My Blog: The Why, Who, and What

“It reminded me of what women encountered in the academy about twenty years ago, thirty years ago, as they began to talk about feminism and women’s studies. As you may know there’s this new, burgeoning field called animal studies. It’s just getting started. But once you take that leap, and you began to look at the world from the point of view of all the others that we dominate, it just opens up a whole new vista. It’s a vista that’s quite out of line, or out of step, with what’s considered, in a way, tolerable, by mainstream academia.”

~John Sanbonmatsu, interviewed on Animal Voices, May 15th, 2007

 

It struck me during a one am traffic jam last September. Hardly a eureka moment, it was a nearly unbearable forty minutes of despair. I rolled down my window and stared, vision blurred by tears, at the blatant cruelty taking place only a few feet away. The motor of the braked poultry truck buzzed on, oblivious. Meanwhile the hens, crammed into stacks of metal battery cages, their emaciated bodies exposed to the exhaust-laced cold, chirped in motionless despondence. They were egg-layers, post their profitable production peak, en route to slaughter. I, an animal rescuer by profession, was utterly helpless.
I emerged from that traffic nightmare with a transformed perspective on my objectives as an activist. It was a painful reminder as to why I was vegan, why I had spent the last two years of my life working fulltime for an animal sanctuary, and why I couldn’t shake the feeling that I ought to be doing so much more.

After some serious deliberation, I decided to return to school and pursue animal studies. The idea is that by gaining a deeper comprehension of the issues and the possibilities, I will be able to work more effectively for the cause in the future.

I’m lucky to be at college that encourages independent study and has many open-minded faculty members. Nonetheless, the only way I was able to study animal rights was by doing it independently. It is difficult to find an academic setting to discuss animal rights literature and ideas. Outside of animal science and animal law, there is little formal recognition of animal studies in most upper education institutions. Few professors take it seriously. On the rare occasions when animal rights is broached in a classroom setting, vegans typically find themselves defending their lifestyle and beliefs rather than engaging in meaningful discussion.

This is when the blog enters the scene. It is a critical part of my independent learning contract. The purpose of this blog is to share my thoughts about what I am reading and learning. My hope is that other people who are serious about animal rights and social justice will want to share their thoughts and reactions as well. I would love to receive comments, suggestions, ideas – really any sort of feedback at all.

For my ‘vegan book club’ I will be doing a lot of reading. For the next two quarters I have designed my own curriculum to study animal rights, the current movement, the repression of activists, and how animal issues tie into other social justice issues. I am especially interested in the interrelatedness of oppressions (racism, sexism, and speciesism, to name a few) and how these oppressions originate, are justified, and are allowed to continue. Throughout the summer the books and essays that I post about will be focused on animal rights philosophy, history, and the movement itself. I am attending the national Animal Rights Conference in LA this month, so I plan to write on my experiences there as well. In the fall I am shifting my focus to animal rights in the context of social justice and human rights (If anyone has any suggestions for my reading list, I would appreciate the input).

Thanks for reading!

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    pattricejones said,

    Welcome to the blogosphere! Before we start shouting out titles, can you tell us what’s already on your reading list? Looking forward to meeting you in LA.

  2. 2

    Claire said,

    Here’s my minimum reading list for summer quarter:

    The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan
    Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog, Gary Francione
    The Bloodless Revolution, Tristham Stuart
    Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World, Pattrice Jones
    Rain Without Thunder, Gary Francione
    Satya magazine (Sept 2006, Oct 2006, Dec 2006, Jan 2007)
    Meat Market, Erik Marcus
    Capers in the Churchyard, Lee Hall
    ALF: Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, ed. Steven Best
    Keep Fighting: Three Interviews with Britain’s ALF Press Officers
    The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

    I will also be watching Earthlings and Behind the Mask, listening to Animal Voices podcasts, and reading other AR blogs.

    There are quite a few other books that I am saving for the fall. During that quarter I will at the very least be reading Carol Adams, Karen Davis, Joan Dunayer, Charles Patterson, Marjorie Spiegel, Bernard Rollin, and David Nibert.

  3. 3

    pattricejones said,

    That’s a great list so far. When you get to reading about the intersections among speciesism and social justice concerns, don’t forget to learn about the intersections among the social justice concerns. For race-sex-class, I recommend Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis as well as This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. Linking social justice to environmental concerns, you’ll want to read the second Best/Nocella anthology, Igniting a Revolution as well as Rape of the Wild by Andree Coullard and Joyce Contrucci. In the books about the connections written by animal liberationists, you’ll want to include An Unnatural Order by Jim Mason. Finally, you’ll probably want to look at how trade globalization has made all of this worse, maybe by looking at the Free Trade Kills Animals website to start.

  4. 4

    Abolitionist said,

    If you like Gary Francione’s philosophy, you should check out the Unofficial Gary Francione website. The main page contains links to your two Francione-related blog articles:

    http://www.gary-francione.com/

  5. 5

    samsara said,

    If you do end up tapping into social justice and environmental justice, I would recommend reading “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold, if you haven’t already. Especially his chapter called The Land Ethic. Leopold doesn’t mention animal rights, but he compares the exploitation of humans by other humans (for example slavery) to the exploitation of the land by humans. He argues that the exploitation of the land (and all that lives on it) might be viewed in the future as slavery is viewed today.

  6. 6

    Claire said,

    Thank you for the fantastic reading suggestions. I can hardly wait to work my way through all of them.

    And thanks for the link to Francione’s unofficial website. I will check it out right now.

  7. 7

    Deb said,

    I’m not sure how well it would fit, because it isn’t actually an animal rights book, but it covers environment and human rights (from several perspectives) as pertains to animal agriculture: Diet For a Dead Planet.

    That’s a lot of reading you’re doing! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books!


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