By Helena Silverstein
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Extra resources for Unleashing Rights: Law, Meaning, and the Animal Rights Movement
As such, I contend CONSTITUTING LEGAL MEANING 25 that the experience of the animal rights movement counters critics who suggest that the meaning of rights talk necessarily undermines egalitarian and communitarian values. Indeed, I assert that the very extension of rights to nonhuman animals poses a challenge to the liberal individualistic underpinnings of rights and thus reconstructs the meaning of rights. Chapter 4 continues the focus on rights, exploring how movement activists understand and deploy the language in strategic action.
The writers were, so to speak, the artillery bombarding a position from a reasonably safe distance; the brunt of the fighting had to be done by the Members of Parliament. (55) In 1800/ the fight in Parliament commenced and the history of humane legislation was born. Sir W. Pultiney introduced a bill in the English Parliament to stop bullbaiting (57). Although the bill failed to pass, the legislation received much publicity and led to an increase in the debate over animal cruelty. In 1809/ a more comprehensive bill EXPANDING THE CIRCLE 31 aimed at preventing "wanton and malicious cruelty to animals" passed the House of Lords but failed in the House of Commons (Carson 1972, 49).
Is rights language filled with alternative meaning when expanded beyond humans? Can such an expansion of "the circle" reconstruct the meaning of rights and reinforce the power and content of the language? Through an investigation of these questions, this chapter lays the groundwork so that we may examine in the following chapters the movement's political appropriation of rights language and the implications for the legal meaning of rights. If the philosophical foundations of animal rights fill rights language with alternative meaning but this meaning is not articulated or accepted by movement activists, then critics may still be correct in saying that the power of rights language has been undermined.