Book Review

in Society & Animals
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Abstract

The aim of the book is to "capture the movement's moral vision and sense of mission, with sensitivity to its concerns but also an awareness of some of its excesses" (book jacket). It is a brave book in its attempt to provide a dispassionate account of what has become (along with abortion) one of the most passionate controversies of our era. The authors are two sociologists currently at New York University, with long and prolific careers writing about the interface of science and social values. Jasper has written widely on nuclearism, technology, and social change, and Nelkin on genetic engineering, biotechnology, AIDS, nuclearism, ecology, and job safety. Regarding animals, apparently their only two prior studies were co-authored presentations at recent sociology meetings (Jasper & Poulsen, 1989; Jasper, Nelkin, & Poulsen, 1990). Seven of the 12 chapters analyze the nature of the movement. Over the centuries, several social forces (urbanization, industrialization, democratization) have caused a shift in humans' view of animals, from instruments to be used for food, clothing, and farm work to companions to be cherished - pets given a name and family status. It has led to what the authors term "sentimental anthropomorphism," people's attribution to animals of human sentiments such as the abilities to feel emotions and communicate, and to form social relationships. Borrowing tactics from other reformist movements, animal advocates have become more effective in several ways - protests, litigation, boycotts, lobbying, and public relations. Since the 1970s, philosophers like Peter Singer and Tom Regan have honed a notion of "animal rights," providing an important ideological base that has further accelerated the movement. The remaining five chapters focus on five specific themes of the crusade: Regarding "animals in the wild," strong protests have been mounted against large-scale seal hunts, dolphin-safe tuna, trapping, and hunting. "From rabbits to petri dishes" describes the dramatic drop in industrial testing of cosmetics, drugs and toiletries since 1980, to the point where the once-routine Draize and LD-50 tests are now viewed by many as obsolete. "Test tubes with legs" documents the dramatic rise in biomedical research after World War II, and the effectiveness of protests challenging this- reportedly more easily at some labs (Cornell, Berkeley, Museum of Natural History) than at others (New York University, Stanford). "Animals as commodities" concludes that the crusade has persuasively made moral issues of factory farming, humane slaughter, and fur production (both wild and ranch). Finally, in "Animals on display," earlier protests against pit bull and cock fighting have now expanded to rodeos, circuses, Hollywood films, zoos, and animal shows, with only partial impact. Jasper and Nelkin present an overview of the evolution of the animal rights movement by dividing the movement into three parts: (1) Since the 1860s, the original SPCA "welfarists" were part of a larger humanitarian tradition of helping others; (2) Since the 1970s, more assertive "pragmatists" like Henry Spira have demanded "animal rights," using stronger methods in order to force negotiation with those who violate these rights; (3) Since the 1980s, "fundamentalists" like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have sought to protect animal rights without "hobnobbing in the halls with our enemy" (p. 154) or compromising. Even in the 1990s, welfarist groups like the HSUS and SPCA remain the largest in both membership and funding. Yet there has been a meteoric rise of the crusader factions, eclipsing the welfarists - pragmatists like Spira's Animal Rights International, Joyce Tischler's Animal Legal Defense Fund, Cleveland Amory's Fund for Animals, as well as fundamentalists like PETA, Trans-Species Unlimited, and the Animal Liberation Front. Moreover, the achievements of the crusader groups are telling. For instance PETA grew from its two founders in 1980 to 300,000 in 1990 (p. 31), and between 1980-87 much of the cosmetics industry had come to pledge an end to all animal testing and allocated $5,000,000 for research on alternatives (p. 2). Some of this strength comes from alliance with parallel movements against pollution, racism, sexism, nuclearism, agribusiness, even cholesterol.

Society & Animals

Journal of Human-Animal Studies

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