The aim of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) is to provide a
space for the development of a 'critical' approach to animal studies, one which
perceives that relations between human and nonhuman animals are now at a point
of crisis which implicates the planet as a whole. This dire situation is evident
most dramatically in the intensified slaughter and exploitation of animals (who
die by the tens of billions each year in the United States alone); the unfolding
of the sixth great extinction crisis in the history of the planet (the last one
being 65 million years ago); and the monumental environmental ecological threats
of global warming, rainforest destruction, desertification, air and water
pollution, and resource scarcity, to which animal agriculture is a prime
Since the last decade, animal studies has emerged as a new and rapidly growing
interdisciplinary paradigm, leading to a prolific development of centers,
university position, conferences, journals, books, e-lists, radio shows, and
podcasts dedicated to studying how humans have conceived of and related to
nonhuman animals. Although scholars working in animal studies have made
significant contributions to our understanding of the historical, sociological,
and philosophical aspects of human/nonhuman animal relations, the discipline is
strangely detached from the dire plight of nonhuman animals, human beings, and
Animal studies has already entrenched itself as an abstract, esoteric,
jargon-laden, insular, non-normative, and apolitical discipline, one where
scholars can achieve recognition while nevertheless remaining wedded to
speciesist values, carnivorist lifestyles, and at least tacit -- sometime overt
-- support of numerous forms of animal exploitation such as vivisection. In
recent years Critical Animal Studies has emerged as a necessary and vital
alternative to the insularity, detachment, hypocrisy, and profound limitations
of mainstream animal studies that vaporizes their flesh and blood realities to
reduce them to reified signs, symbols, images, words on a page, or protagonists
in a historical drama, and thereby utterly fail to confront them not as 'texts'
but rather as sentient beings who live and die in the most sadistic, barbaric,
and wretched cages of technohell that humanity has been able to devise, the
better to exploit them for all they are worth.
In contrast to the dominant orientations of animal studies, as well as to
tendencies prominent throughout the animal welfare and animal rights movements,
we seek to develop a Critical Animal Studies that:
1. Pursues interdisciplinary collaborative writing and research in a rich and
comprehensive manner that includes perspectives typically ignored by animal
studies such as political economy.
2. Rejects pseudo-objective academic analysis by explicitly clarifying its
normative values and political commitments, such that there are no positivist
illusions whatsoever that theory is disinterested or writing and research is
3. Eschews narrow academic viewpoints and the debilitating theory-for-theory's
sake position in order to link theory to practice, analysis to politics, and the
academy to the community.
4. Advances a holistic understanding of the commonality of oppressions, such
that speciesism, sexism, racism, ablism, statism, classism, militarism and other
hierarchical ideologies and institutions are viewed as parts of a larger,
interlocking, global system of domination.
5. Rejects apolitical, conservative, and liberal positions in order to advance
an anti-capitalist, and, more generally, a radical anti-hierarchical politics,
This orientation seeks to dismantle all structures of exploitation, domination,
oppression, torture, killing, and power in favor of decentralizing and
democratizing society at all levels and on a global basis.
6. Rejects reformist, single-issue, nation-based, legislative, strictly animal
interest politics in favor of alliance politics and solidarity with other
struggles against oppression and hierarchy.
7. Champions a politics of total liberation which grasps the need for, and the
inseparability of, human, nonhuman animal, and Earth liberation in one
comprehensive, though diverse, struggle; to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr.: a
threat to liberation anywhere is a threat to liberation everywhere.
8. Deconstructs and reconstructs the socially constructed binary oppositions
between human and nonhuman animals, a move basic to mainstream animal studies,
but also looks to illuminate related dichotomies between culture and nature,
civilization and wilderness and other dominator hierarchies to emphasize the
historical limits placed upon humanity, nonhuman animals, cultural/political
norms, and the liberation of nature as part of a transformative project that
seeks to transcend these limits towards greater freedom and ecological harmony.
9. Openly engages controversial radical politics and militant strategies used in
all kinds of social movements, such as those that involve economic sabotage and
high-pressure direct action tactics.
10. Seeks to create openings for critical dialogue on issues relevant to
Critical Animal Studies across a wide-range of academic groups; citizens and
grassroots activists; the staffs of policy and social service organizations; and
people in private, public, and non-profit sectors. Through -- and only through --
new paradigms of ecopedagogy, bridge-building with other social movements, and a
solidarity-based alliance politics, is it possible to build the new forms of
consciousness, knowledge, social institutions that are necessary to dissolve the
hierarchical society that has enslaved this planet for the last ten thousand