Animal Studies Bibliography

Herzog, Jr., Harold A. 1993. The movement is my life: The psychology of animal rights activism. Journal of Social Issues 49 (1): 103-119.

Herzog conducted qualitative interviews with 23 rank-and-file animal rights activists in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. He chose subjects who engage in such activities as writing letters to politicians, participating in demonstrations, calling themselves animal rights activists, and changing their lifestyles according to their beliefs. They can be classified as fundamentalists, believing that people do not have the right to use animals for their own pleasures or interests, regardless of the benefits' (105). Though the interviews covered many other topics, Herzog's article focuses on four issues: intellectual and emotional reasons for activists' beliefs; activists' lifestyle changes; effects on their relationships; and their general happiness after joining the movement.

Stereotypes of animal rights activists say that the activists are emotional rather than intellectual about the issues. Herzog's data suggest, rather, that the activists represent a spectrum of types of involvement. First, they range from thinking about animal rights constantly to settling into an acceptable lifestyle and then leaving the movement generally out of mind. Second, while some activists had emotional responses to the issues, others had come to the movement based on animal rights philosophy. Further, the emotional activists recognized the necessity of having rational arguments to sway others, and were therefore well-versed in intellectual aspects of the movement as well. Third, activists' lives were made more complicated by participation in the movement as they faced numerous moral issues most people ignore, such as what they can eat, what cosmetics or medicines they can ethically use, and whether they can morally own a pet. Activists also dealt with the dilemma of what shape their activism should take, but almost uniformly rejected violence and praised Ghandian nonviolence techniques.

A result of previous research on animal rights activists is that their behavior often fails to match their beliefs. Herzog's activists were very aware of such dilemmas and described their attempts to draw moral lines on such issues as diet, use of other animal products, and how to best live lightly on the land. Third, activists also faced changed relationships with those around them. All felt the need to educate others about animal issues by being role models, by discussing their ideas with others, and sometimes by participating in protests or in animal rights organizations. Activists discussed mixed results of their conversions on relationships with significant others, family, and friends. The activists' changes in moral beliefs and in lifestyle sometimes destroyed relationships, sometimes resulted in modified relationships (more limited friendships, moral accommodations for a partner who wanted to keep eating meat), and sometimes created new friendships (several Rs were married to other activists or were primarily friends with other activists). Finally, with regard to general happiness, activists reported a spectrum of feelings on issues of moral superiority and satisfaction. Some activists did feel morally superior to other people because of their more ethical behavior, while others focused instead on society's guilt or did not want to judge others. Many activists expressed happiness and contentment over their movement participation, saying it gave their lives meaning. Others, however, found the constant moral dilemmas frustrating and upsetting, and many were experiencing burnout as a result of this pressure.

Herzog concludes with themes that characterized all the interviews: the centrality of the movement in all the activists' lives and the parallels between animal rights activism and religious conversion.



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