Animal Advocacy and Animal Rights

    The Early History

    Activism on behalf of animals has been around a long time.

      Antivivisectionists and the 1876 anticruelty act

      The antivivisection movement of Victorian England spearheaded the legislation to regulate laboratory animal welfare.

      ASPCA - livestock protection, the 28 hour rule and animal shelters

      The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was an early advocate for animals in the US. They raised awareness for the protection of farm animals, leading to the 28 hour rule of livestock transportation. They also set up shelters for homeless animals.

      Growth of antivivisectionism - attack on Rockefeller University

      As in Britain, concerns about the way laboratory animals were treated led to movements against animal researchers in the US. As early as the beginning of the last (!) century, activists raided the Rockefeller University out of concern for laboratory animals there. At this time the cost of this research to animals was obvious, but the benefit to humans was less compelling, since many of the medical breakthroughs that animal research spawned lay in the future.

      AMA counteracts with a Committee on National Legislation and Council for the Defense of Medical Research (1908)

      In response to antivivisectionism in the US, the American Medical Association began a lobbying campaign to counteract the efforts of animal activists, seeking to prevent limits being placed on medical researchers. They set up the Committee on National Legislation and Council for the Defense of Medical Research to argue in favor of animal experimentation.

      Medical breakthroughs

      The turn of the century saw early breakthroughs in biomedical science and immunology which provided some incentive to persist with animal research.

      Militancy then dormancy of antivivisectionists ca 1914-1918

      The early activism of this century subsided during the first world war. America was more preoccupied with geopolitical issues than animal welfare. Furthermore, it was difficult to build support for a militant organization during a time of national emergency.

      60 years of medical advances

      In the period after the first world war, major advances were made in medical science, relying partly on animal experimentation. The improvements in life expectancy from vaccination programs, antibiotics, and improved medicine and surgery eclipsed concerns about animal welfare. Other issues of national importance, such as the great depression, the second world war, and the cold war, seemed to hold the nation's interest.

      Animal seizure laws 1945 - 1960, National Society for Medical Research versus Robert Sellar

      The NSMR actively initiated legislation to force humane societies and animal shelters to give animals to government or university researchers on demand. These laws applied in some cases to both government and privately funded shelters. The ealiest of these laws were debated and passed without the knowledge of humane societies. Robert Sellar of the American Humane Association struggled to prevent or lessen the impact of this legislation with limited success. Overall, after the death of Robert Sellar, the AHA did not take a strong stand against the medical research community, to the frustration of many in the animal advocacy movement.

      Split from AHA of HSUA and other Animal Welfare organizations

      The Humane Society of the United States was formed, in part, by former members of the AHA who were no longer satisfied with the AHA's passive stance. They felt that the AHA did not do enough to oppose the NSMR.

    The Later History

    During the Vietnam and civil rights era, protest and activism became a more accepted part of US life. The current Animal Rights movement probably owes some of its energy to the anti-establishment attitudes of the 1960's.

      1966 Concentration Camp for Dogs (Life Magazine)

      Life magazine published an article which graphically portrayed the conditions faced by lost and stray dogs that were sold to researchers. Animals were severely mistreated and neglected as they were warehoused prior to seizure by the universities. It showed how lost pets routinely ended up undergoing experimentation at institutes like the Harvard Medical School. The lack of legislation protecting these animals led to the Animal Welfare Legislation of 1966.

      Animal Welfare Act 1966, 1970, 1985

      As mentioned in the previous lecture, this legislation was the result of resurgent animal activism after the 1960's.

      Repeal of Animal Seizure Laws

      State by State it has been necessary to repeal or modify animal seizure laws so that lost animals are not in danger of being used for research.

    The Modern Animal Rights Movement

      Animal Liberation by Peter Singer (1975)

      This book provided a coherent philosophical outlook to fundamentally change the human - animal relationship

      What we must do is bring nonhuman animals within our sphere of moral concern and cease to treat their lives as expendable for whatever trivial purposes we may have

      We must allow that beings who are similar in all relevant respects have a similar right to life -- and mere membership in our own biological species cannot be a morally relevant criterion for this right

      Speciesism - "a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species"

      Animal "rights" and "liberation" replace animal protection, welfare, or anti-vivisection. Animals are no longer our responsibility. They should be liberated, set free from our society. We have no responsibility to care for them, nor use them.

      A fundamental change in society is proposed

      A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all mammals. In other words human life and animal life should be weighed equally.

      Abolitionist versus reformist

      Some members believe that the current situation must be abolished, that liberation of animals requires one drastic step, just as the abolition of slavery required one drastic step. Others prefer to change the system gradually using a step by step approach.

      Many organizations, divided by moral absolutism

      Each of the Animal Rights organizations has a sightly different stance. Some oppose each other for failing to take sufficiently hard lines on certain issues.

    The Issues


      Animals should not be used in research.


      Animals should not be raised for food or fiber.


      Pet ownership is a form of slavery.


      Animals should not gve their skins for clothing.


      Use of animals in entertainment is exploitation.


      Use of animals in sport, exercise, or recreation is also exploitative.


      Animals should not be used for hunting nor should they be hunted.

    A Few of The Organizations

      People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)- Annual budget of 9 million dollars. They organized an expose revealing the treatment of non-human primates in medical research.

      Animal Liberation Front- Listed as a terrorist organization by the FBI. Bomb, burn, vandalize equipment, steal records, release animals.

      Friends of Animals - Founded in 1957 to promote spaying and neutering, does not believe in liberating animals. They have links to the environmental movement through efforts to prevent clubbing of baby seals. Priscilla Feral is the CEO.

    The Backlash

    Although not as plentiful, "animal use" organizations have now sprung up in opposition to the animal rights activists. This movement is particularly strong in the west where farming and hunting is a way of life for many. These groups tend to use strong rhetoric against the animal rightists.

      Animal Scam by Kathleen Marquardt (1993)

      This is one example of a book of the animal use movement. It seeks to expose the militancy and supposed dishonesty of the animal rights movement, and draw support for animal use.

      Putting People First

      This is one organization that, through books like Animal Scam, promotes animal use in oppposition to the animal rights movement. The cost borne in animal suffering or discomfort is outweighed by the rewards in decreasing human and animal suffering through animal research.


    To some extent the animal rights movement uses the human rights movement as its model.

      Consider the Declaration of Independence:

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

      Consider this declaration signed in 1977 by delegates at an animal rights symposium:

      We declare our belief that all sentient creatures have rights to life, liberty, and the quest for happiness

      The spectrum of animal advocacy

      Animal advocacy covers a spectrum of organizations which extend from those advocating humane animal use, to those advocating animal liberation. At both ends of the spectrum lie extremist groups.

    Review Question

      Where do you stand on "The Issues" listed above. Why?

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