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What Is Critical Animal Studies?

What Is Critical Animal Studies?

The aim of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) is to provide a space for the development of a 'critical' approach to animal studies, one which perceives that relations between human and nonhuman animals are now at a point of crisis which implicates the planet as a whole. This dire situation is evident most dramatically in the intensified slaughter and exploitation of animals (who die by the tens of billions each year in the United States alone); the unfolding of the sixth great extinction crisis in the history of the planet (the last one being 65 million years ago); and the monumental environmental ecological threats of global warming, rainforest destruction, desertification, air and water pollution, and resource scarcity, to which animal agriculture is a prime contributor.

Since the last decade, animal studies has emerged as a new and rapidly growing interdisciplinary paradigm, leading to a prolific development of centers, university position, conferences, journals, books, e-lists, radio shows, and podcasts dedicated to studying how humans have conceived of and related to nonhuman animals. Although scholars working in animal studies have made significant contributions to our understanding of the historical, sociological, and philosophical aspects of human/nonhuman animal relations, the discipline is strangely detached from the dire plight of nonhuman animals, human beings, and the Earth.

Animal studies has already entrenched itself as an abstract, esoteric, jargon-laden, insular, non-normative, and apolitical discipline, one where scholars can achieve recognition while nevertheless remaining wedded to speciesist values, carnivorist lifestyles, and at least tacit -- sometime overt -- support of numerous forms of animal exploitation such as vivisection. In recent years Critical Animal Studies has emerged as a necessary and vital alternative to the insularity, detachment, hypocrisy, and profound limitations of mainstream animal studies that vaporizes their flesh and blood realities to reduce them to reified signs, symbols, images, words on a page, or protagonists in a historical drama, and thereby utterly fail to confront them not as 'texts' but rather as sentient beings who live and die in the most sadistic, barbaric, and wretched cages of technohell that humanity has been able to devise, the better to exploit them for all they are worth.

In contrast to the dominant orientations of animal studies, as well as to tendencies prominent throughout the animal welfare and animal rights movements, we seek to develop a Critical Animal Studies that:

1. Pursues interdisciplinary collaborative writing and research in a rich and comprehensive manner that includes perspectives typically ignored by animal studies such as political economy.

2. Rejects pseudo-objective academic analysis by explicitly clarifying its normative values and political commitments, such that there are no positivist illusions whatsoever that theory is disinterested or writing and research is nonpolitical.

3. Eschews narrow academic viewpoints and the debilitating theory-for-theory's sake position in order to link theory to practice, analysis to politics, and the academy to the community.

4. Advances a holistic understanding of the commonality of oppressions, such that speciesism, sexism, racism, ablism, statism, classism, militarism and other hierarchical ideologies and institutions are viewed as parts of a larger, interlocking, global system of domination.

5. Rejects apolitical, conservative, and liberal positions in order to advance an anti-capitalist, and, more generally, a radical anti-hierarchical politics, This orientation seeks to dismantle all structures of exploitation, domination, oppression, torture, killing, and power in favor of decentralizing and democratizing society at all levels and on a global basis.

6. Rejects reformist, single-issue, nation-based, legislative, strictly animal interest politics in favor of alliance politics and solidarity with other struggles against oppression and hierarchy.

7. Champions a politics of total liberation which grasps the need for, and the inseparability of, human, nonhuman animal, and Earth liberation in one comprehensive, though diverse, struggle; to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr.: a threat to liberation anywhere is a threat to liberation everywhere.

8. Deconstructs and reconstructs the socially constructed binary oppositions between human and nonhuman animals, a move basic to mainstream animal studies, but also looks to illuminate related dichotomies between culture and nature, civilization and wilderness and other dominator hierarchies to emphasize the historical limits placed upon humanity, nonhuman animals, cultural/political norms, and the liberation of nature as part of a transformative project that seeks to transcend these limits towards greater freedom and ecological harmony.

9. Openly engages controversial radical politics and militant strategies used in all kinds of social movements, such as those that involve economic sabotage and high-pressure direct action tactics.

10. Seeks to create openings for critical dialogue on issues relevant to Critical Animal Studies across a wide-range of academic groups; citizens and grassroots activists; the staffs of policy and social service organizations; and people in private, public, and non-profit sectors. Through -- and only through -- new paradigms of ecopedagogy, bridge-building with other social movements, and a solidarity-based alliance politics, is it possible to build the new forms of consciousness, knowledge, social institutions that are necessary to dissolve the hierarchical society that has enslaved this planet for the last ten thousand years.



Vol. 5, Issue, 2 - 2007

Table of Contents

Steven Best, PhD and Carol Gigliotti, PhD

Lev Tolstoy and the Freedom to Choose One's Own Path  Word Doc ; Adobe .pdf
Andrea Rossing McDowell, PhD

Jewish Ethics and Nonhuman Animals  Word Doc ; Adobe .pdf
Lisa Kemmerer, PhD

Deliberative Democracy, Direct Action, and Animal Advocacy  Word Doc ; Adobe .pdf
Stephen D'Arcy, PhD

Should Anti-Vivisectionists Boycott Animal-Tested Medicines? Word Doc ; Adobe .pdf
Katherine Perlo, PhD

A Note on Pedagogy: Humane Education Making a Difference
Piers Beirne and Meena Alagappan

Book Reviews:

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
Reviewed by Lisa Kemmerer, PhD

Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust by Charles Patterson
Reviewed by Steven Best, PhD

The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA by Norm Phelps
Reviewed by Steven Best, PhD   Word Doc ; Adobe .pdf

Volume I Issue 1 2003
1. The History and Philosophy of the Center on Animal Liberation Affairs
The Editorial Board
2. The Son of Patriot Act and the Revenge Against Democracy
Dr. Steven Best

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3. Teaching Animal Rights at the University: Philosophy and Practice
Julie Andrzejewski

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4. Towards Ecopedagogy: Weaving a Broad-based Pedagogy of Liberation for Animals, Nature, and the Oppressed People of the Earth
Richard Kahn
5. Species as a Social Construction: Is Species Morally Relevant?
Daniel Elstein
Volume II Issue 1 2004
1. Introduction
Dr. Steven Best
2. The Role of Radical Animal Activists as Information Providers to Consumers
Joshua Frank
3.Two Movements and Human-Animal Continuity:
Positions, Assumptions, Contradictions
Barbara Noske
4.Who is the Legally Defined Terrorist: HLS or SHAC?
Tim Phillips
5. (Im)possible Witness: Viewing PETA�s �Holocaust on Your Plate"
Nathan Snaza
6. Defining Terrorism
Dr. Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II
7. Listen To Us!: A Dialogue For Solidarity With Lawrence Sampson, American Indian Movement Spokesperson
Anthony J. Nocella II and Richard Kahn
Volume II Issue 2 2004
1. Introduction
Steven Best, PhD
2. A Tale of Two Holocausts
Karen Davis, PhD
3. Hunting Tradition: Treaties, Law, and Subsistence Killing
Lisa Kemmerer, PhD
4. The Failure Of the Kantian Theory of Indirect Duties to Animals
Heather Fieldhouse, PhD
5. A Critique of the Kantian Theory of Indirect Moral Duties to Animals
Jeffrey Sebo
6. Utilitarianism, Animals, and the Problem of Numbers
Stephen Hanson, PhD
7. Trial By Fire: The SHAC7, Globalization, and the Future of Democracy
Steven Best, PhD and Richard Kahn
8. Response to Nathan Snaza's "(Im)possible Witness: Viewing PETA's "Holocaust on Your Plate,�" (published in 'Animal Liberation Philosophy and Policy Journal,' Volume II Issue 1)
Kathy Guillermo
Volume III Issue 1 2005
The Power of the Visual
Kathie Jenni, PhD
Beyond Orthodoxy
Susanna Flavia Boxall
Luddites or Limits? Animal Rights Activists Attitudes Towards Science
Nikola Taylor, PhD
Reconsidering Zo and Bios: A Brief Comment on Nathan Snaza's (Im)possible Witness" and Kathy Guillermo's "Response"
Richard Kahn
Volume IV Issue 1 2006

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Steven Best, PhD

Prairie Wolf
Corey Lee Lewis
Animals in Disasters: Issues for Animal Liberation Activism and Policy
Leslie Irvine, PhD
Transparency and Animal Research Regulation: An Australian Case Study
Siobhan O'Sullivan
The Rights of Animal Persons
David Sztybel, PhD
Book Reviews

Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues by Marc Bekoff
Lisa Kemmerer, PhD

The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason
Richard Kahn
Volume V Issue 1 2007
Steven Best, PhD
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Arguments: Strategies for Promoting Animal Rights
Katherine Perlo, PhD
Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism
David Sztybel, PhD
Unmasking the Animal Liberation Front Using Critical Pedagogy: Seeing the ALF for Who They Really Are
Anthony J. Nocella II
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act: New, Improved, and ACLU-Approved
Steven Best, PhD
Book Reviews
In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave (edited by Peter Singer)
Reviewed by Matthew Calarco, PhD
Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully
Reviewed by Lisa Kemmerer, PhD
Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (edited by Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II)
Reviewed by Lauren E. Eastwood, PhD

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