The Save Movement, Empathy and Activism

Lockwood, Alex (2017) The Save Movement, Empathy and Activism. Animal Studies Journal, 7 (1). pp. 104-126. ISSN 2201-3008

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The global Save Movement, alongside other animal rights organisations and practices, has since 2010 sought to bring the experiences of nonhuman farmed animals into the public domain from privatized, usually hidden spaces of industrial procedure and slaughter. One key mechanism used is public vigils held outside slaughterhouses, where activists gather to bear witness to the passing of nonhuman animals in trucks, and to raise awareness of the suffering of animals to passersby and members of the public. Central to the practice are the roles played by emotional engagement and bodily encounter with the nonhuman animals; the movement is founded on a self-styled “love-based” compassion for other living beings, influenced by the non-violence teachings of Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In 2014 I joined the Save Movement in Toronto for a number of their vigils, engaging in an autoethnographic study of the means by which activists employ emotional labour, bearing witness and bodily encounter in foregrounding the realities of life for industrially farmed nonhuman animals. This article argues that the rise of the Save Movement represents a new moment (although not wholly without precedent) in the practices of animal rights activism. Working from the intellectual standpoint of Critical Animal Studies and engaged theory, the structure of the paper employs ethnographic and emotionally-affected personal accounts of taking part as a researcher-activist in the vigils, which offer access to experiences of the ways in which emotion, activism and empathy overlap in ‘coming to care’ for nonhuman others in pressured public settings. The article seeks, in the end, to elucidate the Save Movement’s emphasis placed on bodily encounter and the making visible of already existing embodied entanglements with farmed nonhuman animals, and suggests this form of engaged witnessing offers opportunity for radically reimagining our species’ existing relationships with those species we currently identity as food.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Culture > Creative Writing
Media > Media and Cultural Studies
Social Sciences > Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications
Depositing User: Alex Lockwood
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2017 14:56
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 15:40
ORCID for Alex Lockwood: ORCID iD

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