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Circle of Responsibility: Animals as Stakeholders

Public Relations for Social Responsibility

ISBN: 978-1-80043-168-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-167-6

Publication date: 10 June 2021


Rarely acknowledged, particularly in business and communications, is that animals have interests in decisions that affect them. This chapter raises questions about how stakeholding is defined and explains why the circle of ethical consideration has been limited to human beings but should be expanded when so much of what we do impacts animals – animals who often labor for our benefit, not theirs, whose bodies are used as food, whose skins are used for fashion and furniture, and who are experimented upon, all without their consent, nor representation of their interests beyond essential physical needs. Animals as laborers/workers for our interests is an important expansion to business and public relations (PR) ethics. While labor is deeply raced and gendered, it also is species dependent. Many practices allowed with animal workers would never be permitted or certainly regarded with concern, if among human beings. Freeman's (1984) two-tiered sense of stakeholders is applied and the argument made that animals should be included in the array of stakeholders, the argument being they are not only silent but also silenced as have been marginalized human groups. This chapter offers a textual analysis of the cover of the December 09, 2013 issue of Time magazine and a response article which serve as a case study for considering animals as stakeholders integral to PR–corporate social responsibility–diversity, equity, and inclusion intersection. I examine deer in the urban landscape and ask whether their perspectives are included in decisions about population, habitat, and health. If communications are to be ethical, inclusive, and socially responsible, animals must be affirmed as part of DEI commitments. Action steps/recommendations for doing so are included.



Merskin, D. (2021), "Circle of Responsibility: Animals as Stakeholders", Pompper, D. (Ed.) Public Relations for Social Responsibility (Communicating Responsible Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 103-119.



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