Social movements that fundamentally challenge the status quo struggle to connect theory and practice by framing advocacy messages in ways that serve the utilitarian purpose of resonating with mainstream public values while also demonstrating deontological integrity in authentically reflecting their own radical ideology. This study examines the animal rights movement's framing challenges in transforming discriminatory worldviews against nonhuman animals (NHAs) to create respect for them as inherently valuable subjects. U.S. animal rights organizations (AROs) increasingly focus on protecting animals exploited for food, and this dissertation examines frames used in such food advocacy campaigns of five national AROs: Compassion over Killing, Farm Animal Rights Movement, Farm Sanctuary, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Vegan Outreach. Using textual analysis of ARO advocacy and interviews with ARO leaders, this study analyzes how and to what extent AROs do or could construct less speciesist frames that resonate with a largely speciesist American public.
Findings reveal AROs framed problems with agribusiness around farmed animal cruelty and commodification, human and environmental harm, and unnecessary killing. Solution frames suggested consumers eat a total or largely plant-based diet, and some proposed industry welfare reforms. To motivate audiences, AROs appealed to values, such as: compassion, sentience, moral consistency, desire to make a difference, choice, pleasurable and convenient food, belonging, life, concern for fellow human beings, honesty, American populism, naturalness, freedom, and American pride.
Strategically, AROs leaders applied both deontology and utilitarianism in choosing to prioritize NHA altruism rather than human self-interest, but most leaders favored utilitarianism in choosing to privilege animal welfare over animal rights for wider appeal. Overall, while some ARO messages supported animal rights, promoting veganism and respect for NHA subject status, many frames used animal welfare ideology to achieve animal rights solutions, conservatively avoiding a direct challenge to the dominant human/animal dualism.
Changes to framing strategy are prescribed in support of frame transformation, such as emphasizing injustice, respect, freedom, life, and a shared animality. This deontologically aligns animal rights theory with advocacy practice in a way that also strategically incorporates both environmental ethics and human rights and merges nature and culture.