A social movement is defined as a collective effort by a relatively informal group of people to bring about or resist social change. Social movements have a variety of different characteristics that differ between each group; they can be large or small, short or long term, informally or formally organized, and can have varying degrees of organization. The movement I chose to write about in this assignment is the Animal Rights Movement. This topic is important to me because I strongly believe in the rights and freedom for all animals, not just my own. I grew up in a household that always had animals in it, whether it be a dog, cat, hamster, rabbit, or bird. I treat my own pets as if they were my own family, and that is why I am so passionate about this movement.
The social change that the Animal Rights Movement was trying to prevent from occurring was the cruelty of animals. The prevention of this first came about in England during the19th Century, and later an anti-cruelty bill was introduced in Parliament in 1800, which was proposed to stop bull-baiting. Later on in the late 1860’s, SPCA’s and Human Societies began appearing in the U.S., most notably in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and San Francisco. These groups grew into not only enforcing anti-cruelty against animals, but also provided shelters to those hurt or abandoned. These shelters are now running all over the world today, and are more successful than ever. I’ve volunteered at animals local shelters near my home, and just doing that makes me feel like I am doing something positive towards the Animal Rights Movement. Over time, the New Animal Rights Movement came about in the 1970’s by philosophers Peter Singer and Tom Regan. They went beyond the idea of animal welfare to argue the case for animal rights, and their natural born rights tradition. (sanoma.edu)
I would consider this particular topic a movement because it started about by a small group of humanitarians looking to bring about a change towards animals and how they are treated by humans. There was a direct purpose and direction of banning cruel acts against animals as well as giving them protection against certain scientific research in medical laboratories. The type of social movement I would characterize it would be a reform movement. Unlike a revolutionary movement, a reform movement makes gradual changes in society and seeks to extend an existing value system. This movement was not made about by sudden changes in animal rights. It happened gradually over time; first as an end to animal cruelty and fights, then an end to distinguishing animals as property, and finally an end to using animals as research, clothing, and good.
Some of the tools the movement used were the product of coalitions instead of single organizations. For example, “led by one-time Maritime Union reformer and left journalist Henry Spira, 400 groups in the Coalition to Stop the Draize Rabbit Blinding Test got cosmetics companies like Avon and Revlon to develop alternatives to the infamous Draize Eye Irritancy Test” (sanoma.edu). Spira also organized his own campaign to demonstrate against animal experimentation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1976, and just a year later the labs were shut down. Spira’s work and campaigns in the 1970’s and 1980’s proved to be very successful in the movement in Animal Rights.