Animal Welfare is often branded as a “white problem”. It is no secret that the ability of someone to be outraged by something is synonymous with privilege. From a stereotypical point of view, animal welfare groups tend to contain white, middle class people, and mostly women. Indeed, one theory stipulates that the striking absence of ethnic diversity in animal welfare groups is due of a fundamental lack models to look up to; this is the idea that “no one in this group looks like me, understands what I care about or the struggles I face, therefore this group must not be for me”. This then reinforces the idea that animal welfare groups are exclusive, and only serve a very narrow demographic of individuals. It also illustrates how animal welfare groups are not meeting the needs of those with differences in cultural, and social usages of animals and personal economic access to animals.
Countries where a high proportion of the population use animals for companionship, for example, tend to view animal welfare rights much more importantly than in countries where the majority of the population use animals as a resource to gain better access to food, social status and transportation to name a few. This is exemplified by The World Animal Protection, which designed the Animal Protection index, which includes a list of 50 countries classified depending on their commitment to protecting and improving animal welfare in legislation and policy. The top spots are reserved by predominantly western societies, while countries from Africa, Asia and South America occupy spots lower down.
A recent paper by Jenkings (2022) who looked at decolonising animal welfare using a social justice framework, considered how acknowledging the variations in cultural perceptions, society usages of animals, and the economic situation of people who identify as BAME, can help shape the attitudes towards them, in particular those that are pet owners. It will be difficult to shift the general perception of Animal Welfare being viewed as an exclusive group, but Jenkings suggests that by building a trusting and sensitive relationship with the BAME community can aid in mitigating this.
It does not help that the majority of studies conducted on animal welfare collect data which reinforces the portrayal of animal welfare organisations as being predominantly white operated. However, this is not representative of the truth: there are many animal welfare activists and organisations run by people who identify as BAME. For example, PETA released in 2020 an article showcasing ‘17 People of Colour Who Are Changing the World for Animals’ which include the following:
Michelle Grandy - a vegan chef
Kirsten Ussery-Boyd - an owner of a vegan soul food restaurant
Nikki Ford - an animal welfare activist who’s determined to stop circuses exploiting and abusing animals for human entertainment purposes.
Bryant Terry - a food activist and author centering on the African Diaspora
Elizabeth Ross - the driving force behind the coalition of vegan activists of colour (now called the Vegan Advocacy Initiative)
author of the book entitled ‘Animals and Public Health: Why Treating Animals Better Is Critical to Human Welfare’
In short, making animal welfare more inclusive to BAME is going to require a collaborative effort from current animal welfare organisations to shift generalised perceptions of BAME pet owners and activists. Differences in culture, food, expectations and economic situations must be recognised, and relationships founded on trust and sensitivity must be built. What we can do for now is continue to showcase role models in the BAME community that can not only help shape perceptions of animal welfare, but also inspire the younger generation.
‘17 People of Colour Who Are Changing the World for Animals’ - PETA https://www.peta.org/living/food/vegan-people-color-animal-rights-activists/
Decolonizing Animal Welfare through a Social Justice Framework’ - Jenkins et al. 2022 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.787555/full
‘ Best Countries for Animal Welfare’ - World Atlas https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/best-countries-for-animal-welfare.html
Written by: Stephanie Waller
Disclaimer: We at Animal Aspirations pride ourselves as being an educational platform. We want people to formulate their own opinions, as well as respect the opinions of others. We kindly ask that you adhere to this message to help create a safe space for expression and starting conversations, for the benefit of everyone using this platform. Any discussion deemed to be offensive has the right to be removed by the Animal Aspirations team.