Rhetorical Analysis: Watson and Rifkin

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Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist, writer and public speaker, is founder and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET). In his article, “A Change of Heart about Animals,” published in the Los Angeles Times (2003), suggests that animals are more like humans in the sense that they are capable of feeling emotions as well as comprehending concepts much like we’ve never expected. He supports his claim by providing a series of statistics, facts and rhetorical questions, all of which have a strong appeal directly to logos and indirectly to pathos.

Also, Paul Watson, in his essay “Loving Nature with a Gun,” (2006) addresses the topic of animal treatment. The Canadian animal rights and environmental activist and former Sierra Club National Director aggressively argue that the Sierra Club, an animal and environmentalist organization, is portraying an inappropriate and hypocritical image of the corporation. Watson relies on a strong appeal to pathos in the form of personal opinion as well as logos presented as statistics to support his main claim. Both Rifkin and Watson address the topic of animal treatment. Rifkin and Watson both use pathos and logos to support their claims however, they do so in contrasting ways. In my rhetorical analysis of the essay’s I will examine these strategies in both texts, make connections between the two works, and I will show how Rifkin’s essay clarifies Watson’s and was ultimately more effective. First I will talk about a very important term in Rhetoric, the logos appeal. Logos, which is the appeal to logics, provides hard to debate and solid evidence. Although it is present in both the authors’ essays, it is more frequently addressed in Rifkin’s piece. For example, the author states, “Studies on pigs’ social behavior funded by McDonald’s at Purdue University have found that they crave attention and are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime with each other. The lack of mental and physical stimuli can result in deterioration of health.” (Rifkin 16) In this particular statistic Rifkin is suggesting that animals may have more emotions than most people might know of that could just as well play onto the overall health of the animal. The author uses many examples that reference a credible source such as The European Union, the German Government, the journal Science, Harvard and 25 other U.S. law schools as well as Purdue University in this case. Citing a second source from a prestigious university such as Purdue adds credibility to his argument and informs the audience of further research found in support of his claims. On the other hand, Watson uses logos not to inform the audience like Rifkin does but to attack the Sierra Club. He states, “I wonder how many Sierra Club members realize that the club is offering a grand prize of an all expense paid trip for two to the Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge. The value of the prize is $12,200… I notice this sick little excursion was never brought to the Board of Directors for approval.” (Watson 13) Here Watson’s use of logos references himself for credibility, as he is part of the Board of Directors. He wants to expose this non-profit organization to the public on what it is actually doing with donated funds, especially since it contradicts the purpose of the corporation.

Following this further, it is clear Rifkin’s examples of logos provided him with more credibility than that of Watson because he took it to the next level by referencing a second and well-known source. Whereas, Watson’s essay only offered himself for his only source as evidence which came off slightly opinionated. Watson may have had bias remarks to aid in his appeal to logos but when incorporated into his argument it made the author’s pathos appeal undeniable.

Pathos is the appeal to emotions. Watson relies on this strategy far more than any other found in his essay. He uses vulgar language when expressing his disgust toward animal cruelty such...
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