Animal Rights: Past and Present

Kevin Kjonnas

Includes Listing of Animal Rights Organizations

Animal rights activist. The stereotype is of a flaky do-gooder out to grant animals the rights to drive a car, vote in an election and have a fair and speedy trial. But animal rights activists do not see animals as humans. Rather, they emphasize that humans are animals and should not impose their will onto other animals for humans’ supposed benefit. Animal rights theorists argue that animal exploitation industries are detrimental to human health and the environment. (See: FOOD: Diet: Vegan) They believe animals should not be caged or used for entertainment (as in zoos, circuses and rodeos) and seek to abolish all animal use and exploitation (as in the pet trade and the fur and silk industry). If human animals cannot ethically and legally kill each other, then they should not feel ethically and legally justified killing other animals. They argue that non-human animals are creatures with complex social networks and desires to pursue happiness and objectives and should be treated as such.

The philosophical origins of animal rights date back centuries and include Plato, Einstein, Jesus, Lincoln and Albert Schweitzer. The established movement for animal protection started in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Bills against animal cruelty were passed in England and several American states. In the mid-1800s the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals formed, and anti-vivisection (animal research) movements appeared.

The modern animal rights movement began in the 1970s when ethicist Peter Singer published Animal Liberation. The book quickly gathered international attention and inspired many people to lead cruelty-free lifestyles. The animal rights movement escalated in the U.S. during the 1980s as several high profile campaigns caught the attention of the media. A number of cosmetic giants stopped testing on animals after one campaign. Another brought record losses and an irreparably tarnished public image to the fur industry. In the 1990s grassroots activism took a leading role in determining the direction of the movement. At college campuses across the country, students engaged in acts of civil disobedience to protest campus vivisection and local fur shops. As the movement enters the 21st century vegetarian/vegan options are on most menus, animal rights is taught in schools and the ideology has become a permanent fixture on our cultural landscape. People from all walks of life now have the opportunity to get involved and be a part of a movement that is making advances for those animals suffering from human exploitation.

Several groups in the Twin Cities offer different approaches to campaigning against animal cruelty. Minneapolis has a rich history of animal rights activism and has been noted nationally for some of the activities organized here. Cities activists have made repeated challenges to the fur industry, research laboratories and slaughterhouses. Through education, direct action, legal pressure and investigations, activists acting locally have affected change nationally.

Listing of Animal Rights Organizations:


Compassionate Action for Animals

2414 University Ave SE

Minneapolis, MN 55414



Defending Farm Animals

P.O. Box 17224

Minneapolis, MN 55417


Animal Rights Coalition

317 West 48th Street

Minneapolis, MN 55419



Coalition for Animal Rights Education (CARE)

P.O. Box 80021

Minneapolis, MN 55408


Read Up

Animal Liberation, Peter Singer

Free the Animals, Ingrid Newkirk

Animal Rights

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