HISTORY AND FACTS OF ANIMAL RIGHTS, PART 2

Globalization Affecting the Movement

Within neoliberal capitalism, animals are considered commodities. So-called advancements in technology, such as CAFOs, along with increased connectivity and market reach perpetuated by globalization can be linked with drastically increased numbers of animals exploited, coupled with tumbling standards of welfare. Government officials in the UK have openly expressed resistance to “US-style farming”, which would see an influx of CAFO operations in the country. CAFOs have already spread to many other countries, such as India, China and Japan. Ultimately, globalization tends to entrench the use of animals, leaving little to no room for discourse regarding rights or even increased welfare protections.

While globalization brings increased connection between individuals and organizations within the animal rights movement itself, there are some concerns related to how these networks are fostered. Organizations based in North America and Europe that conduct international outreach efforts and resource deployment can, at times, engage in behavioral patterns that entrench ongong legacies of colonialism. Ways beyond these problems include hiring locally, placing people of color in leadership roles and taking the local context into account within campaigning strategies.

Science

Scientific approaches can reflect the logic and biases of human exceptionalism within the selection of questions to be investigated, experimental design and interpretations of findings.

One example of such a bias is that it is impossible to know with absolute certainty what an other-than-human animal is thinking or feeling, and that they therefore cannot be proven as thinking or feeling at all. This assumption is frequently used to justify the ongoing exploitation of animals. The burden of proof is foisted onto those humans who oppose this assumption and onto the animals themselves, requiring that they communicate, unequivocally and in human language, that they are in fact subjects of a life – that is, that they experience emotions, possess desires, and so on. However, some argue that the burden of proof should rest upon those skeptical of animals being subjects of a life. And in light of the abundant concrete and anecdotal evidence of animals’ inner lives, proving otherwise would actually be impossible.

Co-option

Animal exploitation industries have largely co-opted the concepts of animal welfare and humane treatment, in order to continue exploiting animals. While these ideals may have originally been intended to protect animals from harm, industries have successfully managed to apply these words to product labels and processes in order to assuage consumers while hiding the underbelly of industrial agriculture. Now, wherever these words are present, they more indicate animal abuse than anything else.

What is Needed for the Success of Animal Rights?

For animal rights to become legally recognized in Western culture, there needs to be a broad cultural shift across many sectors. People will need to understand and accept that animals are thinking, feeling beings who are not put on this earth for humanity’s use. Speciesism must fade away, along with outdated scientific and philosophical ideas that animals are nothing more than mindless automatons. Patriarchal conceptions of manhood must be dismantled. Forward-thinking legislators must set precedents that pave the way for legal rights.

Fortunately, there is movement towards a more equitable world for animals; for example, plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular; bans on fur are being enacted; and laboratories are turning towards alternatives to animals.

Conclusion

There is still a long road ahead before the animal rights movement achieves the ultimate goal of legally enshrining rights for other-than-human animals. Fortunately, progress is being made in Western countries and around the world, though it may be incremental. As people come to understand more about animals and the suffering they endure at human hands, hopefully the change will only accelerate.