Critical animal studies

Critical animal studies

Critical Animal Studies (CAS) is a term increasingly used by a wide range of academic groups who variously link it to what is otherwise known as "Animal Studies" (AS), "Human-Animal Studies" (HAS), or "Posthumanism." Yet, there are key differences in terms of the ideological and methodological approaches to animal issues between these various fields, as well as the overt or implicit political aims of such research. For instance, many non-critical scholars in Animal Studies (AS) or Human-Animal Studies (HAS) deny that research on animals requires an advocacy perspective. The term AS is rooted in the field of lab animal research, other forms of vivisection, and the land-grant university study of animals for agriculture.[citation needed] HAS, while itself not a critical field by definition, was founded by animal advocate scholars,[citation needed] but HAS generally lacks a strong normative and socially reconstructive agenda. Similarly, interdisciplinary Posthumanist scholars often reduce ethical matters related to nonhuman animals to a poststructural analysis of what the "animal" or "human" means as either representational symbol or linguistic sign. Such politics of representation can have a political character, but it is generally distinguished by a mood of postmodern ambiguity that does not correlate with a strong activist agenda. By contrast, Critical Animal Studies (CAS) was initially developed to provide a scholarly forum for studying the animal liberation movement, guided by a normative commitment to the abolition of animal suffering in all of its many forms.



Critical Animal Studies (CAS) was introduced by Steven Best, Anthony J. Nocella, II and Richard V. Kahn in 2006/7, as an attempt to provide an interdisciplinary academic forum for the wider theorization of animal liberation politics through the Center on Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA), founded by Steve Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II and in 2001 (later to be known as the Institute for Critical Animal Studies).[1] In the ensuing years, Lisa Kemmerer and Carol Gigliotti joined as members of the directorial board of the Institute. In 2009, Best and Kahn left the Institute over disagreements about the direction of its theory and practice, which they felt was becoming less radical and true to the original vision of articulating a critical and liberatory theory of society deeply rooted in understanding that the domination of nonhuman animals is foundational to the domination of society and nature generally.

Today, CAS is much larger than ICAS and is quickly growing into a highly respected international field of study with programs (see Brock University), working-groups, book series, conferences, forums, books, journal, and sessions.

CAS scholars come from a wide variety of disciplines and fields affiliate with it, including sociology, peace and conflict studies, social work, feminist theory, anthropology, film studies, media studies, art, art history, history, environmental studies, geography, political science, religious studies, philosophy, queer theory, disability studies, and critical race theory.


Critical Animal Studies (CAS) opposes Animal Studies (AS), which is historically rooted in the fields of agricultural and animal research and vivisection. "CAS is the academic field of study dedicated to the abolition of animal and ecological exploitation, oppression, and domination. CAS is grounded in a broad global emancipatory inclusionary movement for total liberation and freedom." [2].The Institute for Critical Animal Studies[3] describes ten tenets for Critical Animal Studies such that it:

  • 1. Pursues interdisciplinary collaborative writing and research in a rich and comprehensive manner that includes perspectives typically ignored by animal studies such as political economy.
  • 2. Rejects pseudo-objective academic analysis by explicitly clarifying its normative values and political commitments, such that there are no positivist illusions whatsoever that theory is disinterested or writing and research is nonpolitical. To support experiential understanding and subjectivity.
  • 3. Eschews narrow academic viewpoints and the debilitating theory-for-theory’s sake position in order to link theory to practice, analysis to politics, and the academy to the community.
  • 4. Advances a holistic understanding of the commonality of oppressions, such that speciesism, sexism, racism, ablism, statism, classism, militarism and other hierarchical ideologies and institutions are viewed as parts of a larger, interlocking, global system of domination.
  • 5. Rejects apolitical, conservative, and liberal positions in order to advance an anti-capitalist, and, more generally, a radical anti-hierarchical politics. This orientation seeks to dismantle all structures of exploitation, domination, oppression, torture, killing, and power in favor of decentralizing and democratizing society at all levels and on a global basis.
  • 6. Rejects reformist, single-issue, nation-based, legislative, strictly animal interest politics in favor of alliance politics and solidarity with other struggles against oppression and hierarchy.
  • 7. Champions a politics of total liberation which grasps the need for, and the inseparability of, human, nonhuman animal, and Earth liberation and freedom for all in one comprehensive, though diverse, struggle; to quote Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • 8. Deconstructs and reconstructs the socially constructed binary oppositions between human and nonhuman animals, a move basic to mainstream animal studies, but also looks to illuminate related dichotomies between culture and nature, civilization and wilderness and other dominator hierarchies to emphasize the historical limits placed upon humanity, nonhuman animals, cultural/political norms, and the liberation of nature as part of a transformative project that seeks to transcend these limits towards greater freedom, peace, and ecological harmony.
  • 9. Openly supports and examines controversial radical politics and strategies used in all kinds of social justice movements, such as those that involve economic sabotage from boycotts to direct action toward the goal of peace.
  • 10. Seeks to create openings for constructive critical dialogue on issues relevant to Critical Animal Studies across a wide-range of academic groups; citizens and grassroots activists; the staffs of policy and social service organizations; and people in private, public, and non-profit sectors. Through – and only through — new paradigms of ecopedagogy, bridge-building with other social movements, and a solidarity-based alliance politics, is it possible to build the new forms of consciousness, knowledge, social institutions that are necessary to dissolve the hierarchical society that has enslaved this planet for the last ten thousand years.

Related Authors

Steven Best; Donna Haraway; Gary L. Francione; Anthony J. Nocella, II; Richard V. Kahn; Lisa Kemmerer; Carol Gigliotti; Pattrice Jones; Cary Wolfe; Carl Boggs; Richard Twine; Amy Fitzgerald; Richard White; Annie Potts; Julie Andrzejewski; Philip Armstrong; Norm Phelps; Stephen Clark; Jodey Castricano; Piers Beirne; Peter Singer; Tom Regan; John Sorenson; Andrew Fitz-Gibbon; Leesa Fawcett; Caroline Kaltefleiter; Amie Breeze Harper; Charlotte Laws; Lauren Corman; Matthew Calarco; Steven Rosen; Anastasia Yarbrough; Bill Martin; David Nibert; Constance Russell; Maxwell Schnurer; Nicola Taylor; Barbara Noske; Nicole Pallota; Susan Thomas; Bianka Atlas; Laura Shields; Vasile Stanescu; Sarat Colling; Nick Cooney; Jim Mason; Will Tuttle; Bruce Friedrich; Joan Dunayer; Helena Pedersen; Mark Rowlands; Judy Carman; Ingrid Newkirk; Sherryl Vint; John C. Alessio; Steven M. Wise; James K. Stanescu


  • Harway, Donna (2008). "When Species Meet". Minnesota.
  • Best, Steven and Nocella, Anthony J. (2004). Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. Lantern Books.
  • Best, Steven and Nocella, Anthony J. (2006). Igniting A Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth. AK Press
  • Kahn, Richard (2010). Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis: The Ecopedagogy Movement. Peter Lang.
  • Kemmerer, Lisa (2006). In Search of Consistency: Ethics and Animals. Brill Academic Publishers.
  • Gigliotti, Carol ed. (2009).Leonardo's Choice: Genetic Technologies and Animals. Springer.
  • Twine, Richard (2010). Animals as Biotechnology – Ethics, Sustainability and Critical Animal Studies. Earthscan.

See also


  1. ^ Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS)
  2. ^ (, ICAS 2010)
  3. ^ [1] Theoretical Definition of Critical Animal Studies

External links

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