Are animal rights activists violence fetishists?

Ambivalent Academic made a fascinating observation today about certain parts of the animal rights movement:

What really strikes me is that a lot of this rhetoric reads like snuff-porn.


There is an undercurrent of appetite for the kind of violence they describe. It reads as if they take pleasure in imagining the violence they describe,... and they are inviting the reader to join in that sadistic pleasure. You can almost hear the drool.

I'm sure any sophisticated psychiatrist might have made this sort of observation, but I'm not even an unsophisticated psychiatrist. The images and language at websites such as Camille Marino's is violence-obsessed, and, as AA put it, almost erotic. Marino's loving and frantic depictions of violence are pornographic. Her enemies are portrayed bound, naked, and bloodied. Her use of words and image manipulation is full of masturbatory zeal.

And I don't think she is unique in this. Animal rights activists revel in violent imagery and language like very few other activists movements (save, perhaps, the anti-abortion movement). Their fantasies are far more disturbing than any slaughterhouse or laboratory.


More like this

Orcas are the problem.

"And I don't think she is unique in this. Animal rights activists revel in violent imagery and language like very few other activists movements (save, perhaps, the anti-abortion movement). Their fantasies are far more disturbing than any slaughterhouse or laboratory."

Could you provide some other examples?

This is disturbing, and I think it accounts for a large part of why it's so difficult for many of us to take this rhetoric seriously. I just want to avert my eyes when looking at it. It's frightening, sure, but also kind of embarrassing and salacious, somehow.

By Nora Streed (not verified) on 25 Feb 2010 #permalink

Oh, look:

"A 12-year-old boy was killed Sunday when stomped on by a bull that threw him while he was competing in a rodeo "


"Three angry monkeys turned on their cruel trainer and beat him with his own stick (See Photos). One of the trio bit him and pulled out handfuls of his hair. When one of the monkeys refused to ride on a child's bicycle in a street performance in Sizhou, in eastern China, their owner beat it with a stick. Although they were tied to the man with ropes attached to their collars, the monkeys appear to have decided to fight back. The two animals came to the defence of the third monkey, grabbing the stick from the man, pulling on his ear and biting his head. When he dropped his cane, on monkey snatched it up and began beating the trainer on the head until he broke the stick, witnesses said."

These people aren't against violence perpetrated against animals; there FOR violence perpetrated against people.


Where is my critique of PalMD's use of there?

I fixed it and deleted your comment. ; )

Much like watching a preacher delivering a fire-and-brimstone sermon against the sins and weaknesses of the flesh ... dwelling on the salacious details.

By Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified) on 25 Feb 2010 #permalink

Why does Camille Marino remind me of StagMom & J.B. Handley?

That's a rhetorical question -- all three use violent sexual imagery in reference to their "enemies" -- people who do not agree with their...uhmm...obsessional ideas.


Bullies. they're just bullies and sadists.
You note you never see one of them protesting out in front of a biker bar, or any place where their offer of violence might be met with "Yeah baby, bring it! "

Even those who do good work aren't immune from this: I guess they want to make sure the solicitations are looked at, but I stopped giving to some Humane Society-like charities when I realized that if anyone else sent me pictures of dead puppies in the mail, I'd call the cops.

Once upon a time I used to be pretty critical of the extreme ends of the feminist anti-porn campaigns, a la Andrea Dworkin, etc... And what I found was that the anti-abortion people, and the extreme anti-porn people, and others made use of images and language that in any other case would have been erotic, to effectively shift our sexual response to our moral one. It is a very, very effective model - the covert masturbatory content makes it very hard for people to think, and IMHO, that's the goal.


You make a good point, Sharon. And not just our sexual responses, but also our most visceral grossout thresholds. It's extremely effective on a neurological level.

I'm reminded too of these alarmist campaigners against the homosexual agenda, where they get so worked up describing in such intimate detail all the perverse acts your children will be taught about, forced to do, etc. How and why do they even know these things?

And Morag, if you follow the money, there are some Humane Society-like charities that are connected to AR extremists, staffed by former extremists, and/or contribute, for example to extremists' legal defense and/or fail to speak in opposition to violent tactics used on the fringes of the movement. Many such groups exploit the love of cute puppies to raise (quite a lot of) money for their other efforts, and little to none of it goes directly to local shelters. Some of their activity -- such as lobbying for better regulations, etc., is arguably useful and does indeed help local shelters, but their fundraising and outreach campaigns are often deceptive.

By Nora Streed (not verified) on 26 Feb 2010 #permalink

"These people aren't against violence perpetrated against animals; there FOR violence perpetrated against people."

It fits very well, but I'd just like to raise a note of caution about overgeneralisation.

One person may be drawn to the erotic/violent aspects of a movement, another may enjoy the violence of the rhetoric but not actual violence - a lot of people like to talk a good fight, but would never think of taking part in one.

A third might genuinely believe vivisectionists are sadistic monsters, want to stop it by peaceful means, and put up with the OTT rhetoric of their comrades for the sake of keeping the movement together. A forth might be involved only because a parent or a partner is involved.

There's a lot of possible motives, most of them aren't clear in the person's own head, some are contradictory, and most people are only vaguely aware of their own motives anyway.

That's a pitiful, stupid, naive interpretation. These folks are a bunch of immoral, violent thugs---there is no "mainstream" as even so-called mainstream groups are completely infiltrated by terrorists.

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 26 Feb 2010 #permalink

Nora Writes: "there are some humane society-like charities that are connected to AR extremists..."

Such as...? What's a "humane society-like charity" anyway? How about some links and evidence here people?

And, Pal the Doctor, I'm not talking about a couple of anecdotal photos or cherry picked quotes.

So let me tell you all where I'm coming from. I'm a research scientist who believes that the use of animals in research can be justified...BUT...
1) treatment must be humane;
2) research should really be directed at common good (arguably difficult to define), not just profit on a new shampoo ;
3) alternatives to research on complex animals (such as mammals) should be pursued whenever possible

I would say similar things about the rearing of animals for food consumption.

I think another scientist animal rights advocate -Jane Goodall- would agree with me.

We are both ANIMAL RIGHTS ADVOCATES (ARAs). Are we terrorists? association? Do you think that when I tell you that we are motivated by good intentions and absolutely do not advocate harm to people or property destruction that we are by no means typical ARAs?

If you argue that we are atypical ARAs in our actual caring for people and disavowing of violent & destructive tactics, then PROVE IT! I'm talking about real EVIDENCE here, such as looking at size of animal rights groups (membership, size of staff) and any link to destructive or violent acts. Then count up the organizations, and find out if the majority have any links to advocacy of violence or destructive acts.

If you can't prove it, then I suggest you put a lid on the hyperbole and the bombastic language until you can.

That's the scientific approach after all...and I say this from one scientists to another Pal.

And one final note...Dr. Pal says that animal rights groups have been ineffective, so have now resorted to terrorist-like tactics. Leaving aside the many problems inherent in that claim, let's just take the first part. Have they really been ineffective? Do you have evidence showing that ARA campaigns have not influenced rates of vegetarianism, increases in awareness of factory farming, legislation on animal cruelty, etc?


If you're not willing to do that, then this blog is really no more than a rant.

bugjah, interesting premise. PalMD says the ARA have been ineffective using non-violent means and so they are resorting to desperate acts of violence.

You dispute that and suggest that they have been effective with non-violent means and so now they are resorting to violence because of what exactly?

I think you add credibility to the point that the extremist ARA are really in it because they have a violence fetish.

I think it's one of those semantics things. I am also a research scientist who uses animal models. I advocate 'animal rights' pertaining to humane and ethical treatment for research subjects and domesticated species. I have a close working relationship with the IACUC at my institution and I won't hesitate to speak up or step in if I see anyone working off-protocol with our research animals. So, am I an Animal Rights Advocate? Am I a Person for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? Certainly not in the way that these innocuous handles have come to be represented by the ignorant and frightening activists under discussion.

As a biologist, I also happen to be a big fan of, you know, "life". But you won't catch me going around calling myself 'pro-life' any time soon.

It's a savvy and proven tactic, choosing a rational sounding name that conveys a sentiment most people would endorse, at face value; putting radical, nonsensical and/or hypocritical policies and actions behind it and then demonizing your opposition by defining them as "anti-" [rational sounding name].

By jenbphillips (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink

Jen- I agree with your analysis, and I would simply say that it is often up to those of us with (let's say) a more 'nuanced' position to try to recapture the language -from extremists on both sides. It's an uphill battle. But tossing around terms like terrorism willy-nilly doesn't help.

Daedalus- I dispute the entire premise. I see no evidence of a trend in people and/or groups that have moved from non-violence to violence. I see an increase in people interested in the issue of all persuasions, and with that increase in awareness comes a concomitant increase in people on all sides of the issue. In other words, an expanding pie, not bigger particular slices.

I also see no evidence that the groups have been ineffective. The groups themselves certainly argue for their effectiveness (e.g. PETA's list is here)

By the way, I am not a supporter of PETA, though I do believe many of their campaigns have been very effective, and arguably produced positive results. I am not aware of any evidence that PETA has officially promoted violence or destructive tactics, though they have offered vocal and financial support for extreme groups like ALF. Their position on violence is here.

I certainly wouldn't consider PETA to be a moderate Animal Rights organization, thought they are certainly more moderate than ALF and the groups that PalMD has been focusing on here.

Dr. Pal says that animal rights groups have been ineffective, so have now resorted to terrorist-like tactics.

I don't think that is exactly what I asserted. What I am asserting is that many of them know they will never win hearts an minds in significant numbers, and have resorted instead to terrorist tactics (not "terrorist-like" tactics).

In fact they have sometimes been effective on an individual level, forcing a few individual researchers to change fields, but they have been completely ineffective at convincing the majority of scientists, doctors, and lay people that animal research is equivalent to human research (and that is what they are arguing---not a "moral" equivalency, but that using animals is exactly the same as using humans, which is ironic in that they also argue wrongly that using animals teaches us nothing about humans).

What you wrote was "Since they have failed at dialog and debate, they have switched to terrorism..."

I say that your two assertions here remain unproven:

1) that they have "failed at dialog & debate"
and 2) that they have "switched to terrorism"

Prove that "they failed," prove that "they switched," and, while you're at it, prove that animal rights groups have, in any significant numbers, engaged in terrorism.

Then we can talk.

Well, these groups certainly haven't stopped all animal research, which is their clearly stated goal--a goal that differs significantly from 'making conditions more humane for research animals', by the way. And on the whole they really have not had an effect on more stringent regulations for animal research. None of these groups have participated in dialogue or policy-making on research ethics, institutional animal care and use, etc. Scientists have done that. Ethical, humane researchers who go to great lengths in justifying the use of (vertebrate) animals and minimizing their discomfort prior to any such undertaking. Please note that I am not saying breaches of these ethics don't happen--regrettably, they do, but I dispute the fact that ARA groups are the only ones working to stop this behavior, or indeed, if any regulations have changed as a direct result of their actions. (Yes, I know PETA claims a lot of credit for such instances back in the '80's, e.g.--let's just say I don't consider them the most impartial source of this information).

To my knowledge, there are NO animal rights advocacy groups (other than the IACUC and associated international bodies on research ethics) who have taken the moderate position of 'we know that stopping animal research completely would be crippling to science and medicine, so let's work on how to make it more humane'. Am I wrong about this? If not, I'm unclear as to who you think occupies the 'nuanced' position, and who the extremists are on the opposite end of the spectrum from that of the "Death to all vivisectors" groups?

Re: significant numbers, how many incidents of vandalism, molotov cocktails or threats to the families of animal researchers would you accept as 'significant'?

Re: PETA--I didn't think they could get any more ridiculous than the 'Sea Kittens' campaign, but I was wrong.

By jenbphillips (not verified) on 28 Feb 2010 #permalink


Although they don't use your wording, the ASPCA's position on animals (read vertebrates) in research is not that different from the one you paraphrased:…

I would call this position 'nuanced,' and the organization 'moderate.' I believe that ASPCA is the second largest animal rights group in the USA, and with the international organizations that use a similar name included, they may be bigger in total than PETA.

how many incidents of vandalism, molotov cocktails or threats to the families of animal researchers would you accept as 'significant'?

I dunno...try some numbers on me!

bugjah... how about 1?

How about any number greater than 1?

This shit has been going on my entire life (and I'm not young -- I've been on AARP's mailing list for some years now).

One thing that I've learned is that terrorism -- violence and the threat of violence if things don't go someone's narrowly defined personally preferred way -- is a hallmark not of political or religious preference but of sociopathic/psychopathic personalities.

It's never excusable. Never ever.

Every movement that has an emotional/religious/spiritual element WILL attract a nutty fringe minority. I suspect that this minority of people really don't care what the movement is about as long as they get their violent hateful kicks.

Donna - I completely agree with your overall point, and I certainly never intended to excuse violence or intimidation.

What I was responding to were Dr Pal's overly generalized statements about animal rights groups being violence fetishists and increasingly terroristic.

I think this is a huge exaggeration, it's bombastic, and it creates divisions where there is actually common ground.

I would tend to agree with you: there is a nutty fringe minority among animal rights groups, just as there are nutty fringe minorities in many advocacy groups.


I think I see where you're misunderstanding PalMD's post, and hopefully I can clear it up. For starters, strictly speaking the ASPCA isn't an animal rights group, but an animal welfare group. Animal welfare activists work to minimize the suffering of animals, but recognize that the life of a non-human animal is not equal to the life of a human. Animal rights activists, on the other hand, believe that animals (or a subset of animals) are morally equal to humans, and so it is immoral to own animals as property, among other things. PETA and ALF are examples of animal rights groups, though PETA has been accused of becoming more like an animal welfare organization.

From what you've posted, it seems you're more of a supporter of animal welfare than animal rights, in which case I support you wholeheartedly.

thank you for that, I was not aware of the terminological distinction.

I have sympathy for the idea that non-human animals can be afforded some rights (I'd like to read some of the legal arguments), but the full 'animal rights' position as described in the wiki link doesn't make sense to me.

I have more to say on the issue, but this animal needs sleep at the moment.

What a joy to find this discussion board! Wow there are some deluded people here. This message is for those engaged in abusing animals. Your daily violence against helpless animals is inexcusable and not justifiable. You do it because you have built careers on it being useful and to accept it is wrong would rubbish what you have done in your careers so far, thats why you can never let go.

You can criticise campaigners all you like but that does not change the truth of the challenges to vivisection. The vast majority of vivisection is commercial, do you support that? You will see reasoned arguments in the following website about medical research.

You just keep trying to justify your "careers" - seeing yourselfs as white (coats) in shining armour! I have MS - what have the millions of pounds/dollars given to charity but given to slick "researchers" achieved for me? My Neurologist could offer nothing! Fortunately diet and exercise can hold it at bay but thats no thanks to your animal "research".

You should be ashamed of yourselves, not proud. You are a disgrace.

Read for sensible facts about animal research.

Reading these discussions; one might think you are not actually human beings, but rather some blank and apathetic androids with an immensely perverted mind, horrifically out of tune with your own being and your own conscience; which is to say; perfectly out of tune: very convenient for self deception.
I must admit, I feel deeply saddened to share this planet with most of you, and I hope one day you will all awaken from your mindless slumber, and see the world around you feelingly, as you should. If you are to remain here, that is.

By Sebastian (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink