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Steven_Best

Steven Best

Steven Best (born December 1955) is an American animal rights activist, author, talk-show host, and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has been described as "one of the leading scholarly voices on animal rights."

Best is co-founder of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS), formerly known as the Center on Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA), the first group dedicated to the philosophical discussion of animal liberation. His academic interests are continental philosophy, postmodernism, and environmental philosophy. He is the editor, with Anthony J. Nocella, of Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004), which has a foreword by Ward Churchill, and the sister-companion volume on revolutionary environmentalism, Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (2006).

In December 2004, Best co-founded the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which acts as a media office for a number of animal rights groups, including the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), though he has said that he is not himself an ALF activist. He came to public attention in 2005, when the British Home Office told him it intended to use counter-terrorist measures adopted in light of the July 2005 London bombings to prevent him from addressing an animal rights rally in the UK. Best responded by alleging that Britain was becoming a police state.

Education

After attending high school in Chicago, Best took casual jobs in factories and drove a truck for a few years. He attended the College of DuPage (Illinois) from 1977 to 1979, where he completed an associate degree in film and theater; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1979 to 1983, where he received a bachelor's degree with distinction; the University of Chicago from 1985 to 1987 for his master's degree; and the University of Texas at Austin for his Ph. D. from 1989 to 1993.

In 1993, he began as an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso, promoted to Associate Professor in 1999, and then to the Chair of the Philosophy Department in 2002. His colleagues replaced him as Chair in March, 2005, an act which Best has alleged appeared to be a form of punishment for his outspoken activism on behalf of ethical causes such as animal and earth liberation that the academy has largely dodged to date.

Academic work

Best has written several books exploring postmodernism and its challenges to science. He takes a moderate approach in seeing benefits and flaws in both modernism and postmodernism. He has also produced papers on contemporary culture such as the film Robocop, hiphop music, , and H.G. Wells.

Activism

Best sits on the advisory board of the International Journal of Inclusive Democracy. Often writing alongside Douglas Kellner, Best relates his animal rights and environmental advocacy to issues of democracy, socialism and human rights. He is a supporter of direct democracy, as are most editors of the journal.

Banned from the UK

Best was threatened with a ban on entering Britain in 2004, when he planned to attend an animal rights conference, but he was able to argue successfully that banning him from arguing in favor of property destruction in certain circumstances would be akin to banning Peter Singer for supporting euthanasia and infanticide.

In 2005, Best planned to attend a rally to celebrate the closure, as a result of protests from the animal rights movement, of Newchurch Farm, where guinea pigs were being bred for research purposes. Charles Clarke, the British Home Secretary, said he would rely on new Home Office rules preventing people from enter the UK if they "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in further of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts."

In a letter to Best dated August 24, 2005, Clarke cited a comment by Best quoted by The Daily Telegraph: "We are not terrorists, but we are a threat. We are a threat both economically and philosophically. Our power is not in the right to vote but the power to stop production. We will break the law and destroy property until we win." Best is also alleged to have said that the animal rights movement did not want to "reform" vivisectionists but to "wipe them off the face of the earth."

The letter from the Home Secretary said:

In expressing such views, it is considered that you are fomenting and justifying terrorist violence and seeking to provoke others to terrorist acts and fomenting other serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts." The letter was dated the same day that the Home Office published its new list of behaviors that would see people banned from the UK. Under the list, people who write, speak, run a website, or use their positions as teachers to express views that "foment, justify, or glorify violence in furtherance of particular beliefs" will be banned or deported. The British government called the new measures part of its "ongoing work to tackle terrorism and extremism."

Best responded to the ban by saying it didn't surprise him. He told the Chronicle of Higher Education: "It was only a matter of time, especially after the July 7, 2005 London bombings. The climate in Britain is totally unbelievable. It's very fascist. It's becoming a police state."

Selected works

  • Best, Steven and Nocella, Anthony J. Igniting A Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth, AK Press, 2006. ISBN 1-904859-56-9
  • Best, Steven, and Nocella, Anthony J. Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals Lantern Books, 2004. ISBN 1-59056-054-X
  • Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium. Guilford, June 2001. ISBN 978-1-57230-665-3
  • Best, Steven. The Politics of Historical Vision: Marx, Foucault, Habermas, Guilford 1995. ISBN 978-1-57230-145-0
  • Best, Steven and Kellner, Douglas. Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, Guilford 1991. ISBN 978-0-89862-412-0
  • Best, Steven and Kellner, Douglas. The Postmodern Turn, Guilford 1991. ISBN 978-0-89862-412-0
  • Best, Steven. Animal Rights and Moral Progress: The Struggle for Human Evolution. (forthcoming)

See also

Websites

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