Introduction to Health, Environment, and Animal Rights

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Introduction to Health, Environment, and Animal Rights

Many of the subjects of global environmental and health protest movements are basic and fundamental—clean air, pure water, preservation of natural resources, and access to healthcare and health information. Similarly, animal rights protestors assert that all animals deserve a life of dignity, free of captivity and cruelty, whether they inhabit the wild or our domestic surroundings. They are movements that foster a comprehensive well-being of the individual and its social and natural environment. Like other protest movements, the environmental and animal rights movements advocate not only a shift in social policy but also changes in human behavior. For example, many mainstream animal rights protest campaigns protest the conditions in which animals are raised and encourage vegetarianism. Environmental justice protesters may protest deforestation and encourage consumer boycotts of companies that destroy forest resources.

Some factions of the environmental justice and animal rights movements rely on direct-action as a means of protest. From camping in trees to prevent their removal to destroying laboratory equipment, direct actions range from non-violent acts of civil disobedience to the aggressive destruction of property. The articles "Animal Rights Raiders Destroy Years of Work" and "Neighbors of Burned Homes Pained by Suburban Sprawl" feature two direct action campaigns described as acts of protest by movement members and crimes of vandalism and terrorism by law enforcement agencies. When individuals employ violence and vandalism as means of intimidation, their actions may fit within current definitions of terrorism. While the actions of extremists should not dilute the message of less-radical protesters, the editors leave it to the reader to determine when illegal acts are legitimate forms of protest or mere criminal conduct.

In contrast to the sometimes violent campaigns of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) "We'd Rather Go Naked" campaign combined a media blitz of scantily clad celebrity advertisements with naked protests at businesses that sell fur products. Also, the chapter begins by featuring the first Earth Day, created to raise awareness of environmental issues and proactive solutions to environmental crises. Current environmental policy issues such as the Kyoto Treaty and the European Union agreement governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are also highlighted here.

Finally, this chapter brings to light policy, protest, and activism surrounding current international health issues. Several of these articles focus on the international AIDS crises because the movement to combat AIDS has captured a large share of media and public attention. Across the globe, the fight against AIDS spurs dramatic activism—from activists in developing nations defying local prohibitions on distributing condoms to the gay rights movements' embrace of AIDS activism and protest in more developed nations.

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Introduction to Health, Environment, and Animal Rights