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The Longest Struggle

Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA

Norm Phelps

From the first hominids who hunted woolly mammoths to today's factory farms and bio-engineering labs, The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA tells the story of animal exploitation and the battle for animal justice. After describing the roots of animal rights in the ancient world, author Norm Phelps follows the development of animal protection through the Enlightenment, the anti-vivisection battles of the Victorian Era, and the birth of the modern animal rights movement with the publication of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation.

In a brisk, readable narrative, The Longest Struggle traces the campaigns of animal rights pioneers like Henry Spira, Alex Hershaft, and Ingrid Newkirk, as well as leaders who have come more recently on the scene like Heidi Prescott, Karen Davis, and Bruce Friedrich.

Always grounding his story in its historical setting, Phelps describes the counterattack that the animal abuse industries launched in the 1990s and analyzes the controversies that have roiled the movement almost from the beginning, including "national groups vs. grass roots," "abolitionists vs. new welfarists," and activists who favor arson and intimidation vs. those who support only peaceful, legal forms of protest. The Longest Struggle concludes with an overview of current campaigns and tactics, and an assessment of the state of the movement as we enter a new century, including the threat represented by an overzealous "war on terror".

Thoroughly researched and annotated, The Longest Struggle reflects its author's two decades as an animal rights activist and his access to movement leaders who have shared with him their personal stories of campaigns that made animal rights history. At once an accessible history of animal protection thought and a revealing narrative of campaigns for animal rights, The Longest Struggle is must read material for everyone who wants to understand the most radical social justice movement of our time.

Reviews & Endorsements:

In the first chapter of his very readable history of the animal-protection philosophy, Phelps refers to the killing of nonhuman animals as "the crime with no beginning." In other words, humans have hunted animals since before they were human, and carried this exploitation of animals throughout history. If civilization can be defined as the human break with nature, then all human civilizations have been built on animal slavery (domestication) and the systematic killing of animals. Phelps, a vegetarian and animal-activist author, follows the history of philosophical thought about the exploitation of animals and various animal advocates who have fought for animal rights from roughly 600 BCE to the present. These philosophical underpinnings provide the roots of the animal-rights movement, the history of which fills the rest of the book. The founding of the RSPCA; its American counterpart, the ASPCA; the antivivisection movement; and the more radical actions of the ALF and PETA are all covered. Phelps wears his personal beliefs on his sleeve but provides a comprehensive history of the animal-rights movement. Laying the groundwork for this penetrating and thoroughly engaging survey of animal advocacy, Norm Phelps begins with the dawn of civilization, when humans began to enslave animals for food, clothing, sport, and sacrifice. We witness millenia of profound abuse before any real advance is made in the interest of animals, though a few early voices of reason appear; Jesus, for example, may have been history's first animal liberator. The Longest Struggle is a lively account of the evolution of animal protection, revealing how the movement has grown from the ideas of a few ancient philosophers to become an influential force in modern society. If you're looking for a comprehensive discussion on animal advocacy—including its origins, strategies, and controversies—look no further.

368 pp.  

Lantern Books


Published:  September 2007


Norm Phelps was the spiritual outreach director of The Fund for Animals, as well as a founding member of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV) and a contributing writer for Satya. His goal was for faith communities of all traditions to include animals within the scope of their compassionate ministries. Norm Phelps's books include The Dominion of Love, The Great Compassion and The Longest Struggle. Norm passed away in the end of 2014. See all books by Norm Phelps

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