Why Are Animal Rights An Important Aspect of Social Justice?

The animal rights movement, also known as the animal advocacy or liberation movement focuses on removing, or at least minimizing the discrepancy between human and animals moral and legal rights. Essentially, this means removing the term that animals are property, but also helping prevent unjust research, and use of animals for clothing, food, and entertainment. The treatment and exploitation of animals in modern society (particularly animal testing and factories), encouraged animal rights groups and animal advocates to take action in order to achieve animal equity. 

Although, “Animal rights means that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation. Animal welfare allows these uses as long as “humane” guidelines are followed” (Peta). The idea of mutual recognition is also key to this social movement. The fundamental belief of animal liberationists is that animals deserve recognition, protection, and moral and legal rights as well. 

Altogether the movement inspired many people to lead cruelty-free lifestyles, but more importantly inspired those that value animal morality to help demand regulation and reformation of the legislature for animal rights. 

The novel, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, heavily captures the ideas of animal justice and regulation through the perspective of animal enthusiast and narrator, Janina. However, the story also demonstrates the opposition, and viewpoint of those anti-animal rights. Power dynamics between Janina and anti-animal rights become relevant in many instances. For example, Janina and law enforcement seem to always be at odds, which is always due to unfair treatment of animals. 

Similarly, Janina despises the priest, Father Rustle, for justifiable reasons. Father Rustle describes how interconnected church and hunters are, that he as a priest particularly praises hunters. As a result, Janina becomes extremely angry and begins shouting during mass because she knows what hunters are up to in the town. As a result, she expresses, “I felt someone’s hand on my arm and saw that one of the men in uniform was standing behind me. I pulled away, but then a second one ran up and they both grabbed me firmly  by the arms” (243). In the story, it is clear that those in favor of animal morality are viewed as less, and especially are perceived in a different light. 

At one point, Janina was talking to Father Rustle before knowing he contributed to the death of her girls. Father Rustle argues that “‘It’s wrong to treat animals as if they were people. It’s a sin– this sort of graveyard is the result of human pride. God gave animals a lower rank, in the service of man’’” (236). Even while knowing Janina loves animals, Father Rustle makes it a point that he believes animals are not as worthy as human beings. Janina then asks what she must do to stop mourning the death of her dogs and heal from this tragedy, but simply suggests praying is the only solution. Then Father Rustle states that “‘Animals don’t have souls, they are not immortal. They shall not know salvation’” (236). 

3 thoughts on “Why Are Animal Rights An Important Aspect of Social Justice?

  1. Estefania L.

    I definitely agree with what you said about the power dynamics, especially since the women and the animals in this story are set up to be inferior to men. Nice job!


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