Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Jillian R. Cavanaugh

Subject Categories

Animal Studies | Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics | Civic and Community Engagement | Discourse and Text Linguistics | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Inequality and Stratification | Linguistic Anthropology | Linguistics | Political Economy | Politics and Social Change | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social Media


nonhuman animal rights activism, veganism, neoliberalism, capitalism, critical discourse analysis


This paper draws upon the principles of critical discourse analysis in order to examine the production of capitalist and consumerist discourses within contemporary nonhuman animal rights activism. The analysis presents evidence to suggest that the discourses being produced via the websites of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and The Vegan Society are consistently being constructed through market-centric ideologies that treat activists mainly as middle-class consumers. This paper argues that the consistent presence of neoliberal discourse signals an instructive entanglement with broader sociopolitical issues. Specifically, there are concerns as to how this discourse relates to what is thought to constitute and qualify as nonhuman animal rights activism. As shown in the analysis, activism portrayed primarily as an economic activity suggests only those who are capable of contributing financially to the movement’s efforts can participate in advocating nonhuman animal rights. I argue that this model of advocacy is indicative of a mediating role both organizations are putting forth that suggests their supporters need only buy “cruelty-free” products and not worry about exercising any sort of meaningful political commitment. Overall, this paper shows how the reproduction of consumerist discourses reproduces gender and social inequalities, and reinforces a capitalist system that contributes to and profits off of nonhuman animal and human exploitation. I argue that drawing attention to the discourse practices through which ideologies within mainstream nonhuman animal rights groups are constructed can be helpful in evaluating normative perceptions of and ideological hegemony within contemporary social justice activism.

Keywords: nonhuman animal rights activism, veganism, neoliberalism, capitalism, critical discourse analysis