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Animal Politics: Justice, Power, and the State

12/11/2016 om 09:30 tot 13/11/2016 om 17:00

To register for this event, please sign up here or email

The focus in animal ethics has long been on the moral standing of sentient individuals. It was argued that because nonhuman animals have interests strong enough to lay a claim on others, they deserve certain inviolable rights, similar to how this works in the human case. In recent years, political philosophers have used the idea of moral animal rights as a starting point for thinking about political rights. It is argued that interests of nonhuman animals should be taken into account in liberal democracies for reasons of equality, democracy, or justice. The political approach to animal rights provides us with a new perspective on nonhuman animals and human-animal relations. Conceptualizing groups of animals as social or political groups can clarify rights and duties beyond the micro-level. Using political concepts, such as citizenship or democracy, in relation to nonhuman animals, also brings to light their agency in human-animal relations, and shows us how they co-shape what we usually perceive as the product of human activity. Examining existing ideas about human social justice in relation to other animals can help us to get a better grasp on structural similarities, for example with regard to stereotyping and silencing, and differences. These insights can also contribute to interspecies solidarity.

The new perspective also raises many questions, with regard to nonhuman animal agency, power relations, justice, and democracy. This conference aims to address these questions and focusses on related subjects:

  • Political animal agency. How do nonhuman animals exercise political agency? How can humans support their agency, and/or take it into account in political systems? How to conceptualize political animal voice?
  • Animals and the government. How should animal interests be taken into account in human societies? How should nonhuman animals be represented? Should they be able to represent themselves? Are nation states always bad news for nonhuman animals? Should liberal governments have the power to constrain citizens’ eating habits (concerning organic meat, vegetarianism or veganism)?
  • Animal justice. Are rights the best tool to come to justice? Do other animals need constitutional legal rights, or are human legal duties in relation to other animals sufficient? How do we establish social justice, by pursuing ideal or non- ideal theory?
  • Animal freedom. Traditionally, nonhuman animal freedom is conceptualized as negative freedom. Recent relational approaches to animal politics challenge this perspective. How should we think about animal freedom, and how can we work towards it?
  • Animals and democracy. Should animal interests be represented for reasons of democratic equality? Should nonhuman animals be seen as part of the demos, and on what grounds? What does animal democratic agency entail? How does the essential democratic notion of piecemeal engineering relate to the yet utopian goal of animal liberation?
  • Intersectionality. How are different forms of oppression related? Should different social movements work together? Is justice for animals part of justice for all?
  • Animals and capitalism. Is capitalism bad for animals or does it also bring possibilities for positive change (i.e. in vitro meat)? Are nonhuman animals members of the working class? Should the economic benefits of industrial exploitation trump moral concerns?
  • Animals and the environment. What is the relation between animal justice and environmental justice? Should all humans go vegan and for what reasons? How does the Anthropocene play a role in the destruction of the planet? Should animals have habitat rights?
  • The future of animal rights activism. What directions should we take, for which reasons, and how can we become more effective as a movement?


Animal Politics: Justice, Power, and the State
Internationale School voor Wijsbegeerte, Leusden

* Last minute change: Lori Gruen unfortunately had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. Fortunatelly prof. Lisa Kemmerer has agreed to replace her.

Saturday November 12th

8:45-9:15 Registration and coffee/tea

9.15 Opening: Eva Meijer, Erno Eskens. (Van Eeden Room)

9:30 Keynote Lisa Kemmerer.  Chair: Eva Meijer. (Van Eeden Room)

10:30 Coffee break

10:45 Session 1

a. Intersectionality and Animal Agency. Chair: Eva Meijer. (Van Eeden Room)

Jana Canavan – Swedish dairy farming and the milk crisis as site of intersectional oppression; Hope Ferdowsian – Why Justice for Nonhuman Animals Is the Social Movement of Our Time; Frauke Albersmeier – Interspecies Solidarity: A Pyrrhic Victory for Animals?

b. New Directions in Animal Rights. Chair: Joost Leuven. (Reiman Room)

Joachim Nieuwland – Do animals have a right to health?; Keith Sherman – Enhancement and the other animals; Núria Almiron – Expanding the ethics of mediation to include animal ethics; Tim Reysoo – Animal rights and human duties: The moral importance of human-animal relations.

12:45-14:00 Lunch

14:00 Short introduction Will Kymlicka (Van Eeden Room)

14:15 Frederik van Eeden Lecture, Will Kymlicka. Chair: Eva Meijer. (Van Eeden Room)

15:15-15:45 Coffee break

15:45-17:45 Session 2

a. Forming Interspecies Communities. (Reiman Room)

Peter Niesen – Animal Citizenship and Social Cooperation; Gijs van Maanen – Taking things seriously: Discourse ethics, its limits, and potential; Eva Meijer – Companions, neighbors, strangers? The politics of living with birds.

b. Perspectives on (ending) factory farming. (Mennicke Room)

Pierre-André Gagnon – Who is the enemy of your enemy? Exploring the interrelation of factory farming, humane meat and animal liberation; Kurtis Boyer and Fabio Cristiano – Reconfiguring Bodies, Depoliticizing Violence: Drone Targeted Killings and Humanely Slaughtered Meat; Paula Brugger – Abolitionist Environmental Education: an Ethical Perspective for Conservation; Agnes Tam – Enabling Progress for Abolition of Factory Farming: Beyond Deliberation and Contention.

c. Animal Interests: Freedom, Autonomy, Joy. Chair: Janneke Vink (Brouwer Room)

Marthe Kiley-Worthington – How to measure freedoms in animals, and increase the quality of their lives; Kevin Boileau – Prolegomenon Towards a Primate Rights Bill (via Skype); Frédéric Côté-Boudreau – Autonomy and Paternalism for Animals: Towards an Integrated View on Liberty and Permissible Interference; Philipp von Gall – Overcoming ‘welfare’ confusion – animal joy as a political interest.

15:45-17:00 Public Interview Will Kymlicka (ending 17:00) – only accessible for Frederik van Eeden Lecture guests (Van Eeden Hall)

18:00 Dinner (Restaurant)

19:30 Coffee

20:00-21:00 Keynote Laura Wright – Vegan Studies Projects: Terrorism, Silence, and the U.S. Politics. Chair: Floris van den Berg (Van Eeden Room)

Sunday November 13th

9:00 Keynote Robert Garner – Animals, Politics, and Democracy. Chair: Janneke Vink. (Van Eeden Room)

10:00-10:30 Coffee break

10:30-12:30 Session 3

a. Animal Representation and Democracy. Chair: Joost Leuven. (Van Eeden Room)

Erno Eskens – So how about plants?; Federico Zuolo – Disagreement, Nonhuman Animals, and Politics; Janneke Vink – Human Tyranny: Political Speciesism as a Democratic Problem; Bernice Bovenkerk & Hanneke Nijland – Pedigree dog breeding: the need for public deliberation

b. Morality and Politics. Chair: Eva Meijer. (Reiman Room)

Willem Vermaat – The ethical problem of instrumental use of nonhuman animals in liberal democracies: An examination of the approach of the Dutch Party for the Animals; Floris Van den Berg – Forced veganism. Towards the vegan state; Gabriela Carvalho – Animals: things, resources, or co-creatures? A comparative analysis of Brazilian and Swiss Law.

12:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:00 Keynote Steven Wise. Chair: Janneke Vink (Van Eeden Room)

15:00-15:30 Coffee break

15:30-17:00 Session 4

a. Legal Animal Rights. Chair: Janneke Vink. (Van Eeden Room)

Emilia Habinowska – Creating real animal rights; Jan-Harm De Villiers – Refusing (animal) rights.

b. Rights and Wildlife. (Reiman Room)

Marthe Kiley-Worthington – Integrating wildlife and food production for the future.; Laura Bridgeman – Recognizing Cetacean’s Entitlement to Resources and their Roles as Stakeholders.

c. Effective Activism. (Mennicke Room)

Madelaine Leitsberger – Effective animal activism: animal welfare, rights or abolition?; Joost Leuven – How does philosophical theory influence contemporary animal rights activism?.

17:00 Closing Speech (Van Eeden Room)
Organizing committee: Eva Meijer (University of Amsterdam), Janneke Vink (University of Leiden), Floris van den Berg (Utrecht University), Harry Wels (VU Amsterdam), Joost Leuven (University of Amsterdam), Erno Eskens (ISVW). For more information, please email:

Keynote speakers

Lisa Kemmerer, professor of philosophy and religions at Montana State University Billings, is a philosopher-activist working on behalf of nonhuman animals, the environment, and disempowered human beings. Graduate of Reed, Harvard, and Glasgow University (Scotland), Kemmerer has written/edited nine books, including Eating Earth: Dietary Choice and Environmental Health; Animals and World Religions; and Sister Species: Women, Animals, and Social Justice. Lisa Kemmerer has also written numerous articles, has directed and has produced two documentaries on Buddhism. Many of her articles are available through her website:


Will Kymlicka is Professor of Philosophy at Queen’s University in Canada and the Central European University in Hungary. He published a number of works on immagration and multiculturalism, among which Multicultural Citizenships: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. In collaboration with his partner Sue Donaldson he wrote the groundbreaking book Zoopolis, a Political Theory of Animal Rights, in which thought on multiculturalism and the formation of nations is applied to animals in a revolutionary way. 


Steve Wise is a legal scholar. His objective is for primates to be recognized as legal persons, including the now-famous chimpanzee Tommy. Having the status of a legal person would grant animals a right to liberty.


Wright, Laura 2016


Laura Wright is Associate Professor and Department Head of English at Western Carolina University. She specialises in Vegan Studies. She is author of The Vegan Studies Project: Food, Animals and Gender in the Age of Terror. The book is billed as “the foundational text for the nascent field of vegan studies.” In her book, Wright examines the social and cultural discourses shaping society’s perceptions of veganism as an identity category and social practice.
Robert Garner is Professor in Political Theory at the University of Leicester. His publications include A Theory of Justice for Animals, Animal Ethics, and Animals, Politics, and Morality. His debate with animal abolitionist Gary Francione formed the basis for The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation?


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Dodeweg 8
Leusden, 3832 RD Nederland
033 – 465 07 00


033 465 0700

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