Editorial: Change vs. “movement”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1992:
Our mail box has been full of letters either presuming or attacking our presumed
position with respect to the animal rights movement. Animal rights philosopher Tom Regan
among others welcomed our contribution to the movement; New York activist Dawn
Hernandez jumped on us for “movement-bashing”; and on the letters page, opposite,
Michael Gurwitz proposes that we should rename the movement, whatever it happens to be.
As we see it, though, the “movement” is largely history. A movement is the take-
off phase of a theme in social evolution, when a cause has relatively few supporters, and
must provoke confrontation to draw notice––often taking rhetorically extreme and practical-
ly impossible positions for the same reasons that an infant shrieks. The primary aim of the
animal rights movement was restoring animals to public awareness, after nearly a century
of slipping interest in humane concerns. Public opinion polls, political response (pro and
con), and a few striking camapign successes all showed that this was achieved by 1988, as
sociologist Bill Moyer of the Social Movement Empowerment Project pointed out in 1989
to a gathering of “movement” leaders convened by ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim
Bartlett and Priscilla Feral of Friends of Animals.
The next phase is translating a rise in public sympathy into appropriate individual
and collective action. Movements at this point either disband as their central ideas re-
emerge as a concern of mainstream citizens, or fail, becoming self-absorbed and insular.
Activists either learn to work within the mainstream, or lock themselves out of the opportu-
nity to achieve change by continuing to play what Moyer termed the “negative-rebel” role,
the role of the aggressively critical outsider. Moyer warned that people who draw identity
from a movement, any movement, will often insist upon maintaining the structure and trap-
pings of the movement long after the movement phase is over, provoking power-holders
who otherwise might be amenable to concessions and attacking former allies who criticize
such “negative-rebel” behavior for allegedly breaking movement unity.
We listened to Moyer. ANIMAL PEOPLE covers humane work, in the broadest
sense of the word. Animal rights is one important theme, among many humane considera-
tions. (Child rights are another.) But we are not “of” the animal rights movement, nor any
movement. We write about what brings better treatment of animals and children, and what
doesn’t, with the hope and intent that our readers are most concerned with practical results,
no matter who achieves them and no matter what his/her ideological umbrella.