Who launched, nurtured, and shaped the U.S. animal rights movement? What happened to them? Why hardly anyone knows their names? Here, at last, are some answers.
First, for Some Context
We stand on the shoulders of dozens of pioneers who launched, nurtured, and shaped our movement. They have displayed uncommon vision, creativity, conviction, daring, and persistence. They advocated concepts that had never been advanced or considered before.
What happened to these pioneers? And why hardly anyone knows their names? These questions have fascinated me for many years. Three dozen have received some recognition through the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame, which I launched in 2000, as part of our Animal Rights National Conference. But not all. I hope to provide partial remedy here.
My selection was based strictly on how much each pioneer contributed to expanding the scope and effectiveness of the animal rights movement. Gender, skin color, religion, or sexual orientation played no role.
The presentation is in two sections addressing the launch and the early development of our movement. For each pioneer, I note the name, key accomplishments, and current status. The sequence is roughly in chronological order of their substantial involvement.
They Launched Our Movement
- Jay Dinshah – introduced the concept of veganism to the U.S. (1960), then launched the U.S. vegetarian movement (1975), which would later staff the animal rights movement – deceased (2000)
- Peter Singer – introduced the concept of animal rights to the U.S. public through his book Animal Liberation (1975) – pursuing other ethical concerns
- Henry Spira – introduced the concept of grassroots animal activism by getting major corporations and legislative bodies to stop animal abuse (1977-1997), in spite of having no organization and little funding – deceased (1998)
- Cleveland Amory – major media personality, chiefly responsible for raising U.S. opposition to hunting (1975), seal slaughter (1979), and animal experimentation (1981); launched first U.S. animal sanctuary (1979) – deceased (1998)
- Paul Watson – worked with Amory to launch our movement’s first direct actions against seal slaughter and pirate whaling operations (1979) – semi-retired
- Jim Mason – co-founded (with Doug Moss) The Animals’ Agenda, our movement’s first periodical (1979); wrote Animal Factories, first expose of U.S. factory farms (1980) – retired
- Alex Pacheco – conducted first laboratory undercover investigation that led to extensive media coverage and placed vivisection and animal rights in the public consciousness (1981) – working to reduce homeless dogs population
- Ingrid Newkirk – worked with Pacheco to establish People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as world’s leading animal right organization (1981) – still active
- Alex Hershaft – launched first U.S animal rights conference, viewed as the birthplace of the animal rights movement (1981) and the Farm Animal Rights Movement (1981), as well as World Day for Farmed Animals (1983) – still active
- Tom Regan – wrote several books on animal rights, including The Case for Animal Rights (1983), which argues that all sentient beings are entitled to equal moral consideration and remains our movement’s bible – deceased (2017)
They Shaped Our Movement
- Shirley McGreal – founded the International Primate Protection League (1973) and remains the longest serving animal rights advocate and the only prominent primatologist identifying with the animal rights movement – still active
- Joyce Tischler – founded the Animal Legal Defense Fund (1979) to protect the rights and advance the interests of animals through the legal system – still active
- Richard Morgan – mobilized thousands of animal advocates for massive anti-vivisection rallies (1983) in the four major primate research centers, as well as New York and Washington – deceased (2008)
- Lorri Houston – served as Morgan’s chief lieutenant (1984); co-founded (with Gene Baur) Farm Sanctuary, the first U.S. farm animal sanctuary (1986) – retired
- Elliot Katz – founded In Defense of Animals (1983), which pioneered opposition to vivisection and furs – retired
- Chris DeRose – former film and TV actor, founded Last Chance for Animals (1985) and pioneered undercover investigations and direct action against vivisection and other forms of animal abuse in the U.S. and abroad – still active
- Neal Barnard – founded the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (1985) to advocate plant-based eating for disease prevention and to end the use of dogs for surgical training in U.S. medical schools – still active
- Kim Stallwood – began his work for animals in England (1976), then became national director of PeTA (1987) and editor of The Animals’ Agenda (1991-2002) – back in England
- Peter Gerard – ran national animal rights conferences (1988-1996); organized the March on Washington, with 25,000 participants (1990) – retired
- Karen Davis – founded United Poultry Concerns (1990) to focus our movement’s attention on the neglected chickens and turkeys – still active
- Carol Adams – her book The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990) showed how animal oppression is related to social oppression – still active
- Steve Hindi – pioneered our movement’s confrontation with hunts, rodeos, bull fights, and roadside zoos (1993), as well as the use of video cameras and drones to document animal abuse – still active
- Michael & Karen Budkie – since the mid 1990’s, have consistently focused our attention on inefficiencies and cruelties of vivisection – still active
- Gary Francione – authored Rain Without Thunder (1996), which championed the abolitionist theory of animal rights, as distinct from and incompatible with the animal welfare position – still active
- Bruce Friedrich – as director of vegan campaigns, turned PeTA’s focus from vivisection to animal agriculture (1996); serves as executive director of the Good Food Institute, which supports manufacturers of plant-based and cultured meats, dairy, and egg products (2015) – still active
- Steven Wise – has been battling in the courts to win legal personhood for primates and other animals who have a self-concept since publication of his book Rattling the Cage (2000) – still active
- Colleen Holland - co-founded (with Joe Connelly) the colorful bimonthly magazine VegNews (2000), our movement’s only periodical still in print – still active
- Paul Shapiro – worked at The Humane society of the U.S. to end the use of animals for food (2005-2017); co-founded The Better Meat Company (2018) to help ground meat producers replace animal flesh with plant-based products – still active
- Nick Cooney – founded The Humane League (2005) and co-founded The Good Food Institute and New Crop Capital to encourage production of plant-based meat and dairy products (2015); founded and runs two companies promoting plant-based meats in Asia (2018) – still active
- Melanie Joy – has become our movement’s leading intellectual, with four books (2009-2020) exploring the psychology of animal abuse and the power dynamics among animal activists – still active
I close with a sincere apology to the two dozen other deserving activists who came close, but didn’t quite make our essay’s 1,200 word limit.
The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily
represent the views of the Farm Animal Rights Movement