Animal Studies Bibliography

Jasper, James M. and Jane D. Poulsen. 1995. Recruiting strangers and friends: Moral shocks and social networks in animal rights and anti-nuclear protests. Social Problems 42(4): 493-512.

Social movement theory tends to focus on recruitment through the activation of social networks. Strangers are recruited to social movements as well, however, so social networks are not the complete explanation. Recruitment occurs by getting a person to align her frame with that of the movement--to accept the movement's worldview about the problem at hand and the correct solutions. What has been ignored in the literature is the fact that frame alignment occurs through the medium of preexisting cultural beliefs and themes (e.g. capitalism is about greed, progress through technology versus harmony with nature). There are three types of framing involved in recruitment: diagnostic (making the person aware of the problem), prognostic (convincing the person of necessary strategies), and motivational (getting the person to become actively involved). People with whom the movement's frame resonates are more likely to accept the new frame and become involved; what helps determine whether the frame resonates is the person's worldview and experiences, much of which is provided by dominant cultural themes. Whereas recruiting through networks generally means the people involved share a worldview and therefore prognostic and motivational framing are the focus, recruiting strangers requires focus on diagnostic framing, drawing on existing cultural themes to encourage people to see the problem. This is often accomplished using condensing symbols, images that convey the cognitive and emotional meaning of a frame or theme (e.g. a picture of a kitten with electrodes in its skull). These are often used to create moral shocks--an event or situation that makes a person so angry or upset that s/he is motivated to become politically involved. Moral shocks may be produced by external events (e.g. the Roe decision induced many to join the pro-life movement) or by movement materials designed for the purpose, and they are especially effective at recruiting strangers. Surveys completed by animal rights and anti-nuclear protesters, interviews with movement members and leaders, attendance at meetings, and analysis of movement publications provided data to examine activists' beliefs. 40% of the anti-nuke activists and 30% of the animal rights activist surveyed said involvement in other political causes (civil rights, feminism, peace movement, etc.) helped get them involved in their current efforts. Anti-nuke protesters were more likely to cite previous activism and family/friends as how they got into the movement, whereas animal rights activists were less affected by social networks, citing things they read and saw on TV (including direct mail appeals, literature picked up at activists tables, and media coverage) as central causes of their involvement. Animal rights activism involves much more recruitment of strangers (many never politically active before) and convincing people of the validity of the cause, whereas anti-nuke activism appears to draw on established activist networks and analyses. These focuses were observed in meetings as well--animal rights meetings often involved arguments over issues (work to change conditions or abolish pet stores? etc.) whereas anti-nuke meetings and arguments focused on tactics, with agreement about issues a backdrop. Animal rights protesters surveyed were predominantly women, highly educated, in their early 30s, mostly in business or professional work, urban or suburban, not religious, less married and more likely to have pets than the general public, and left of center. The anti-nuke protesters were similar. This helps explain why the 2 movements address similar cultural themes. Both groups of activists focused on the idea of harmony with nature and were suspicious of progress, technology, bureaucracy, and instrumentalism. Thus there are particular sets of beliefs common to these activists that distinguish them from the general population. Animal rights activists have created a master frame of animals as suffering innocents that are similar to humans by appealing to people's strong feelings about animals, shaped by animals' centrality in cultural themes as well as the ever-increasing attachment to pets that has occurred with urbanization and the isolation of the nuclear family. As the activists were more likely to live with animals and less likely to live with other people, this type of appeal about animals as one of us seems quite appropriate. The images used in movement literature further this perception by showing cute animals, often is disrupted family settings, and animals that show obvious signs of discomfort or bleed red blood, because these animals are easiest to anthropomorphize. Activists' significant lack of religious belief also makes them more likely participants, since it means they don't have the Judeo-Christian dominion-over-animals attitude. Animal rights frames may also be connected to women's existing frames of socialization into a nurturing role and the rarity of women's participation in sports that use animals. Activists also frame appeals in the terms of the left (critiques of capitalism and consumer culture, etc.). Thus the movement's appeals in various ways build upon existing beliefs and themes to draw in new followers of the cause. Further study needs to examine how existing cultural meanings and the appeals of activist groups interact to recruit strangers and to shape the types of tactics and symbols the movement employs.


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