Mobilizing the Evolutionary Tradition: A Darwinian Revolution in Animal Ethics?

  • Chien-hui Li
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series book series (PMAES)


This chapter argues that, despite modern animal activists’ enthusiastic belief in the potential uses of Darwin’s evolutionary theory to elevate animals’ status, the process whereby nineteenth-century activists came to deploy evolutionary ideas was neither inevitable nor straightforward. Factors such as the animal protection movement’s preexisting beliefs, the popular association of Darwinism with the “survival of the fittest,” the pro-vivisection party’s mobilization of evolutionary ideas in their defense of vivisection, and indeed Darwin’s own position in the controversy, all complicated the movement’s appropriation of evolutionary ideas for the animal cause. It was not until the late nineteenth century, with the growing mood of reconciliation between religion and science, and then the availability of a rich repertoire of evolutionary theories during Darwinism’s subsequent “eclipse,” that a growing section of the animal protection movement began to embrace various evolutionary theories. Through an active process of interpretation, appropriation and dissemination, such theories became key intellectual sources in support of the movement’s heterogeneous visions.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chien-hui Li
    • 1
  1. 1.National Cheng Kung UniversityTainanTaiwan

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