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Are Illegal Direct Actions by Animal Rights Activists Ethically Vigilante?

By Michael P. Allen, Erica von Essen

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Abstract

Constructed as terrorist, illegal direct actions by animal rights activists have become the subject of draconian law enforcement measures in the US and UK. Some scholars respond to this phenomenon by interpreting such actions to protect vulnerable animals not as terrorist but civilly disobedient. This approach highlights their ethical character, as a normatively relevant consideration in the state’s law enforcement response. Consistent with this approach, we argue that illegal direct actions by animal rights activists are not terrorist, although their motivations are sometimes anti-statist and anarchist. However, we also argue that civil disobedience is an awkward fit for many such actions. Consequently, we explore a different approach. Instead, we consider illegal direct actions to protect vulnerable animals in light of a concept of ethical vigilantism. This permits us to acknowledge how these actions often dis-align from civil disobedience, while also allowing us to insist their ethical motivations remains normatively relevant considerations for the state.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Publication Title Between the Species
Volume 22
Issue 1
Pages 260-285
URL https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bts/vol22/iss1/8/
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Tags
  1. Animal rights
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Ethics
  5. Law and legal issues
  6. open access
  7. Philosophy
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  1. open access