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Advocates of animal rights as well as activists for animal liberation hold the view that to deny the most basic needs of sentient individuals—such as the avoidance of pain—to non-human animals, on the basis of species membership alone, is a form of discrimination akin to racism or sexism. Many animal rights advocates argue that non-human animals should be regarded as persons and members of the moral community whose interests deserve legal protection.
The animal rights movement emerged in the 19th century, focused largely on opposition to vivisection, and in the 1960s the modern movement sprang up in England around the Hunt Saboteurs Association. In the 1970s, the Australian and American philosophers, Peter Singer and Tom Regan, began to provide the movement with its philosophical foundations. Singer argued for animal liberation on the basis of utilitarianism, first in 1973 in The New York Review of Books and later in his Animal Liberation (1975), while Regan developed a deontological theory of animal rights in several papers from 1975 onwards, followed by The Case for Animal Rights (1983).
A distinction persists within the movement—based on the utilitarian/deontological divide—between those who seek incremental reform, a position known as animal protectionism, and those on the abolitionist side, who argue that reform that aims to regulate, rather than abolish, the property status of animals is counter-productive.
Historically speaking, it can be argued that the genesis of the animal rights movement was in India given the impact that both Buddhism and Jainism had on people in India and the neighbouring countries in Asia. The largest number and highest percentage of Vegetarians per population for any country is in India. Buddhism among the global religions is an animal rights religion par excellence. It has long subscribed to the belief that all life forms including that of non-human animals are sacred and deserving of respect, and extolls kindness and compassion as utmost virtues worthy of cultivation. Buddhism unreservedly embraces all living beings in its ethical cosmology without discrimination on grounds of species, race, or creed. Buddhist tenets—including the first precept, "Do not kill"—extend to both human and non-human sentient beings. The Buddha was so adamant and protective of the more vulnerable members of the moral community—namely the animals—that he declared that: "He who has laid aside the cudgel that injures any creature whether moving or still, who neither slays nor causes to be slain—him I call an Arya (Noble person)" (Dhammapada).
The following is a list of impactful animal rights advocates from all positions within the movement, from academics to activists.
|Name||Born||Image||Country of birth||Occupation||Source|
|Elisa Aaltola||1976||Finland||Philosopher, author of Animal Individuality: Cultural and Moral Categorisations (2006) and Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture (2012)|||
|Carol J. Adams||1951||US||Eco-feminist writer, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990)|||
|Bryan Adams||1959||Canada||Musician, campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|
|Douglas Adams||1952–2001||UK||Writer, campaigner for the Great Ape Project|||
|Casey Affleck||1975||US||Actor, animal rights activist|||
|Cleveland Amory||1917–1998||US||Founder of the Fund for Animals, president of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society|||
|Pamela Anderson||1967||Canada||Model, campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|James Aspey||1986||Australia||Fitness trainer, animal rights lecturer|||
|Michael Aufhauser||1952||Germany||Founder of Gut Aiderbichl, an animal sanctuary|||
|Greg Avery||1963||UK||Co-founder of the Consort beagles, Hillgrove cats, and SHAC campaigns|||
|Alec Baldwin||1958||US||Actor, narrator of Meet Your Meat (2002)|||
|Matt Ball||1968||US||Co-founder and President of One Step for Animals, Senior Media Relations Specialist for The Good Food Institute, vegan, co-author of The Animal Activist's Handbook (2009)|||
|Martin Balluch||1954||Austria||Co-founder of Vegane Gesellschaft Österreich, president of Verein Gegen Tierfabriken|||
|Neal D. Barnard||1953||US||President of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine|||
|Shane and Sia Barbi||1963||US||Models|||
|Brigitte Bardot||1934||France||Former actress, animal rights activist, founder of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation|||
|Bob Barker||1923||US||Former host of The Price Is Right, animal rights activist|
|Kim Basinger||1953||US||Actress, model, animal rights activist|||
|Gene Baur||1962||US||Founder of Farm Sanctuary|||
|Tom Beauchamp||US||Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, co-author of The Human Use of Animals (1998)|||
|Marc Bekoff||1945||US||Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Jeremy Bentham||1748–1832||UK||Philosopher, author of the oft-quoted "The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"|||
|Steven Best||1955||US||Philosopher, former Animal Liberation Press Office spokesperson|||
|Michela Vittoria Brambilla||1967||Italy||Politician|||
|Brigid Brophy||1929–1995||UK||Writer, author of article, "The Rights of Animals," in The Sunday Times, London, 1965.|||
|Mel Broughton||1960||UK||Co-founder of the SPEAK campaign|||
|Geezer Butler||1949||UK||Vegan since the age of 17, advocate for animal rights, devoted animal lover, bassist and founding member of the rock band Black Sabbath.|
|Ned Buyukmihci||UK||Doctor of veterinary medicine, founder of Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights|||
|Lydia Canaan||Lebanon||Singer-songwriter, first rock star of the Middle East, United Nations delegate, animal rights activist, animal welfare supporter|||
|Paola Cavalieri||1950||Italy||Philosopher, campaigner for the Great Ape Project|||
|Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne||1623–1673||UK||Writer, anti-vivisectionist|||
|Cesar Chavez||1927–1993||US||Co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association|||
|Alan Clark||1928–1999||UK||Conservative Member of Parliament (1974–1992 & 1997–1999), historian, diarist|||
|Stephen R. L. Clark||1945||UK||Professor of philosophy at the University of Liverpool (1984–2009), author of The Moral Status of Animals (1977)|||
|Jean Clemens||1880–1909||US||Daughter of Mark Twain|||
|Frances Power Cobbe||1822–1904||UK||Founder of the National Anti-Vivisection Society and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection|||
|Alasdair Cochrane||1978||UK||Political theorist based at the University of Sheffield; author of An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory and Animal Rights without Liberation.|||
|Sue Coe||1951||UK||Artist, illustrator, author of "Cruel: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation" (2012)|||
|J. M. Coetzee||1940||South Africa||Novelist, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature, author of The Lives of Animals (1999)|||
|Priscilla Cohn||1933–2019||US||Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University, associate director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics|||
|Rod Coronado||1966||US||Animal rights activist, formerly for the ALF, Earth First!, and ELF|||
|Scott Crary||1978||US||Film director|||
|James Cromwell||1940||US||Actor, played the farmer in Babe (1995)|||
|Karen Davis||1944||US||President of United Poultry Concerns, author of The Holocaust and the Henmaid's Tale (2005)|||
|David DeGrazia||US||Professor of Philosophy at George Washington University, author of Taking Animals Seriously (1996)|||
|Alain Delon||1935||France||actor, businessman, animal rights activist,|||
|Chris DeRose||1948||US||Founder of Last Chance for Animals|||
|Rukmini Devi||1904–1986||India||Dancer, founder of the Animal Welfare Board of India|||
|Nina Douglas-Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton||1878–1951||UK||Co-founder of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society|||
|Hugh Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding||1882–1970||UK||Commander of RAF Fighter Command, president of the National Anti-Vivisection Society|||
|Muriel Dowding, Baroness Dowding||1908–1981||UK||Founder of Beauty Without Cruelty|||
|Alice Drakoules||1850–1933||UK||Lifelong supporter and treasurer of Humanitarian League et al.|||
|Joan Dunayer||US||Author of Animal Equality (2001) and Speciesism (2004)|||
|John Feldmann||1967||US||Musician, appeared in Behind the Mask (2006)|||
|Lawrence Finsen||US||Professor of philosophy at University of Redlands, co-author of The Animal Rights Movement in America (1994)|||
|Waka Flocka Flame||1986||US||Rapper|
|Roger Fouts||1943||US||Primate researcher known for his work with Washoe the chimpanzee, adviser to the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics|||
|Gary L. Francione||1951||US||Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law & Philosophy at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, leading abolitionist, author of Animals, Property, and the Law (2005)|||
|Bruce Friedrich||1969||US||Executive Director, The Good Food Institute|||
|Maneka Gandhi||1956||India||Politician, founder of People for Animals|||
|Robert Garner||1960||UK||Professor of political theory at the University of Leicester; co-author of The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? (2010)|||
|Juliet Gellatley||UK||Founder and director of Viva!|||
|Tal Gilboa||1978||Israel||Founder of the Israeli Animal Liberation Front|||
|Antoine Goetschel||1958||Switzerland||Lawyer, animal advocate for the canton of Zurich|||
|Jordan Halliday||1987||US||Animal Rights Activist, Grand Jury Resister & co-host of Which side Podcast|||
|Celia Hammond||1941||UK||Former model, founder of the Celia Hammond Animal Trust|||
|Stevan Harnad||1945||Hungary||Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences, Université du Québec à Montreal|||
|Annie Harvilicz||1977||US||National Veterinary Medical Board of The Humane Society of the United States,|||
|Alex Hershaft||1934||US||Founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement and the Chairman of the U.S. Animal Rights National Conference|||
|Barry Horne||1952–2001||UK||Animal rights activist, hunger striker|||
|Oscar Horta||1974||Spain||Animal activist and moral philosopher who is currently a professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) and one of the co-founders of the organization Animal Ethics|||
|Wayne Hsiung||1980||US||Lawyer, open rescue activist, co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere|||
|Harish Iyer||1979||India||Animal, LGBTIQ and Child Rights Activist,|
|V. R. Krishna Iyer||1915||India||Former judge of the Supreme Court of India|||
|pattrice jones||1961||US||Writer, educator, activist, co-founder of VINE Sanctuary|||
|Melanie Joy||1966||US||Social psychologist and vegan activist, primarily notable for promulgating the term carnism|
|Roberta Kalechofsky||1931||US||Writer, author of Animal Suffering and the Holocaust: The Problem with Comparisons (2003)|||
|Shannon Keith||US||Animal rights lawyer, director of Behind the Mask (2006)|||
|Lisa Kemmerer||US||Philosopher-activist, author, and educator|||
|Kesha||1987||USA||Singer-songwriter and rapper|||
|Marti Kheel||1948–2011||US||Ecofeminist writer, founder of Feminists for Animal Rights|||
|Anna Kingsford||1846–1888||UK||Physician, anti-vivisectionist, author of The Perfect Way in Diet (1881)|||
|Niko Koffeman||1958||Netherlands||Senator, Party for the Animals|||
|Christine Korsgaard||1952||US||Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, author of Fellow Creatures (2018)|||
|Elizabeth Kucinich||1977||UK||Director of public affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine|||
|Tiphaine Lagarde (in French)||1982||France||Activist and co-founder of French antispeciesist association "269 Libération animale"|||
|Carla Lane||1928||UK||Television scriptwriter, ran Animaline animal sanctuary|||
|Gill Langley||1952||UK||Scientist, campaigner against the use of animals in research|||
|Charlotte Laws||1960||US||Author, TV Host and Animal Rights Activist|||
|Ronnie Lee||1951||UK||Founder of the Animal Liberation Front|||
|Lizzy Lind af Hageby||1878–1963||Sweden||Founder of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society, known for the Brown Dog affair|||
|Bob Linden||US||Host of Go Vegan Radio|||
|Ludvig Lindström||1975||Sweden||Animal rights activist, founder of Global Happiness Organization|||
|Andrew Linzey||1951||UK||Theologian, founder of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics|||
|Dan Lyons||UK||CEO, Centre for Animals and Social Justice|||
|Jo-Anne McArthur||1976||Canada||Photographer, founder of the We Animals project and subject of The Ghosts in Our Machine|||
|Linda McCartney||1941–1998||US||Photographer, musician, founder of Linda McCartney Foods|||
|Mary McCartney||1969||UK||Photographer, has taken photographs for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|
|Paul McCartney||1942||UK||Musician, campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|
|Stella McCartney||1971||UK||Designer, campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Melody MacDonald||UK||Animal rights activist, author of Caught in the Act: The Feldberg Investigation (1994)|||
|Charles R. Magel||1920–2014||US||Professor emeritus of Philosophy and Ethics at Moorhead State University, animal rights activist and bibliographer|||
|Bill Maher||1956||US||Comedian, board director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Keith Mann||UK||Animal rights activist, author of From Dusk 'til Dawn: An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement (2007)|||
|Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson||1941||US||Former psychoanalyst, author of When Elephants Weep (1995)|||
|Dan Mathews||1964||US||Senior Vice-President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Gauri Maulekhi||India||Animal Rights Activist, Member Secretary People for Animals Uttarakhand, Trustee People for Animals, Consultant Humane Society International, Trustee People for Animals India|||
|Brian May||1947||UK||musician/guitarist of Queen and founder of Save Me|||
|Lea Michele||1986||US||Actress, campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Mary Midgley||1919||UK||Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University (retired), author of Animals And Why They Matter (1983)|||
|Heather Mills||1968||UK||Campaigner for Viva!|||
|Moby||1965||US||Musician, DJ, released Animal Rights (1996)|||
|Shaun Monson||1958||US||Director of Earthlings (2005)|||
|J. Howard Moore||1862–1916||US||Zoologist, philosopher, educator, socialist and author of The Universal Kinship (1906)|||
|José Ferrater Mora||1912–1991||Spain||Philosopher, honoured by the Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics|||
|Jesús Mosterín||1941||Spain||Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of Barcelona, honorary president of the Spanish Great Ape Project|||
|Ingrid Newkirk||1949||UK||Co-founder and President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|David Nibert||1953||US||Abolitionist, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University|||
|Heather Nicholson||1967||UK||Co-founder of the Consort beagles, Hillgrove cats, and SHAC campaigns|||
|Jack Norris||1967||US||Co-founder and executive director of Vegan Outreach, vegan, author of Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? and Staying Healthy On Plant-Based Diets, Animal Rights Hall of Fame member|
|Martha Nussbaum||1947||US||Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago|||
|Natasja Oerlemans||1969||Netherlands||Politician, Party for the Animals|||
|Peggy Oki||1956||US||Skateboarder, animal rights activist, campaigner against whaling|||
|David Olivier||1956||France||Philosopher and antispeciesist activist, founder of the journal Les Cahiers antispécistes|||
|Esther Ouwehand||1976||Netherlands||Member of Parliament, Party for the Animals|||
|Kelly Overton||US||Executive Director of People Protecting Animals & Their Habitats|||
|Alex Pacheco||1958||US||Co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Colleen Patrick-Goudreau||1970||US||Author, Animal Advocate, Podcaster|
|David Pearce||UK||Philosopher, vegan and animal activist|||
|Jill Phipps||1964–1995||UK||Animal rights activist, campaigner against live export|||
|Joaquin Phoenix||1974||Puerto Rico||Actor, animal rights activist, narrator of Earthlings (2005) and Dominion (2018)|||
|River Phoenix||1970–1993||US||Actor, animal rights activist|||
|Summer Phoenix||1978||US||Actress, animal rights activist|||
|Jacy Reese Anthis||1992||US||Writer, effective altruism advocate|||
|Tom Regan||1951||US||Professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State University, author of The Case for Animal Rights (1983)|||
|Qiu Renzong||ca. 1933||China||Bioethicist|||
|Bernard Rollin||1943||US||Professor of philosophy, animal sciences, and biomedical sciences at Colorado State University|||
|Craig Rosebraugh||1951||US||Writer, environmentalist, animal rights activist|||
|Zoe Rosenberg||2002||US||Animal Activist and Founder of Happy Hen Animal Sanctuary|||
|Mark Rowlands||1962||UK||Professor of Philosophy at the University of Miami, author of The Philosopher and the Wolf (2008)|||
|Nathan Runkle||ca. 1984||US||Founder and executive director of Mercy for Animals|||
|Richard D. Ryder||1940||UK||Psychologist, coined the term "speciesism" in 1970|||
|Henry Stephens Salt||1851–1939||UK||Civil-rights campaigner, author of Animals' Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1892)|||
|Becky Sanstedt||ca. 1960||US||Animal rights activist, former investigator for Farm Sanctuary|||
|Steve F. Sapontzis||1945||US||Professor emeritus of philosophy at California State University, East Bay, author of Morals, Reason, and Animals (1987)|||
|Anuradha Sawhney||India||Head of Indian operations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|||
|Paul Shapiro||1979||US||Vice President of Policy for the Humane Society of the United States|||
|Alicia Silverstone||1976||US||Hollywood Actress|
|Isaac Bashevis Singer||1902–1991||Poland||Winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature|||
|Peter Singer||1946||Australia||Philosopher, author of Animal Liberation (1975)|||
|Amy Soranno||1993/1994||Canada||Animal rights activist in British Columbia|||
|Henry Spira||1927–1998||US||Animal rights activist, founder of Animal Rights International|||
|Gary Steiner||US||John Howard Harris Professor of Philosophy at Bucknell University|||
|William O. Stephens||1962||US||Professor of Philosophy and Classics at Creighton University|||
|Steve-O||1974||UK||Stunt performer, animal rights activist|||
|Pelle Strindlund||1971||Sweden||Writer, founding member of the Rescue Service|||
|Cass Sunstein||1954||US||Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs|||
|David Sztybel||1967||Canada||Philosopher, writer|||
|Peter Tatchell||1952||Australia||Civil-rights activist|||
|Sunaura Taylor||1982||US||Artist and writer|||
|Marianne Thieme||1972||Netherlands||Member of Parliament, Party for the Animals|||
|Lynda Thomas||1981||Mexico||Retired musician/singer-songwriter, anonymous activist|||
|Darren Thurston||ca. 1970||Canada||Animal rights activist|||
|Bob and Jenna Torres||US||Writers, animal rights and vegan activists|||
|Andrew Tyler||1946–2017||UK||Director of Animal Aid|||
|Jane Velez-Mitchell||1955||US||Broadcast journalist|||
|Jerry Vlasak||1958||US||Physician, former Animal Liberation Press Office spokesperson|||
|John Vyvyan||1908–1975||UK||Writer, author of The Dark Face of Science (1971)|||
|Donald Watson||1910–2005||UK||Founder of the British Vegan Society|||
|Robin Webb||1945||UK||Spokesperson for the British Animal Liberation Press Office|||
|Betty White||1922||US||Actress, animal rights activist|
|Caroline Earle White||1833–1916||US||Co-founder of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, founder of the American Anti-Vivisection Society|||
|Liz White||c. 1950||Canada||Leader of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada|||
|Steven M. Wise||1952||US||Law professor, author of Rattling the Case: Toward Legal Rights for Animals (2000)|||
|Ursula Wolf||1951||Germany||Philosopher, author of Das Tier in der Moral (1990)|||
|Gretchen Wyler||1932–2007||US||Actress, dancer, animal rights activist, and founder of the Genesis Awards for producing outstanding works which raise public awareness of animal issues|||
|Jon Wynne-Tyson||1924–2020||UK||Founder of Centaur Press, author of The Extended Circle: A Commonplace Book of Animal Rights (1985)|||
|Roger Yates||1957||UK||Sociologist, co-founder of Vegan Ireland: The Vegan Society of Ireland|||
|Peter Daniel Young||US||Animal rights activist|||
|Gary Yourofsky||1970||US||Animal rights activist|||
|Benjamin Zephaniah||1958||UK||Rastafari poet, honorary patron of The Vegan Society|||
- List of vegans
- List of vegetarians
- List of peace activists
- List of animal rights groups
- List of animal advocacy parties
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