Erin K. McKenney, Psy.D., is a 2023 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Martha Straus, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Susan Hawes, PhD, Committee Member
  • David Hamolsky, PsyD, Committee Member


animal activism, animal rights, eco-psychology, eco-feminism, intersectional environmentalism

Document Type


Publication Date



The animal rights movement, despite its historical roots, has only recently garnered attention in the realm of social sciences, increasingly being recognized as a facet of social justice. This dissertation delves into the intersection of animal rights activism and gender, primarily focusing on the parallels drawn between the oppression of women and animals/nature. The noticeable dominance of women in the animal rights movement, as suggested by previous studies, formed the basis for adopting an eco-feminist approach to explore this issue, highlighting the shared oppression and exploitation faced by women and animals. In-depth, in-person interviews were used to collect data on the experiences of animal rights activists, probing how their interest was piqued, the nature of their participation, and the influence of their activism on their personal lives. This study also sought to explore potential gender-based differences in the experiences of activists. A constructionist research paradigm guided the qualitative inquiry, while a thematic analysis was employed to interpret the data. The results showed a significant female representation, aligning with existing research, with only one participant identifying as male. Emerging themes revealed the formative influence of early childhood experiences in fostering an interest in animal welfare, such as familial influence or key events. Participants’ involvement in animal activism manifested in various forms, such as volunteer work, fostering, lobbying, outreach, and education. Activism resulted both in benefits including social connectivity and personal growth and challenges like burnout and compassion fatigue. These findings enrich the current understanding of the animal rights movement and its relationship to eco-feminism, intersectional environmentalism, and eco-psychology, adding further weight to its relevance in social justice discourse.


Erin K. McKenney

ORCID Scholar ID# 0009-0000-3248-2233