REPOST: I'm reposting this because there were some interesting new comments today just about the blue section.
I'll cut to the chase. What it can teach the new atheists is that it's good to debate strategy. It's not selling out "the movement" for some non-believers to question the tactics of others. Yes, I'm returning to the topic discussed (ad nauseum?) here, and here.
An interesting thing about the animal rights movement is that it is factionalized. There are very intense disagreements about how to proceed. Here's a little tour of factions.
The most radical faction is Abolitionist. These folks want a complete end to using animals for our purposes; they think animals ought to be reclassified as "persons" under the law. As far as strategy goes, they are for working toward these ultimate goals, and nothing else. They object to more moderate efforts to reform the meat industry, for example. They think these reforms just reassure people and remove the incentive to completely stop the exploitation of animals. (Follow the link, if you're interested--I think this is an intriguing website.)
A little less radical is the PETA faction, led by Ingrid Newkirk. In ultimate goals, they differ little from the abolitionists, but they are more pragmatic. They're right behind anything that makes life even incrementally better for animals. They're very well known because they're theatrical and confrontational. They make a scene. But they're also fun, and lots of celebrities want to help them publicize animal abuse. They can claim credit for many, many victories in the last 20 years.
Less radical still is the Humane Society approach. They agree with PETA and the abolitionists on the majority of goals. Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society, is a vegan himself. The Humane Society takes a complete different approach to strategy than PETA does. No outrageousness, no celebrities, no confrontation. They carefully preserve an image of mainstream compassion, but extend that beyond its traditional boundaries. Like PETA, they deserve credit for many victories.
Quite a lot less radical is an organization like the SPCA. They do share some of the goals of the other organizations. They are opposed to factory farming, just like all of the above. But most of their work focuses on high caste animals--by which I mean our pets.
A few months ago, Ingrid Newkirk visited my Animal Rights class. Of the many, many things that impressed me about her, one thing that especially impressed me is that she wanted the class to see the movie I Am an Animal before she visited, so the students would know something about her and PETA. The movie portrays her sympathetically, and yet it includes significant footage of other animal rights leaders criticizing her and PETA. There's criticism from Wayne Pacelle and even from PETA cofounder Alex Pacheco, as well as leaders of other animal rights organizations. There's lots of footage of PETA being outrageous (and footage of outrages against animals).
In the movie and in front of my class, Ingrid didn't say the other animal rights leaders didn't have enough evidence to challenge her. She didn't complain about how "animal people" are a maligned minority and should stick up for each other. She never insulted her critics or called them names. She had the courage of her convictions and simply responded to the criticisms. She believes in PETA's strategies and can give a very cogent defense of them.
Warring unbelievers should take note!