The growing influence of animal rights activists increasingly is affecting daily life, touching everything from the foods Americans eat to what they study in law school, where they buy their puppies and even whether they should enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in New York's Central Park.
Animal activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) say they are seeing a spike in membership as their campaigns spread.
"There's been an explosion of interest" in animal welfare issues, says David Favre, a Michigan State University law professor and animal law specialist. "Groups like the Humane Society of the United States and PETA have brought to our social awareness their concerns about animals and all matter of creatures."
"Animals are made of flesh and blood and bone just like humans," says Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vice president for campaigns. "They feel pain just like we do. Recognition of that grows year by year. The animal rights movement is a social justice movement (similar to) suffrage and civil rights."
Animal rights campaigns are moving on several fronts:
�The Humane Society says it expects 28 state legislatures this year to consider strengthening existing bans on dogfighting and cockfighting; 13 states are considering bills regulating "puppy mills," mass dog-breeding operations that keep puppies in small crates.
�Massachusetts activists are collecting signatures to get a statewide initiative on the November ballot that would ban commercial greyhound racing by 2010. The Committee to Protect Dogs says state records show that since 2002, 728 greyhounds have been injured racing at the state's two tracks.
�Over the past three years, 330 colleges have stopped or dramatically reduced the use of eggs from hens in cramped wire crates called battery cages; retailers including Burger King, Hardee's, Carl's Jr. and Ben & Jerry's now use eggs produced by cage-free hens, Markarian says.
�More than 90 American Bar Association-approved law schools now offer courses in animal law, compared with only a handful 10 years ago. Favre compares the growing interest in animal law among incoming law students to an explosion of interest in environmental law in the 1970s.