- From the EditorsLooking Backward and Forward
When we were considering what to write for the editorial of the first Journal of Animal Ethics in 2010, one of us wrote this:
The date is 2191. The place is an antiquarian bookshop somewhere in the United States. The two conversationalists are law students.
"What have you got there?"
"Well, its an old copy of the Journal of Animal Ethics. Almost 200 years old."
"No. Let me see."
"Good heavens, it's the very first issue. Way back in 2010."
"Just look, back then, they were still discussing whether we had obligations to animals! Fancy that. A bit spooky actually."
"There's even an article on whether we should imprison animals in factory farms."
"Well, it was before the Deintensification of Agriculture Act of 2161. Remember Illinois was the last state to resist. There were protests everywhere."
"And look, there's even a piece on the merits of animal experimentation. Before the Animal Torture Abolition Act of 2142, obviously."
"Gosh, what a period piece. It's a golden oldie."
"Nicely done though. But pricey at $10,000 dollars."
"And a bit dog-eared!" [Laughter.]
"You know, under the Speciesism and Discrimination Act of 2179, comments like that could get you 3 months in a federal jail. Remember that famous case of Spritler v. Wayne? He just couldn't stop libeling his neighbor's dog. They got him in the end."
"I'm gonna buy it."
"Well, my professor's into history. He's always startling us by saying how those early animal people were once thought of as extremists, fanatics, and terrorists."
"Well, my professor's into history. He's always startling us by saying how those early animal people were once thought of as extremists, fanatics, and terrorists." [End Page v]
"Yeah, and that animal law course is now compulsory."
"It will make a footnote anyway."
The draft was eventually jettisoned as obviously suffering from a surfeit of smugness and wide-eyed optimism.
But our little stargazing was the result of a sense that we were doing something new, something that will one day be discovered, or, at least, be seen to have made its small contribution to the big change.
And (as we have often said) that change—that paradigm shift—is the move away from the old idea that animals are just things, tools, machines, commodities, and resources here for us to the idea that animals as sentient beings have intrinsic value, dignity, and rights.
Eight years or so later, we remain convinced that the change is taking place, despite immense resistance. However slow the movement of ideas, there are growing signs that this new paradigm is taking root in intellectual discourse, not least of all in centers of higher education. Students who a generation ago hardly ever looked at animal issues are now considering normative questions about how we should treat animals as part of courses in liberal education, philosophy, history, sociology, law, theology, and ethics. Academics are now openly speaking of "the animal turn" in ethical inquiry. And this is not only in the humanities. "Animal science" courses are even considering the place of emotion in the lives of animals—a significant move away from the old mechanistic view of animals.
Perhaps most significantly, as people begin to think in new ways, so new ways of doing are emerging. Despite considerable institutionalized resistance, alternatives to using animals in experiments have continued apace. Cultured or "in vitro meat" is fast receiving funding and may yet become a commercial reality in our lifetime. And, difficult though it may be to sometimes credit, animal legislation in many parts of the world is moving in a progressive direction.
No, there isn't a utopia around the corner, but if we really could fast-forward to 2191, we might be surprised at what has been achieved. [End Page vi]