Tag Archives: Activism

A Month of Vegan Research: Identity and Effectiveness

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Rachel Einwohner.  1999.  “Gender, Class, and Social Movement Outcomes:  Identity and Effectiveness in Two Animal Rights Campaigns.”  Gender and Society 13 (1):  56-76.

Animal rights organizations in the United States are predominantly female and middle class. What are the implications of the composition of these groups for animal rights activists’ abilities to achieve their goals?  In this article, the author examines the role of class and gender in the outcomes of an anti-hunting campaign and an anti-circus campaign waged by one animal rights organization in the Seattle area. The article shows that hunters make classed and gendered attributions about the activists, whereas circus patrons do not view activists in terms of these statuses and end up taking their demands more seriously. It is suggested that an “identity interaction” between the activists’ class and gender identity and that of their targets helps to explain these different reactions. The analysis also highlights the role of emotion in social movements, especially the ways in which targets perceive and react to activists’ emotional displays.

free-speech-and-hunter-harassment

Activist identity influences social movement outcome.  The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is predominantly female and middle class, and these class and gender patterns impact our campaigns.  Einwohner specifically looks at hunting and circus campaigns and finds that hunters make classed and gendered attributions about the activists. Circus goers, however, do not view activists in this stereotyped way and are more receptive to the activists’ claimsmaking.  Hunters are more likely to be from the working class and male, while circus goers are usually families from a variety of class backgrounds.

Emotion also matters, especially with large numbers of women, as women are generally stereotyped as overly emotional.  However, targets of campaigning also express emotions (frustration, anger, defensiveness, etc.) which must be considered in strategy.  Einwohner advises to pay attention to systems of race, class, and gender and how those systems influence interactions between advocates and their targets.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 18, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Muzzling a Movement

animal-terrorists

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Dara Lovitz.  2010.  Muzzling a Movement:  The Effects of Anti-Terrorism Laws, Money & Politics on Animal Activism.  Brooklyn, NY:  Lantern Books.

Animal activists have been agitating for change for some time and, for the most part, do so nonviolently.  Nonetheless, the threatening tactics preferred by some activists has created a convenient excuse for the state’s anti-terrorism campaign to protect the billion dollar Nonhuman Animal agriculture industries.

These countermovement forces also permeate the media (which is an institution created by elites to protect elite interests).  Vegan messages are either censored altogether or skewed to protect the status quo of speciesism.  Lovitz wonders that the fear of government monitoring is pressuring activists to self-censor.

animal-rights-terrorism

The book’s primary focus is the power of elites who have controlled legislation and influenced politics, ensuring that litigation to help other animals largely fails.  She gives the examples of anti-cruelty codes that exempt food animals, hunter harassment laws, and food disparagement laws.  Interfering with the business of Nonhuman Animal exploitation is legally impossible.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was changed from “Animal Enterprise Protection Act,” thus giving federal agencies the authority to arrest, prosecute, and convict anyone who poses a threat to speciesist industries.  Alarmingly, the AETA criminalizes consumer-based activism (such as vegan outreach) that is intended to reduce the profits of these industries:

The sloppy and unfair use of the label terrorist in our modern society has harrowed a large group of would-be activists and discouraged them from participation in legal protests or from speaking out at all on behalf of nonhuman animals (105).

The terrorist label, she explains, gives the government a legitimate reason to violate freedom of speech.

While Lovitz applies these concerns to all activism, peaceful or not, she specifically looks at the activities of activists who utilize illegal and violent tactics.  It is my interpretation that these types of activities incite state repression, giving the state (and the public) ample excuse to label all anti-speciesists as threats.  To explain this point, she details the SHAC 7 case in which activists had been jailed for firebombing the homes of those involved with vivisection.  Repressive laws influenced by industry elites and enforced by the state work in union with the non-profit industrial complex to severely curtail mobilization power.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about state repression and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 15, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Race as a “Feeble Matter” in Veganism

race-veganism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Harper, B.  2010.  “Race as a “Feeble Matter” in Veganism:  Interrogating Whiteness, Geopolitical Privilege, and Consumption Philosophy of ‘Cruelty-Free’ Products.”  Journal for Critical Animal Studies 8 (3):  5-27.

Within the context of feminist geography, racial politics, and consumption studies, I have observed that mainstream vegan outreach models and top selling vegan-oriented books rarely, if ever, acknowledge the differing socio-historically racialized epistemologies among non-white racial groups. There is an underlying assumption among the white middle class mainstream vegan media that racialization and the production of vegan spaces are disconnected. However, space, vegan or not, is raced and simultaneously sexualized and gendered directly affecting individuals and place identities. Racialized places and spaces are at the foundation of how we develop our socio-spatial epistemologies; hence, these epistemologies are racialized. This paper will explore examples of how epistemologies of whiteness manifest within vegan rhetoric in the USA, and explain why a “post-racial” approach to vegan activism must be replaced by an anti-racist and color-conscious praxis.

Chris Nino, 11, carries empty pepper bags across a Plainview, Texas, field Sept. 21, 1997. Workers like Chris may earn as little as $1.20 per full bag of chili peppers. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Breeze Harper’s research asks activists to reexamine the meaning of “cruelty-free” in vegan production and the white worldviews that direct vegan outreach.  When major organizations define cruelty in food production as a nonhuman-only experience, the suffering of third world persons, immigrants, poor persons, and people of color are rendered invisible.

Harper’s article explores the heavy resistance to racial issues in vegan spaces.  One of the major reasons that human suffering is excluded from “cruelty-free” and vegan outreach efforts is because the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is predominantly white.  White privilege (and class privilege) reinforce the elitism of the movement, making social change piecemeal and stunted.  Harper suggests a rejection of “post-racial” ideology (the belief that racism is no longer a major problem) and a conscious awareness of the specific challenges facing vulnerable humans as well as nonhumans. Human and nonhuman oppression are heavily entangled.  A single-issue approach to anti-oppression work is not likely to be very successful.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about racism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 5, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature

effective-animal-advocacy

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

Humane Research Council.  2011.  Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature.  HRC:  Olympia, WA.

Increasingly, advocates are becoming aware of how whiteness, class, and privilege have shaped the anti-speciesism movement in a way that makes it almost inaccessible to disadvantaged populations.  The fact that most vegan literature reads at a level far beyond that of the average American speaks volumes to the lack of reflexivity in anti-speciesism outreach.

Literacy inequality especially impacts people of color, non-natives, people living in poverty, and others subject to educational barriers.  This report shows that the movement is shaped by well off, educated white elites writing about ethics in language and conceptual frameworks that only other privileged persons can understand.  This significantly restricts the ability of the movement to expand.

vegan-outreach-literature

Summary of Results (from report):

  • The average U.S. adult has a 9th or 10th grade reading level, and 44% of adults have an 8th grade reading level or lower.
  • HRC recommends developing vegan outreach materials at a 7th or 8th grade reading level in order to ensure comprehensibility for a large proportion of the target audience.
  • However, all of the vegan outreach materials evaluated in the current study are written at an 11th grade reading level or higher, indicating that the vegetarian movement’s most popular materials might be incomprehensible to half or more of the target audience.
  • Based on six readability tests, the average readability scores ranged from a low reading level of 11th grade for PCRM’s vegetarian starter kit to a high of 15th grade (beyond college level) for the Humane Myth brochure.
  • Additional research including focus groups (and possibly one-on-one interviews) would allow a more comprehensive evaluation of the materials beyond basic readability. HRC recommends a collaboration to conduct additional qualitative research at a cost of $8,000 to $12,000.

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 3, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Recruiting Strangers and Friends

animal-rights-moral-shocks

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

J. Jasper and J. Poulsen.  1995.  “Recruiting Strangers and Friends:  Moral Shocks and Social Networks in Animal Rights and Anti-Nuclear Protests.”  Social Problems 42 (4):  493-512.

Social movement theorists have taken interest in Nonhuman Animal rights activism for a number of reasons, one of them being recruitment.  As I discussed in my review of Elizabeth Cherry’s article, most become vegan because they know other vegans in their social network.

But what if a person doesn’t know any other vegans?  Moral shocks might do the trick.

moral-shocks

For instance, I grew up in a rural Appalachian town where the notion of “animal rights” is about as alien as it could be. At 13, I was watching a cooking show with my mother in which the host was visiting a butcher’s shop with pigs’ heads hanging from the ceiling.  Suddenly, it became clear to me where “meat” came from and what it entailed.  I went vegetarian on the spot. Soon after, I wrote to PETA and I received literature that contained even more morally shocking information and images.  I immediately decided to go vegan the day I moved out of my parents’ house and was in control of my food choices.

For a little girl living in Appalachia with no vegan-positive social networks, moral shocks were able to recruit me. Readers should acknowledge that moral shocks are not as straight forward in their effectiveness as they may appear. I explore the nuances of moral shocks in an article I published with Society & Animals, arguing that moral shocks have limited value in an environment inundated with welfare reform and “happy meat” ideology.

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective persuasion in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 20, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights

victorian-women-and-animal-activism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


Diane Beers.  2006.  For the Prevention of Cruelty:  The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States.  Athens, OH:  Ohio University Press.

animal-rights-historyThere are several historical accounts of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement available, but this is perhaps the book I cite most frequently.  Beers’ exploration begins with the pre-World War II era where advocate organizations were (not unlike today) “predominantly white, male, urban elites led groups, while a middle- and upper-class constituency dominated by women supplied the rank and file” (8).  Before 1945, she reports, “most women asserted their voice through their impressive financial support and extensive volunteerism as members, not leaders” (9).

Many advocates were simultaneously involved in other social justice causes, with many from the ranks of abolitionists and suffragists.  Beers reports that England was several decades ahead of the United States in spearheading anti-speciesist efforts.  She cites America’s growing pains as one reason for the slow growth, but the abolitionist mobilization around the Civil War era did inspire an anti-slavery imagination.  Indeed, early  Nonhuman Animal activists relied heavily on slavery analogies.  “Back to the land” movements of the same era also inspired vegan ethics.

Humanitarian efforts of the Progressive era pushed for animal issues alongside other reform efforts.  Gender stereotypes and elitism continued to plague the movement, however, typing women as natural caregivers gave them the leverage to become active outside the home.  At this time, organizations were also under fire for their preference for conservative agendas.  Critics called these organizations a serious barrier to anti-speciesist progress.  Beers explains:

In part, evidence supported their charges.  As the national organization’s reputation and influence as apolitical insider spread, its policies increasingly reflected the interests of the opponents, and conventions increasingly ousted radical delegations.  Furthermore, industrialists generously funded the association, and that patronage created inherent limitations for campaign strategies and reforms.  More radical groups might simultaneously publish explicit exposés, prosecute companies for violations, admonish consumers for eating cruelly produced meat, and even endorse vegetarianism, but the AHA carefully avoided any tactics that would antagonize its proindustry beneficiaries.  (71)

Predictably, organizations defended this compromise as both a pragmatic necessity given political and economic realities and a benefit to the movement overall.   They also charged that abolitionist goals were utopian and only served to make the movement look fanatical, thus alienating the public. Sound familiar? Following World War II, the welfare movement and the animal rights movement had, for all intents and purposes, split ways.

This era also saw the rise in humane education, with activists hoping to reach young people with messages of social justice and compassion before they could be indoctrinated with the oppressive ideologies of the state. All was quiet on the animal rights front in the strained years surrounding World War I, but the movement grew alongside the growth of Nonhuman Animal exploitation following the war.  Post-war consumption practices made advocating concern for Nonhuman Animals especially difficult. Though successes were marginal, this period did pave the way for the radical activism of the post-1975 period.

Of course, the wave of social justice activism of the 1960s breathed new life into the movement:

Just as the abolition and suffrage movements of the nineteenth century created precedents for the ethical consideration of all creatures, the civil rights and feminist struggles of the late twentieth century blazed a trail of liberation ideology that animal defenders inevitably walked. (149)

A history of  moderate tactics in tandem with anti-communist sentiment would stifle radical advocacy to some extent, although key publications in anti-speciesism in the late 20th century would popularize the goal for liberating other animals.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the history of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 16, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: The Movement is My Life

vegan-networks

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


Harold A. Herzog Jr.  1993.  “‘The Movement is My Life’:  The Psychology of Animal Rights Activism.”  Journal of Social Issues 49 (1):  103-119.

I used a qualitative research approach to investigate psychological aspects of involvement in the animal rights movement. Interviews were conducted with 23 rank-and-file activists, focusing on cognitive and emotional aspects of involvement with the movement, concomitant lifestyle changes, effects on interpersonal relations, and the happiness and well-being of the participants. Three main themes emerged from these interviews. First, there was a surprising degree of diversity in attitudes and behavior of the activists. Second, animal rights activism usually entailed major changes in lifestyle: almost all interviewees strove to achieve consistency between their ideals and their actions. Third, there were several parallels between an involvement with the animal rights movement and religious conversion. The potential for increased communication between the animal protection and scientific communities is discussed.

animal-rights-demographics

Hal Herzog has a large body of research on the identity politics of Nonhuman Animal rights activism. The article highlighted here is about 20 years old and relies on a limited sample (23 persons living in the U.S. South), but it nonetheless offers a useful overview of movement demographics.

Herzog finds that many of these activists experienced profound attitude and behavior changes upon joining the movement.  He also reports a measurable tension between reasoned argument and emotions (some stick to rational logic, but most activists engaged emotions to some extent).

Most activists rejected violence from their tactics and were motivated by a strong desire to spread the message by educating the public and participating in demonstrations.  All considered themselves vegetarians (many of whom continued to eat chickens and fishes), and over half were vegan.  Most felt they were morally superior in some way, what Herzog defines as “the belief one has discovered a truth of which others are not yet aware.”  All but one were members of professionalized organizations (namely PETA).  Several were living with partners who shared their beliefs, but many were living with those for whom it created considerable conflict.  Most found that friends and relatives were largely supportive.

Overall, activism seems to have mixed results as far as life happiness.  In many ways it is a fulfilling calling, in other ways, it means exposure to a lot of painful knowledge and frustrations with structured oppression.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the psychological consequences of anti-speciesist activism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 12, 2013.

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Fat Vegan Politics: Why Health-shaming, Body-policing, and Fat Stigma Hurts Humans and Other Animals

This month I published a qualitative study on fat vegan experiences in the journal of Fat Studies. Sixty-one respondents kindly gave their time to fill out a questionnaire asking a range of questions about their experiences as vegan activists. The results were surprising.

PETA ad reads, "'I hate men's guts.' Don't be a whopper go vegetarian." Has a blond white woman in an American bikini giving a beer belly the cold shoulder

Veganism is a food-focused movement that consistently banks on fat-shaming rhetoric and ideologies of thin privilege to persuade its audience to go vegan. In a sea of fat antagonistic claimsmaking, where does this leave fat vegans? After all, veganism is not a diet and many people do not lose weight after going vegan (some may even gain). Sizeist claimsmaking not only alienates fat audiences, but could also alienate fat activists.

What I found was that size discrimination was common, with one in four self-identified fat vegans having experienced it. What I also found, however, was that most were not deterred from participating. They resisted or sought out inclusive communities.

PETA billboard that reads, "Save the Whales. Lose the blubber: Go vegetarian." Features a fat woman in a bikini on the beach

While their resistance is admirable, it should not detract from the inappropriateness of sizeism in a social justice movement. The Nonhuman Animal rights movement has a long history of banking on human inequalities to shock, shame, or scare its audience into compliance. It is inconsistent with movement goals and is not sustainable. Rather than burn bridges and flame bigotry, the movement might instead appeal to intersections of oppression and shared identities. Like Nonhuman Animals, the fat community has been vilified, marginalized, an exploited, their bodies otherized and butchered (with diets and surgeries). Empathy will encourage behavior change, but scientific studies reliably demonstrate that stigma will not.

PETA ad that reads, "Obese in the USA? Go vegetarian." Image of a fat man's behind in front of an American flag

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the problems of aggravating human inequality to advance anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.

 


 

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A Month of Vegan Research: Veganism as a Cultural Movement

Vegan Culture

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

Cherry, E.  2006.  “Veganism as a Cultural Movement:  A Relational Approach.”  Social Movement Studies 5 (2):  155-170.

Social movement scholars have long studied actors’ mobilization into and continued involvement in social movement organizations. A more recent trend in social movement literature concerns cultural activism that takes place primarily outside of social movement organizations. Here I use the vegan movement to explore modes of participation in such diffuse cultural movements. As with many cultural movements, there are more practicing vegans than there are members of vegan movement organizations. Using data from ethnographic interviews with vegans, this article focuses on vegans who are unaffiliated with a vegan movement organization. The sample contains two distinctive groups of vegans – those in the punk subculture and those who were not – and investigates how they defined and practiced veganism differently. Taking a relational approach to the data, I analyze the social networks of these punk and non-punk vegans. Focusing on discourse, support, and network embeddedness, I argue that maintaining participation in the vegan movement depends more upon having supportive social networks than having willpower, motivation, or a collective vegan identity. This study demonstrates how culture and social networks function to provide support for cultural movement participation.

punk-culture

 

Cherry’s sociological research into the importance of networks and culture in vegan outreach and vegan retainment reminds us that promoting veganism is more than leafleting to strangers and graphic images.  Many vegans go vegan and stay vegan because it is culturally normative. More specifically, there are others in their social circles who are vegan.

This closeness to other vegans creates a familiarity with vegan living, lends social support, and significantly reduces stigma.  We learn what foods, music, fashion, morals, values, etc. are desirable from those around us, and veganism is no exception.  Given that social institutions are generally elite driven and protect oppressive structures, subcultures that reject mainstream values are especially important for normalizing radical, justice-focused choices like veganism.  Some organizations attempt to recreate these networks and subcultures by sponsoring vegan mentorship programs.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about vegan motivation in my book, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 7, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Why Civil Resistance Works

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

Chenoweth, E. and M. Stephan.  2011.  Why Civil Resistance Works:  The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.  New York, NY:  Columbia University Press.

Combining statistical analysis with case studies of specific countries and territories, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan detail the factors enabling such campaigns to succeed and, sometimes, causing them to fail. They find that nonviolent resistance presents fewer obstacles to moral and physical involvement and commitment, and that higher levels of participation contribute to enhanced resilience, greater opportunities for tactical innovation and civic disruption (and therefore less incentive for a regime to maintain its status quo), and shifts in loyalty among opponents’ erstwhile supporters, including members of the military establishment. 

why-civil-resistance-worksI can’t keep count of how many times I’ve cited this book.  The Nonhuman Animal rights movement has a penchant for violence. For two reasons. First, the movement is male-led, thus valuing male approaches to social change and interactions. Second, speciesism is such a massive social problem, many become frustrated and turn to violence in desperation.  Unfortunately, the history of social movements does not support the success of violent tactics (or, in some cases, the lasting success of violent tactics).

The movement for other animals has been defined by it’s violence, though violence is only one of many other tactics in its repertoire.  This stereotype has been used to reinforce sanctions against Nonhuman Animal rights activism and gives the public one more reason to dismiss anti-speciesism.  Steve Best of the Animal Liberation Front is of the persuasion that seeing media coverage of violent advocacy will inspire others to join the cause.  I agree with Chenoweth and Stephan that Best’s predictions are mostly unfounded.  Violent movements are not so successful at attracting more activists. In fact, violence repels them.

For those who are attracted, we have to consider what types of people are being attracted.  In the case of anti-speciesism, it tends to be young, white males who have internalized masculine notions of dominance, power, control, and entitlement.  In other words, pro-violence anti-speciesism is seeking to build a movement that mirrors the society it wishes to restructure.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective animal advocacy and the dangers of violent tactics in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 6, 2013.

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