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To: National Association of Social Workers; Council on Social Work Education (CSWE): Halaevalu Fonongava’inga Ofahengaue Vakalahi (MEd, MSW, PhD) Megan Fujitsu (PhD, MSW) Katie Gibson-Lidl (BSW, LMSW-Macro) Marilyn Gentner (LMSW)

OTH Animal Rights is Social Work

The health, welfare, and rights of all beings are connected. Social work has historically been a human-dominated or anthropocentric field of study and practice. However, other-than-human (OTH) animals play significant roles in society as family members of human households and as part of our macro Earth-family. Our interspecies kin and the connections, relationships, and interactions humans have with them are critical to examine for planetary health and well-being in social and political epistemology. As social work continues to make important strides in advancing social justice through reflection and critical pedagogy, it is necessary for the profession to shift from an anthropocentric-hierarchal paradigm to one that strives for total liberation and is eco and cosmologically centered. The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) and National Association of Social Work (NASW) has the obligation and and authority - to fulfill its mission statement to equip current and future social workers with the most competent education available to better assist our clients - ourselves, individuals, families, communities, organizations, institutions, and society at large. We are not fully satisfying and living up to Social Work values - and won’t be - until OTH animal species are included.

OTH Animal species are our colleagues in OTH Animal-assisted therapies and interventions and excluding them, their rights, health, and welfare in Social Work Core Competencies, curriculum, and the Code of Ethics is negligent, unethical, and exploitative.

Why is it that corporations are granted legal personhood, while thinking, feeling, breathing, beings are considered “property” and objectified, only viewed as resources, with no rights of their own?

Why is it that any being is deemed superior or inferior than the other?

What is hu(man)? What does it mean to be hu(man)? Are “hu(man)-kind” and “man-kind” synonymous? Who is “man” enough? Who is “hu(man)” enough? How does one conceptualize hu(man) and the construct’s expectations? Is it based on a white supremacist conceptualization based on industrialized, materialist, and capitalist values? Is human-kind more man-kind or Earth-kind?

The ability to empathize, bond, form attachments and have healthy, loving relationships, is in fact a feature of our animality, not our hu(man)ity; it is far from unique to our species.

There are some social work schools that have realized these connections and have taken the initiative in advancing social justice efforts including other species in their pedagogy. Just to identify a couple of these efforts, the University of Denver’s School of Social Work has the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, and there have been continuing education courses such as one that was offered Fordham University in 2018 regarding animal rights in social work. Several other programs began including OTH animals in pedagogy and a list will be provided below. However official inclusion of OTH animal species’ rights and well-being remains neglected. It is essential that the CSWE includes interspecies justice in its accreditation competencies and that the NASW includes other species in its Code of Ethics, broadening and expanding the circle compassion to all beings - for the sake of all beings.

The inclusion of other species in the social work profession, education, and practice is a non-negotiable. It must be done.

Why is this important?

“The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective:

-social justice
-dignity and worth of the person
-importance of human relationships

Social Work Core Competencies:

Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

Competency 2: Advance Human Rights and Social, Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice

Competency 3: Engage Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI) in Practice

Competency 4: Engage in Practice-Informed Research and Research-Informed Practice

Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice

Competency 6: Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Competency 8: Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

The links between human-animal violence have long been evidenced and recorded. The white supremacist patriarchal capitalist colonial machine objectifies and commodifies the living Earth through processes of social stratification, hierarchy, and psychological wages. Between factory farming, food deserts, social-economic inequities, health disparities, social determinants of health, environmental racism, colonial and patriarchal constructs of medicine, rape-culture, human-trafficking, drug-trafficking, wildlife-trafficking, global climate change, intimate partner violence, family violence, intergenerational abuses and traumas, urbanization, industrialization, housing injustices, genocide, displacement, and political-economic constructs of kyriarchal conglomerates of the Earth(ling) industrial complex, spawning from a culture of toxic masculinity, white supremacy, patriarchal, and imperialist senses of entitlement to the exploitation, abuse, domination, and possession of Earth(lings’) bodies, perpetuating cultures of exploitation and violence, the empirical evidence of the interconnectedness is irrefutable.

The recognition of sentience and life in all beings is critical for fostering empathy and compassion for a harmonic and peaceful society and OTH animals deserve rights of their own. Several of our human clients’ main social support and sometimes only trusted social support, consists of their interspecies families. This ranges from the child who is bullied in school with little to no human friends, who cannot wait to go home to their canine family member, the cat being burned alive by the youth who feels helpless and enraged identifying with dad who is beating his mom while he is intoxicated as he learned it from his dad, and then that young person grows up to beat his partner, people experiencing poverty where there closest confidant and sometimes only confidante is their OTH companion or family member, the person who doesn’t attempt suicide and holds on, because of the love and connection they feel with their companion or family member, the examples are endless. The more-than-human world and re-connecting with our “roots” is essential for collective and individual healing, with more access to Our shared Nature as belonging to Earth, embracing values of connection, reciprocity, reverence, and compassion for all living beings.

For more information on OTH animals in social work:

For more information about the links between human-animal violence:,and%20sexual%20abuse%20of%20children.,43%2C44%2C45%5D.


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