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In Favor of Tipping the Balance: Animal Rights Activists in Defense of Residential Picketing

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This discussion focuses on the rationales employed by animal rights activists to explain their involvement in, and support of, protest tactics that are controversial both inside and outside the animal rights movement. The paper centers on the use of residential picketing (“home demos”) in a campaign against a private, multinational animal testing firm. Using ethnographic data and semistructured interviews with activists, the discussion demonstrates that these activists are aware of the marginality of their tactics. Despite some ambivalence, however, activists accept full responsibility for their actions and justify their behavior by utilizing supportive rationales that stress the perceived efficacy of home demos. Specifically, they appeal to the immediate and long-term psychological and direct and indirect material impacts on protest targets. These narratives are explored as constructions that are shaped and disseminated within the context of the state’s preoccupation with “ecoterrorism” and the movement’s internal debates regarding acceptable protest tactics.


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