Animal Studies Journal


This article explores one of the key issues of debate within the contemporary animal advocacy movement: whether the movement should focus only on animal-related issues or take an intersectional approach, which includes engagement with other social justice issues. This intersectional perspective, highlighting similarities between different forms of oppression and their interlinked nature, is advocated for in Critical Animal Studies and ecofeminist literature. Scholars in these related areas have extended the concept to include nonhuman animals. This theory has an academic background but can also be useful to guide activism, including animal advocacy. The question of whether animal advocates adopt an intersectional approach or not has important implications for the animal advocacy movement, its relationship with other movements and its capacity to bring about change for non-human animals. In this article, I examine this question drawing on an analysis of the campaigns by the United States-based, international animal advocacy organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). My findings suggest that PETA clearly manifests the tendency to retain an animal-only focus and that this has brought about organisational benefits, which are vital for larger, more professionalised organisations. Such organisational factors have often not been accounted for in the writing about intersectionality, which has predominantly occurred within an academic rather than activist framework. However, measuring success in social movements by organisational factors such as donor base is only one way to judge the impact of different campaigns. This article reveals that organisational considerations serve as a barrier to implementing intersectionality in practice in social movements. Taking an intersectional perspective highlights the way that PETA’s narrowly focused campaigning hinders successful collaboration with other movements and limits the effectiveness of their message.