The Animal Rights Movement in America: From Compassion to Respect

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Twayne, 1994 - Philosophy - 309 pages
Advocacy for the welfare of animals goes back a long way in the United States - and even farther in Great Britain and Europe - but it was only in the 1970s and 1980s that the idea of animals possessing fundamental rights was presented to the public in the form of demonstrations, raids on laboratories, and civil disobedience. Whereas the humane movement has promoted kindness toward animals while refraining from challenging the assumption of human superiority, the animal rights movement demands the abolition of institutions that exploit animals, eschewing the doctrine of "kindness" for that of justice and equality. And the movement's challenge to rethink the "uses" of animals is not only directed at those individuals and institutions which exploit animals but at anyone who consumes meat, purchases animal-tested consumer products, or wears fur or leather. In this fascinating social history of the animal rights movement, philosophers Lawrence and Susan Finsen seek to clarify the movement's major ideas, the kinds of activism that have emerged within it, the response of those threatened by its ideas, and its future challenges. They stress that one of the primary characteristics of contemporary institutional use of animals - whether in agriculture, in fur trapping and ranching, or in scientific and commercial experimentation - is that most of it is hidden from public view. The Finsens begin with an overview and history of the movement before the 1980s and then profile various animal rights organizations (such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Liberation Front), describing these groups' tactics and campaigns. They next look at activism of the last couple of decadesthrough which the movement has made considerable strides, particularly the Silver Spring monkeys case and that of the University of Pennsylvania Head Injury Laboratory. The opposition to the animal rights movement - from factory farms to the American Medical Association - is likewise sketched in relation to the campaigns undertaken by target groups like the Farm Animal Reform Movement and more general rights groups like PETA. In the book's second half the authors focus on ideas that have played an important role in developing an intellectual foundation for the movement - the philosophies of such luminaries as Peter Singer and Tom Regan, the beliefs of related movements (the feminist movement, ecofeminism, and environmentalism), and, finally, the challenges that face this young movement as it comes of age. This lucid and well-documented study is crucial reading for anyone - students of social history, philosophers, and the general reader - who has pondered the implications of our culturally sanctioned "use" of animals. The Finsens' encapsulation of this thriving movement of ideas points up the critical difference between sympathy and justice in regard to the other animals with whom we share the earth.

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