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.
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
Further 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.
The presentation that I made at the recent International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg is now available to watch. It was called ‘Animal Witness’ at the conference but is given the name ‘Why Animals and Their Well-Being Matter to Us’ on YouTube but more importantly it reflects the essence of what I have to say in Growl.
To watch my presentation from the IARC 2013, please click here.
To learn where I will be presenting in the future, please visit Events on this website.
For more information about the IARC, please click here.
There’s something fascinating about the so-called Cambridge spies: Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. They all came from the upper middle class and met at Cambridge University in the 1930s. They went onto hold various powerful positions in society while acting as double agents for the U.K. and U.S.S.R. or worked in the Foreign Office or for the Windsors as the Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.
I’m not delusional about the severe damage the Cambridge spies caused to Britain and its security as well as the deaths of many hundreds of people that their espionage resulted in. Nonetheless, I cannot but help find appealing the heroic, romanticised view of the Cambridge spies as they’re presented in, for example, the plays of Alan Bennett (e.g., ‘An Englishman Abroad’ about Burgess and ‘A Question of Attribution’ about Blunt) and in the telly series ‘Cambridge Spies.’ Not quite the same thing but I keep promising myself to read John le Carre’s spy novels but have yet to get round to doing so.
A book I have just finished is A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre (Bloomsbury), a writer and editor on Murdoch’s The Times.
What makes this book different from the many others about Philby is that it’s about his friendships and particularly with Nicholas Elliott, who, like Philby, was a spy in MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service. What’s fascinating is how Philby was able to hide his spying for the Russians from his wives and closest of colleagues and friends who all knew him intimately. There is, of course, a lot more to say about all of this but this briefest of descriptions will have to suffice.
There’s one aspect to the Philby story that stands out above all others, which made me very angry as I read the book. Philby was protected by his class because it couldn’t be possible that ‘one of them’ could be a traitor. This privileged status ensured that for years Philby, while in our employ, spied for the Soviets unchallenged.
Two months on from the publication of Growl by Lantern Books and I pause to list some of what’s happened and what’s forthcoming.
- Hastings Independent free newspaper says Growl is ‘fascinating and insightful book’
- Historian Hilda Kean says Growl ‘carefully debunks the idea that real change in the position of non-human animals can occur simply by individuals altering their lifestyle’
- Humane Research Council recommends Growl in its Summer Reading List
- VegFund says ‘Any activist, new or seasoned, can learn from Stallwood’s experiences and apply them to his or her own advocacy’
- Brian May’s Soapbox promotes Growl
- Responsible Eating and Living radio interview with Caryn Hartglass
- Growl Launch Party at vegan Moose’s Kitchen in St Leonards on Sea attracts more than 35 people
- Mark Hawthorne online interview ‘Kim Stallwood: Helping People Help Animals’
- Hastings Online Times says Growl is a ‘fascinating insight into the experiences of a man who has dedicated most of his life to animal advocacy and protection’
- Speaking inquiries received from Finland, Poland, and Australia
- Professor Marita Giménez-Candela, Director, Master in Animal Law and Society, adds Growl to the recommended reading list for the Graduate Course ‘Law and Animal Welfare’ and Master Program ‘Animal Law and Society’ at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
- Presented Growl at the VegFest in Bristol in May
- Presenting Growl at the London Vegan Festival, the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, and London VegFest
- Launch party for Growl at the inaugural conference of the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University in October
- Presenting Growl at the 2nd Annual Humanities in Public Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University in October
- US East Coast book tour late October to mid November includes NYU Animals and Society Initiative, Business Ethics and Environmental Law classes at Pace University, and GWU Law School
Stephen F. Eisenman is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and author of The Cry of Nature — Art and the Making of Animal Rights (Reaktion; 2013). This is a fascinating read, which, I believe, deserves the attention of advocates and scholars alike who care deeply about animals, and why I wanted to interview him.
1. What inspired you to write The Cry of Nature – Art and the Making of Animal Rights?
I have been a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for about five. In addition, about ten years ago, I started to become engaged in the relatively new research field of Animal Studies.
But the real impetus for The Cry of Nature came in 2008. After publishing a short book about the photographs made at Abu Ghraib prison, (The Abu Ghraib Effect, 2007) I realized that the issue of human rights and animal rights are essentially the same! Animals like humans are sensitive and empathetic. Both require love, freedom and companionship to thrive. Yet both have been systematically denied these things by kings, tyrants, presidents and regular people willing to look the other way. In addition, the great artworks we see in museums generally show dead animals or slabs of meat as both natural and beautiful! I wanted to write a book that would make that violence strange again. I also wanted to highlight the work of artists who rejected violence, anthropocentrism and the turning of sentient beings into mere commodities.
2. The book’s subtitle is ‘Art and the Making of Animal Rights.’ How did artists help inaugurate the animal rights movement?
In the 17th C, the painter Rembrandt rejected the Cartesian distinction between body and soul, and between human and animal. He showed the latter – even in death – as possessing of a soul. So did William Hogarth and George Stubbs in the 18th century, and the French Romantic, Theodore Gericault in the 19th. Hogarth in particular was cited by the philosophers of the late 18th Century who started the modern animal rights movement. Without Hogarth, John Oswald and Joseph Ritson – both pioneers of animal rights – would never have written their books. By the way, the title of my book derives from Oswald’s amazing, radical, but little-read 1791 manifesto, The Cry of Nature – or An Appeal to Mercy and to Justice on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals.
3. Which works by Hogarth do you mean?
There is of course, his great portrait of his pug dog, Trump! But more important are the great engravings called The Four Stages of Cruelty. The first two prints are a veritable encyclopedia of animal cruelty and were intended to shock the conscience of viewers. And they did! Of all the works he made, Hogarth was the most proud of these.
4. What is your view of 20th and 21st century artists like Pablo Picasso, Chaim Soutine, Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst, and Sue Coe? How did they depict animals?
Kim, that’s a big question, and readers will have to look at my book for an answer. But I will say that excepting Hirst, they all rejected in one way or another the cruel clichés of speciesism. Coe of course is the greatest moralist-artist active today. She proves that you can be both brilliant at your craft (drawing, painting, printmaking) and a powerful force for social change. She has single-handedly made more vegans than all the animal welfare groups put together!
5. Is the focus of your current research animal rights? If so, what can you say us about it?
Yes, I can’t leave it behind. I am writing about animal agency in the late 18th Century and after. In all previous emancipation struggles, the oppressed group has fought for its own freedom. I have discovered that animals – for example the ones brought to Smithfield Market in London — did that too, and that their oppressors recognized it. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but I am a careful scholar and I have the evidence! Rampant bulls at Smithfield killed in order to obtain their freedom. Sheep cried out in such a plaintive way that they attracted human supporters. I am giving illustrated lectures about these subjects at conferences this year in England and the US, so please come and hear for yourself.
But Kim, as you know so well, scholarship is not enough. I am becoming more and more engaged with activism. For me, the one supports the other, and I am trying to teach my students at Northwestern the same lesson. The best scholar is the engaged scholar.
PS Here’s a video of Stephen giving a talk to the Chicago Humanities Festival which outlines what he explores more fully in his book. I find it to be important and fascinating research and analysis that’s relevant to understanding our complex relationship with other animals.
There were many fine books about animal rights and related matters published in 2013. So many, in fact, that I’ve had to devise two lists: my five favourites and four noble mentions. So, let’s deal with the latter group first. I’m cheating a bit with the noble mentions. I’m reading them or they’re on my to read pile tottering by my side of the bed.
The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights by Stephen F. Eisenman (Reaktion Books)
The impact of art on animal rights fascinates me. Just started this book and can’t wait to read his study of my favourite living artist Sue Coe.
Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict by David Nibert (Columbia University Press)
This progressive perspective is refreshing in the era of blandness. It will be like a breath of fresh air albeit a strong wind that will knock my thinking sideways—no bad thing.
Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat edited by Kara Davis, Wendy Lee, with a Foreword by Carol J. Adams (Lantern Books)
Carol J. Adams and her books have earned themselves a place in my life in which they have significantly shaped my thinking. Discovering her impact on the lives of others will be interesting.
Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus by Susan Nance (Johns Hopkins University Press)
One unfinished project is to write a contemplation about the life of Topsy, the elephant electrocuted to death in Coney Island, NY in 1903. Susan Nance’s book is part of my research.
Onto my top five animal rights books of 2013.
Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans (Faber & Faber)
During the 1980s when I organised the campaigns of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and U.K. animal rights movement came into its own with many actions of different kinds, I suspected there were undercover police, agents provocateurs, and corporate spies in our midst but never had the evidence to prove it. At the end of one national demonstration I organised which attracted thousands of protestors, I went to the local police station to check on some activists who had been arrested, and witnessed demonstrators emerge as on-duty police officers as they walked past me standing at the counter, started chatting with their colleagues in uniform, and take off badges from their coats and drop placards onto the floor. Researched and written by two Guardian journalists, Undercover documents Britain’s secret police forces and how they infiltrate and influence not only legitimate social movements like ours but also act morally reprehensibly by initiating long-standing, intimate relationship with activists, including fathering children. Every activist has to read this book and understand that much worse goes on around and among us.
Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne (Changemakers Books)
Mark Hawthorne is a writer of integrity. If he says it, you can trust it. This is why Bleating Hearts is so important and deserves a place on every animal activist’s bookshelf. It’s encyclopaedic in its summary description of all the different ways in which we treat animals. An important resource.
A Theory of Justice for Animals: Animal Rights in a Nonideal World by Robert Garner (Oxford University Press)
Living in an imperfect world, how do we go from moral rights to legal rights for animals? This is the question that Robert Garner, professor of politics at the University of Leicester, seeks to answer. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions and that, I think, doesn’t matter, as we have to have this debate. For example, he writes: “[i]t is my contention that moral obligations regarded as being outside of the sphere of justice collapse, in practice, into the realm of charity and voluntarism precisely because there is a much weaker link with legal compulsion.” (8) (emphasis in original)
This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology by Will Anderson (Earth Books)
The big picture view of animal rights and veganism and their relationship to environmental protection are the issues explored by Will Anderson, a long-standing social justice campaigner. There is so much to learn from this well-researched book. One of its special attributes that I appreciate is that it presents the problem as well as the solution.
Polar Bear in the Zoo: A Speculation by Martin Rowe (Lantern Books)
Martin Rowe, who is my editor at Lantern Books, is such a thoughtful and provocative writer that I would want to read anything he writes. I read The Polar Bear in the Zoo as an ebook but its richness deserves another read in the flesh, as it were, as a paperback. Prompted by the evocative photography of Jo-Anne McArthur and one in particular of a polar bear in a zoo, Martin Rowe embarks on a journey of contemplation and questioning as to what it means to care and act for animals as well as the relationship between us. “Do we open our eyes and stare or do we look away?” he asks.
Changing the Game: Why the Battle for Animal Liberation Is So Hard and How We Can Win It by Norm Phelps (Lantern Books — ebook only)
This book deserves a wider readership than I fear it has received so far. With precision and insight, Norm Phelps takes a cold hard look at the animal rights movement and our strategies and tactics. His analysis is always insightful and, when necessary, challenging. This is one of those rare books about animal rights strategy that reaches beyond cliches and stereotypes. It breathes wisdom into the discussion that preoccupies activists of all sorts. He concludes with a seven point program to change the game of animal rights advocacy. “And because neither animal rights nor human rights can be achieved alone,” he writes, “we need to set about building a universal rights movement that will win both together.”
Sociologist Roger Yates, who I’m proud to say is a respected animal rights colleague I’ve known since the 1980s, recently recorded an interview with me for his podcast, On Human-Nonhuman Relations. Here’s Roger’s introduction
My special guest for podcast 31 is long-time animal advocate, Kim Stallwood, who has been vegan since 1976 – his journey to veganism began with a summer job in a chicken slaughterhouse. Kim Stallwood and I first met in the early 1980s when he was a central figure of the radicalisation of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Kim quickly transformed the BUAV’s magazine from its rather weak and washy format, “Animal Welfare” to “The Liberator,” regularly reporting on the activities of the Animal Liberation Front and the various Animal Liberation Leagues. In the podcast, Kim provides a brief summary of the origins of political campaigning in Britain, greatly influenced by Lord Houghton, and expounds his view that political campaigning in the 21st century is increasingly important if the animal movement is to achieve it’s goals. I have never been keen on political campaigning, preferring vegan education initiative in civil society and on the cultural level. As you’ll hear, our conversation gets a little heated at times – but respectfully so! Kim Stallwood is appearing at the 2013 Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, and he has outlined his case for political engagement in a 2012 Critical Perspectives on Animal In Society conference.
Roger and I share many views but we don’t agree on everything. Our differences become apparent as our conversation develops. Even though we do disagree on some, we discuss our differences with passion and humour.
Listen here to the podcast, Growling with Kim Stallwood.
What do these three things have in common?
They all relate to new projects I’m currently working on and want to bring you up to date with.
First, my colleague at the Animals and Society Institute, Bee Friedlander, challenges us in the ASI Diary to find the “S” in the Animal Movement which exists in other social movements in the USA: Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. In doing so, she explores the common ground among social movements, including animal rights. Bee refers to my paper, “Animal Rights: Moral Crusade or Social Movement?,” which emphasises, as she puts it, going “from philosophical to political, from theory to practice, as the underpinning of the movement.”
Second, in my new paper, “The Politics of Animal Rights Advocacy,” I investigate further the challenges the animal rights movement faces in embedding the values of animal ethics in mainstream politics. The paper is available to read in the journal, Relations–Beyond Anthropocentrism (Vol 1, No 1).
Finally, I am honored to have been invited by the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, to present a paper at the First International Elephant Congress in Delhi in November. The focus of my paper will be about Topsy, the elephant Thomas Edison electrocuted in 1903.