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Framing animal rights activists and animal abusers as ‘crazy’: the exploitation of disability

Media reports are sometimes eager to portray animal rights activists as ‘crazy’, ‘nuts’, or ‘loonies’. On the other hand, animal rights activists themselves will sometimes frame people who commit animal abuse as ‘schizophrenic’, ‘psychopaths’, or ‘crazy’. “Disability is often understood to represent moral or physical failure, and is therefore included in a story to describe, achieve, or enforce the desired ‘normal’ society. In this way, people with disabilities become simultaneously objects of resource and devalued metaphorical points of comparison” write the authors of research into ‘The medicalization of Nonhuman Animal rights (Corey et. al., 2015, p. 1309). People actually dealing with mental health conditions and learning impairments, and the stigma attached to it, are caught in the middle of this frame contestation (p.1309).

Peta may be crazy, but other groups aren’t that different, Screenshot from Animal Ag Engage (link article)
Is veganism a mental disorder? Screenshot from Washington Times (link article)
Crazy, hypocritical vegans are driving me insane. Screenshot from NYPost (link article).

The researchers performed a content analysis of major newspapers and anti-speciesist activist blogs published between 2009 and 2013. They found that disability is politicized as a means to construct the opposition as deviant, misguided, and undesirable. This is particularly evident in
theory-based vegan blogs, which were more likely to pull on ableist terminology in
claims-making efforts. Newspapers, too, evidenced ableist language (p.1320).

The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is one based on social justice and equality, but it continues to reflect discrimination against the disability community. Corey et. al. (2015), pp.1309-1310

Nonhuman Animal rights activists are sometimes dismissed as ‘crazy’ or irrational by countermovements seeking to protect status quo social structures. Social movements themselves often utilize disability narratives in their claims-making as well. In this article, we argue that Nonhuman Animal exploitation and Nonhuman Animal rights activism are sometimes medicalized in frame disputes. The contestation over mental ability ultimately exploits humans with disabilities. The medicalization of Nonhuman Animal rights activism diminishes activists’ social justice claims, but the movement’s medicalization of Nonhuman Animal use unfairly otherizes its target population and treats disability identity as a pejorative. Utilizing a content analysis of major newspapers and anti-speciesist activist blogs published between 2009 and 2013, it is argued that disability has been incorporated into the tactical repertoires of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and countermovements, becoming a site of frame contestation. The findings could have implications for a number of other social movements that also negatively utilize disability narratives.


Wrenn, C. L., J. Clark, M. Judge, K. Gilchrist, D. Woodlock, K. Dotson, R. Spanos, and J. Wrenn. (2015) The Medicalization of Nonhuman Animal Rights: Frame Contestation and the Exploitation of Disability, Disability & Society, 30 (9): 1307-1327.


Discrimination based on disability is fundamentally incompatible with a movement aimed at ending discrimination based on species. Corey et. al. (2015), p.1321

2 comments on “Framing animal rights activists and animal abusers as ‘crazy’: the exploitation of disability

  1. Pingback: ‘Cancer on you and your family’ – Crip HumAnimal

  2. Pingback: ‘she’s mad and dangerous’ – Crip HumAnimal

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