

Here’s the link to the paper Brigid Brophy Anniversary Conference 2015 Presentation PDF I presented at the conference. And here’s the paper’s abstract:

In 1980, the RSPCA published the Report of the Panel of Enquiry into Shooting and Angling chaired by the distinguished zoologist, Lord Medway, which concluded that “vertebrate animals (i.e., mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) should be regarded as equally capable of suffering to some degree or another, without distinction between ‘warm-blooded’ and ‘cold blooded’ members.” (para 286) The RSPCA was in turmoil during the 1970s and 1980s. Its policy on hunting symbolised the conflict between members who understood the society as only caring for cats and dogs and progressive members, inspired in part by Brigid Brophy’s 1965 article ‘The Rights of Animals,’ who opposed bloodsports and other forms of animal exploitation. The RSPCA subsequently adopted progressive policies, including opposition to bloodsports (but not angling), and banned hunters as ineligible for membership. These developments sent shockwaves through the British establishment, which continue to rumble to the present. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto commits the government to ‘protect hunting, shooting and fishing’ and ‘give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.’ Polls repeatedly show  majority public opinion opposed to hunting whereas angling is one of the country’s most popular past times, and is not an issue of concern for animal welfare organisations. The launch of the Council for the Prevention of Cruelty by Angling in London and its demise four years later may only warrant a footnote in the history of the animal welfare movement except that Brigid Brophy gave its inaugural address in 1981. As CPCA’s Patron, she called this a ‘felicitous day for fish’ and as CPCA’s Vice President I recall her speech with admiration for its courage, vision, and wit. Drawing from the CPCA file in my animal rights archive, my presentation will consider the context of the remarks made by Brophy about animal rights, including how she saw cruelty to fish in angling from the perspective of her ‘fellow Lefties’ demands for social justice’ and the ‘Right Wing’s concerns for the freedom of the individual.’

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London VegFest

October 11th, 2015 No comments

I will be chairing three consecutive panels of experts on (1) What’s the most effective way to encourage and help people go — and stay — vegan?; (2) What’s the most effective way to campaign for living as a vegan and make vegan values mainstream?; (3) What do we imagine a vegan society to be like? Panelists include Martin Ashby MD, UK; Jasmijn de Boo, Vegan Society, UK; Matthew Glover & Jane Land, Veganuary, UK; Melanie Joy, author Carnism, Germany (TBC); Dobrusia Karbowiak, Open Cages, Poland; Hilda Kean, author & historian, UK; Tobias Leenaert, Consultant, EVA, Belgium; Kerry McCarthy MP, UK; Sean O’Callaghan, Fay Gay Vegan, UK.

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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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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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Animal Liberation, 40 Years On at Rennes University France

May 28th, 2015 No comments

I will be making my presentation ‘Animal Liberation: Moral Crusade or Political Movement?’ The conference celebrates the 40th anniversary publication of Animal Liberation by Peter Singer and explores the issues it raises.

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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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