Episode Two of “Animal Matters”: How the Cause Went From the Leftist Fringe to the Trans-Ideological Mainstream

The cause of animal rights is about far more than just the treatment of animals. It is central to our most pressing global challenges and debates.


Two weeks ago, The Intercept, in partnership with Sentient Media, a new media company devoted to the issue of animal rights, launched the debut episode of our eight-part video series covering all aspects of the animal rights movement: political, economic, environmental, cultural, racial, labor, and public health. That debut episode was devoted to a discussion of why my co-host, Grant Lingel, and I have chosen to focus on these issues and why we believe this cause can no longer be, and indeed is no longer, a boutique concern for animal lovers, but instead is central to our most pressing global challenges, movements, and debates.

Today, we present episode two of our series. It focuses on the transformation of the animal rights movement from fringe, leftist enclaves — one that until recently was regarded as frivolous and trivial even among many liberals, and as a caricature of vapidity or light repression by conservatives — to bipartisan and nonideological mainstream circles. We examine the evidence showing that transformation, the reasons for it, and how it provides opportunities for future growth, not only for the cause of animal rights but also for the ability of humans in democracies around the world to erode staid, increasingly archaic ideological divides.

In sum, the cause of animal rights is about far more than just the treatment of animals, though that by itself would be worthy of substantial attention and energy. As bucolic family farms are becoming rapidly extinct and replaced by massive industrial factory farms that are torturing, slaughtering, creating toxic waste, and endangering public health and environmental safety on a previously unimaginable scale, the ethical and political questions raised by these fundamental changes cannot be avoided no matter one’s political orientation.

That’s why bills all over the world are being introduced, and now passed, by lawmakers from parties and ideologies across the spectrum to limit, reform, or even end some of the worst abuses and dangers of this industry. And this newly bipartisan and nonideological character of the animal rights movements signals not only that this will be one of the next generation’s most pressing political causes, but also that it can usher in a new framework for political activism and a new paradigm for how to think about the profound challenges posed by the way we exploit animal agriculture for a food supply for 8 billion people.

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