The Save Movement and Farmed Animal Suffering: The Advocacy Benefits of Bearing Witness as a Template for Law

AuthorManeesha Deckha
PositionProfessor and Lansdowne Chair in Law at the University of Victoria
e Save Movement and Farmed
Animal Suering: e Advocacy
Benets of Bearing Witness as a
Template for Law
Maneesha Deckha*
is paper critically analyzes the practices and legal regulation of the growing global
phenomenon of the Save Movement, a (human) social movement directed at bearing
witness to and raising awareness of the suering of animals brutalized in intensive
farming. Save activists typically hold vigils as animals are transported from the
warehouses in which they were raised to their deaths in a slaughterhouse. rough the
lens of feminist relational theory and critical animal legal studies, the paper considers
the benets of the Save Movement for farmed animals as well as the capacity of the
law to participate in the act of bearing witness to farmed animal suering that the
movement advocates. I argue that bearing witness is not only a productive activity for
animal advocates to engage in, but also serves as a model for how the law can respond
to animals. Put dierently, I argue that the law should strive to bear witness to animal
suering, and that this subversive and partly socially subjectifying move for animals
can occur even in the present anthropocentric legal culture where animals are legal
property and clearly non-subjects.
* Maneesha Deckha is Professor and Lansdowne Chair in Law at the
University of Victoria. Her research interests include critical animal
studies, animal law, critical food studies, postcolonial theory, feminist
theory, health law, and reproductive law and policy. Her scholarship has
appeared widely has been supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health
Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada. She also held the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Law and Society
at New York University and currently serves as Director of the Animals
& Society Research Initiative at the University of Victoria as well as on
the Editorial Boards of Politics and Animals and Hypatia. She is currently
completing a book project on feminism, postcolonialism and critical
animal legal studies.
Deckha, e Save Movement and Farmed Animal Suf‌fering
A. What is Bearing Witness and Why is it Benef‌icial?
B. Witnessing Impediments: Humanitarian Logics, Imperial Saving, and
Shallow Sentiments
A. A Socially Subjectifying and Multispecies Embodied Cultivation of
1. Emotional Entanglements: “Feeling With” and Sharing
Burdens as an Ethico-Political Act
2. “Close Bodily Encounters”, Multispecies Subjectivity, and
Agentic Representations
3. e Social Signaling to Carnist Humans and Humanist
Perceptions of Trauma
I. Introduction
Bearing witness to suf‌fering as a form of social and political protest
as well as personal transformation is not a new concept for social
justice movements seeking to disrupt violent orthodoxies regarding
power and subjectivity. Bearing witness, however, as a form of organized
and collective protest to animal suf‌fering is a relatively new phenomenon
and growing worldwide. e Save Movement, as it is called, comprises
animal activists who gather together in their communities to bear witness
to animals in their actual experiences of suf‌fering, typically in their last
moments before death en route toward a slaughterhouse kill f‌loor. e
suf‌fering involved generally stems from the violent uses of animals in
normative, lawful industries, most often intensive animal agriculture,
and part of the aim of the Save Movement is to raise awareness of the
(2019) 5 CJCCL
horrors of this now routine and legal treatment of farmed animals.1
As a form of social and political protest, the acts of bearing witness are
not meant to be socially exhibitionist, directly connected to law reform or
even always legally transgressive. Save activists are often not attempting to
rescue the animals, whose suf‌fering and lives they have come to bear witness
to, from their eventual fates. ey are also not trying to capture public
attention through graphic images, provocative displays, or conversational
exchange. e movement is also not directed at circulating petitions for
eventual distribution to legislators or policymakers (although leaf‌lets and
pamphlets might be distributed, and the public verbally engaged at an
individual level).2 Given that Save activists do not usually seek to break
the law or verbally or vividly call attention to their cause, but rather
highlight and respond in the moment to the suf‌fering inherent in practices
and industries the law deems lawful through peaceful, primarily silent,
and ref‌lective observation and connection, we can understand the Save
Movement as qualitatively dif‌ferent from traditional forms of animal
advocacy protest.3 Critical analysis of the benef‌its of the movement
through its central trope of bearing witness as well as legal responses to
such acts can help us evaluate this emerging form of animal advocacy.
In what follows, I analyze the benef‌its of bearing witness to normative
violence against farmed animals within animal advocacy and law. I argue
that bearing witness is not only a productive activity for animal advocates
to engage in, but also serves as a model for how the law can respond to
animals, namely with compassion and empathy. Put dif‌ferently, I argue
that the law should aspire to bear witness to animal suf‌fering, and that
this partly socially subjectifying move for animals can occur even in the
1. Ian Purdy & Anita Krajnc, “Face Us and Bear Witness! ‘Come Closer,
as Close as You Can…and Try to Help!’: Tolstoy, Bearing Witness, and
the Save Movement” in Atsuko Matsuoka & John Sorenson, eds, Critical
Animal Studies: Towards Trans-species Social Justice (London: Rowman &
Littlef‌ield, 2018) 45 at 45; Alex Lockwood, “Bodily Encounter, Bearing
Witness, and the Engaged Activism of the Global Save Movement”
(2018) 7:1 Animal Studies Journal 104 at 107.
2. Purdy & Krajnc, supra note 1 at 48; Lockwood, supra note 1 at 107–08.
3. Lockwood, supra note 1 at 107–08.

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