Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement

By Harold D. Guither | Go to book overview

5
A Profile of Animal Rights Activists

Wesley Jamison

Animal rights activists are not socially marginal or isolated people. The movement is char-
acterized by distinct types of behavior and activity -- the influential, active, attentive, and
general. Typically, the animal rights activist is white, college-educated, middle-class ur-
ban or suburban background, in his or her middle thirties, and most frequently female.

T he animal rights movement is often dismissed by many members of what might be called the American "political class" -- legislators, lobbyists, staff, journalists, and policy experts. Likewise, many of the "apolitical class," like farmers, researchers, and entertainers, discard the movement as something less than serious. The agenda of the animal rights movement -- getting rid of fur coats and veal, for example-may seem marginal to many citizens. However, the members of the American animal rights movement are serious. They have had considerable mainstream success, and survey data show that the activists are not socially marginal or isolated people. Their views, willingness to work in the political system, and level of sophistication should give pause to those inclined to dismiss the movement in which they play a role.

Who are the people involved in the animal rights movement? In this chapter, we will examine the members of the modern movement. A body of research has emerged that paints a picture of the constituency of the modern animal protection movement. Using social science techniques, researchers from Oregon State University, Utah State University, the State University of New York, the University of California at Berkeley, Western Carolina University, Texas Tech University, and elsewhere have begun to illuminate the physical, emotional, and ideological characteristics of those in the movement. In addition, Animals' Agenda magazine provides polling results of its readers.

This chapter is divided into three parts: (1) a model that helps to explain the differences between the various levels of animal rights membership; (2) a brief description of the research projects that provide the basis for information presented; and (3) a review of data on animal rights adherents that has been collected since 1980. Since no explicit,

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