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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Millie Thayer

Second Advisor

Gianpaolo Baiocchi

Third Advisor

Barbara Cruikshank

Subject Categories

Politics and Social Change


Since the mid 1990s, in the United States, social regulation and activity with regard to animal care and the nature of acceptable human-animal relationships has changed remarkably rapidly, even as animal rights activism has become less prominent. Utilizing extensive ethnographic, artifactual, and interview data, this dissertation interrogates some of the relational processes that have contributed to these changes. After first sketching a brief history of animal advocacy discourses in the U.S., In Chapter Four, I document a shift from disruptive to productive strategies in animal advocacy. I argue that two important contributing factors to this shift were anti-terrorism legislation that repressed direct action, and the popularization of pet animal cruelty as a social problem. In Chapter Five, I further elaborate the productive strategies of prefigurative politics, politicized subcultures, and conscious consumption as they are embraced by animal rights activists. Then, in Chapter Six, detail the practices that new welfare activists use, employing pet parenting discourses in their attempts to shape the subjectivities of prospective pet adopters. I demonstrate how, in this subjectification endeavor, activists use relationships with media and advertisers that both provide opportunities and set constraints on their activism. Finally, in Chapter Seven, I focus on activist and citizen relationships with the state. Animal advocates engage in both legislative and educational campaigns to codify standards of care and engage citizens to report violations of anti-cruelty laws. Their dependence on state agents for enforcement of these gains removes animal welfare from their control. My work suggests that in a neoliberal context that represses direct action, relationships with less radical activists, media, state, and corporate partners presented animal rights activists with opportunities to implement productive strategies for change. Rather than preventing animal-cruelty directly, their focus shifted to influencing animal-friendly subjectivities and lifestyles. I conclude that the relationships that enable these productive strategies also contribute to constraining the breadth of animal advocacy to business-friendly endeavors that ease animal suffering without substantially challenging animal use.