Summary: Justin Marceau’s book Beyond Cages: Animal Law and Criminal Punishment shines a light on three very serious problems in the U.S. animal protection movement brought on by its connections to the criminal justice system: (i) implicit racism baked into the race neutral or color-blind position the movement takes; (ii) reliance on faulty “link” research used to justify harsher sentences for individuals who harm animals; and (iii) having accepted in the 2000’s, either explicitly or implicitly, the availability of tougher felony convictions in exchange for industry-wide agricultural exemptions for cruelty prosecutions involving food animals. Marceau argues that these issues have seriously compromised the animal protection movement’s aspirations to be a civil rights and social justice movement.
This review explains each of these three problems in turn and asks, given how racist, human-centered, and punitive the past has been, whether the movement deserves to wear the mantle of a progressive social justice movement. It argues that we need to understand Marceau’s critiques of the animal protection movement as a series of challenges that need to be met. What he writes of the movement is stinging, and, really very damning; however, it also provides important and explicit direction on what needs to be done in order for the movement to occupy the moral high ground that it should.