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Research Articles
Published: 2024-01-07

History, Knowledge, and Organization: Beyond Animal Rights Vanguardism

University of Basel
Animal rights Animal rights activism Animal advocacy Vanguard


This paper identifies an overlooked but widespread philosophical view in the animal rights movement, Animal Rights Vanguardism. This is the view that (1) the arc of history, by way of ever-increasing moral awareness, bends towards animal liberation, (2) animal rights activists are aware of the moral truth when it comes to human-animal relations thanks to a moral-epistemic privilege, and (3) the primary moral imperative for animal rights activists is to increase the moral awareness of the masses. The paper then makes four points about Animal Rights Vanguardism: First, it can be found across a wide range of animal rights literature. Second, it is the target of many familiar objections against vegans and animal rights activists. Third, it presents an obstacle to the success of the animal rights movement. Fourth, consciously rejecting it leads to a more compelling philosophy of animal rights activism, termed Critical Animal Rights Collectivism, which is based on the principles that social change is contingent, that everyone has broadly equal access to moral truth, and that activists should focus on collective organization more than on individual persuasion.


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