Trespass, Animals and Democratic Engagement

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Since at least the 1970s, one of the stock standard tools in the animal protection movement’s arsenal has been illegal entry into factory farms and animal research facilities. This activity has been followed by the publication of images and footage captured inside those otherwise socially invisible places. This activity presents a conundrum: trespass is illegal and it is an apparent violation of private property rights. In this paper we argue that trespass onto private property can be justified as an act of civil disobedience. We look at one particular type of justification: the use of information gathered through trespass in public policy formation. We then animate this analysis both with an historical overview of the effects of sharing information about animal agriculture, and with a specific case study of trespass undertaken recently.

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The authors would like to thank John Hadley and Emma Larking for early conversations about the topic; they would also like to express their gratitude for the feedback provided by participants at Minding Animals Two (Utrecht), especially Tony Milligan and Robert Garner; the highly detailed and very constructive feedback provided by Tatjana Višak and Adrian Little; the insightful comments of the anonymous referees at Res Publica and the background research Gonzalo Villanueva undertook for sections of the paper.

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Correspondence to Clare McCausland.

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McCausland, C., O’Sullivan, S. & Brenton, S. Trespass, Animals and Democratic Engagement. Res Publica 19, 205–221 (2013).

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  • Animals
  • Trespass
  • Civil disobedience
  • Public policy