How Rhetoric Shapes the Animal Rights Movement

Animal Rights
A terrified cow looks through an opening from the inside of a transport truck arriving at a Dutch slaughterhouse.

Open dialogue is an important tool for moving discourse forward and gaining a better understanding of the issues we face in our time. In the spirit of open dialogue, the following is my response to the essay Animal Rights and the Challenge of Activism.

In the essay, the author describes the different tactics used by animal rights activists to persuade non-vegans. She emphasizes the importance of free speech, open inquiry, and debate, in particular the importance of non-vegans’ ability to challenge vegans. But in doing so, she also unwittingly exposes how her own rhetoric might influence people in such a way that might undermine the animal rights movement. My response isn’t an attempt at a ‘take-down’ of the author, but instead it is a way to show how important language is in animal rights activism and how even those of us with the best intentions can fall into these traps.

Animal Rights and the Challenge of Activism

Painting by José Jiménez Aranda at The Walters Art Museum

“How do you know someone is vegan?” “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” We all know it. Animal Rights activists are annoying and pushy. They will ‘shove their beliefs down your throat’ when you are just trying to enjoy your lunch. Whether How I Met Your Mother or South Park is your show of choice, you will have seen this notorious creature represented on screen, and given the recent growth in the movement, you probably know someone in your own life who always ruins a dinner party. Maybe you, like me, are the annoying vegan.

Remembering Regan Russell: Looking Directly at Animal Agriculture

We are their voice - Remembering Regan Russell For well over a year, all eyes have been on the pandemic. While we have been singularly focused on the pandemic, another global tragedy has been taking place, though this tragedy has been happening for many years, its existence well-known, but conveniently ignored. It’s all around us, and has been normalized to such a point where any mention of it is met with denial, justification, ostracization, and anger – not anger on behalf of those suffering, but anger towards the messenger who is making the suffering known.

Want to Stop A Pandemic? Stop Eating Animals.

Pigs being transported to slaughter. Trigger moments in human history awaken us to injustice and turn the tide of public perception. What happened in Waterloo, Iowa may not have been a watershed moment but as far as human folly, it was a doozy.

Between March and mid-April 2020, as the pandemic surged, managers at the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo lay bets on how many employees would fall prey to COVID-19. This, while the brass told workers they had “a responsibility to keep working in order to ensure Americans don’t go hungry.”

Is the World Going Plant-Based? It’s Complicated.

Every day we learn more about our home planet’s fascinating cohabitants: we know that mother pigs sing to their piglets while nursing; we know that chickens form complex social hierarchies; we know that dolphins have the longest memories in the animal kingdom; we know that birds can sing a wide range of complex songs, each with its own specific meaning; we know that when a goose’s mate dies, its partner will remove themselves from the flock and mourn for life.