biography of marti kheel
August 25, 1948 - November 19, 2011
Marti Kheel was born in New York City in 1948. For as long as she could remember she was drawn to other–than–human animals. At the age of twelve she performed her first protest on behalf of animals when she turned her back to the camera in a family photograph that excluded her beloved cat, Booty–tat. In 1973 she became a vegetarian after a series of unnerving experiences in restaurants and grocery stores made her increasingly aware of the living beings that constituted "meat." Four years later, while living in Montreal, she joined the grass–roots organization Animal Liberation Collective, which introduced her to a wide spectrum of animal abuse issues. As she became increasingly aware of the horrific treatment of other–than–human animals on farms and in society at large, she became a vegan.
After relocating to California, she co–founded Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR) in California in 1982, hoping to bridge the divisions between the feminist and animal advocacy movements. In the same year, she developed a slideshow illustrating the commonalities in the ways women and other–than–human animals are viewed under patriarchal society. Adopted by FAR, the presentation has since been shown throughout the United States and abroad. Over the years, FAR grew into a national organization with regional offices throughout the United States and even abroad. Although FAR is not currently active, the message of the link between the abuse of women and other–than–human animals continues to inspire people.
Kheel's articles have been translated into multiple languages and have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her groundbreaking 1985 article "The Liberation of Nature: A Circular Affair" offered the first feminist critique of environmental ethics. Originally published in Environmental Ethics, the article has been widely cited and republished in several edited volumes. Along with many of her other articles, this essay has been required reading in numerous college courses. It also laid the foundation for the future focus of her work at the juncture between animal advocacy and environmental ethics.
Kheel's 1989 article "From Healing Herbs to Deadly Drugs: Western Medicine's War Against the Natural World" provided the major inspiration for a historic lawsuit filed by University of Toronto professor Franklin D. Tall against the Canadian government. Kheel provided expert–witness testimony in the suit, which charged the government with religious–based discrimination against holistic forms of healing.
Over the years, Kheel's primary goal was to develop an ecofeminist holistic philosophy that could bridge the seemingly disparate movements and philosophies of feminism, animal advocacy, and environmental ethics. Drawing on the model of holistic health, Kheel believed that ecofeminism offers the possibility of a genuinely holistic way of perceiving the world. By shedding light on the root causes of social problems, ecofeminism can help us to deepen our capacity for empathy for all living beings, thereby helping to bring about a world of peace and respect for all living beings.
Kheel received her doctorate in religious studies from the Graduate Theological Union. In 2008, her book Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective was published by Rowman & Littlefield. She was a visiting scholar at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), University of California, Berkeley.