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Bats and cosmopolitics
The cosmopolitical proposal: Isabelle Stengers
How can I present a proposal intended not to say what is, or what ought to be, but to provoke thought; one that requires no other verification than the way in which it is able to “slow down” reasoning and create an opportunity to arouse a slightly different awareness of the problems and situations mobilizing us? How can this proposal be distinguished from issues of authority and generality currently articulated to the notion of “theory”? This question is particularly important since the “cosmopolitical” proposal, as I intend to characterize it, is not designed primarily for “generalists”; it has meaning only in concrete situations where practitioners operate. It furthermore requires practitioners who – and this is a political problem, not a cosmopolitical one – have learned to shrug their shoulders at the claims of generalizing theoreticians that define them as subordinates charged with the task of “applying” a theory or that capture their practice as an illustration of a theory.
In the term cosmopolitical, cosmos refers to the unknown constituted by these multiple, divergent worlds, and to the articulations of which they could eventually be capable, as opposed to the temptation of a peace intended to be final, ecumenical: a transcendent peace with the power to ask anything that diverges to recognize itself as a purely individual expression of what constitutes the point of convergence of all.
The cosmopolitical proposal therefore has nothing to do with a program and far more to do with a passing fright that scares self-assurance, however justified.
Organisms and ecosystems
‘Human ecologist Alf Hornborg (2001) reflects on this vision: Each organism and species exists by virtue of its capacity to perceive and interpret the world around it. An ecosystem is not a machine, where the various components mindlessly fulfill their functions as a reflection of the external mind of the engineer. Ecosystems are incredibly complex articulations of innumerable, sentient subjects, engaging each other through the lenses of their own subjective worlds’. (p. 125)
Cosmopolitics: An Ongoing Question Paper delivered at The Center for Process Studies, Claremont, CA Political Theory and Entanglement: Politics at the Overlap of Race, Class, and Gender October 25, 2013 Adam Robbert and Sam Micke
Cosmopolitics and bats: the players
Bats as pests in the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden
In downtown Sydney, just behind the iconic Opera House, lies the Royal Botanic Garden, 75 acres of flowers, trees and grassy areas first established in 1816 on the site of Australia’s first farm, Farm Cove. The gardens are a place for tourists and the people of Sydney to explore and enjoy, and they’re also a site for conservation research. Because this is one of the biggest green spaces in the city, the gardens are home to plenty of wildlife, including flocks of cockatoos and bats with wingspans a yard wide.
While the cockatoos can be annoying (especially if you’re stupid enough to feed them), the bats—called grey-headed flying foxes—have become a real problem, at least in the eyes of garden management. These mammals are herbivores and leave the human visitors largely alone (though they can at times be incredibly creepy). However, they damage the garden because they defoliate trees. In the more than 20 years since the bats took up residence in the gardens, they’ve killed 28 mature trees, 30 palms and many other plants and damaged another 300. Most worrisome, they settled in the Palm Grove, site of many of the oldest trees in the garden, including historic, exotic species collected from places such as Malaysia and New Guinea. So several years ago the management of the garden decided that the flying foxes had to go.
Bats as pests in the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden
But was the removal of the flying foxes from the Sydney gardens really necessary? When I first heard of this plan, shortly before my latest trip to Sydney in March, I was sad to hear that the bats would soon be gone. They were one of my favorite memories from my first trip there—looking up on a beautiful fall day to see hundreds of these little Draculas hanging above me. While I was in Sydney this year, I met with Tim Cary, a bat researcher at Macquarie University. He made a good case for why stressing out these animals was akin to torture and contended that the plan was doomed to fail. (Cary suggested tenting the Palm Grove with netting to keep the bats out.)
I also met with Mark Salvio, director of the Royal Botanic Garden, and we spoke at length about the level of destruction, the plans to get rid of the flying foxes and the levels of review and restructuring that the plans had gone through over the years. This isn’t something that is being done without any consideration for the consequences to the grey-headed flying fox species. And as much as I enjoyed the bats during my visits, I could understand that the Garden had placed its foliage as a higher priority–that’s why it exists, to preserve the gardens and their history. (After all, I doubt that the Smithsonian Institution would let its collections be destroyed by, say, insects in the warehouse, even if those insects were an endangered species.)
Did Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden make the right choice? Is stressing the bats a truly horrible thing to do? Will it even work?
Who is involved in the Garden?
Writer in above slide
Visitors-picnics, runners, walkers, parents and children, babies, office workers
Admin and on ground staff
Cars, workers in carts and buses driving around the Garden
The meaning of the simple phrase “cosmopolitics” seems almost self evident: Cosmopolitics refers to the politics of the cosmos. But this definition begs further investigation—for what kind of “cosmos” has a “politics”? These two terms, distinct in everyday language, need to be brought together. But how?
Cosmos in this context designates the multitude of beings—human and nonhuman, living and nonliving—that together construct reality and form a collective society—a society that has always included the nonhuman despite frequent attempts to see things otherwise. Cosmos becomes attached to politics by means of the many associations continually forged and broken between humans and nonhumans. The cosmos in this sense is itself a historical being not juxtaposed to the history of human beings
Cosmopolitics: An Ongoing Question Paper delivered at The Center for Process Studies, Claremont, CA Political Theory and Entanglement: Politics at the Overlap of Race, Class, and Gender October 25, 2013 Adam Robbert and Sam Mickey
Cosmopolitics as an integrative practice
If the political cosmos means anything it means the ecology of everything, human and nonhuman. In this sense cosmopolitics emerges as an integrative practice for navigating today’s fractured landscape of knowledge (Stengers, 2010, p. vii). For Isabelle Stengers this fracture refers to the fissure between facts and values, subjects and objects, nature and society, time and history, or world and representation. This fissure—a bifurcation of nature if there ever was one—places us in a bind because the task of political ecology demands that we think facts and values together; however, the bifurcation leaves us unable to bridge the gap that would allow us to see facts and values as two sides of the same integral ontology. It is as though the domains of aesthetics, values, and subjects belong to a different universe from facts, objects, and data, forever irreconcilable.
Multiplicity of associations
In the bifurcated view, subjects and objects form two separate spheres of reality whilst at the same time colliding everywhere. Cosmopolitics suggests a unique practice of relating to these bifurcations: acknowledging our participation in multiple, irreducible worlds—not just at the level of knowledge and concepts (epistemological pluralism) but at the level of being itself (ontological pluralism). Such pluralism indicates the pervasive influence of Whitehead (1978) on cosmopolitics, as it echoes his “ontological principle”—that is, the reason for anything is always one or more actual entities. Thus instead of spatializing reality by positing two separate containers—one called nature and one called society—cosmopolitics suggests that there are as many modes of reality as there are entities. The task is to trace the multiplicity of associations between entities as they participate in a common, ecological collective—where nonhumans also have a voice in society—rather than to deliberate between the vacuous abstractions of nature and culture.
Ontology of knowledge
By suggesting an ontological pluralism, cosmopolitics renders an account without a giant gap between two separate spheres (Nature and Society), and instead navigates a terrain filled with innumerable tiny gaps and crossings between beings. Without reifying the knowledge-world gap, cosmopolitics nevertheless sees the gap between knowledge and being as indicative of a problem of relations in general. In Latour’s (1999) words, “the immense abyss separating words and things can be found everywhere,” (p. 51). The shift from one enormous gap to countless tiny ones is significant: By not having to cross a huge gap between worlds cosmopolitics returns us to the wild diversity of things themselves without appeal to subject-object, nature-culture dichotomies. Here “the fragile gulf of reference” Latour (2004, p. 85) warns puts so much pressure on language to represent an entire world does not disappear entirely, but becomes only one of many links that mobilizes the collective in certain ways. Thus, rather than thinking of knowledge exclusively as a tool for epistemic inquiry, cosmopolitics describes the ontology of knowledge by approaching knowledge as one of the many links that creates associations between beings, instead of as a unique mode responsible for representing all of them.
. For Stengers and Whitehead the relationship between laws and phenomena is complex: laws are not external or unified containers acting from outside, below, or beyond the level of phenomena; rather, they are powers that emerge from within the qualities and interactions of phenomena themselves. Thus instead of trying to anoint an absolute sovereign from which a feudal hierarchy of knowledge can be built, cosmopolitics suggests a different, more democratic, way forward: Cosmopolitics approaches each territory of entities as populated by distinct possibilities, qualities, and obligations. Each territory produces its own “habits” or “customs” that take the shape of immanent laws influencing the behavior of individuals. To put it in Whitehead’s (1978) words, “We find ourselves in a buzzing world, amid a democracy of fellow creatures” (p. 50). But how do we approach these distinct territories in a way that integrates their respective values without assimilating them, including them without enclosing them? Cosmopolitics offers us a series of practices and concepts to help orient us towards this diversity
Ecology of Practices
A key concept addressing the dynamic between constraints and obligations is the ecology of practices. “Ecology” in this context refers to the study of the complex and uncertain interactions between more than just organisms and environments but, more generally, between any beings, and where interactions are never merely material but always involve value and the production of meaning. Thus ecology is, to quote 4 Stengers (2010), “the science of multiplicities, disparate causalities, and unintentional creation of meaning” (p. 34). By linking ecology to causality itself, cosmopolitics takes a much broader, metaphysical approach to ecological relations than is considered in the regular, scientific use of the term. The cosmos from this view is itself an ecology of interacting beings, ideas, practices, and technologies. “Practices” here refer to ways of cultivating new relations between human and nonhuman members of a community, as opposed to methods for representing or accessing an external, unified world
Knowledge as a link
Knowledge, from this view, is not what is achieved when researchers are able to detach from the worlds they study like disinterested observers; rather, knowledge is a powerful link between researchers and the subjects of research. Knowledge attaches and entangles rather than clarifies and separates; it multiplies relations between beings, and foregrounds the way concepts and ideas capture researchers just as much as it is researchers who produce concepts and ideas.
If we take seriously the insights of cognitive ethology, we find a new view of the ecosystem as a whole that any practice of cosmopolitics must take seriously: All organisms from bacteria to mammals, to divergent extents and degrees, possess some level of mind or sentience. Human ecologist Alf Hornborg (2001) reflects on this vision: Each organism and species exists by virtue of its capacity to perceive and interpret the world around it. An ecosystem is not a machine, where the various components mindlessly fulfill their functions as a reflection of the external mind of the engineer. Ecosystems are incredibly complex articulations of innumerable, sentient subjects, engaging each other through the lenses of their own subjective worlds. (p. 125) Multispecies cosmopolitics does not just recognize the multiple universes of value activated by different human practices, but also recognizes those universes of value that belong to the entangled worlds of nonhuman specie
What cosmopolitics tries to describe is that ecologies are irreducibly complex societies of value-emitting organisms, technologies, and abiotic beings that are also centers of valuation. Technologies, no less than organic species, generate their own systems of values, constraints, and obligations that need tending to. Technologies, 6 not unlike living beings, are never value-neutral, tools empty of their own content or characteristics. Technologies of all kinds—no matter what their use—are dynamic and lively agencies, bringing forth a series of unpredictable constraints, requirements, and possibilities that cannot be theorized in terms of their human usefulness alone. Here our comprehension of and responses to ecological phenomena are not determined from on high by detached observers, but emerge in the act of companioning with as many species as possible—participating in the materialsemiotic networks of all the beings involved in the situation, human and nonhuman, corporeal and incorporeal, natural and artificial, familiar and uncanny
Finally, cosmopolitics also honors the unique role played the ecology of ideas and knowledge. Stengers (2013) in particular juxtaposes the “knowledge ecology” to the “knowledge economy” to foreground the power knowledges—including concepts and fictions—have in shaping humans and human practices, as well as the effects these practices have on nonhuman communities. The idea expressed here is that, much like the ecology of practices refers to the way in which different activities fold back to encourage certain identities, thoughts, ideas, and knowledges are also “captured” by one another, exerting influence on each other and upon the psyches that deploy them. The Earth is wrapped in a writhing ecology of ideas and concepts; we are captured by ideas just as we capture them. The central claim is that ideas, to quote Haraway (2008), are “themselves technologies for pursuing inquiries. It’s not just that ideas are embedded in practices; they are technical practices of situated kinds” (p. 282).
Animal Advocacy, Feminism and Intersectionality
Maneesha Deckha *
Abstract: The gendered and intersectional dimensions of the animal advocacy movement provide an important reason for “the animal question” to be embraced as a feminist issue and, concomitantly, for feminists to consider animal identity and human privilege as acceptable elements of an intersectional analysis. I argue that the animal advocacy movement should be regarded as a women’s movement as it gives rise to gendered, class, and racialised practices that impact the lives and experiences of its disproportionately female membership. Accordingly, the animal advocacy movement, including its central attention to species difference, should be of feminist and intersectional concern. Thus, the goals that the movement aims to advance should be understood as feminist issues not just because of the links between the oppression of marginalized humans and animals that existing animal theory has already demonstrated, but also because the majority of animal advocates are women whose experiences with animal advocacy is adversely inflected by gendering and other differentiating dynamics and processes. After arguing for this association of the animal advocacy movement as a women’s movement, I revisit some of the current internal debates within intersectional theory about is proper parameters. I do so to explain why concerns advanced in these debates do not foreclose the consideration of species difference as one of the sites/axes/grounds of difference to which intersectionalists should attend.
Intersectionality is a theory and methodology that instructs its adherents to examine the mutually generative and integrative nature of social identities as well as the power relations and the structures and hierarchies of difference to which they give rise. It signals a commitment to integrative analyses that assume that social forces that construct difference come into being through each other and it resists unidimensional analyses that study identities and difference-based oppressions in isolation or to the exclusion of each other (Hancock 2007). Sirma Bilge (2010) notes how intersectionality as academics have practised it thus far operates on two * Maneesha Deckha is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include critical animal studies, postcolonial feminist theory, health law and bioethics. Her work has
appeared in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Ethics & the Environment, the Harvard Journal of Gender and Law, the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, the Medical Law Review, and
Sexualities among other publications. She has received grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2008 she held the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Law and Society at New York University.
ISSN 1824 – 4483
levels: the macrosociological level regarding multiple systems of power and oppression and the microsociological level regarding the effects on individual lives. Although some scholars have criticised intersectionality literature as too focused on one of the levels at the expense of the other, the theory in general has enjoyed widespread support. Most scholars working in the area of feminist studies embrace the notion of intersectionality in the area of feminist studies as important to understanding gendering processes and the lives of women (Yuval-Davis 2006, Bedolla 2007). As a concept, intersectionality currently enjoys a global and interdisciplinary academic reach (Nash 2011, Choo 2012). Indeed, some suggest that intersectionality has now attained the status of a “buzzword” for scholars to use to indicate a stance that involves recognizing multiple and intersecting markers of identity, as opposed to an additive approach, while leaving space for what this recognition entails (Davis 2008, p. 68, 75, 77-79).
Intersectionality’s open-endedness also generates breadth in the theory’s attention to differences. Some scholars suggest that intersectionality does not have to focus on particular modalities of difference, but rather can be broadly applied to understand society (Hancock 2007, Dhamoon 2010). Where the dynamics of specific differences are the focus, breadth is also apparent in the selection of differences that have been analyzed. Although the analytical focus tends to coalesce on the “race-class-gender trinity (Hancock 2004, p. 234)” studies have also included other categories such as sexual identity and nationality by focussing on transgendered identities and migrants (Hines 2010, Bürkner 2011). As Paul Scheibelhofer and Vince Marotta (2012, p.8) discuss, some scholars have defended this trinity as especially important while others argue that these three categories should operate as a baseline into which other markers of difference should be integrated given the particular project at issue.
This internal discussion on which differences should constitute the theory’s focus demonstrate its maturity as a theory. It is now sufficiently secure in its academic stature and expansive reach that theorists committed to it are comfortable identifying flaws and engaging in debates about its shortcomings. Other debates also circulate and concern further issues about how to conceptualize intersectionality and define its parameters; they address the scope of the theory and its methodology as well as the ways in which scholarship on intersectionality is or should be mobilized for political purposes (Bilge 2010; Dhamoon 2010; Walby, Armstrong and Strid 2012). These debates reflect a difference in comfort level with intersectionality’s conceptual open-endededness (Davis 2008). Some argue that it is this very ambiguity that has led intersectionality to be successful and embraced as a central component of feminist scholarship (Choo and Ferree 2010). While intersectionality’s unspecified boundaries may be one of its attractive qualities, it has also generated calls for further definition regarding what intersectionality is and how it should be conceptualized and applied to global contexts (Scheilbelhofer and Marotta 2010). Within these interrogations, determining the role of categories and the end intersectionality should serve are all questions on which many scholars seek further certainty.
Yet, despite all of these internal debates about intersectionality’s purpose, one boundary has remained certain: the anthropocentric focus of even recent literature in this area. Within the debate about proper parameters and conceptual scope, the focus on human lives is uncontested. While important self-reflection has occurred among intersectional theorists about the theory’s limits, discussion has not yet encompassed considerations of human species privilege or the oppression of animals. This general failure to focus on nonhuman lives and integrate species as a site of difference, identity, privilege, and oppression into the intersectional mix is interesting given the rise of posthumanist studies in academia (Castricano 2008; Oliver 2009; Wolfe, 2010; Pedersen 2012). However, the non-interrogation of species difference is particularly interesting considering the theory’s essential commitment to recognizing unexcavated, underappreciated, and marginalized differences and identities. It is striking that a theory whose signature trait is encouraging consciousness of how lives are mediated by multiple axes of difference and dominance, has not incorporated species difference into its fold or extended its horizon past human lives even though its open-endedness would facilitate that inclusion.
Elsewhere, I have addressed how the integration of species identity and animal issues into intersectionality is an extension that is acutely compatible with intersectionality’s main tenets and underlying theoretical orientation (Deckha 2008). I have also explained how many issues identified as women’s issues, and thus quickly accepted by feminists as normalized areas of feminist study, also involve animal/species dimensions and implicate posthumanist concerns about power and justice. Conversely, I have discussed how those issues seen as “animal rights” issues also intensely relate to issues of race, gender, ethnicity and class that normally capture feminist attention (Deckha 2006). These are three ways in which posthumanist analyses can properly reside within intersectionality and enrich its contributions to theorizing injustice.
Here, I want to develop a further reason for feminists to consider animals as “natural” objects of “feminist concerns” by focussing on the social movement of animal advocacy. The gendered and intersectional dimensions of the animal advocacy movement (broadly defined here to include welfarist and abolitionist activism)1 in economically affluent geopolitical spaces establish yet another link for “the animal question” to be embraced as a feminist issue and, concomitantly, for feminists to consider animal identity and human privilege as acceptable elements of an intersectional analysis. Particularly, I argue that the animal advocacy movement should be regarded as a women’s movement as it gives rise to gendered, class, and racialised practices that impact the lives and experiences of its primarily female membership. Accordingly, the animal advocacy movement, including its central attention to species difference, should be of feminist and intersectional concern. Thus, the goals that the movement aims to advance (better regulation or abolition of factory farming, animal research, use of animals for 1 Animal advocates and scholars disagree about the legitimacy of welfare initiatives (those activities that try to reduce animals’ suffering but not end the industry in which they are being exploited) as a meaningful route to address animal suffering (See Francione and Garner 2010). My use of the term animal advocacy encompasses welfare initiatives not to signal the endorsement of these initiatives, but to include them for the concern about animals and the work of women movement participants they represent – both of which I argue deserve greater recognition by feminist intersectionalists.
entertainment, etc.) should be understood as feminist issues not just because of the links between the oppression of marginalized humans and animals that existing animal theory has already demonstrated, but also because the majority of animal advocates are women whose experiences with animal advocacy is adversely inflected by gendering and other differentiating dynamics and processes.
After arguing for this association of the animal advocacy movement as a women’s movement, I want to revisit some of the current internal debates within intersectional theory canvassed above. I do so to explain why concerns advanced in these debates do not foreclose the consideration of species difference as one of the sites/axes/grounds of difference to which intersectionalists should attend. That is to say, current concerns expressed by intersectionalists regarding the scope of intersectionality should not act as a bar to including species difference as an acceptable and routine ground within intersectionality theorizing and politics. As this Part will reveal, there is no theoretical impediment for feminists to take up the animal question and engage with animality and species differentiation as part of a feminist intersectional analysis. While, of course, conflicts may arise between how to proceed on any specific issue (as they do in current intersectional situations where multiple difference-based interests may be at stake), there is no general drawback to intersectionality’s stated goals to view the animal advocacy movement as a women’s movement giving rise to feminist intersectional issues.
To recap, I thus have two central and related arguments: 1. the animal advocacy movement is a women’s movement (and, thus, this is a further reason that intersectionality should incorporate species as an axis of difference as part of its theoretical model); and 2. there is no substantive barrier preventing the adoption of species difference into feminist intersectional understanding of social issues, which, in turn, enables the recognition of the animal issues as feminist ones. With this in mind, in Part I, I will first briefly explore what are considered typical women’s issues and then go on to articulate how the animal advocacy movement is gendered and intersectional. In Part II, I will explain why the internal debates within intersectionality pose no theoretical impediment to the inclusion of species as a recognized axis of difference. As such, feminist intersectional praxis is not imperiled by the recognition of the animal advocacy movement (hereafter animal movement) as a feminist movement or of the issues it champions to end animal suffering as, broadly speaking, feminist ones.
Part I. The Animal Movement as a Women’s Movement
A sampling of the gender, race, and class issues prominent within the animal movement helps to educe the movement’s qualification as a women’s movement. Various academic scholarship has already illuminated the significant links between oppressions of animals and marginalized human groups, such as women (Adams 1990, 2003; Gaard 1993; Adams and Donovan 1995; Donovan and Adams 2000, 2007; Donovan 2006; Gruen 2008; Kheel 2008; Oliver 2009). How these intersectional issues circulate within the animal movement provide another reason the mainstream feminist humanist community should view animal issues as feminist issues and animal advocacy as a women’s movement. However, before delving into this feminist and intersectional reading of the animal movement as a women’s movement, it is useful to consider the types of issues that have been embraced as typical women’s issues.
a. Typical Women’s Issues
While there is disagreement over what exactly qualifies as a women’s issue or women’s interest (Molyneux 1998), a perusal of academic texts introducing students to women’s studies reveals the repetition of certain standard subjects as women’s issues (Mazur 2002; Grewal and Kaplan 2006). In her paper on why bankruptcy should be considered a women’s issues, Elizabeth Warren (2002) outlines two categories of what gets labelled as typical women’s issues: 1. physical differences between sexes, such as abortion and birth control, and 2. issues related to sexual violence and care work. Along these lines, Maxine Molyneux (1998) makes the distinction between practical and strategic interests. The former are centred on the satisfaction of needs arising from women’s societal placements, whereas the latter are claims to transform social relations and enhance women’s positions within society. Molyneux (1998, p. 233) notes that the “formulation of interests, whether strategic or practical, is to some degree reliant on discursive elements, and is always linked to identity formation”. Pressing a similar point, a number of scholars have advocated for the extension of the boundaries of women’s issues beyond the “typical” ones of abortion, sexual assault, domestic violence, childcare, and others (Finley 1989; Kim 2009, Saguy 2012). Moreover, attention has shifted to conceptualizing women’s interests as gendered interests, a move meant to signal recognition of a fluid, historically contingent and socially constructed concept of women’s interests, as well as an interest in recognizing women’s efforts to address multiple systems of social injustice (capitalism, globalization, racism, etc.) as part of a feminist agenda (Molyneux 1998; Maddison 2004; Vincent, 2010).
While these articles attempt to significantly extend what is conventionally defined as a women’s issue, they retain humanist parameters to the exclusion of nonhuman animals. The plight of female nonhumans and their oppressions are cast as disconnected to women’s issues. Furthermore, and the point I which to emphasize here, the typical women’s issues do not incorporate the women within the animal rights movement. These women face gendered and intersectional issues that should be recognized as women’s issues such that their experiences and aims as a movement should qualify the animal movement as a women’s movement.
b. Animal Movement is Gendered and Intersectional
The animal movement is gendered and intersectional in a number of ways. First, participation in the movement is gendered with women making up the vast majority of activists. Second, women’s experiences within the movement reflect gendered and intersectional issues.
I. Gendered Participation
Women have historically and continue to participate in disproportionately higher numbers than men in various forms of animal advocacy (Herzog and Golden 2009; Gaarder 2011). Emily Gaarder in her book, Women and the Animal Rights Movement (2011), cites a number of academic studies from the United States that show women outnumbering men among activists engaged in the animal rights movement; these studies indicate participating rates ranging from 68% to 80%. This is reflective of the historical prominence of women in the most prominent early British animal protection organizations where they made up 70% to 75% of participants. Another example illustrating women’s dominance in the movement is that 78% of subscribers to The Animal Agenda, an animal advocacy news magazine in circulation for the past 25 years, are women (Herzog 2007). This disproportionate participation of women is also reflected in attitude surveys about animal issues indicating that women are more supportive of animal movement causes across a range of cultural contexts (Herzog, Betchart and Pitmann 1991; Galvin and Herzog 1992; Kendall, Lobao and Sharpe 2006; Herzog and Golden, 2009; Phillips et al., 2011).
II. Gendered and Intersectional Issues that Women Face While women dominate in animal movements across the world, they still encounter gendered experiences in the movement, which, are further complicated by class and race dimensions. These issues are present within the movement, how the movement is received, and in the rational-emotional dichotomy that undergirds women’s participation.
Within the Movement The gendered division within the movement is publicly reflected in the fact that the leadership and well-known figures within the movement tend to be men, even though women clearly represent the majority of the movement. Herzog (2007) captures this pattern by highlighting that 60% of the authors reviewed in The Animal Agenda are men and 60% of the activists profiled were men. Furthermore, he cites how 65% of the intellectual and political leaders written about in Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement were men. While Lyle Munro (2001) affirms that there has been a gradual shift towards more women leaders in the movement, they continue to be underrepresented compared to their numbers. Interestingly, Herzog notes that organizations focused on animal rights are more likely to be led by women than those with an animal welfare or shelter orientation, which he suggests may reflect different financial resources. This potentially reflects another gendered element, in that women reach leadership positions in organizations that tend to have fewer financial resources and less influence as a result.
While the numbers represent an obvious gendered division of labour, the differential values associated with the work that women and men do further enforces this division. Gaarder’s study (2011) demonstrates how women manage day-to-day tasks, while men perform acts that get labelled as “heroic”. In particular, men do the more confrontational and often illegal activities that capture attention and establish reputations. In this way, women’s labour and roles within the movement tend to be marginalized. Women face traditional sexist attitudes again in the advertising campaigns employed by certain factions of the movement, which employs sexist imagery to create sensationalist advertisements in the hopes of raising awareness. It is, however, difficult for women to complain about these issues for fear of risking the movement’s reputation and focus. For example, Gaarder notes how challenges to masculinist leadership positions are shut down for fear of detracting from the goals of advocating animal rights. Women who wish to illuminate the sexual harassment by men in the movement to receive the same dismissive response, being told that they are raising a “human concern,” which detracts from the animal movement (Gaarder 2011, p. 100). Those who wish to stand against various forms of oppression along with speciesism are also marginalized.
Reception Outside of the Movement
In addition to the gendered and intersectional issues within the movement, there are a number of these issues present in how the movement is received more broadly. These revolve around the credibility and legitimacy of the movement. The following aspects of the movement’s public status illustrate its gendered and otherwise differentiated dynamics: 1. how activists and the movement are stigmatized, 2. the gendered significations and public expectations of the movement, and 3. how women animal movement participants themselves understand the movement’s legitimacy.
Stigmatization of Activists and the Movement
The stigmatization of the animal movement is widespread (Sorenson 2009, 2011). A significant generator of the stigma applied to animal advocacy occurs through identitarian claims whereby activists are depicted as lacking credibility because of their social status in society. Rachel Einwohner (1999) documents, for example, how hunters dismiss activists as ill-informed about hunting because of their (higher) class and (feminine) gender. As Gaarder notes (2011), at times, negative responses to activists can rise to the level of overtly discriminatory (sexist, racist and homophobic) remarks. Calls for the adoption of animal-free diets have also been met by vigorous critiques about the race and class privilege of activists advocating for vegan and vegetarian diets (Bailey 2007). Indeed, where a advocacy for a particular animal-free practice such as veganism is perceived (rightly or wrongly) by the mainstream animal-eating public to be aligned or associated with an elite racial, culture and/or class group, those activists who are from non-elite race, cultural and/or class groups can face a certain degree of exclusion from these identity groups to which they otherwise belong. To illustrate, Gaarder (2011, p. 72) cites the case of a Mexican-American woman who is labelled as giving up her cultural identity and becoming “whitened” for her involvement in the animal rights movement. She also cites an example of a lesbian woman being told her involvement in the animal rights movement “would give gays and lesbians a bad name”. These experiences of stigmatization reflect intersecting discrimination.
Gendered Significations and Expectations of the Movement
In addition to the stigmatization of activists and the movement, there are gendered expectations from outside the movement regarding women’s roles and their proclivity to take up animal work and ethical living in relation to animals that shape women activists’ experiences in the animal movement. For example, Einwohner’s study (1999) shows how circus patrons confronted by animal rights activists associated compassion and nurturing aspects with the women activists. Moreover, women in Gaarder’s study (2011) indicated that it appeared easier for them to choose ethical diets because of larger social gendered expectations disciplining women to control and limit their diets to conform to body image ideals for women to which they were habituated.
Here, it is instructive to recall how closely meat eating is associated with power and both mirrors and advances patriarchal values in western societies (Adams 1990). Traditional notions of dominant femininity thus affect the mainstream public’s comprehension of why individuals would choose to advocate for animals against conventional practices as well as how activist women understand their own animal activism.
These gendered expectations of women within the movement draw from problematic naturalized idealizations of women with affective labour and docile, diminishing bodies. Moreover, they affect how women within the movement assess their own (impaired) credibility as advocates and contextualize their strategically formed views that the movement would benefit from increasing the participation of men (Gaarder 2011). Such strategies, however necessary, exemplify the continued marginalization of women due to the tightly gendered significations of animal advocacy.
These conceptualizations of credibility belie the rational-emotional dichotomy that pervades the discourses surrounding the animal advocacy movement and is, perhaps, its most unshakeable association. Under Cartesian dualistic thinking, notions of rationality, reason, and who in society possessed the ability to reason, were prime rationales to exclude whole categories of humans and nonhumans from moral and legal personhood. The residual legacy of the Cartesian premium on reason and corresponding abjection of its understood opposite – emotion – continues to taint those humans and nonhumans who are associated more strongly with emotion than (if, at all) with reason. This residual effect on affect is apparent in the image the animal movement seeks to project in the public sphere.
Gaarder (2011) notes how the initial impetus for all the women in her study to join the movement was an affective/emotional one, followed by a process of learning and reading more tightly connected to reason only later. Yet, while the women’s reasons for joining the movement were based on affective responses to animal suffering, once in the movement, they nonetheless attested to a need to employ intellectual and scientific arguments to convince the public of the legitimacy of their claims. To fortify the association of their cause with reason and rationality, animal organizations often chose (white, educated) men to speak for the group. Moreover, Sorenson (2010) discusses how exploitation of animals associated with minoritised racialised cultures have received disproportionate attention within mainstream media even when they are not much different in terms of the pain and suffering involved from mainstream methods of exploiting animals.
These examples illustrates how the traditional disparaged association of women and racialised others with emotions, along with the concomitant privileged association of white men from a certain class with reason, shapes the public messaging of the movement in terms of who serves as its spokespersons and which causes receive favourable attention in the public sphere. The rational-emotional dichotomy plays a significant role in creating and perpetuating the influence of multiple axes of difference within the animal movement.
The purpose of this brief snapshot of the types of issues women participants grapple with in the animal movement demonstrates the gendered and intersectional dimensions integral to it. These dimensions confirm why the animal movement should be recognized as a feminist movement in addition to the fact that women disproportionately populate the movement’s rank and file. While further intersectional scholarship and incorporation of intersectional oppressions within the politics of the movement would be valuable to more fully address the power differences shaping the movement, the gendered and intersectional issues that are already apparent provide sufficient reason for feminists to consider the animal movement as an intersectional women’s movement worthy of feminist support. The next section considers whether any reasons exist given recent debates in intersectional theory that should bar this consideration.
Part II. Species as an Axis of Difference within Intersectionality
While intersectionality is unique in its open-ended approach to which differences matter, there is relatively little written on species as a critical social differentiator. Indeed, a presumptive norm of the literature is anthropocentrism. As I argue in this section, this ongoing paradoxical exclusion of the nonhuman is not necessary to the goals of intersectionality and can, instead, undermine them. I return to several major recent internal debates within intersectionality introduced earlier to outline some of the theory’s most pressing current concerns and show how none pose barriers for an intersectional analysis to move beyond its human limit and transcend the systemic species boundary intersectionality has so far maintained. A path is thus clear to consider the animal movement, and its concern about animals’ lives, as a feminist movement.
a. Recent Debates within Intersectional Literature
There are multiple, recent points of debate concerning intersectionality (Garry 2011). Here, I focus on three that engage the proper parameters of the theory. In particular, it is not clear whether intersectionality is a theory, a concept, a heuristic device, or a reading strategy for doing feminist analysis; it has been used in all of these ways (Davis 2008). This ambiguity regarding what intersectionality is has stimulated specific debates about the following: what imagery should be employed to conceptualize intersectionality; the role of categories; and whether a specific marker of difference should be central to an intersectional analysis. Each debate is discussed below.
First, agreement on the best image to illustrate intersectionality has proven elusive. The first conceptualization in the literature that Kimberlé Crenshaw (1988) presented was a traffic metaphor of roads intersecting. Nira Yuval-Davis (2007) argues that this crossroads imagery is inherently additive and fails to capture how interacting identities are inseparable and mutually reinforcing. Along similar lines, Julia Jordan-Zachery (2007, pp. 260-261) argues that the conceptualization of intersectionality as “interlocking” oppressions implies that the systems can be disentangled, which fails to recognize that they are enmeshed and intertwined. On the other hand, as Dhamoon (2010) discusses, other scholars prefer the “interlocking” model as it recognizes how systems of oppression are locked together in various forms of hierarchical ordering. Some scholars have criticized this range of theoretical variation, worrying that it precludes a standard methodological approach to researching intersectionality. Others argue that there is no need for a single, universally agreed upon concept and that the focus should be on an awareness of the critical capacity of the chosen concepts and openness to changing these models as theories develop (Garry 2011).
The different models for conceptualizing intersectionality reflect a second element of the debate, which involves the critical role of categories (Hancock 2010, Garry 2011). Some scholars have argued that the categories of difference around which the theory revolves reproduce the very essentialisms that intersectionality seeks to redress. Instead of being viewed as dynamic processes, they come across as relatively fixed categories. Richard Delgado (2011) indicates that this may be inherent to intersectionality, suggesting that it presupposes essentialism largely because of its focus on categories of difference. On the other hand, Jennifer Nash (2008) views categories as more of a problem of academic practice rather than inherent to intersectionality as a concept. She argues that the way scholars perform intersectionality research tends to apply additive approaches that produce essentialised categories, but that this approach can be revised. Dhamoon (2010, p. 233) also recognizes the essentialising effect of categories in noting how an intersectional analysis “can end up reiterating the very norms it aims to challenge”. She argues that a focus on processes and systems instead of individuals and groups can help avoid this situation. Echoing this sentiment, Lisa García Bedolla (2007) argues that models of intersectionality need to be mindful of essentialising the very categories that are being challenged.
In addition to the concern about the reification of categories, a third point of debate is whether a particular marker of identity or a particular object should be at the centre of an intersectional analysis. For example, some have argued that class should command the centre in a hierarchy of oppressions as the principal social axis of difference, with others falling below it (Bilge 2010; Walby, Armstrong & Strid 2012). Others are reluctant to accept a presupposition of which inequality is central and argue for leaving this as an empirical question as each issue is addressed (Walby 2007). This point about analytical primacy underscores a larger critique that intersectionality’s methodology is seriously undertheorised; indeed, some contest whether it is even a methodology, distinguishing it instead as a framework (Garry 2011). While it has achieved “theoretical dominance as a way of conceptualizing identity” (Nash 2011, p. 3), its methodology/framework, as well as the conceptualization and categorical queries above, suggest considerable room for the theory to gain greater clarity and focus (Garry 2011; Nash 2011).
b. Why Species should be included as a Marker of Difference
This brief review of several main debates about the scope of intersectionality reveals that there is nothing within them to argue against the inclusion of species difference or the consideration of nonhuman lives at the individual or institutional level. The first concern about the ideal metaphor to capture the theory’s central thesis is neutral about which differences should matter. Rather, it is simply a concern about how to signal the mutual constitution of differences and their complex interactivity in an accessible way. If species difference were included in the mix as easily as gender, race, and class are, we would quickly acknowledge that our human species identity mixes inextricably with these other “classic” differences such that our experiences as a gendered, racialised and classed being, for example, take their timbre from our equally relevant identity as a human. Indeed, that so many human claims to injustice pivot on experiences of dehumanization and the stigma of being perceived as subhuman or animal by the dominant human community illustrates how much concepts of gender, race, and class are inflected with species significance as well as how productive including species as an analytic can be for unpacking marginalizing dynamics.
The second conceptual debate canvassed above pertaining to the tendency of some intersectional theorists to reify categories of difference despite contrary intentions, also does not contain any strong argument as to why species difference needs to be excluded when intersectionalists consider difference. If anything, challenging the human-nonhuman boundary would undo a key essentialised category within the theory. As many writing in relation to the field of animal studies have shown, the human is not a stable marker of identity, but a fiercely historically and culturally contingent one (Castricano 2008; Wolfe, 2010; Pedersen 2012). Moreover, treating this species status as an identity in need of deconstruction along with norms of whiteness, masculinity, heterosexuality, and other privileged identities, would reduce essentialising within intersectionality rather than promote it. Furthermore, adding species as another entry to the list of markers of difference to consider within an intersectional analysis is not to suggest that it be a pre-eminent factor or always important to analyzing a particular phenomenon. Rather, it could simply be another category of difference to bear in mind where relevant.
With respect to the third debate about which difference merits more prominence in the theory, it is difficult to defend a position that discounts the salient of species identity in shaping our cultural, legal and political treatment. If race and gender have widespread influence, surely species is implicated in power differentials as well. To take a dramatic example, humans are legally classified as persons with rights while animals are classified as property (the object of rights) in the law. It is true that the cultural divide between humans and animals contains more scope for movement across the species boundary line than the legal one. Consider the “humanized animals” that are treated as family members and the “animalized humans” whose humanity is not recognized to the same extent as those seen as fully humans (Wolfe 2003, p. 101). Yet, despite the presence of animals who are treated like humans and humans who are treated like animals, strong cultural codes continue to teach us to value humans at a higher level than animals such that we immediately understand the negative implication in treating someone “like an animal”. The animal is the cultural marker by which we define that what it means to be human, a definition that carries cultural values of human superiority and privilege (Oliver 2009).
Even if it is conceded that species is a supremely salient difference, equivalent or exceeding the ubiquity of race, gender and class, it is necessary to ask would a further entry to the list of socially relevant differences present another problem to intersectional analysis. Delgado (2011) presents an interesting criticism of intersectionality as a double-edged sword where it may permit organization of the marginalized but can also be utilized by conservative forces to further marginalization. Delgado argues that intersectionality may undercut progressive arguments by delegitimizing analyses that may have missed a particular category of difference. He seems to argue that no matter how in-depth your analysis is, it is likely a smaller unit of analysis is possible. In other words, further intersections can be found within your categories of analysis, thus exposing intersectional arguments to attack for excluding these smaller units. Moreover, the focus on smaller and smaller units of analysis may prevent a more complete account of systemic and systematic patterns of oppression. These aspects of intersectionality go towards serving powerful interests by paralyzing progressive arguments. In this way, a focus on multiple (and never-ending) differences can be a tool of empowering the powerful.
Delgado raises an important concern about the political risk of further complexifying intersectionality through the addition of yet another difference axis. However, an intersectional analysis need not require attention to each and every possible different marker. Rather, an intersectional analysis could be a framework for deconstructing power relations within society. Ange-Marie Hancock (2007) reinforces this view by articulating how over time her initial conception of intersectionality as a content-based specialization on specific identities and subjectivities has shifted to understanding it as a normative and empirical paradigm. In other words, intersectionality can be applied more broadly from studying particular groups exhibiting intersecting marginalized identities to examining institutional interactions and contexts. Indeed, Hancock asserts that intersectionality has traditionally taken racialised women as its favoured group study, but that its potential as a normative paradigm reaches much further. The specific differences that a researcher should focus on will come into view with the particularities of each given project. Although the risk remains that an intersectional analysis can be undermined for not being intersectional enough, it still seems a more palatable option than a unidimensional analysis because it better captures realities of power relations and more fully illustrates the complexities of identities.
Furthermore, the integration of posthumanist concerns into intersectionality counters the critique that scholarship in the field tends to neglect studies about the analysis of identities that are either wholly or partially privileged. Scholars have articulated the need for problematizing relationships of power for unmarked categories, such as whiteness, masculinity, heterosexuality, and other privileged markers of identity (Choo & Ferree 2010; Garry, 2011; Nash 2011). Dhamoon (2010, p. 235) identifies this problem when she says that research should shift from “the Othered identity and category of Otherness to a critique of the social production and organization of relations of Othering and normalization”. She further discusses how the focus on uncovering oppressions among humans tends to present static understandings of individuals that preclude recognition of agency. Instead, Dhamoon (2010, p. 238) argues for an approach that studies interactive processes and structures in which “meanings of privilege and penalty are produced, reproduced, and resisted in contingent and relational ways”. Others have echoed this call to encourage research that focuses on how situations are dynamic and relational as well as studies that address how privilege and power can reside in and shape experiences of marginalization (Nash 2011).
A consideration of human relationships with animals and the circuits of power that flows in them would go a long way to generating this shift in focus. It would demand (human) exploration of our privileged identities vis-à-vis other species given our highly anthropocentric world. It would also illuminate how we all exercise agency in our relationships with animals no matter how oppressed we may be ourselves. Considering species as part of the regular repertoire of differences to which intersectional analyses normally attend could also reduce the impugned phenomenon of the “Oppression Olympics,” in which groups seek to define themselves as the “most oppressed” for political purposes (Hancock 2007; Yuval Davis 2012). The extent of violence that humans perpetrate on animals on a daily and global basis makes any claims about being the “most oppressed” difficult to justify.
As is apparent from this brief review of recent conceptual debates in intersectionality theory, there no compelling reason exists to justify the current exclusion of species from the difference mix that animates intersectional critiques. In fact, including species difference and animal lives as elements of theorization and mobilization help complicate understandings of privilege and forward the impact of intersectionality as a normative paradigm – to use Hancock’s term – to handle cutting-edge, particularly post-humanist, questions of justice.
My goal in this article has been to present two interconnected arguments: 1. the animal movement is a feminist movement; and 2. species should be incorporated as a relevant marker of difference within the discourses in the intersectionality literature, thus enabling this response to the animal movement. In Part I, I discussed the multiple reasons that the animal movement should be seen as a feminist and women’s movement. The movement is dominated by women who experience gendered and intersectional issues, both within the movement and from outside. Within the movement, women endure highly gendered patterns such as the division of labour between leaders and the ordinary members of the movement. Responses to the movement and women activists within it are also strongly shaped by traditional gendered roles as well as the reason/emotion divide that has been a foundational othering logic for multiple marginalized groups, both human and animal. For these reasons, women’s experiences and aims should be acknowledged as fitting the general paradigm of a women’s movement.
The qualification of the animal movement as a women’s movement serves to fortify the overall case why species as an axis of social difference should matter to feminists committed to intersectionality. This case has already been made by ecofeminists and other animal studies scholars who have demonstrated the interconnectedness of sexism, racism, colonialism, etc. with oppression against animals. The gendered and intersectional dynamics of the movement itself as discussed here provide a further reason that intersectionality should move past its humanist parameters. Despite the expansive consideration of intersectionality as a theory and the shortcomings it needs to address, humanism or an anthropocentric speciesist orientation has not been seen to be a weakness of intersectionality. The literature to date has remained focused on humanist parameters. This is particularly disconcerting since intersectionality is focused on incorporating elements of difference and how those differences fit into systems of oppression. A review of recent conceptual debates within the literature on intersectionality illustrate that there is no theoretical impediment to the inclusion of species difference within the discourse. Moreover, this type of posthumanist extension would further the goals of intersectional scholarship.
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Aspects of the reading for discussion:
Group 1 Unsettling animals, wildlife and management
The power of naming, impact of the scientific method and Eurocentric discourses, identification and unsettling of the assumptions underlying Eurocentric beliefs,
Group 2 Situated glimpse into multiple knowledges
Meaning in multiple ways, Christie’s description, Country, the indented quotes,
Binarized categories, consequences of linear notions of progress, quote defining wildlife
Group 3 Wildlife …..
Situated glimpses into multiple knowledges
Rose discussing Ngarinman concepts of country,
What is needed for domination and management of wildlife? What are the consequences of domination and management?
A hall of mirrors
Consequences of universalised Eurocentric knowledge, quotes p150, possibilities of exposing the assumptions of Eurocentric knowledge, how does colonisation fit into the above discussion?, quotes on p153
Define situated engagement and it’s importance, Rose’s quote 154, relevance of listening and engagement, intersubjective communication
Discussion of reading to answer the questions:
can you recognise the Western or Indigenous ways of think?
What are the consequences of thinking through the categories of Western philosophy?
Why does any of this matter as I collect my fries from that fast food shop?
FACTORY OR INDUSTRIAL FARMING
Video: very gruesome
WHAT IS A FACTORY FARM?
Use of techniques and processes to produce meat intensively to maximise production and minimise costs.
SIMPLE: It makes meat cheaper for consumers and more profitable for those who own the businesses ie shareholders and individuals
WHY HAVE FACTORY FARMING?
‘10 Things to Know About Industrial Farming’
UN Environment Programme 2020
1 According to some estimates, industrialized farming–which produces greenhouse gas emission, pollutes air and water, and destroys wildlife–costs the environment the equivalent of about US$3 trillion every year.
2 It can facilitate the spread of viruses from animals to humans
3. It has been linked to zoonotic diseases.
4 It fosters antimicrobial resistance
5. Its use of pesticides may have adverse health effects.
6. It contaminates water and soil and affects human health.
7. It has caused epidemics of obesity and chronic disease.
8. It is an inefficient use of land.
9. It entrenches inequality.
10. It is fundamentally at odds with environmental health.
‘10 Things to Know About Industrial Farming’
The law and factory farming in nsw
The law permits this institutionalised abuse by classifying farm animals as ‘stock animals’ and thereby excluding them from basic protections under anti-cruelty statutes. In NSW, for example, section 9 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) makes it an offence to fail to provide an animal with adequate exercise. Stock animals, such as cows, sheep, goats, deer, pigs and domestic fowl, are expressly exempt from this requirement.
In most jurisdictions, cruelty offences are only established where an act or omission is considered ‘unreasonable’, ‘unnecessary’ or ‘unjustifiable’. In effect, these qualifications serve as a potential shield for producers, as the law often deems cruel farming practices both reasonable and necessary in order to supply a growing population with cheap animal-derived food products
Voiceless 2015 animal law toolkit
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (NSW) 1979 No 200, Section 9
9 Confined animals to be exercised
(1) A person in charge of an animal which is confined shall not fail to provide the animal with adequate exercise.
Maximum penalty—250 penalty units in the case of a corporation and 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both, in the case of an individual.
(1A) Subsection (1) does not apply to a person in charge of an animal if the animal is—
(a) a stock animal other than a horse, or
(b) an animal of a species which is usually kept in captivity by means of a cage.
(2) In any proceedings for an offence against subsection (1), evidence that an animal referred to in that subsection was not released from confinement during a period of 24 hours is evidence that the person accused of the offence has failed to provide the animal with adequate exercise during that period.
(3) A person in charge of an animal (other than a stock animal) shall not confine the animal in a cage of which the height, length or breadth is insufficient to allow the animal a reasonable opportunity for adequate exercise.
Maximum penalty—250 penalty units in the case of a corporation or 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months, or both, in the case of an individual.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (NSW) 1979 No 200, Section 24
24 Certain defences
(1) In any proceedings for an offence against this Part or the regulations in respect of an animal, the person accused of the offence is not guilty of the offence if the person satisfies the court that the act or omission in respect of which the proceedings are being taken was done, authorised to be done or omitted to be done by that person—
(a) where, at the time when the offence is alleged to have been committed, the animal was—
(i) a stock animal—in the course of, and for the purpose of, ear-marking or ear-tagging the animal or branding, other than firing or hot iron branding of the face of, the animal,
(ii) a pig of less than 2 months of age or a stock animal of less than 6 months of age which belongs to a class of animals comprising cattle, sheep or goats—in the course of, and for the purpose of, castrating the animal,
(iii) a goat of less than 1 month of age or a stock animal of less than 12 months of age which belongs to the class of animal comprising cattle—in the course of, and for the purpose of, dehorning the animal,
(iv) a sheep of less than 6 months of age—in the course of, and for the purpose of, tailing the animal, or
(v) a sheep of less than 12 months of age—in the course of, and for the purpose of, performing the Mules operation upon the animal,
in a manner that inflicted no unnecessary pain upon the animal,
Additionally, the operation of industry guidelines significantly undermines the limited protections afforded under anti-cruelty statutes. These industry guidelines:
Institutionalise cruel standards for raising and keeping farmed animals, such as the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates for pigs, cages for chickens and intensive systems for all other livestock;
Sanction husbandry practices involving the mutilation of farmed animals, such as teeth clipping pigs, de-horning cows and beak trimming chickens; and
Function to effectively exclude farmed animals from the protections afforded under anti-cruelty statutes, as compliance with a particular industry guideline may be relied upon as an exception or defence to a charges of cruelty
The law and factory farming
Theorising Factory Farming: Hegemony and CAS
To think about
Three richest people in Australia 2021:
Gina Rinehart. Resources, agriculture. Rank1. $31.06b
= 31000 million
Andrew Forrest. Resources. Rank2. $27.25b.
Mike Cannon-Brookes. Rank3. $20.18b.
‘ordinary’ salary/wage earner works for fifty years at one hundred thousand dollars per year equals a life time earnings of five million.
Hegemony: The Cultural Power of Ideology
Role that ideology plays in reproducing the economic system and social structure.
‘Gramsci realized that there was more to the dominance of capitalism than the class structure and its exploitation of workers. Marx had recognized the important role that ideology played in reproducing the economic system and the social structure that supported it, but Gramsci believed that Marx had not given enough credit to the power of ideology. ‘
Shown through institutions like religion and education. And the role of the intellectual
Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. “What Is Cultural Hegemony?” ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/cultural-hegemony-
The Political Power of Common Sense
Gramsci discussed the role of “common sense”—dominant ideas about society and about our place in it—in producing cultural hegemony. For example, the ability of the individual to make it despite the odds
‘In sum, cultural hegemony, or our tacit agreement with the way that things are, is a result of socialization, our experiences with social institutions, and our exposure to cultural narratives and imagery, all of which reflect the beliefs and values of the ruling class. ‘
Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. “What Is Cultural Hegemony?” ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/cultural-hegemony
REPRESENTATION OF HEGEMONY
Examples of Hegemony and humans and animals
What we do not want to see.
Critical animal studies
CAS contests speciesism. Speciesism does not refer simply to human relationships with other animals, but means socially, politically, economically, and culturally constructed everyday practices and a body of knowledge that supports such relationships.
As Sorenson (2014) argued, unsettling speciesism is almost unthinkable as it is the basis of the capitalist economy and a tremendous material investment has been made in the institutions and practices of exploitation (e.g., agribusiness, experimentations, entertainment, and leisure). Domination thrives by masking or rejecting any recognition of the violence and the suffering that it inflicts. It makes exploitation seem natural and any challenge to exploitation not just impossible but inconceivable. (ie hegemonic) One task of CAS is to confront this unthinkability, the taken-for-granted assumptions that form a hidden structure.
CAS is committed to eliminating speciesism and violence through political involvement and politicising academic’s involvement in social change.
Critical animal studies
.’ The direct exploitation and killing of nonhuman animals are based on an underlying system of ideas that makes it acceptable to inflict this violence on certain individuals and groups. They are excluded from the possession of rights and intrinsic value and instead are considered raw materials or resources that exist only for human consumption (whether it is for food, clothes, entertainment, experimentation, or for other purposes).’
‘ Other animals’ agency is denied and they are reduced to the status of unfeeling objects to be used instrumentally. The contributors challenge this epistemic violence, the erasures of other animals’ subjectivity and their ethical significance from everyday practice as well as from epistemic standards of current academic practices in various disciplines. Seeking to avoid being complicit in these operations of epistemic violence, ‘
Matsuoka, A., & Sorenson, J. (Eds.). (2018). Critical animal studies
Animal Studies Journal
Multispecies Disposability: Taxonomies of Power in a Global Pandemic
Darren Chang University of Sydney
Lauren Corman Brock University
Follow this and additional works at: https://ro.uow.edu.au/asj
Part of the Animal Studies Commons, Environmental Studies Commons, Food Studies Commons, Political Theory Commons, Politics and Social Change Commons, Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Commons, and the Social Justice Commons
Chang, Darren and Corman, Lauren, Multispecies Disposability: Taxonomies of Power in a Global Pandemic,
Animal Studies Journal
, 10(1), 2021, 57-79. Available at:https://ro.uow.edu.au/asj/vol10/iss1/6
Research Online is the open access institutional repository for the University of Wollongong. For further information contact the UOW Library: [email protected]
Multispecies Disposability: Taxonomies of Power in a Global Pandemic
This paper bridges critical conversations regarding animal exploitation and racialized violence that have been occurring throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We apply Claire Jean Kim’s analysis of taxonomies of power to help make sense of the interwoven multispecies catastrophes of racialized animalization and animalized racialization, such as the violence experienced by various species of nonhuman animals, as well as East Asians and other People of Colour in the West, whether in public spaces, in media, on farms, or inside industrial animal slaughterhouses or meatpacking plants. We conclude by arguing that Kim’s ethics of mutual avowal provides a productive way for social movements to recognize the connectedness of our struggles; thus, Kim’s scholarship helps us challenge the multiple dimensions of oppressive powers that have been expressed and experienced in the COVID-19 crisis.
animality, race, power, pandemic
Cover Page Footnote
We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their generous feedback on our manuscript.
This journal article is available in Animal Studies Journal: https://ro.uow.edu.au/asj/vol10/iss1/6
Managing Love and Death at the
Zoo: The Biopolitics of Endangered Species Preservation
The 24 May 1968 issue of Time magazine featured a short article with the title ‘Animal Behavior: Love at the Zoo’. Its topic was the breeding of animals in zoological gardens, but unlike the puff pieces featuring neonate mammals routinely fed to media by zoo publicity departments today, this story sought to highlight the unique dilemmas encountered on the way to such happy successes. It may not have broached the precise mechanics of rhino husbandry or the numbers of elephant miscarriages, but it did recount the frustrations of managing reproduction in these peculiar institutions, from storks, emus and tortoises attempting to mate with their caretakers, to the dangers of provoking a lion’s jealousy. Zoos’ insistence on absolute visibility has often revealed elements of animal sexuality disruptive of their bourgeois tranquillity, but these even more unseemly behind-the-scenes anecdotes, from the ‘embarrassing’ to the ‘pathetic’, expose the extent to which, behind their facade of naturalism, zoological gardens control all aspects of animal life, not only diet and habitat but even the tawdry details of procreation divulged here with such obvious delight.
Given this situation of utter dominance, we can hardly take the article’s closing advice to zookeepers with anything but irony. To prevent from being harmed by ‘impudent’ captives, it is suggested that one ‘assume a super-alpha status’—a position of ultra-authority naturalised as an extension of animals’ innate need for hierarchy. Of course, attacks by animals potentially expose zoo workers and overeager visitors to grave injury, but such acts (just like refusal to breed) are the last form of resistance available to a caste of creatures entirely at the whim of their kindly protectors, sheltered in artificial, regimented enclosures, whose emblematic behaviour was for a long time the stereotyped pacing of a neurotic. In our historical moment of planetary imperialism, mass extinctions and anthropogenic climate change, the natural world is said to have been ‘completely absorb[ed]’ by a rationalising culture (Adorno 115). Zoological gardens, where living animals are displayed for the edification of human visitors, are for many the very epitome of this process, the animals within a ‘living monument to their own disappearance’ (Berger 24). It is safe to say that ‘super-alpha status’ has long since been assumed—and achieved.
The reported insights into ‘biological befuddlement’ had been presented at an American ethology symposium by Swiss professor and zoo director Heini Hediger, who was a central figure in the science and technique of zoo biology. From the mid twentieth century, his writings such as Wild Animals in Captivity, as well as practical interventions like his operational review of Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, were foundational for the biopolitical reforms at the basis of modern methods of welfare-centred zookeeping (Hediger, Wild; Hediger, Report). Responding to the problems of high mortality rates, failure to breed, and repetitive, stressed behaviour, on the basis of long-term, species specific observation and experimentation, Hediger set down guidelines for the production of healthy, happy animals willing to mate and display natural behaviours, and thereby laid the groundwork for contemporary zoo biology and such practices as animal training, environmental enrichment and captive breeding. Since that time, as the exchange of wild animals became increasingly regulated, zoos have reinvented themselves as wildlife parks devoted to the preservation of endangered species. Amid the crisis of widespread and relentless habitat loss and species extinction—processes in which they were historically implicated—zoos became defined as salvific arks, bearing life’s remnant and our hopes for redemption. Building on techniques such as Hediger’s, the goal of conserving threatened wildlife populations could be pursued by a benevolent regime of scientific management within their curiously well-ordered microcosms of nature.
‘Love at the Zoo’: the Time article’s subtitle pithily captures the nature and stakes of contemporary zoo biopolitics. In the context of these ‘unproductive infatuations’, the term presents as an absurd anthropomorphism, given that, in the spectacle of enforced animal breeding and its comedic side-effects, we witness the bestialised underside of our own notion of romantic love based on free choice and culturally distanced from the directives of instinct. But this administration of zoo-love is motivated by our own purported love for the animals: a love that seeks to maintain healthy and happy wild-seeming exhibits, and a love that seeks to rescue species judged in danger of extinction. Unfortunately, our attempts to put this love into practice are too often misdirected, if not badly botched. Perhaps there is even a surplus of love, and attention to it, circulating in these over-involved institutions. At least, we should hardly be surprised at the occasional disobedience of those smothered by this caring attention, or the refusal—and confusion—of those expected to perform ‘love’ for the good of their species.
In a collection that explores the fate of unloved creatures in this time of extinction, this essay will attend to those subjected to too much love: animals whose membership of an endangered species singles them out for intense intercession on the part of concerned scientists. Such is the principal achievement of Michel
Foucault’s work: to problematise not only the negative operations of power—acts of violence by which the weak are repressed or excluded, made invisible—but also power in its productivity, where new internal domains of intervention are opened up to classification and government, to inescapable visibility. Under the rubric of Foucault’s notion of biopolitics—which signifies the problematisation of life itself as an object of political power, but has rarely been considered as it relates to nonhuman animal life—I will illustrate the operation of endangered species preservation in twentieth and twenty-first century zoological gardens. The intensive care exercised by these stewards is not always successful; in its focus on the anatomical or genetic species body at the expense of emplaced creatures, the zoo produces not full, flourishing lives but a wounded life, robbed of vital connectivities and expressions. It has its dark underbelly, too, such as when the unloved surplus of breeding programmes are quietly euthanised for reasons of (un)utility. Though the zoo tries to keep it hidden, this regime devoted to the fostering of life at the same time produces damage and death. This caesura between the overloved and the unloved, between the politics of life and death, bios and thanatos, brings into stark relief one of the central ethical questions of our time: how should we love in a time of extinction?
A Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) behind bars.
Image by Ken Snider, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence
* * *
This work continues the broader project of a genealogy of zoological gardens, one that understands zoos as heterotopias within networks of wildlife that are structured by productive relations of power (Chrulew). My goal is to examine the techniques of power through which exotic and native animals have been captured and kept, ordered and displayed, bred and tested, archived and conserved, saved and revealed—that is, the various ways they have been acted upon and ‘made to speak’.
One of the central concepts of Foucault’s analysis of power in modernity was that of biopolitics, which he defined in The Will to Knowledge as a form of power over life that
focused on the species body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes: propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that can cause these to vary. Their supervision was effected through an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls:
a biopolitics of the population. (139)
This concept has come to play a significant role in the work of Giorgio Agamben, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Roberto Esposito, and others. The contemporary debates have concentrated on questions of global politics in late capitalism, and the way in which the biopolitical capture of life has been so entwined with the domination and putting-to-death of excluded (human) subjects. But except on the margins of this discourse, there has been little recognition that we must also consider how nonhuman animal life is caught up in apparatuses of biopower: from the management of wilderness reserves, to industrial food production, to the monitoring and culling of feral urban populations, to our relationships with pets and companion species, to the projects, in which zoological gardens participate, of endangered species preservation. 1
What this work helps to make clear is the ambiguous nature of this conservationist biopolitics in zoos. Much of the debate has centred on the nature of the link between the affirmation of life and the production of death. For Foucault, biopolitics is a fundamentally productive mode of power, which does not mean that it is always good, as it is indeed quite often dangerous, but instead that its goal is always the fostering of life: while traditional sovereign power, he argued, was the explicitly violent power to let live or make die, the quieter function of 1 Recent examples of important work in this direction include Shukin, who traces the ‘rendering’ of animals within circuits of capital, and Haraway, Species, who describes the enmeshed lives of companion species as ‘significant others’. While Haraway is overtly suspicious of ‘the apparatus of apocalyptic wildlife biology’ (145), her pages on endangered species conservation (145-50) only outline the complicating effect of biodiversity discourse on practices of dog-breeding.
biopower is instead to make live or let die. Nonetheless, he recognised that it has historically become intertwined with such exclusionary logics as biological racism (Foucault, Society 239-263). Agamben, by contrast, argues that biopower is in its very nature exclusionary: insofar as it makes a distinction between bios and zoē, between human political life and the mere life of organisms, it is set up so as to produce bare life, which is life excluded from the polis, life that can be killed without it being murder (Homo Sacer). His examples run from refugees, to medical cases such as ‘overcomatose’ patients, to the Muselmänner of Nazi death camps, to nonhuman animals (The Open). Without needing here to adjudicate this debate (for further discussion, see, for example, Ojakangas; Rose, Politics), it is important to register its central problem: how is it that societies so devoted to the task of making live—to flourishing populations, healthy bodies, extended lifespans—have been capable of such unprecedented violence?
For all their disagreements, each of these thinkers offers their analysis of biopolitics as a diagnosis of the operation of power today, in order that it can be contested in its intolerable effects. This critical attitude is too often lacking when it comes to the beneficent and salvific aura of conservation and other prevailing regimes of scientific knowledge of animals. Insofar as these saviour savoirs also exert influence over the actions and lives of animals, they must be assessed as apparatuses of power. It is of course essential that we attempt to combat the anthropogenic extinction and mass killing of nonhuman species, but the ways in which we might do so are neither easy nor self-evident. As Timothy W. Luke has shown so well, ecological discourses must themselves be subjected to ‘ecocritiques’ that question their problematic elements—whether nostalgic, technicist or otherwise—towards more just and effective proposals and interventions. Our love for nature is too easily botched not to recognise its infinite demands. The task remains to examine the biopolitics of endangered species preservation as a form of power/knowledge devoted to making animals live, but nonetheless perilously bound up in the production of impairment and death.
* * *
Zoos were of course from the first bound up with killing and loss on an enormous scale. The accumulation of animals through colonial systems of extraction had devastating impacts on habitats and life-worlds. Often, numerous animals were slaughtered in the collection of a few, mothers killed so their infants could be captured. Vulgar means of transport and enclosure meant massive death rates: often few survived the journey, or lasted long in their new ‘homes’. The prevalence of species-thinking, in which each individual is only perceived as a token of its inexhaustible taxonomic type, made such losses acceptable—as each animal was in principle replaceable. Thus every zoo ‘specimen’ that was viewed by the metropolitan masses trailed innumerable extinguished lives and other forms of harm and disturbance to the composition of generations and ecologies. In order to present living examples of nature’s wonder to the eyes of the zoo visitor, nature itself was wounded. All zoo exhibits are haunted by this yet unextinguished legacy of violence (see, for example, Rothfels 44-80).
However, even to focus, as the zoo would prefer, only on those individual animals whose flesh-and-blood presence enlivens its gardens, does not leave us with ‘nature’ perfectly captured and portrayed. Rather, surviving animals endured captivity as the living dead. As the following pair of nineteenth century critiques illustrate, zoos have long been perceived as damaging to life. The first from 1888:
To call the taming of an animal its ‘improvement’ is in our ears almost a joke. Whoever knows what goes on in menageries is doubtful whether the beasts in them are ‘improved’. They are weakened, they are made less harmful, they become sickly beasts through the depressive emotion of fear, through pain, through injuries, through hunger. (Nietzsche 66-7)
The author of these lines is Friedrich Nietzsche, in the last year of his sane life, writing in Twilight of the Idols of the so-called ‘improvement’ of man, but as always with a keen sense of the bodily urges and perils of material life, including that of animals. Nietzsche articulates what the entire effort of zoos is now directed towards repairing: the wounding brought about by captivity. Another critique from only five years earlier, concerned with accurate knowledge, asserts the dubious scientific value of observing animals in zoos, a result of the power effects that strip them of their form of life:
I have passed days and weeks by many a lion’s cage in European and American gardens, intent upon study and observation; but with the exception of having, by numerous sketches, impressed upon my mind the anatomical peculiarities of these interesting animals, I cannot say that in other respects my perserverance has been rewarded to any great extent. I have simply found that an animal, as closely confined as most of them are in zoölogical gardens, retains none of its natural habits; it only exists—a mere automaton; and even this existence is seemingly under protest. (Link 1226)
This familiar image of a denatured, exposed animal reduced to naked subsistence can be clearly read in terms of Agamben’s conception of biopolitics, in which the separation of bios and zoē creates a space for ‘bare life’ (Homo Sacer). As Agamben argues in The Open, animals are the originary targets of this perilous political decision; and the nineteenth-century zoological garden can be seen as a site, analogous to the camp, that produced barely living animals reduced to ‘automatons’ in their stereotyped pacing and environmental captivation, their very instincts cancelled by confinement. They survived, without truly living—and bore witness, in their silence, to the death that surrounded them. Insofar as zoological thinking does not recognise animals’ forms of life, but only their visible forms—the mere life of their observable anatomical species traits— their isolation in captivity, away from their relational bios amid habitat and kin, produces a weakened, sickly, bare life. Zoo-logic injures the living.
However, in the second half of the twentieth century, zoos were swept up in a constant process of reform that understood the role of the institution to be the thriving of its captive animals, a goal to be achieved through applying the principles of biological and ethological science. Such conditions as described by Nietzsche and the naturalist Link were not in the best interests of zoos, either economically (in terms of animal longevity, disease and death) or when it came to the niceties of public display. Nor were they the limits of afflictions; as one history puts it, ‘To stereotyped movement the list of pathologies observed in captive animals adds sexual disorders, auto-aggression and auto-mutilation, and consumption of faeces and the paintwork of cages, most of which make it impossible to exhibit the animals’ (Baratay and Hardouin-Fugier 276). It was in response to such problems that a biological basis for animal keeping was developed. Led by Hediger, this produced a form of biopower more in line not with Agamben’s but with Foucault’s original, somewhat different conception: that is, a productive power devoted to the nurture of life.
Histories of zoos customarily describe the ‘Hagenbeck revolution’ that transformed zoo architectural design from pits and fences to hills and moats, fabricating exhibits as landscape and habitat and making possible their now customary Edenic naturalism. 2 But if we are to avoid privileging human spectatorship at the expense of the effects of power on animal bodies, it is important also to foreground the Hediger revolution in practical zookeeping which painstakingly elaborated procedures of ‘biologically appropriate’ care in feeding regimens, breeding practices, behavioural interventions and other elements of zookeeping protocol. In Hediger’s work, concepts like ‘territories’ and ‘zones’, ‘flight distance’ and ‘critical distance’ were used to refine architectural designs and management practices, relating cage types and sizes to species’ typical behaviours. Enclosures were thus not only aesthetically organised for the benefit of spectators, but strategically constructed so as most effectively to contain their interns. Zoos went from rather crude confinement and subsistence to a detailed, precise, scientific apparatus that took as its goal to ‘make live’, devoting itself to the health and hygiene, nurture, growth and flourishing of living organisms (Gruffudd), grasped through the ‘population’ as object of both knowledge and power. This biopower complemented the disciplinary strategies of separation, seeking to adapt animals to the conditions of captivity. Scientific
2 The best history of Hagenbeck’s role as animal trader and zoo showman is Rothfels.
discourses of zoo biology, ethology and animal psychology accumulated statistics and reports that reflected, and in turn modified, the zoo’s circumstances of corporeal influence. The knowledge produced was reliant on, and also fed back into, the practices of animal keeping, that is, the power regime of confinement, discipline, and biopower impacting on animal bodies and ‘souls’.
The post-war practices of biologically productive zookeeping are instances of the emergence within human-animal relations of what Foucault described in The Will to Knowledge as the twin poles of the biopolitics of the population and the anatomo-politics of the body. Scientifically-based care took upon itself the negative task of reducing the anthropogenic effects of captivity decried by Nietzsche and Link, ‘to neutralise as far as possible all modifying (non hereditary, externally conditioned) and mutative (hereditary) changes and degeneration phenomena’ (Hediger, Wild 40), and ultimately the positive task of producing normal, ‘species-typical’ behaviour through ‘environmental enrichment’. In this regime of truth, the effects of human contact were defined as ‘abnormal’, and wild nature was the norm to be produced (if also, in its security and comfort, ‘improved’) by a thorough, self-concealing apparatus of power. Donahue and Trump describe how because
regulatory agencies often lacked the technical expertise to evaluate the health or welfare of exotic animals, zoos shaped a significant number of the rules under which they now operate. Essentially, zoos’ economic interest in keeping animals alive and healthy made them experts in the capture, transportation, feeding, housing, and veterinary treatment of exotic species. To stay in business, zoos had to ensure the very animal welfare that, at times, their critics accused them of neglecting. (89)
Indeed critics of zoos accepted this biopolitics as the terms of their opposition: they ‘monitored living conditions … but without questioning the principle of captivity’, pointing out ‘insufficient care, dirty enclosures, confined animals, brutal keepers and tiny cages’, as well as ‘overpopulation, unsuitable conditions, groupings of antipathetic animals, mutilation and illness’ (Baratay and Hardouin-Fugier 220, 221). The welfare of zoo animals became the contested terrain of both zoos and their opponents, with the victory of the professionals certified by the ‘normality’, health, procreation and longevity of the animals, a demonstration of their expertise.
With the moral criteria thus delimited, the priesthood of wildlife stewards could expand their meticulous pastoral power, caring (in species-specific terms) for every need of the animal—dietary, territorial, social, behavioural and sexual— exercising total management of their lives, from birth and prior to death and beyond. As Hediger wrote, ‘the animals in a modern zoo require a thousand and one small, seemingly insignificant attentions and we must constantly strive to discover their needs’ (‘From Cage to Territory’ 17). In such highly detailed and individualised natural nurture, the ‘pastoral power’ described by Foucault as the forerunner of modern biopolitics is returned to its roots in the political economy of human care for animals (Security). The telos of this administration of love is achieved in the classic pastoral image of peaceful naturalism that zoos present: that of contented animals grazing and playing in well-replicated habitats.
This pastoral regime, devoted to the flourishing of all and each, sought to enact the biblical utopia of Eden (or its messianic repetition which imagines the peaceful coexistence of wolves and lambs). Of course, this zoo regime is in many ways unnatural. Zoos do not simply imitate nature, attempting a perfect simulacrum, but rather improve it, offering their wards a blessed life free of the harsh realities of the wild. Indeed, central to Hediger’s philosophy was not only the assertion that zoos could effectively mimic wild habitats such that the animals were no worse off (the famous equation of cage with territory); rather, as if needing to compensate for a lack he did not admit they had, Hediger insisted that animals in captivity lived lives superior to those of their wild counterparts (Wild). Zoo animals are provided with food without needing to forage or hunt, or even compete. They are protected from exposure to the elements and from predation. They receive medical care to prevent and cure injury and disease. They are unburdened by stress and trained to perform natural behaviours. Demanding only the sacrifice of freedom, the zoo is an apparatus for the production of paradise.
It is, of course, an imperfectly functioning machine, often defective. The lack of real space or aleatory events; the omnipresence of the ‘super-alpha’ human managers and spectators; the separation from natural forms of life— these and many other elements of zoo forgery interrupt and complicate the intended administration of love and replication of nature. The stories with which we opened demonstrate the iatrogenic confusion—that produced by the uneffaceable presence of the caretakers—that accompanies assisted reproduction. Improving the techniques of zookeeping and captive breeding has required numerous errors over repeated experiments, the burden of which falls always on the animal targets.
But even the perfect functioning of the Eden-machine only enacts its utopia through the disavowal of mortality. Precisely insofar as zoos are biopolitical institutions devoted to the production and nurture of life, they disturb and ignore the role of death. As Boria Sax has argued, zoos perform the Eden myth in protecting their animals from natural threats such as starvation, disease and especially predation. They attempt to exclude death from their domain, and display an image of nature from which the sustaining death of predation and even the natural death of old age and disease are entirely excluded. This is of course an impossible and even hypocritical task; for carnivorous animals, death is inherent in their feeding regimens; it is a matter to be forestalled, allowed, or even created by zoos’ veterinary professionals. And as we will see, the way in which death should be managed—when and how animals should be allowed, and even made to die—is an inescapable quandary for this biopolitical apparatus.
* * *
The latter third of the twentieth century saw zoos align themselves with the growing environmental movement. Taking on the righteous mantle of endangered species preservation, they sought to be known as wildlife parks, arks amid the deluge of habitat destruction and the concomitant decline of animal populations. Amid the scientific and colonial discourses of extinction devoted to the enunciation of absences (de Vos), zoos transformed from heterotopias of consolation to crisis (Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’ 24), carving out their own moral niche as protectors (and exhibitors) of threatened creatures. For Baudrillard, this is just one more step in an ‘uninterrupted process of annexation through extermination, which consists of liquidation, then of making the extinct species speak, of making them present the confession of their disappearance’ (136). Zoos developed ties with other Western elites who formed the global network working towards conservation, a regime of scientific management that can be understood as ‘ecological governmentality’ or ‘environmentality’ (Darier). This biopolitical apparatus conducted in tandem the ‘two poles around which the organisation of power over life was deployed’, that is, ‘[t]he disciplines of the body and the regulations of the population’ (Foucault, Will 139), but applied not to human societies but to the entirety of nonhuman biological life. Sampled, regulated, harvested, managed, animals were targeted through a range of technologies, both broadly and finely calibrated, both insitu and ex situ.
It was this latter, controversial form of ‘off site’ conservation, severed from the connectivities of place, that zoos put forward as their own essential contribution to the war against extinction. ‘If zoos did not exist,’ writes Colin Tudge, ‘then any sensible conservation policy would lead inevitably to their creation’ (243; see also Luoma). For many others, captive breeding remains an impoverished alternative to habitat protection, which even if it is itself contested, and implicated in struggles over nation, gender, class and other questions of human identity (Herda-Rapp and Goedeke; Lowe), is considered both economically and ecologically superior as a means to protect wildlife (Bowkett; Donahue and Trump; Lee, Zoos 94-99; Mazur; Norton et al.; Price and Fa; Snyder et al.). But even if, as Hancocks argues, zoos ‘are not the best places for holding and breeding rare species’ (xv) due to the conflicting demands of public exhibition, wildlife conservation has nonetheless come to be articulated as their highest priority, thereby transforming the institution and its techniques of animal management. The expertise in captive breeding that zoos had developed, under the economic incentive created by greater restrictions on the capture and importation of wildlife, could be put to use in service of the conservationist goals they now expounded.
Sexual reproduction—as the meeting point of the population and the body— was the central element for intervention, particularly in the form of breeding programmes directed towards self-sustaining populations in zoos (i.e. maintaining the supply of animals for display (Donahue and Trump 77; Margodt 13)), as well as eventual reintroduction to the wild. The genetic diversity and demographic health of captive animal populations has long been monitored through tools such as studbooks and other international records. More recently, Species Survival Plans (whose original revealing title was ‘master breeding plans’) have guided the breeding exchanges of endangered species according to criteria of genetic diversity and sustainable population size and makeup. With the development of molecular biology, genetic engineering and biotechnology, established approaches to animal husbandry were enhanced by the latest technoscientific techniques such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation, embryo transfer and intergenic surrogacy. Animal studies scholars have assessed the impact on animals of new genetic technologies used in laboratory experimentation (Haraway, Modest_Witness), pet replacement (McHugh), livestock farming and meat production (Franklin; Twine) and art practice (Gigliotti). Yet while in those contexts experimental, sentimental, economic and aesthetic factors have shaped animal genomes, in conservation biology and captive breeding it is the genetic diversity of endangered species that is problematised as an object of knowledge and intervention. Ultimately, cloning has been pursued as a means to rejuvenate threatened species (such as the gaur and the African wildcat) or even to resurrect the extinct (Corley-Smith and Brandhorst; Lanza et al.; Lee, ‘Can Cloning?’).3
The ‘population’ on which this biopolitics of endangered species preservation intervenes is, in this case, not any actual group of cohabiting animals. Rather, they reside in disparate sites throughout a region or even the world, and their capacity to interbreed only exists as the result of human efforts to design their interactions and to transport individuals or substances extracted from their bodies. Nonetheless, via the discourse of the ‘postvital’ life sciences of genetics and molecular biology, the somewhat nebulous object of ‘species’ is provided with a remarkable coherence and efficacy as ‘life’ (and its extinction and protection) is relocated to the virtual zone of information. Richard Doyle argues that the discourse of molecular biology offers ‘a technoscientific power that works by producing an invisibility of the body, whose object is no longer the 3 Indeed the halo of the conservation imperative is such that, even in the midst of a determined critique of biotechnology, Steven Best pauses to concede that ‘cloning may prove a valuable tool in preserving what can be salvaged from the current extinction crisis’ (13).
living organism. It is instead an object beyond living—ready to live, beyond the finitude of an organism and its ongoing interactions with and constructions of an environment’ (59). In this ‘informatic essentialism’ (Thacker) or ‘biocybernetics’ (Mitchell), embodied and emplaced beings are decontextualised and conceived as calculable and controllable genetic information.
The archives of cryopreserved genetic material known as ‘frozen zoos’ or genome banks (Corley-Smith and Brandhorst; Lanza et al.) might be seen as the ultimate abstraction, the effective enactment of a genetic utopia seeking to arrest time and halt or reverse extinction, confident of the redemptive power of technological intervention. Described by Soulé as ‘suspended ex situ programs’ in which ‘living material is metabolically slowed or arrested’ (Soulé 748), they exemplify in extremis the zoo-logic by which embodied living creatures, in connectivity with generations and kin, and emplaced within habitat, are subordinated to reified notions of the species and its genome. Stewart argues that the Ark is ‘the archetypal collection … a world which is representative yet which erases its context of origin’ (152). These archives repeat the displacement that the zoo effects in relation to the wild, bringing about its ultimate ‘forgetting.’ While this fetishist strand of biology is mostly only proposed as a backup to conservation efforts, an emergency archive banking frozen information against the likelihood of species extinction, what it reveals is the hierarchy of differential valuation that structures the biopolitics of endangered species preservation, prioritising species over individuals, code over life, genes over bodies.
Yet being aware of how biological knowledge now perceives animals as strings of DNA code does not quite ‘accord us a diagram of power’ (Doyle 59) whose operation we can detect and contest. This epistemic change does not replace but only modifies the existing disciplinary zoo-power that makes visible (or otherwise) its collection of animal bodies. We must recognise that while, as Doyle puts it, the biological gaze of these ‘postvital’ life sciences ‘does not see bodies; it sees only sequences, genomes’, it nonetheless ‘requires’ bodies for its operation (131, emphasis added). As the means by which to manipulate the immaterial object of knowledge that is the genetic species body, the living bodies of animals, ‘invisible’ to the molecular biopolitics of the population, remain the ever more starkly visible objects of power’s intervention. Members of endangered species are subjected to an increasingly intensive anatomo-politics of the animal body: regular testing, extraction of fluids, transportation, enforced tranquilisation, separation and recombination of social groups, imposed breeding and the removal of offspring … that is, veritable abduction and rape at the hands of their shepherds, with all the supposedly humorous sexual confusion this generates. Such is the nature of love at the zoo. The closer a species to extinction—when a wild population is most endangered, or a captive one most fragmented, when the category of ‘species’ holds the most importance and thus the visibility of living organisms within the whole ensemble is most obscured—the stronger then is the grip in which the bodies of the last remaining individual animals are held. 4
* * *
Thus the secular shepherds of planetary life assembled an apparatus of scientific power/knowledge over their animal wards. As the ecological crisis grew, the schema of zoo as Eden was soon replaced by that of the Ark. If the former offered its animal charges leisure and security over inhospitable wilderness, the latter offered refuge from apocalyptic destruction. Their human visitors were now also their rescuers; to communion was added redemption.
Of course, the unprecedented wave of extinction that this apparatus is deployed to combat is a very real and urgent state of affairs. Deborah Bird Rose works with the powerful notion of double death in witnessing to the destructive effects of colonialism and development (Reports). Modern industrial capitalist societies have broken the social and ecological connections that sustain generations, thus disabling the ability of country to replenish itself, to maintain resilience. The lives of those passed away are prevented from shaping and nurturing the future they handed down; the dead, whose voices should guide the living, are doubly silenced. In further exploring this notion in relation to the natural world, Rose articulates and affirms the ecological and evolutionary sense in which death is immanent and necessary to life (‘What If?’). This natural process is different in kind from the doubly effective mass death of modern societies, ‘the amplification of death, so that the balance between life and death is overrun’ (‘What If?’ 75; see also Reports 7, 26-7, 34-6, 175-6; and Wild). Here death is no longer part of the self-perpetuation of life, but also wounds the regenerative capacity of ecosystems, thus threatening to exhaust the very potential of generation. If extinction, too, has been an immanent part of the evolutionary process, the rate and scale of contemporary ‘man-made’ extinction is the definitive double death: the irreparable loss not only of the living but of the multiplicity of forms of life.
It is against this double death of species extinction in the wild that these zoo programmes and interventions are directed. They are not innately violent or destructive, but rather biopolitical forms of power given over to the production and nurture of species life. But for all that they would banish death from their domain, this utopian goal is impossible, and they are forced to maintain their own complex relation to animal death. Indeed, in their managerial ignorance of the connectivities that sustain forms of life, they botch their goal of loving protection, producing creatures only to abandon them to injury and death.
4 In some cases, it is not the most precious individuals of the endangered species but rather their ‘genetically inferior’ kin (Lanza et al. 84-86) or even disposable surrogates from related, but more common and thus less valuable, species that are utilised in breeding and reintroduction programmes.
* * *
Though difficulties and confusions still abound in the attempts of this nonhuman scientia sexualis to manage the procreation of captive animals, many ex situ breeding programmes have been extremely successful. The tragic irony is that this increased capacity to make live leads directly to deaths, either accepted as inevitable or even at times directly imposed. Given the persistence of habitat destruction, the result of this expertise in assisted reproduction is a population that exceeds the accepted sphere of zoological care—certain animals here become either an unwanted surplus or an experimental loss. In the interests of perpetuating a species, the lives of numerous individuals are consigned to genetic irrelevance or collateral damage, tossed overboard the ark.
Surplus populations have often been an issue for the circumscribed spatial and economic resources of zoological gardens. Largely, such redundancies have been quietly dealt with by zoo professionals protective of their domain of expertise and authority. But their own much-publicised principles of preservation and care have not only exacerbated this problem—in successfully breeding more animals than they can manage—but also exposed the hypocrisy of their solutions. The public furore over the euthanasia of a number of healthy Siberian Tigers in Detroit perfectly highlights the biopolitical contradictions generated by captive breeding. As detailed by Donahue and Trump (119-125; see also Norton et al. 187-208), the decision to end the lives of these animals, who were neither old nor ailing but simply genetically unfit for the purposes of the Species Survival Plan, brought significant media and legal attention to the nature of zoological power over nonhuman animal life. While zoos attempted to defend such decisions in terms of the ‘carrying capacity’ of the ark—as necessary sacrifices in an overarching salvific effort—such justifications were undermined by the zoos’ own supposed core principle of care for life.
Such sovereign decisions over life and death made by scientist-managers demonstrate that the zoo, like the hospital, ‘delimits a space of exception in which a purely bare life, entirely controlled by man and his technology, appears’ (Agamben, Homo Sacer 164). While not a camp entirely devoted to death, its exhibition and production of life generates its own contradictory thanatopolitics. The responsibility and burden rests entirely with the zoo apparatus: these lives only exist in the first place through its programmes of assisted reproduction. Moreover, this rational violence is compounded by the absence of any question of viability: a sovereign decision is made to ‘put down’ completely healthy creatures simply because they are not considered to contribute to the genetic future of their own species. Not only are the physical bodies of the excluded considered to be surplus to the genetic body that is the preservationists’ real target; their very existence is seen as competing with their own species’ survival, for space on the ark and indeed within the genome. This is no longer a paradise for each and all but a cut-throat business: ‘In a world of finite resources for captive breeding, culling one animal directly allows another to live’ (Norton et al. 189).
The irony of Species Survival Plans requiring the products of their own breeding programmes to be put to death is reduced somewhat if one considers that (as has often been charged) these self-serving plans are mostly concerned with the sustainability of captive populations for display. Yet where bona fide reintroduction schemes do exist, death is once again a prominent effect of biopolitical intervention. Here, however, it is not the direct result of a managerial decision, but simply the outcome of putting into practice the aims of reintroduction to the wild.
It has often been claimed that zoo animals are not wild creatures at all but artifacts of the zoological institution (Lee, Zoos). Yet such philosophical critiques are too often so concerned with refusing the category of wildness to animals tainted by contact with a seemingly omnipotent humanity that they fail to delineate the precise nature and extent of this anthropogenic influence. On the other hand, zookeepers and conservation biologists are often for their part well aware of the behavioural and genetic impacts of captivity and devote their knowledge and expertise to understanding and mitigating such adaptations. However, as Marc Bekoff protests, ethical responsibilities to individual animals are commonly ignored within conservationist practices that assume a moral mandate to redesign nature.
The survival rates of reintroduced captives provide a sad demonstration of the ‘docile bodies’ that zoos produce. Jule et al. found that captive-born carnivores were significantly less likely to survive reintroduction than those translocated from the ‘wild’, being ‘particularly susceptible to starvation, unsuccessful predator/competitor avoidance and disease’ (1). One study of golden lion tamarins reported that ‘60% are lost in the first post-release year’, and such poor success rates are typical. It is an indication of persistent genetic reductionism that it takes such a fatal demonstration of the inability of captive-born animals to negotiate their ‘native habitats’ for these scientists to conclude that (rather than simply genetically ingrained) ‘many survival-critical behaviours may be learned’ (Beck et al. 7). Clearly, however, they are not learned in captivity; thus ‘“deficiencies” from the viewpoint of reintroduction to the wild … also reflect successful adaptations to captive environments’ (Beck et al. 7). Thus it is that animals accustomed to the distorting ‘Eden’ zoos attempt to provide— free of disease, predation, hunger and danger—find themselves ‘returned’ to thoroughly unfamiliar and dangerous environments. The would-be paradisiacal exclusion of predation from zoos, when discarded in favour of reintroduction to the ‘wild’, abandons to suffering and death the naive animals it has long housed and nurtured.
As animal behaviourists have pointed out, such regimes of management, in their focus on population and genetics, ignore an essential element relevant to survival, failing to recognise the importance of learned behaviours, skills and knowledge and the extent to which the capacities needed for survival decline in captivity—what Margodt calls a ‘behavioural bottleneck’ (19). As Nicole Mazur puts it, ‘Essentially, the physiological, psychological and environmental needs of the Ark’s passengers have not been catered for’ (49). Even where behaviour has recently come to be seen as an important part of conservation biology’s calculations and an aid in extending the survival of reintroduced species (Blumstein and Fernández-Juricic), this in many ways merely expands the knowledge and proficiency available to wildlife management, without allowing its awareness of animal subjectivity to challenge the very principles of such attempts to remake nature. Efforts are made to prepare animals for reintroduction by programming wildness within the zoo, by mimicking (or ‘priming’ for) predation, disease, competition, foraging, and by training the animals in ‘survival skills’ lost in captivity (Griffin et al. 2000). Yet there are limits to how far such behavioural losses can be compensated for through enrichment. And ultimately—given that the goal of this biopolitics is the propagation and survival of these species—it is the ‘wild’ that is eventually transformed into an extension of the zoo, such as when strategies of ‘soft-release’ provide animals with intense support after reintroduction through in situ provisioning and medical care, in effect disciplining the wild (Rinfret).
The biopolitics of endangered species preservation thus not only produces a ‘bare life’ whose genetic unsuitability exposes it to death; it also produces, if not quite any longer the living dead witnessed from Nietzsche to Berger, a wounded life severed from the connectivities of emplaced kin and habitat, from the traditions of behaviour learned and adapted within such forms of life across innumerable generations. Though itself directed against the double death of extinction, captive breeding robs the dead of their ability to sustain present lives with the gift of their wisdom. As Rose writes, in terms just as applicable to nonhumans as humans, ‘Flourishing life is evidence of current and ancestral labour, but it all can come undone when the organisation fails’ (Reports 173). The intense focus of zoological programmes on the propagation of life and the survival of future generations disguises the extent to which their methods of intervention—artificially and inadequately focused on the genetic, species body—are themselves attacks on the ability of life to reproduce itself as resilient and self-sustaining. Efforts at reintroduction show that zoos wound the capacity of life to gift future generations an existence that can flourish, at least in the ‘wild’—which puts into doubt the very value of that goal for populations in captivity.
* * *
152 The contemporary biopolitics of zoological care, revolutionised by Hediger and since developed in all manner of enrichments and interventions, may have
reduced the incidence of stereotypy and other effects of captivity; but it has a long way to go to truly heal the wounds of the ‘sickly beasts’ procured and produced by zoos. Our time is faced with an enormous question of love and responsibility; in a world of doubled death, where the activities of civilisation have so disrupted the connectivities and regenerative capacities of nonhuman life that irreparable extinctions have multiplied, we must do all we can to ameliorate this situation. But it is a strange and harsh apparatus of love that, in perverse mimicry of the nature it has extinguished, exposes to confusion, suffering and death the very endangered creatures that it breeds.
Matthew Chrulew is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Macquarie University. He has written numerous journal articles at the intersection of critical theory and animal studies. Currently he is writing the volume Mammoth for Reaktion Books, and editing (with Dinesh Wadiwel) the collection Foucault and Animals.
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8 The cultural hegemony of meat
and the animal industrial complex
Amy J. Fitzgerald and Nik Taylor
We wanted to take the opportunity to write this chapter and contribute to this volume for three main reasons. The first is that we are part of, and witnesses to, the development of a new discipline – Animal Studies – and while we are greatly appreciative of all the work done under this umbrella we are interested to explore what specifically Critical Animal Studies might mean and what it can bring to empirical, as well as theoretical, work. The second is that we feel the belief in the human right to use other animals is so pervasive in modern societies that it is akin to sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination. We also believe that it rests upon similar foundations to other forms of discrimination and thus one cannot successfully counter one without countering the others.
Ecofeminists have historically been at the forefront of interrogating the inter secting subjugation of “nature” and marginalised human groups (see for example, Adams 1991; Gaard 1997; Kheel 1995; Plumwood 1996; Warren 1997). We expand upon this idea later, so suffice to say for introductory pur poses that a belief in the need to expand theories of intersectionality to include speciesism motivates us. Finally, we chose to write about the cultural hegemony of animal products as a specific empirical, test- case, because it is here, we believe, that the ultimate expression of human superiority and exceptionalism is made, precisely because it is made normatively and by assumption. This means that challenging it is necessary but also difficult as it requires addressing some thing so taken- for-granted and embedded that most are unable, or unwilling, to see it. That said, addressing the hidden mechanisms of social life is arguably one of the most important functions of sociology, as Burawoy (2007: 28) points out in his idea of an “organic public sociology”, which brings “sociology into a con versation with publics” (see also Twine 2010 and Cudworth, Chapter 1 this volume). One of the projects of such sociology is “to make visible the invisible, to make the private public,” which we applaud but would make explicit that achieving such a goal is only possible if we attend to the ways in which power plays out and manifests itself through discourse; hence, our interest in the norm ative discourses of the acceptability of the human consumption of animal derived food products.
This chapter, then, will begin to map some of the ways in which entrenched beliefs about animals and humans are created and maintained by different
discursive practices. We do this by analysing the various normalisation dis courses surrounding the consumption of animal products. Using empirical data drawn from two main fields of practice where animals are constituted simply as consumables (human food and “pet” food products) we seek to begin to uncover the mechanisms whereby the production and consumption of animal products are normalised. We argue that this consumption is so taken for granted in modern industrial societies that there exists a cultural hegemony regarding not just the acceptability, but the necessity of animal consumption and seek to deconstruct the specific ways in which this occurs. We consider these issues within a framework that seeks to illuminate the operation of a general speciesist ideology and argue that this is a result of, and at the same time underpins, the “animal- industrial complex” (A- IC) (Noske 1989; Twine 2012). We utilise Twine’s (2012: 23) definition of the A- IC as “a partly opaque and multiple set of networks and relationships between the corporate . . . sector, governments, and public and private science. With economic, social, and affective dimensions it encompasses an extensive range of practices, techniques, images, identities and markets”. In particular, we focus on the interplay between images, identities and markets by analysing the entanglements of animal- derived food production and consumption practices (and in this particular case we mean the literal consump tion – ingestion – of animals) as they are sterilised and made palatable for general consumers through various campaigns. This allows us to begin high lighting the interconnected, local and global, character of the animal- industrial complex. We do this in the spirit of Twine’s exhortation that in order to make the A- IC an organising concept for CAS we need to continually map the connec tions between overlapping sectors where animal abuse and exploitation occur. Believing that the obfuscation of meat- as-animal- life is one of the most important cornerstones of the animal- industrial complex under capitalist and neo- liberal regimes, we analyse data where animals are absent, manipulated or otherwise used within a political economy that depends on their very bodies for its maintenance, not in a nutritional sense but in the sense that they are consti tuted as necessary for maintaining the political economic status quo.
Background and context
While the growing discipline of Animal Studies has legitimised a consideration of animal abuse, much of the focus is on the cruelty perpetrated by individual humans to companion animals. Institutionalised cruelty receives far less atten tion (for exceptions and more on this see Beirne 2009; Fitzgerald et al. 2009; Flynn 2002), perhaps precisely because it is institutionalized and therefore subject to both concealment and protection by those with vested interests (see Groling, Chapter 5 in this volume, on this point). Other factors play a role in the concealment of the various animal abuses that take place in the processing of their bodies into products – for example, a desire to maintain the clear bound aries between human and other animals and thus shore up human superiority; a need to “prove” human civility, which necessitates the concealment of anything considered unpalatable and barbaric and in turn led to the moving of slaughter practices from open view to the outskirts of society (Elias 1978; Vialles 1994). As Elias points out,
It will be seen again and again how characteristic of the whole process of civilization is this movement of segregation, this hiding “behind the scenes” of what has become distasteful. The curve running from the carving of a large part of the animal or even the whole animal at table, through the advance in the threshold of repugnance at the sight of dead animals, to the removal of carving to specialized enclaves behind the scenes, is a typical civilization curve. (Elias 1978: 99)
However, we believe that these forces legitimate institutionalised animal abuses rather than pre- figure them. By hiding what actually happens – whether this occurs literally through the move to the edges of society of slaughterhouses, or discursively through the constitution of animals as less worthy than humans of moral concern – abusive treatment becomes legitimated and, ultimately, con sidered to be normal and necessary. Thus we see discourses abound regarding the nutritional necessity for humans to eat meat as well as those that situate animal production as a necessary part of a “thriving” economy. In turn, the abuses that animals suffer as a part of this process are covered up – again discur sively and literally – through, for example claims that their welfare is of para mount concern throughout the commodification process, or claims that humans could not live without the nutrition granted to them through the consumption of animal products (see Cole 2011 for a more in depth discussion). This discursive sleight of hand effectively silences any opposition partly because abusive prac tices are “out of sight, out of mind” but also because they are discursively con stituted as normal – “nothing to see here folks, move along”.
In our opinion, this is where Critical Animal Studies (CAS) comes into its own. Developing, in part, from the rich ideas of ecofeminists from the 1970’s onwards, who pointed to the intersected nature of the oppression of nature/ animals/environment and the oppression of women, CAS scholars seek to eluci date the mechanisms of these intersections in order to end them. 1 We would further argue that (some) other feminist approaches have much to offer any ana lysis of the abuse of animals in modern society. Liz Kelly’s concept of a “con tinuum of violence” (1988) is a particularly useful one here. This concept is based on an acknowledgment that violence against women is far from an aberra tion and, in fact, is normative. The normative character of violence against women leads to inattention to the ways it plays out on a daily basis because of a pre- occupation with extreme cases. This focus means that the socially sanctioned spectrum of male violence against women, which includes, but is by no means limited to, extreme forms of horrific instances of cruelty and abuse, go under acknowledged and under- analysed. We feel that this is often the case in Animal Studies as well as in society generally, where attention is given to individual instances of cruelty to companion animal species. While worthwhile, this body of scholarship neglects the institutionalised nature of abuse and therefore rein forces a form of speciesism by privileging harms perpetrated against some species over others. As a consequence such theories are bereft of any detailed analyses of power at a structural level, which we feel is necessary. 2
To better understand how violence against animals at the socially sanctioned end of the “continuum of violence” is normalised and has reached the level of hegemony, our analysis is centred on discourses of the meat production segment of the animal- industrial complex. By using empirical data, we hope to make some of the mechanisms of the A- IC clear and in so doing avoid falling into the trap that Twine identifies when he notes that usage of the concept “may have become simply assumed and almost rhetorical, deployed monolithically to represent, but also to reduce the myriad complexity of the multiple relations, actors, technologies and identities that may be said to comprise the complex” (2012: 15). While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to map all of the inter connections and detail the nuanced interplay between the various arms of the complex, by locating our work empirically we begin to describe some of the concrete mechanisms at play in the A- IC. We focus on the most common themes we observed, but before turning to those findings, we detail our sources of data and analytical method in the next section.
Data and method
We examine two sources of messages about animal- derived food products, tar geted at two fairly distinct audiences. The first is websites for red meat export ers, which are aimed at companies looking to secure supplies of red meat from Australia (a major meat exporter). We selected our sample of red meat exporters using an online search function of the Meat and Livestock Australia website. This website (www.mla.com.au/Marketing- red-meat/International- marketing/ Red- meat-exporter- database) states that its purpose is that “International meat buyers seeking Australian red meat suppliers can use MLA’s Australian Red Meat Exporter Database to find companies that can supply Australian beef, lamb, mutton, goat meat and offal products.” The search function has various ways of limiting responses, e.g. “importing destination”, or “species type”. Leaving all of these fields listed as “any”, an open search was performed. This resulted in 136 hits. Of these 110 had active websites broken down by product (beef = 94; sheep = 74; goat = 43; offal = 67; other = 24), certification (halal = 92; organic = 37;
EU grain fed beef = 11), and region (Americas = 75; Europe = 77; EQA = 41;
Africa = 64; Asia = 105; Middle East = 80, and Other = 27). From these, 55 were selected at random and these websites formed the data for the current analysis. We then analysed the front pages of each website and pulled out various recur ring themes, an examination of which occurs below.
The second source is print advertisements published in cooking magazines in North America and aimed at individual consumers. We selected three maga zines, Food and Wine, Bon Appétit and Cooking Light, because they are among the top Epicurean magazines according to the circulation averages compiled for the first half of 2012 by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. We analysed all adver tisements for products derived from animal sources, including meat, dairy, eggs and “pet” food, appearing in the first seven issues of 2012 for each of these monthly periodicals. These selection criteria resulted in 89 total advertisements (Food and Wine = 12; Bon Appétit = 12; Cooking Light = 65). The removal of duplicate advertisements left us with 74 unique advertisements (63 for human food products and 11 for “pet” food).
The mass media and the power to define
Before moving on to discuss the themes, we want to pause a moment here to reflect on the role of both media and discourse in determining beliefs about, and attitudes toward, non- human animals. Discourse refers to more than simply language:
Discourse is about the interplay between language and social relationships, in which some groups are able to achieve dominance for their interests in the way in which the world is defined and acted upon. . . . Language is a central aspect of discourse through which power is reproduced and communicated. (Hugman 1991: 37)
In modern Western society the media has an enormous power to disseminate ideas about issues, to frame things in certain ways and to determine what is con sidered normal. As Molloy points out (2011: 1) “animal narratives . . . play an essential role in shaping the limits and norms of public discourses on animals and animal issues and so constitute a key source of information, definitions and images”. Morgan and Cole (2011) argue that a “flesh- eating hegemony” (p. 120), which is a reflection of dominant social attitudes, permeates the modern media, and it is evidence of this we are keen to analyse. They further point out that “looking at stories relating to other animals . . . gives us some idea of what is seen as important or worthy of discussion – and equally importantly, what is not worthy of discussion” (ibid.: 120). By expanding this to examine advertisements and websites, which include images relating to the production and consumption of animal products, we can begin to deconstruct how animal production and con sumption are normalised in a “carnist” (Joy, 2009), “anthroparchal” (Cudworth (Chapter 1), and Jenkins and Twine (Chapter 11), this volume) culture.
We analysed our data using Content Analysis, a method that allows the exam ination of material for themes and meanings. We coded both explicit and implicit messages in the text and images contained in the advertisements and websites. This analysis of the data showed several prominent themes throughout both sources (the magazine advertisements and the websites). We focus on the three most prominent themes here, and while for analytical purposes we tease these themes apart, there are also important interconnections between them which we discuss throughout.
The replacement of “realistic” animals with “happy” animals
One of the themes common to both sets of data is the absence of any acknow ledgment of the processes used to convert live animals into dead products. In many ways this echoes Adams’ argument that,
Behind every meal of meat is an absence: the death of the animal whose place the meat takes. The “absent referent” is that which separates the meat eater from the animal and the animal from the end product. The function of the absent referent is to keep our “meat” separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal . . . to keep something from being seen as having been someone. (Adams 2010: 13)
This omission of the processes used to produce meat has been documented in other research examining cultural representations of meat (e.g. Heinz and Lee 1998) and particularly in the case of chickens where, as Molloy points out, there is a disconnection between live birds and their “reconfigured” form (2011: 110).
However, while the processes that animals are subject to in order to become products – as opposed to whole, living beings – are absent throughout both data sites, actual animals are not. Animals are clearly discursively constituted as “happy” throughout many of the adverts and websites (“happy animals” appeared in 25 per cent of the advertisements and 40 per cent of the meat exporter websites) with the implication that the animals used lived happy and productive lives, presumably until the time came to turn them into products.
Less than one- fifth of advertisements analysed contain images of “live” animals (as opposed to pieces of meat); however, almost half of these depictions are drawings. And only dairy cows are depicted in photographs, which could indicate that pictures of dairy animals (in pastures as opposed to modern dairy farms) are less risky than pictures of animals that are consumed as meat. As Molloy (2011: 114–115) notes,
much of the popularly available imagery of dairy farming has been gener ated by the dairy industry, where advertising . . . has continued to deploy culturally specific visions of contented cows in rural landscapes. As a result the publicly available meanings of dairy farming and cows have been refracted through readings of nature as “environment” and “landscape”.
In turn, Molloy argues, this is used to suggest “natural” and “healthy” and is reflected back upon dairy cows and their produce, thus suggesting healthy
obtained within a welfare- friendly environment (Molloy 2011: 114, 120). Thus, even though some companies use images of animals in their adver tisements, they employ idyllic images of dairy cows in pastures and even cartoon depictions of happy, appeasing, docile animals. This docility is central to the concept of human rights to “control” other species (Cole 2011). The ads more commonly rely on text and cartoon depictions to convey their message that the animals used in these products at least lived happily (no mention was ever made of happy deaths) and were even used willingly. Others have also pointed to the use of these techniques to sell animal products to consumers (e.g. Cole 2011). The use of cartoon/animated animals and the construction of suicidal animals willingly giving up their bodies constitute genres in the advertising of animal products (see also Griffin, Chapter 6 in this volume). Advertisements for Starkist tuna are illustrative of these two genres. These ads present a cartoon depiction of Charlie the Tuna, who is gesturing with his fin as though he is proudly present ing the product – tuna flesh. The three different ads for Starkist tuna included in our sample all contained Charlie the Tuna and a print statement thanking Charlie. Another ad for Skinny Cow ice cream includes an illustration of a cow lying horizontally (and even provocatively) with a smile on her face and a measuring tape around her thin midsection. These depictions not only communicate implicit claims about the animals being kept in such humane conditions that they are happy about it, they also imply that aware of their own limitations, these animals give themselves over to more able, human hands. These messages are reminis cent of historic claims about slaves and those imprisoned in concentration camps benefitting from these arrangements because they are being “taken care of ” (see Patterson 2002; Spiegel 1996).
We note that the claims about the happiness of animals are also devoid of content about the actual welfare of the animals being used, which is also com plemented by the absence of visual depictions of “realistic” animals – those that actually are or resemble those used by industrial animal agriculture. The notion of happy agricultural animals no doubt mitigates angst among some consumers. As Cole (2011: 84) points out in his application of Foucauldian ideas regarding “pastoral power” and “happy animals”, such discourses “attempt to remoralize the exploitation of ‘farmed’ animals in such a way as to permit business as usual, with the added ‘value’ of ethical self- satisfaction for the consumer of ‘happy meat.’ ”
On the production side, claims about the “naturalness” of the living con ditions of animals were linked with claims about their “happiness”. However, it is evident that there is some selectivity used in visually representing the natural ness of these conditions and the happiness of animals. For instance, while one meat exporter website provided video of the lifespan of cattle and sheep from birth through to arrival at the slaughterhouse, the footage ended when the gate the animals were herded through at the slaughterhouse was closed. Thus the last image we have of these animals is one of them as whole and healthy, and spe cific links between these animals and the images of plated meats are left unmade and subject to a “symbolic distancing” (Hamilton and Taylor 2013). Similarly, less extensive visuals were provided of the processes that chickens were subject to, presumably because they tend to be raised in more concentrated and confined facilities. It is also worthy of note that this was the only website that included any reference whatsoever to the slaughterhouse.
Thus, both meat exporter websites and the magazine adverts market a sanitized version of production, not only through the happy animals discourse but also through the visual images they choose to use, as well as those they omit and conceal. It is not surprising that those marketing animal products to individual end users or consumers would not provide realistic visuals of the way that the majority of animals used for human consumption are raised and killed. Doing so might risk turning individual consumers off consuming these products (although as Salih, Chapter 3 this volume, points out, exposure to information about the production process does not necessarily translate into changes in consumptive behaviour). What is more surprising is that marketing through the meat exporter websites, which targets business interests, is similarly sanitised, although not to the same degree. The marketing here does contain images of live animals, and one even includes video footage of some animals. However, the websites are also saturated with images of idealised rural agriculture. Modern industrialised and concentrated animal agriculture is not represented here, even though the target audience is busi nesses and not individual consumers. This can be analysed in several different ways. First, the meat exporter websites could be cognisant of the chance that the general public could happen upon their publicly available marketing materials, although animal product consumers are not known to go searching for information about how the animals they consume live and die; most consumers do not want to know how the meat, dairy and eggs they consume are produced (Foer 2009). Second, it could also mean that they are concerned with a form of corporate “impression management” (Goffman 1959). If, for instance, they depicted how these animals are actually raised, the importers they seek to do business with may opt to take their business elsewhere – to a company that is providing a more sanit ized view of the industry. This possibility seems more likely than the former, although it may not tell the whole story. Irrespectively, as Twine points out in his discussion of the discourses surrounding genetically modified animals, the lan guage used is ‘uncanny’ in that it “combines instrumental language related to profitability, efficiency and death, with the subjectification of [particular animals] as a ‘she’ ” (2012: 110). This “uncanny” subjectification flies in the face of the realities of the slaughter at the heart of the business of these corporations. Finally, it is also possible that sanitised depictions of the industry have become so hege monic that companies simply reproduce the same message and strategies over and over: the animals used are happy and only those that appear that way (i.e. in pas tures instead of in confinement barns) are to be depicted. This would indicate the substantial power of the ideology promulgated by the A- IC to continually repro duce itself, as well as demonstrating “how capitalism creatively commodifies its own excess” (Twine 2012: 19).
The relative absence of live animals (and the total absence of “realistic”, industrially-p roduced animals) in these ads stands in stark contrast to what we found in the 11 additional advertisements we analysed that were marketing animal products in the form of pet food. Of those advertisements, all but one (91 per cent) contain images of animals, but not the species of animals contained in the food; instead these images are of “pet” or companion animal species (i.e. cats and dogs) who will presumably be consuming the food. They are pictured eating, posing for the camera, or interacting lovingly with human companions. Consist ent with the majority of advertisements for human food, none of these advertise ments for pet food feature images of the species of animals contained in the food. Thus, some species of animals are actively rendered invisible as part of the commodification process (see Shukin 2009), while other species are intention ally foregrounded and constructed by corporations as family members that deserve the best that money can buy. These companies are exploiting and bene fitting from the existence of a sociozoologic scale (Arluke and Sanders 1996), which privileges some species of animals (e.g. pets) over others (e.g. livestock and poultry). The A- IC, as a whole, relies upon the continued cultural salience of this sociozoologic scale, which is in turn reaffirmed by the presumption of its naturalness.
Romanticisation of “naturalness”
The “happy animals” narrative was frequently connected with a discourse about naturalness. We noted the romanticisation of nature (in 42 per cent of the meat exporter websites) and of relationships between human farmers and the animals they keep (in 8 per cent of meat exporter websites). The advertisements were also replete with messages about the naturalness of animal- derived products. For instance, the copy in an ad for Kerrygold’s cheese and butter uses the word “natural” three times in the span of two sentences: “We don’t mind telling you what goes into our pure, all natural Irish cheese and butter. It’s pure, all natural Irish milk that comes from cows that graze on pure, all natural Irish grass.” Another ad for dairy products asserts the “naturalness” of their product based on their claims that they do not use artificial growth hormones. 3 Interestingly, the small print under the claim about growth hormone- free cows states “Our farmers pledge not to use artificial growth hormones. No significant difference has been shown in milk from cows treated with the artificial growth hormone rbST and non rbST treated cows.” Despite this interesting qualification, which we can only assume is in place to protect against lawsuits, we find the word “natural” is used frequently in both samples to imply that a product is healthy.
We suggest that this discourse of naturalness serves to normalize the produc tion and consumption processes of animal- derived food products. The romantici sation of nature and of human relationships with both it and the animals considered to be an integral part of it, conceptually associates food animal pro duction with nature and the idea of the “natural”. This implicitly legitimates human use of animals based on rhetoric of necessity (nature- as-resource) and of control, which, in turn, rests upon post- Enlightenment beliefs in human exemp tionalism and the supremacy that technological advances are held to give us as a species (Castree and Braun 1998). Research has found that the presumed natu ralness of the consumption of meat is so pervasive that even those organisations that challenge the nature- as-resource perspective (i.e. environmental organisa tions), generally fail to question the human “need” to eat meat (Packwood Freeman 2010).
It is worthy of note, however, that the discourse regarding the “naturalness” of these “products” is actually one of a carefully controlled nature. These are not images of a wild, windswept nature that defies human control and dominance. Rather they are images of a romanticized, yet domesticated, nature, which is again linked to human dominance through a civilising discourse. As Ingold points out (1994: 6), “man’s rise to civilization was conceived to have its coun terpart in the domestication of nature”.
This “natural order” discourse was both gendered and speciesist. In our ana lysis, sexism was apparent in the reification of traditional gender roles in both the magazine advertisements and through The Red Meat Exporters’ websites. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the advertisements for animal products were clearly directed at women, presumably as the primary shoppers. On the flip side, the materials of The Red Meat Exporters depicted farmers as exclusively male. This resonates with Cudworth’s (2008: 43) arguments that the process of “becoming- meat” in an anthroparchal (i.e. human dominant) system is a gen dered one. As she explains:
As a complex social system, anthroparchy is intersectionalised . . . [where] the intersection of capitalist and patriarchal relations is particularly marked. . . . The object of domination in the manufacture of meat is patriar chally constituted. As such animals are largely female and are usually fem inized in terms of their treatment. Farmers disproportionately breed female animals so they can maximize profit via the manipulation of reproduction. Female animals that have been used for breeding can be seen to incur the most severe physical violence within the system, particularly at slaughter. Female and feminized animals are bred, incarcerated, raped, killed and cut into pieces, and this tale of becoming- meat is very much a story of com modification. Yet whilst the production of meat is shaped by relations of capital and patriarchy, it is most clearly a site in which anthroparchal rela tions cohere as certain kinds of animals are (re)constructed as a range of objects for human consumption.
Linked to the gendered nature of oppression in animal product representation is speciesism, particularly in the ways that (hegemonic) masculinity is linked to meat eating (Adams 2010; Rogers 2008). As Rogers demonstrates in his analysis of television advertisements, failure to consume meat, particularly among men, is framed as challenging the “natural balance” between genders and species. Meat consumption is linked with “natural” predation, particularly by men. The materials we analysed also naturalize speciesism and this occurs on a few dif ferent levels. On one level they support the underlying speciesist assumption that humans have the right to enslave and commodify animals in the name of profit. This assumption supports the constructed dichotomy between human and non human animals. However, we also find another level of speciesism at play here that points to the existence of a continuum between human and non- human animals. As discussed earlier, in the magazine advertisements it was rare to see photographs of live animals; however, we find that in the advertisements for pet food products, photos of companion animal species are ubiquitous, while the animals contained in the advertised products are once again omitted. This finding illustrates the power of speciesism: some animal species are foregrounded in photographs and referred to as family (i.e. companion animals), while others are literally and symbolically annihilated (i.e. animals used as food).
Sexism and speciesism sit happily side by side in the materials we analysed and this again demonstrates the utility of a critical animal studies approach that is grounded in intersectionality. Speciesism and sexism (as well as other forms of domination) are intertwined precisely because they originate from, and within, a particular system of oppression. As Nibert (2002) points out:
the oppression of various devalued groups in human societies is not inde pendent or unrelated; rather, the arrangements that lead to various forms of oppression are integrated in such a way that the exploitation of one group frequently augments and compounds the mistreatment of another. (Ibid.: 4)
The hegemony of these forms of oppression makes them appear natural.
The naturalness discourse in the materials we analysed most explicitly nor malise the current mode of industrial animal agriculture. On the production side, both the red meat exporter websites and the magazine advertisements make claims about the animals being raised and managed in “natural” conditions. These claims divert attention away from the industrial conditions that the vast majority of animals are raised within in developed countries. They can also simultaneously normalise these conditions by implicitly framing them as “natural”. This is possible because there is no objective standard for “natural ness”, which also makes it a useful and inexpensive marketing tool, akin to “tradition”.
The websites framed messages of “naturalness” within the larger theme of happy animals and romanticized agriculture. Within this larger theme, science and technology were also apparent and seemed to coexist comfortably with mes sages of naturalness. It seems that Western cultures have accepted science and technology as a natural part of meat and dairy production. This acceptance speaks to the power of the A- IC to frame their increasingly technologically advanced practices not only as harmless, but even as natural. It also enables them to capitalise on the cultural authority of science and illustrates the interconnect edness of actors within the A- IC, such as agribusiness companies, marketing companies, companies and governmental agencies invested in new scientific and technological developments and the pharmaceutical industry.
Good health and good taste
In addition to normalising the ways in which animal- derived food products are produced, we suggest that the “naturalness” discourse more generally legitimises the consumption of animal- derived products and even assists in constructing them as healthy and smart choices (i.e. if it’s “natural”, it must be healthy). In turn, this also plays out through discourses that suggest that animals reared in natural, healthy ways (“happy animals”) will taste better and thus, as Cole (2011: 93) notes, the intermingling of animal welfare friendly and “happy meat” dis course “always posits a win- win scenario: happy animals taste better”. By impli cation those who choose these products demonstrate their own good taste, ethically and gastronomically. By far the most common message conveyed in the advertisements analysed is that consuming animal products is a healthy and therefore smart decision. This finding is consistent with Heinz and Lee’s (1998) observation that the concerns raised about the healthfulness of meat in the 1980s and 1990s caused the industry to begin “aggressively promoting meat as a natural, healthy part of daily food intake” (ibid.: 86). Seventy per cent of the advertisements explicitly or implicitly claim that consuming animal products is healthy. One of the more explicit messages appears in an ad for Campbell’s Chunky Healthy Request Chicken Noodle Soup. The focal point of the ad is a heart- shaped bowl, which presumably contains the chicken noodle soup being advertised. Above the bowl the headline reads: “The flavour that captured your heart, made heart healthy.” To reaffirm the message being communicated about the healthfulness of the product, in the lower left hand corner there is a heart with a check mark through it and a statement indicating that the product is certi fied by the American Heart Association because it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The copy at the bottom of the advertisement states “It’s amazing what soup can do”, which in combination with the rest of the advertisement seems to imply that this soup may actually even be able to reverse dangerous health conditions. At the very bottom of the ad, in small print, the following dis claimer appears: “While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Similarly, the large print banner at the top of an ad for pork by the National Pork Board in the US, reads simply: “Be healthy”, and the ad also contains the American Heart Associ ation checkmark for being “Extra Lean”, which in combination implies that it is a healthy food choice.
While Heinz and Lee (1998), in their analysis of cultural representations of meat, found that messages about the healthfulness of meat raised critical ques tions about whether it could be healthy and taste good, we find in the ads we analyse that claims about the healthfulness of the products are accompanied by claims about the tastiness of the product two- thirds of the time. Illustrative of the frequent tethering of good taste with healthfulness, the headline of an advertise ment for Al Fresco chicken sausage and Classico creamy Alfredo sauce urges readers to “Lighten up, in the most delicious way possible.” Two different ads by the Beef industry – specifically by The Beef Checkoff programme of the US
Cattlemen’s Beef Board, whose logo reminds one of the American Heart Associ ation’s ‘heart check mark’ programme – emphasize the leanness and good taste of their product. The tag line of one ad refers to it as “Lean and delicious, with endless possibilities.” Exploiting the traditional tension between good taste and healthfulness, which Heinz and Lee (1998) identify, while claiming a confluence of the two in their product, one series of ads by TruMoo Chocolate Milk includes pictures of two men: one as an angel (dressed like a milkman of years gone by) and the other (dressed in a black delivery uniform) as the devil. The banners on their ads include the following statements: “Purely good and devilishly delicious” and “Good nutrition meets great taste.” According to the copy in the ad, “TruMoo is a delicious chocolate milk you can feel good about giving your kids, every day.”
While taste was not necessarily specifically referred to on the meat exporter websites it was implied through images of meat-b ased food, plated and looking appetising. Fifty two per cent of websites analysed had this imagery. Both those marketing to individual consumers and to businesses seeking to import meat therefore emphasise the good taste of the product through text and this is often accompanied by images of pieces of meat or of dairy products. These products are framed as being about more than meeting nutritional needs; flavour is a crit ical component. However, we find an important difference between the claims about taste made in the magazine advertisements and by The Red Meat Export ers. In the magazine advertisements the claims about the good taste of the prod ucts commonly appear with reference to the healthfulness of the product. This coupling is not observed in the marketing materials of The Red Meat Exporters. Those purchasing their products – businesses that will then sell to consumers – do not need to be convinced that the product is not only tasty but also healthy. They simply need to be convinced that the product is tasty because their ability to modify taste itself is constrained. They can, however, subsequently add claims about the healthfulness of the product in their own marketing, which, in turn, has an ethical implication – in order to be “tasty”, these animals had to be reared in a welfare- friendly manner. These interconnected discourses (happy animals/happy meat, animal welfare, good taste, ethical responsibility) ultimately reinforce the idea that farm animals are no more – or less – than meat- in-waiting, which is illustrative of the ways in which discourses communicated from within the A- IC are tailored to the specific audience of interest:
“Happy meat” discourses therefore posit that happiness becomes an adjunct of meat (or for that matter eggs), something to be consumed along with the muscle fibres, fat and blood. The “ethical consumer” is morally satiated by consuming the happiness of the animals at the same time as her or his belly is filled with their corpses or secretions. The juxtaposition of “welfare” and “quality” is therefore more significant than a legitimation of exploitation. (Cole 2011: 94)
We therefore suggest that the happy animal/animal welfare discourse is making it possible to reconcile claims about healthfulness and tastiness that previously would have seemed incongruent. For instance Franklin (1999) has asserted that as health concerns have been raised about meat, it has come to be “marketed for its taste, flavours and versatility rather than its essential health and strength giving properties”. (ibid.: 174). We find, however, that these two claims are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and are likely being brought together by the development of a happy meat/animal welfare discourse.
The coupling of the messages about taste and healthfulness in the magazine advertisements could also be read as an acknowledgement that individual con sumers are sufficiently concerned about the healthfulness of these products that they require reassurance even in the presence of great taste. It may also serve to assuage those consumers who are uneasy about consuming these products in two ways. First, one is made to feel less guilty about consuming an indulgently tasty product if it is also said to contain health benefits. Second, and more implicitly, the pairing of claims of health benefits with claims of good taste can help to nor malise the consumption of animal products. Most people are of the opinion that meat products taste good. That alone, however, is not necessarily justification for consuming them. Combining claims of taste with claims of health benefits can be more convincing and reassuring for individual consumers. It serves to rein force the notion that consuming animal products is necessary for health reasons, which is also connected to the theme of naturalness, as discussed earlier. The coupling of these themes may belie an evolving environment wherein the agri cultural arm of the A- IC cannot rely simply on the taste of their product and cul tures of consumption, and instead needs to leverage additional justifications. Further research exploring animal agriculture discourses over time could use fully map this trajectory
This discourse played out slightly differently in the meat exporter websites. Claims about the healthfulness of animal products were not entirely absent in the marketing materials of The Red Meat Exporters we analysed; however, they took a backseat to the messages they chose to foreground. Rather than stressing benefits to individual health of meat consumption, these sites pointed to their clean, green, safe production (18 per cent), scientific/quality control management (22 per cent) practices and the advantages of their national or regional location (62 per cent). We point to the audiences being targeted by both sets of actors to explain this divergence. The Red Meat Exporters are targeting businesses looking to import red meat. They are selling a brand and do so by drawing on the image of Australia to sell products, pointing to the country’s history of meat production and the physical and cultural environment and messages of safety and scientific rationality. On the other hand, the advertisements we analysed are aimed at end-u sers – the individuals purchasing food for themselves and/or their family; cooking it and consuming it. Here the most prevalent message is the alleged healthfulness of the products. It appears that healthfulness is not neces sarily a quality inherent to animal products: it is a discourse aimed at individual consumers in response to relatively recent questioning of the effects of the con sumption of animal products on human health. Our analysis of these two players in the A- IC (advertisers and red meat exporters) therefore illuminates how messages are shaped by economic objectives: the advertisements in the cooking magazines are aimed at increasingly health conscious consumers, whereas the Red Meat Exporter websites are aimed at importers interested in a reliable and safe supply of meat.
Our aim in this chapter was to outline the strengths of a specifically Critical Animal Studies analysis of the ways in which animal products form a corner stone of the A- IC and to outline some of the mechanisms by which this occurs. We wanted to do this, in part, to facilitate Twine’s call to make the A- IC an organising concept for CAS, agreeing with him that the strength in this approach is that it “contextualizes the use of animals as food not primarily within a rubric of inadequate ethical frameworks but as part of the wider mechanisms of capit alism and its normalizing potential” (Twine 2012: 15). We point to three main themes within our samples that normalise the consumption of animal products and the practices of industrial animal agriculture.
The discourses emanating from the A- IC are of particular importance today. The relationship between people and their food used to be immediate and direct. A growing divide between production, processing and consumption has been promulgated by the A- IC, which has positioned itself to be provisioner of information about animal- derived food products that consumers no longer have first-p erson information about. People now receive mediated messages about their food. As Heinz and Lee remark, “We do not so much eat meat as we consume socially produced meaning” (1988: 98). This therefore makes the mes sages the A- IC communicates to potential consumers particularly important. We have sought to illuminate these messages here, paying particular attention to how they normalise consumption of animal- derived products and therefore protect their own financial interests and the status quo of a capitalist system grounded in the industrialized production and processing of animals for human (and “pet” animal) consumption more generally.
Our analysis also illustrates how the continuum between humanity and ani mality intersects with the continuum of violence, introduced by feminists and applied to violence against women (e.g. Kelly 1998), which we seek to apply to violence against animals. The consequence of this intersection is that the percep tion of harm against animals depends upon the context within which the harm takes place and the species of the animal involved. To illustrate the importance of context, consider the death of a cow by having his/her throat slit. If under taken within a slaughterhouse by an employee, it is deemed socially acceptable, even beneficial. The same act undertaken by someone wandering by a feedlot would be considered socially unacceptable, and indeed deemed criminal. Our analysis indicates that the A- IC is working skilfully to normalise and rationalise the violence inflicted upon certain species of animals in order to make them con sumable, while simultaneously admitting the existence of an animality–humanity continuum instead of a strict dichotomy between the two. This is observed in the elevation of pet animals to the level of family, while simultaneously subjugating other species of animals for their consumption (see Herzog 2011). The salience of this demarcation is being witnessed at the time of this writing vis- à-vis the outrage inspired by the discovery of horse meat in various beef products consumed by unsuspecting consumers, primarily in Europe. The violence visited upon those horses is being denounced not because they are slaughtered any differently than any other animals (they are not), but because as a species they occupy a liminal space between pet and consumable livestock. Ironically, the A- IC may have a vested interest in allowing some animals to be closer to the humanity side of the animality–humanity continuum because the existence of carnivorous “pet” animals provides an important market for the industry’s (by-)products.
There are few things presumably as private and intimate as the consumption of food. We offer up this analysis as one instance of how a sociological per spective can and ought to demonstrate how the private is publicly mediated and individual experiences are in fact social (Burawoy 2007; Mills 1959/2000). We do so through employing a CAS perspective that elucidates the larger social structures that the discourses promulgated by the A- IC are embedded within. This analysis also suggests that as CAS scholars continue to investigate the A- IC, it will be imperative to count marketing and public relations as critical, constitutive components.
1 There are other factors that demarcate a CAS approach, but our purpose here is not to list them in order to place rigid demarcations re what can, and cannot be considered CAS. Rather, it is to apply key CAS principles to an empirical test case. 2 We want to clarify that in drawing this distinction between Animal Studies and Critical Animal Studies we are not implying that there is some sort of impermeable divide between the two. We recognise that there is considerable overlap between the two fields and that scholars frequently contribute to both bodies of scholarship. Our point is that the goals of this chapter require a critical engagement with the animal- industrial complex and the forms of power that it is built upon and reproduces, which necessitates grounding it in Critical Animal Studies.
3 For a detailed examination of how milk came to be constructed as a pure and natural
product, see DuPuis (2002).
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1. Meeting the predator
Try to look a crocodile in that eye hovering just above the waterline of the swamp. Do you detect recognition of your humanity there? You are a matter of indifference to it when it is full, a prey to be devoured when it is hungry. The eye of the crocodile is a Jobian metaphor for the world, not the only one, but one, perhaps that deserves more attention from those who demand that ‘god’ or ‘nature’ be designed for them and them alone.
William E. Connolly, ‘Voices from the whirlwind’ in Jane Bennett and William Chaloupka eds. In the nature of things (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1993, p. 205).
No matter how long the log lies in the river, it will never become a crocodile.
My story begins and ends in tropical northern Australia, in the Stone Country of Arnhem Land. This is a land of stone sculpted by sky, wind and water to immense, fantastic forms. The abrasive power of the dry season winds is matched by the erosive power of the wet season storms whose rains pound the land from December to April.
Shrouded stone figures and great sandstone heads gaze out over country formed by a thousand million years of vigorous marital struggle between mother earth and father sky. The energy of that struggle, amorous perhaps as well as abrasive, between the sandstone sheet and the hot, hyperactive atmosphere, has ground the great stone plateau into strange, maze-like ruins, ever-new disclosures of the infinite variety of the earth narrative that is weathered stone.
Stone, wind and water in collaboration shape this land. The power of the Stone Country is manifest in the estuary below, in the extreme annual flooding so crucial for the ecology of the Kakadu region. For the human cultures who lived in the fertile estuary of the East Alligator and other rivers fed by the Stone Country, cultures that had a deeply nourishing relationship with their country, it was a place abundant in food and natural beauty, but where the human had to situate itself in relation to many other powerful forces and elements. It is Ngalyod, the Rainbow Serpent, who holds the power of water, the key to life in this environment. Her water cycles are majestic and creative. As the wet season rainbow arches across the sky, Ngalyod recycles life in this place and performs the yearly integration of land, sky and water.
suppose I have always been the sort of person who ‘goes too far’. I certainly went much too far that torrential wet season day in February 1985 when I paddled my little red canoe to the point where the East Alligator River surges out of the Stone Country of the Arnhem Land Plateau. It was the wrong place to be on the first day of the monsoon, when Lightning Man throws the rainbow across the sky and heavy rains begin to lash the land. The rains, pouring off thousands of square miles of sandstone plateau, unleash huge seasonal floods that sweep downriver and submerge for the next half-year the low-lying country on the flood-plain below. It was in this place, as the gushing rain squalls reunited earth and sky, I had a close encounter with a crocodile. My saurian teacher was a wrestling master and a far better judge than I of my incautious character, the precarious nature of human life, and of various other things I needed to know and have striven to pass onto others.
is not a minor or inessential feature of our human existence that we are food: juicy, nourishing bodies. Yet, as I looked into the eye of the crocodile, I realised that my planning for this journey upriver had given insufficient attention to this important aspect of human life, to my own vulnerability as an edible, animal being. This was the country of the largest of the living crocodiles, a close relative of the ancient dinosaurs, the Estuarine or Saltwater Crocodile. Not long ago saltwater crocodiles were considered endangered, as virtually all mature animals were shot out of the rivers and lakes of Australia’s north by commercial hunting. But after more than a decade of protection, their numbers were beginning to burgeon. The saltwater crocodile is a predator of humans from the distant past, a creature that can move so fast it appears to the human eye as a flash. It was hard for me to judge the size of the one that had attacked and pursued my canoe and now fixed its gaze on mine, for all of it except the head was under the murky water, but it was clear that I aroused intense interest. I now know that an animal that can give its intended prey a misleading impression of its size, can also help them to a less misleading sense of who and what they are.
course, in some very remote and abstract way, I knew it happened, knew that humans were animals and were sometimes—very rarely—eaten like other animals. I knew I was food for crocodiles, that my body, like theirs, was made of meat. But then again in some very important way, I did not know it, absolutely rejected it. Somehow, the fact of being food for others had not seemed real, not in the way it did now, as I stood in my canoe in the beating rain staring down into the beautiful, gold-flecked eyes of the crocodile. Until that moment, I knew that I was food in the same remote, abstract way that I knew I was animal, was mortal. In the moment of truth, abstract knowledge becomes concrete. You gaze with dumb astonishment as your own death, known only as a shadowy, distant stranger, suddenly rises up right before you in terrifying, technicoloured detail and gasp in disbelief that some powerful creature can ignore your special status and try to eat you.
How had I come to make this terrible mistake about myself, my place, my body? I asked myself, with that sinking sense of serious stupidity that mars many a final moment. Was it a philosophical mistake about identity, the self as disembodied consciousness dissociated from the food-providing self as material body? Or the idea that humans are special, above and apart from other animals? I had no real opportunity to ponder the cultural genesis of my false consciousness, for at that moment the crocodile made its move, leaping from the water so fast I saw only a flash, and grabbing me painfully between the legs before pulling me down into the water. Nor did I pursue the issue later that day as I lay, terribly injured, in the path of the oncoming flood. But I have had many years since in which to think about these disastrous illusions, and to try to track them down.
Some events can completely change your life and your work, although sometimes the extent of this change is not evident until much later. They can lead you to see the world in a completely different way, and you can never again see it as you did before. You have been to the limit, and seen the stars change their course. That extreme heightening of consciousness evoked at the point of death is, as many testify, of a most revelatory and life-changing kind—for those who, against all odds, are given a reprieve and survive. The extraordinary visions and insights that appear in those last seconds can be hard to reconcile with our normal view of the world. In the vivid intensity of those last moments, when great, toothed jaws descend upon you, it can HIT YOU LIKE A THUNDERCLAP that you were completely wrong about it all—not only about what your own personal life meant, but about what life and death themselves actually mean.
That’s how it was with me, anyway. What is called the ‘moment of truth’ revealed the world I thought I lived in to be illusory, my own view of it terribly, shockingly mistaken. But the sense of being completely wrong about it all was much more than just being wrong about the value of my own life, and my stupidity in risking it. I don’t mean self-castigation or regret, being mistaken about the immense value of your life—the intense perception as you face your end that you’ve been a fool in risking it, that life is much more precious than you counted it, and that you should have given its preservation much more care. The regret evoked by impending death was there, but there was something else, something much more than regret.
This was a strong sense, at the moment of being grabbed by those powerful jaws, that there was something profoundly and incredibly wrong in what was happening, some sort of mistaken identity. My disbelief was not just existential but ethical—this wasn’t happening, couldn’t be happening. The world was not like that! The creature was breaking the rules, was totally mistaken, utterly wrong to think I could be reduced to food. As a human being, I was so much more than food. It was a denial of, an insult to all I was to reduce me to food. Were all the other facets of my being to be sacrificed to this utterly undiscriminating use, was my complex organisation to be destroyed so I could be reassembled as part of this other being? With indignation as well as disbelief, I rejected this event. It was an illusion! It was not only unjust but unreal! It couldn’t be happening.
After much later reflection, I came to see that there was another way to look at it. There was illusion alright, but it was the other way around. It was the world of ‘normal experience’ that was the illusion, and the newly disclosed brute world in which I was prey was, in fact, the unsuspected reality, or at least a crucial part of it. But all I saw then was the lack of fit between the experience of being prey and the framework of belief and life I took to be normality. If the framework of normality was true, the lack of fit could only be explained if this experience of being prey was an illusion, was a dream or nightmare. But if it wasn’t, I had to face the possibility that the lack of fit was there because both I and the culture that shaped my consciousness were wrong, profoundly wrong—about many things, but especially about human embodiment, animality and the meaning of human life.
Sometimes ordinary experience can trick you, can be profoundly wrong, profoundly out of touch. My most recent encounter with sustained illusion occurred a few years ago on another canoe trip, this time in the far north of Canada. I came to a place on the Peel River where all the landforms I could see around me were strongly marked by parallel strata that tilted slightly upwards. Since the human eye is guided in these circumstances to take the land as its horizontal reference, I experienced a powerful and persistent illusion that we were moving across a level landscape and that the river was running very sharply downhill. But there were some things that didn’t fit. The river gradient seemed very steep, but the water was placid and unhurried, without rapids. Our calm movement downriver took on a surreal, dreamlike quality, not at all unpleasant—indeed rather enchanting and liberating, as if we had somehow escaped from normal gravity and entered a parallel universe. It took some reflection on various subtle clues, the little pieces of corrective experience that did not fit, to reveal the presence of illusion and show that it was the river and not the land that was true, on the level.
The illusion revealed by the crocodile encounter was of a different, more philosophical kind, about the meaning of everyday experience. But in the same way it revealed that it was possible for people—as individuals, groups, perhaps whole cultures that subscribe to a particular dominant story—to be completely and systematically wrong about quite simple and basic things—our relationship to food, to one another, the intertwining of life and death, the fleshly, embodied character of human existence—and be quite unaware of it. A few people may come to see the illusion for what it is because they stumble across certain clues, experiences that do not fit the dominant story. Suppose that in the same way as the illusion that the land was on the level, the fact of being always on the ‘winning side’ of the predation relationship tricks us, conceals from us the real slant of things, the real measure of our animality and embodiment. Now suppose that the clue experiences that can correct the illusion become for some reason increasingly scarce—perhaps because the dominant story itself brings about their elimination! Then the illusion might go on for a very long time, might have to result in real catastrophe, before anyone realises anything is wrong. And by then the culture might be out of touch in a very big way.
That I think is what has happened to Western culture under the influence of the dominant story about our animality. For a modern human being from the first, or over-privileged world, the humbling experience of becoming food for another animal is now utterly foreign, almost unthinkable. And our dominant story, which holds that humans are different from and higher than other creatures, are made out of mind-stuff, has encouraged us to eliminate from our lives any animals that are disagreeable, inconvenient or dangerous to humans. This means, especially, animals that can prey on humans. In the absence of a more rounded form of the predation experience, we come to see predation as something we do to others, the inferior ones, but which is never done to us. We are victors and never victims, experiencing triumph but never tragedy, our true identity as minds, not as bodies. Thereby we intensify and reinforce illusions of superiority and apartness. Since the potential for more corrective and chastening forms of experience has been eliminated from normal life, there is less and less experience available of the type that can correct the illusion.
reflection, I came eventually to see that I was subject at that moment of truth to an illusion about death and my place as a human being in the scheme of things rather similar to my illusion upon the Peel River. Confronted with the prospect of being food, my sense of who I was was profoundly out of whack, in just the same way as my perception of that piece of the Peel River. Then, it seemed as if I had entered a parallel universe in which rivers flow slowly down mountains at the same leisurely pace as they meander across the plain.
leapt through the eye of the crocodile into what seemed also a parallel universe, one with completely different rules to the ‘normal universe’. This harsh, unfamiliar territory was the Heraclitean universe where everything flows, where we live the other’s death, die the other’s life: the universe represented in the food chain. I was suddenly transformed in the parallel universe into the form of a small, edible animal whose death was of no more significance than that of a mouse, and as I saw myself as meat I also saw with an incredible shock that I inhabited a grim, relentless and deplorable world that would make no exceptions for me, no matter how smart I was, because like all living things, I was made of meat, was nutritious food for another being.
Later, because against the odds I survived, I could begin the process of reconciling the two universes. The parallel universe was my very own, this world of experience and embodiment in which I have always lived my life, the world that gave birth to me and has made me what I am. It was because the world in which I was meat diverged so wildly from what I saw as reality that I could not recognise it as the world of my own everyday experience, and had to adopt the ‘parallel universe’ fiction. But that was a measure of my delusion rather than of its departure from the real world of earthly life. It has been a great struggle for me to recognise and reconcile with this harsh world as my own. That recognition and reconciliation is what this book has to offer.
These events provided me with rich material for reflection long after my recovery and left me with many intellectual puzzles around food and death and a strong sense of incompleteness. Why could I not see myself as food—why did it seem so wrong? In what sense was it wrong? Why was being food such a shock? What kind of shock was it? Why did I do such dangerous things and not perceive my danger? Why did I not see myself as subject to these kinds of dangers in this place? Why was I, as a critic of anthropocentrism over many years, able to harbour so many illusions about human apartness? Does this reveal my personal confusion or how deep the sense of human superiority and apartness runs in the dominant culture? Or both? I hope to lay to rest some of these questions here.
For thousands of years, Western religions and philosophies taught that the human was set apart from the animals and the rest of nature, made, unlike them, in the image of God. It was heresy to believe that any species other than humans could be saved or go to heaven, a place of sacredness and perfection reserved exclusively for human beings. God is transcendent, not material, apart from nature, and is for our species alone. Our investment in this special status remains enormous. Despite what we have learnt from Darwin, our culture has been a dismal failure at coming to terms with our inclusion in the animal and natural order, and this is a major factor behind the environmental crisis. It is no trivial matter for a culture which locates human identity outside and in opposition to the earth, in a disembodied universe even beyond materiality itself, to receive the news Darwin brought, of our descent from other animals through evolution.
The Darwinian knowledge has been accepted in some places, after a long struggle, but it has been absorbed at a very superficial, mainly intellectual level. It has not penetrated into other parts of our consciousness and is still at odds with the deep culture. Most of the dominant culture still resists this knowledge and some is explicitly rejectionist. Even at an intellectual level, there are all sorts of dodges for evading its egalitarian import. For example, Papal doctrine until recently, instructed us that our bodies may have evolved from other animals, but that the real basis of our humanity, our minds have not—they are god-given, and in no way comparable to those of animals. We remain special, as the real owners of the world, the pinnacle of evolution, the ultimate species for whom it was all designed and to whom it all leads.
This way of viewing the world makes it very painful to come to terms with features of conscious animality, insofar as our culture has made of it a painful contradiction—a sidereal identity in a fleshly, decaying body, thinking flesh, knowing flesh, singing flesh, flesh that knows of its own vulnerability. Being food confronts one very starkly with the realities of embodiment, with our inclusion in the animal order as food, as flesh, our kinship with those we eat, with being part of the feast and not just some sort of spectator of it, like a disembodied eye filming somebody else’s feast. We are the feast. This is a humbling and very disruptive experience.
Although we may be brimming with fanciful speculation about the place of mind in the world we are still and overriding all, food like all other animals. Our ability to deny this fact and ‘stand apart’ is dangerously reinforced by our elimination of those to whom we are prey. My answer to this conundrum has been a philosophical one and is positioned within the theory of human/nature dualism.
I see human/nature dualism as a failing of my culture, time and history. Human/nature dualism is a Western-based cultural formation going back thousands of years that sees the essentially human as part of a radically separate order of reason, mind, or consciousness, set apart from the lower order that comprises the body, the animal and the pre-human. Inferior orders of humanity, such as women, slaves and ethnic Others (so-called ‘barbarians’), partake of this lower sphere to a greater degree, through their supposedly lesser participation in reason and greater participation in lower ‘animal’ elements such as embodiment and emotionality. Human/nature dualism conceives the human as not only superior to but as different in kind from the non-human, which as a lower sphere exists as a mere resource for the higher human one. This ideology has been functional for Western culture in enabling it to exploit nature with less constraint, but it also creates dangerous illusions by denying embeddedness in and dependency on nature. This can be seen in our denial of human inclusion in the food web and in our response to the ecological crisis.
Human/nature dualism is a double-sided affair, destroying the bridge between the human and the non-human from both ends, as it were, for just as the essentially human is disembodied, disembedded and discontinuous from the rest of nature, so nature and animals are seen as mindless bodies, excluded from the realms of ethics and culture. Re-envisaging ourselves as ecologically embodied beings akin to, rather than superior to, other animals is a major challenge for Western culture, as is recognising the elements of mind and culture present in animals and the non-human world. The double-sided character of human/nature dualism gives rise to two tasks that must be integrated. These are the tasks of situating human life in ecological terms and situating non-human life in ethical terms.
Although, by definition, all ecologically embodied beings exist as food for some other beings, the human supremacist culture of the West makes a strong effort to deny human ecological embodiment by denying that we humans can be positioned in the food chain in the same way as other animals. Consequently, predators of humans have been execrated and largely eliminated.
The eye of the crocodile—the giant estuarine crocodile of northern Australia—is golden flecked, reptilian, beautiful. It has three eyelids. It appraises you coolly it seems, as if seldom impressed, as one who knows your measure. But it can also light up with an unexpectedly intense glint if you manage to engage its interest. This was the mistake I made on that day in February 1985 paddling a canoe on the backwaters.
Since then I have come to understand that the eye of the crocodile, along with the voice of the prey of the crocodile—and one cannot be understood without the other—is also a position to speak from, to think from. It is one I have found illuminating in building a philosophy that can celebrate the world in which we live with joy and understand our current relationship to the biosphere.
But it is a position increasingly shut out, eliminated from the world. To hear this voice requires seeing yourself in ecological terms, in historical–evolutionary terms. This crocodile-eye view is the view of an old eye, an appraising and critical eye that potentially judges the quality of human life and finds it wanting. Crocodiles are the voice of the deep past, covering the time span of the rise and extinction of many species. It is a voice we need to hear but it is increasingly drowned out by loud party music and noisy self-congratulation. Above all, it is drowned out by the sound of humans fighting.
The eye of the crocodile also provides us with a perspective that can help us to see ourselves in ecological terms; help us towards a theory of ourselves in thorough-going evolutionary–democratic terms, disrupting our view of ourselves as set apart and special. We need to respond rationally to the environmental crisis by adopting a much more ecologically democratic position. From such a viewpoint we can love fellow humans without needing to maintain an exclusionary stance towards non-humans. To date we have seen ourselves as masters of the universe. In theological times this meant seeing ourselves set apart as the single recipient of divine regard while in modern times we interpret our position as the culmination of the evolutionary endeavour.
Moving from one world to another involves a leap, not because the frameworks of ideas we must leave behind are completely discrete—indeed they may overlap considerably—but because there is a major change in the interpretations of certain keystone concepts so that theories are no longer compatible. Death, like food and being human, is one of those keystone concepts that registers change and sources of resistance to change. Narratives of death and the afterlife give important clues to concepts of ecological identity and membership of an earth community.
In that flash, when my consciousness had to know the bitter certainty of its end, I glimpsed the world for the first time ‘from the outside’, from outside the narrative of self, where every sentence can start with an ‘I’. That story actually entails a process of what Deborah Bird Rose calls ‘denarrativisation’, whereby Western culture ceased to regard the world as having its own story and started to look at the world as a storyless object. The old, I now know, goes on, although it is no longer a story revolving exclusively around a human subject.
Humour is one way to maintain the ‘outside’ story. The disruptive and radically humbling potential of the eye of the crocodile perspective has been the basis for several very fine crocodile cartoons which poke fun at the pretences of humanity. One cartoon, by Gary Larsen, shows two large, fat green crocodiles lying on a bank rubbing their tummies appreciatively, while in the stream below floats a broken red canoe, a paddle and a solar topee. One crocodile is saying to the other, ‘That was marvellous! No hair, no hooves, no hide, just white, soft and succulent’. Another shows two tourists wearing shorts and tropical gear walking past two concealed crocodiles. One crocodile is saying to the other, ‘They look disgusting, but I believe they’re very good for you’.
always found the Larsen cartoon spoke powerfully to me first because I had had a red canoe, and second because I came to feel strongly that I wanted to defend the crocodile’s right to eat humans who strayed into their territory. Thirdly, I appreciated how humbling a perspective was that of the crocodile, and one we now stand greatly in need of! The crocodile stands apart from the human and makes a fearless judgement which diminishes human significance. The crocodile is the purveyor of a critical view of humans which cuts us down to size, cuts through our pretensions to be a superior species above the food chain and figures us as just another animal, a particular kind of food, food with pretensions. Yet this important perspective or speaking position is increasingly denied cultural representation and only rarely achieves cult representation.
understanding of ourselves as food is the subject of horror as well as humour. Horror movies and stories reflect this deep-seated dread of becoming food for other forms of life: horror is the wormy corpse, vampires sucking blood and sci-fi monsters trying to eat humans as in Alien 1 and 2. Horror and outrage usually greet stories of other species eating live or dead humans, and various levels of hysteria are elicited when we are nibbled by leeches, sandflies, and mosquitoes.
But humans are food, food for sharks, lions, tigers, bears and crocodiles, food for crows, snakes, vultures, pigs, rats and goannas, and for a huge variety of smaller creatures and micro-organisms. An ecological animalism would acknowledge this and affirm principles emphasising human–animal mutuality, equality and reciprocity in the food web.
All living creatures are food, and also much more than food. In a good human life we must gain our food in such a way as to acknowledge our kinship with those whom we make our food, which does not forget the more than food that every one of us is, and which positions us reciprocally as food for others. A reconceptualisation of ourselves in ecological terms has many aspects, but one of the most fundamental is to begin to think of ourselves in terms of our usefulness to the other elements of our ecosystems, in the same way as other components. One of the most basic ways is to begin to think of ourselves—humbly—as food for others.
Let us then radically revise our conception of food. Being and thinking of ourselves as of use as food for others is the most basic way in which we can re-envisage ourselves in ecological terms and affirm our solidarity with other animals in opposition to the dominant cultural conviction that we humans are set apart, too good to be food. For we are made for the other. Such a mutual use does not mean we exist for them to colonise and destroy as we have colonised and destroyed them. It is simply a re-visioning of our place in more egalitarian terms.
My disbelief about being food, of believing the human to be apart, eaters of others but never ourselves eaten, or that it is profoundly wrong has been the dominant story about human identity, a story of human hyper-separation from nature. This is an old and very powerful story which is in turn linked to our culture’s approach to the problem of death.
This denial that we ourselves are food for others is reflected in many aspects of our death and burial practices. The strong coffin, conventionally buried well below the level of soil fauna activity, and the slab over the grave to prevent anything digging us up, keeps the Western human body (at least sufficiently affluent ones) from becoming food for other species. Sanctity is interpreted as guarding ourselves jealously and keeping ourselves apart, refusing even to conceptualise ourselves as edible, and resisting giving something back, even to the worms and the land that nurtured us.
Upon death the human essence is conventionally seen as departing for a disembodied, non-earthly realm, rather than nurturing those earth others who have nurtured us. This concept of human identity positions humans outside and above the food web, not as part of the feast in a chain of reciprocity but as external manipulators and masters separate from it. Death becomes a site for apartness, domination and individual salvation, rather than for sharing and for nurturing a community of life. Being food for other animals shakes our image of human mastery. As eaters of others who can never ourselves be eaten in turn by them or even conceive of ourselves in edible terms, we take, but do not give, justifying this one-way arrangement by the traditional Western view of the human right to use earth others as validated by an order of rational meritocracy in which humans emerge on top. Cannibalism aside, humans are not even to be conceptualised as edible not only by other humans, but by other species.
My proposal is that the food/death imaginary we have lost touch with is a key to re-imagining ourselves ecologically, as members a larger earth community of radical equality, mutual nurturance and support. Our loss of this perspective has meant the loss of humbling but important forms of knowledge, of ourselves and of our world. We can learn to look for comfort and continuity, meaning and hope in the context of the earth community, and work in this key place to displace the hierarchical and exceptionalist cultural framework that so often defeats our efforts to adapt to the planet. This involves re-imagining ourselves through concrete practices of restraint and humility, not just in vague airy–fairy concepts of unity.
Modernist liberal individualism teaches us that we own our lives and bodies: politically as an enterprise we are running and experientially as a drama we are variously narrating, writing, acting and/or reading. As hyper-individuals, we owe nothing to anybody, not to our mothers, let alone to any nebulous earth community. Exceptionalised as both species and individuals, we humans cannot be positioned in the food chain in the same way as other animals. Predation on humans is monstrous, exceptionalised and subject to extreme retaliation.
The Western problematic of death—where the essential self is disembodied spirit—poses a false choice of continuity, even eternity, in the realm of the spirit, versus the reductive materialist concept of death as the complete ending of the story of the material, embodied self. Both horns of this dilemma exact a terrible price, alienation from the earth in the first case and the loss of meaning and narrative continuity for self in the second.
Indigenous animist concepts of self and death succeed in breaking this pernicious false choice and suggesting satisfying and ecologically responsive forms of continuity with and through the earth. By understanding life as in circulation, as a gift from a community of ancestors, we can see death as recycling, a flowing on into an ecological and ancestral community of origins. In place of the Western war of life against death whose battleground has been variously the spirit-identified afterlife and the reduced, medicalised material life, the Indigenous imaginary sees death as part of life, partly through narrative, and partly because death is a return to the (highly narrativised) land that nurtures life. Such a vision of death fosters an imaginary of the land as a nourishing terrain, and of death as a nurturing, material continuity with ecological others, especially the lives and landforms of country.
Other questions came to my mind later when reflecting on my experience. Why did I do such a dangerous thing and not perceive my danger? Why did I previously not see myself as subject to these kinds of dangers? One way of answering these questions lies in my background in a certain kind of culture, my background relationship to the land I was visiting and the land of home. My relationship, in other words, to place. I was in a place that was not my own and which was very different from my own place. An important part of place is one’s sense of the large predators for placing us.
Europe and North America have their wolves and bears, some of which can be a serious danger to the human species. South America and Africa have many species which make walking, camping or adventuring alone in many habitats a dangerous enterprise.
Those like myself who have grown up in the bush of Southern Australia have had our awareness of danger formed in an apparently more benign environment that lacks serious human predators. It is not that danger is lacking in the bushlands of SE Australia. In the forest where I live there are many very dangerous spiders. Snakes, including several that are among the most venomous in the world, are commonly encountered. One of the most important and subtlest dangers is fire.
When I returned home to my current abode in early December last year, the forest was frighteningly dry, there were three bushfires around me and the air was full of smoke. Then a few days later we had one of those wonderful interventions that excite this part of the coast: the Cool Change! Along these coastal ranges over the summer months we experience a great tug of war between two elements, the cool, moist maritime element from the southern oceans versus the hot, dry fire-bearing element, the fire dragon from the scorched heart of the continent. (Of course this good/bad alignment is much too simple—each side has its positives and negatives). In most seasons the moist maritime goddess can be counted on to win, but in drought seasons such as this one the balance is more precarious. Here, every week, the question seems to be: will we make it again this year? Will the silver goddess get here in time to expel the fire dragon? Will we survive?
The southerly change really is Cool. Water trickles steadily into my rain tanks as cool moist cloud sweeps in from the ocean through the forest. I dig out a sweater; lyrebirds are singing again; grasses greening. All the fires around me now seem to be out. The dripping forest feels good now, but I know it’s not over yet until we get a lot more rain. It can all change back in a week or two of heat and drying winds into a fire powder keg. You have to be able to look at the bush you love and also imagine it as a smoking, blackened ruin, and somehow come to terms with that vision. I am trying to make my house fire-ready, but in the cool moist airstream of the moment I am finding it hard to sustain the sense of urgency and inevitability that moved my efforts a week or two ago. Now a little hope has returned that I’ll be lucky and that the encounter with that particular demon can be yet again postponed. But I know I will have to meet the fire monster face-to-face one day.
Well I’m pleased to report now in mid-January that the silver goddess has won again, that the forest moisture is now very good and the fire element has been expelled—but only for the moment, and only for this local coastal mountain rainforest microclimate. Further west it’s still very dry.
Not so in Kakadu which is a very different and much more dangerous environment, one in which I was to learn the agonies of the world from which my safe life in southern Australia had protected me, where the animal fate of being food is extended to the human species.
1 This chapter is a revised version of an article published by the journal Terra Nova titled ‘Being Prey’. It is a vivid blow-by-blow account of the crocodile attack, Val’s subsequent rescue and her thoughts about this encounter.
The Eye of the Crocodile
1. Meeting the predator
The Zoo: A Lovely Day Out for All
Video: animal and human interaction at the zoo
Definition of the Zoo
Zoo, also called zoological garden or zoological park, place where wild animals and, in some instances, domesticated animals are exhibited in captivity. In such an establishment, animals can generally be given more intensive care than is possible in nature reserves or sanctuaries. Most long-established zoos exhibit general collections of animals, but some formed more recently specialize in particular groups—e.g., primates, big cats, tropical birds, or waterfowl. Marine invertebrates, fishes, and marine mammals are often kept in separate establishments known as aquariums. The word zoo was first used in the late 19th century as a popular abbreviation for the zoological gardens in London. Source is lost.
The Purpose of the ZOO
Why zoos exist? What is the purpose of ZOOs?
‘Of course, the obvious purpose of every zoological park is to serve the general public as an entertainment source and facility through which people can escape reality for e brief moment, and get educated during the stay. The educational part is especially important for children and this way they can learn more about different animals, even plants and develop respect and love for them’.
The more complex part regarding the purpose of zoos consists of the activities for biodiversity conservation. These activities are maintained based on two postulates: quantitative and qualitative conservation of species and public education about the consequences of mother earth’s depletion.
Function and purpose
The primary object of zoos that are in the charge of scientific societies is the study of animals. Thus, the purpose of the Zoological Society of London, as stated in its Royal Charter, is “the advancement of Zoology and Animal Physiology and the introduction of new and curious subjects of the Animal Kingdom.” This society has been the model for many other zoological societies throughout the world. In the 19th century the emphasis of the investigations carried out in scientific zoos was mainly on taxonomy, comparative anatomy, and pathology. Today the opportunities for scientific inquiry are much wider, and a few societies have established special research institutions. In the United States the Penrose Research Laboratory, of the Philadelphia Zoo, is particularly concerned with comparative pathology. The New York Zoological Society maintains an Institute for Research in Animal
Behavior and, in Trinidad, the William Beebe Tropical Research Station.
In recent years a few zoos have intensified their efforts, frequently in cooperation with educational authorities, to provide an educational program for school children and students. Some zoos have full-time or voluntary guides on their staff, whose job it is to provide more information for visitors than can be given on labels attached to cages. Others meet this need by providing “talking labels,” prerecorded tapes operated by the visitors themselves.
What Zoos are Meant to do
Today, zoos are meant to entertain and educate the public but have a strong emphasis on scientific research and species conservation. There is a trend toward giving animals more space and recreating natural habitats. Zoos are usually regulated and inspected by the government.
Pros and Cons of the Zoo
Three Cons of the Zoo
Zoos don’t educate the public enough to justify keeping animals captive.
Zoos are detrimental to animals’ physical health.
Zoo confinement is psychologically damaging to animals.
The study considered learning outcomes for pupils who were part of either visits guided by a member of educational staff from the zoo or unguided visits. Only 38% of children were able to demonstrate positive learning outcomes, said the paper’s author. In comparison, the majority of children (62%) were deemed to show no change in learning or, worse, experienced negative learning during their trip to the zoo.
 Jensen, E., 2014, Evaluating Children’s Conservation Biology Learning at the Zoo, Conservation Biology, Vol. 28, No. 4, 1004-1011
Three Pros of the Zoo
Zoos educate the public about animals and conservation efforts
Zoos produce helpful scientific research.
Zoos save species from extinction and other dangers.
Hitting the wall: my beautiful manatees
‘Love in the time of extinction’
Marius: young giraffe as waste product or necessary death?
When a storm of protest broke over the news that the giraffe was to be killed – the small gene pool among European zoos meant there was a risk of inbreeding if it was allowed to reproduce – the zoo posted a detailed justification on its website. It explained that as part of an international programme, only unrelated animals were allowed to breed: “When breeding success increases, it is sometimes necessary to euthanise.”
The zoo also said that giving Marius contraceptives would have had unwanted side-effects and represented poor animal welfare, and that there was no programme for releasing giraffes into the wild.
The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, which monitors international standards and of which Copenhagen is a member, said it fully supported the decision of the zoo. It added that zoo animals were very rarely killed for conservation management, but almost always because of ill health.
Marius: young giraffe as waste product or necessary death?
Our aim is to safeguard for future generations a genetically diverse, healthy population of animals against their extinction,” it said in a statement. “Copenhagen is highly involved in these programmes and took a transparent decision that the young animal in question could not contribute to the future of its species further, and given the restraints of space and resources to hold an unlimited number of animals within our network and programme, should therefore be humanely euthanised.”
However, Stine Jensen, from Denmark’s Organisation against the Suffering of Animals, disagreed: “It shows that a zoo is not the ethical institution that it wants to portray itself as being, because here you have a waste product – that being Marius.”
Discussion of Foucault’s Ideas on Power
Power as Productive
Foucauldian concepts to understand ‘life and love in the time of extinction’
The exercise of power
‘The exercise of power consists in guiding the possibility of conduct and putting in order the possible outcome. Basically power is less a confrontation between two adversaries or the linking of one to the other than a question of government. This word must be allowed the very broad meaning’ Foucault
‘The sovereign exercised his right of life only by exercising his right to kill, or by refraining from killing; he evidenced his power over life only through the death he was capable of requiring. The right which was formulated as the “power of life and death” was in reality the right to take life or let live. Its symbol, after all, was the sword’.
Foucault in https://criticallegalthinking.com/2017/05/10/michel-foucault-biopolitics-biopower/
THE HUMAN SCIENCES and POWER/KNOWLEDGE
Human sciences emerged in the 18th century- sociology, psychology, criminology, pedagogy
They became a new way to make and know human beings- objectification and subjectification
There is a role of mutual reinforcing between the human sciences and the technologies of power that work together in normalising the individual and populations
Power creating the individual
Power: is a strategy, a series of relations. The effects of power arise through its manoeuvres, tactics, techniques and functionings. Power is a complex strategical situation, a multiplicity of force relations.
Power relations also need points of resistance to circulate throughout the social body.
Mechanisms of power have been accompanied by ‘the production of effective instruments for the formation and accumulation of knowledge ie-methods of observation, techniques of registration, procedures for investigation and research, apparatuses of control’ (Foucualt, Discipline and Punish).
The exercise of power necessarily puts into circulation apparatus of knowledge, it creates sites where knowledge is formed. Phrased another way, discourse is never neutral or transparent in its effects, it has or is a type of power that is productive.
a new “micro-physics of power” developed through the eighteenth century, which functioned at the most basic level: that of a human being’s body – its movements, gestures, attitudes, rapidity (Foucault Discipline and Punish 1979: 137).
The human body, its elements and behaviour, became subject to a political anatomy of detail, to discipline. Discipline is a technique of power which provides procedures for training or for coercing bodies individual and collective.
The instruments of disciplinary power are the hierarchical observation, normalising judgement and the examination. He explains:
‘Discipline “makes” individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise’ (1979: 170).
The Emergence of Biopower
Change in the role of the state
Consequences of the Enlightenment
Foucault: THIS YEAR I WOULD like to begin studying something that I have called, somewhat vaguely, bio-power. By this I mean a number of phenomena that seem to me to be quite significant, namely, the set of mechanisms through which the basic biological features of the human species became the object of a political strategy, of a general strategy of power, or, in other words, how, starting from the eighteenth century, modern western societies took on board the fundamental biological fact that human beings are a species. This is roughly what I have called biopower.
MICHEL FOUCAULT Security, Territory, Population LECTURES AT THE COLLÈGE DE FRANCE,1977-78Edited by Michel Senellart General Editors: François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana English Series Editor: Arnold I. Davidson TRANSLATED BY GRAHAM BURCHELL palgrave macmillan
Power would no longer be dealing simply with legal subjects over whom the ultimate dominion was death, but with living beings, and the mastery it would be able to exercise over them would have to be applied at the level of life itself: it was the taking charge of life, more than the threat of death, that gave power its access even to the body. Foucault in https://criticallegalthinking.com/2017/05/10/michel-foucault-biopolitics-biopower/
‘the species body’
The second, formed somewhat later, focused on the species body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes: propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that can cause these to vary. Their supervision was effected through an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls: a biopolitics of the population. (Italics in original).28
Relations, Power and the Limits of ‘Speciesism’
This chapter considers some of the themes and approaches developed within the emergent transdisciplinary ﬁeld of ‘animal studies’. My purpose here is to map the territory on which a more satisfactory socio logical approach to thinking about Other animals might be grounded. Chapter 3 will discuss why the discipline of sociology has come late to animal studies and will outline a theoretical framework for analysing species as a system of social relations. It will have to sufﬁce at this point, to say that talking about non-human animals and the ultimate Other of species has proven difﬁcult for a discipline whose boundaries were historically constituted around the designation of a sphere, an arena for study – ‘the social’ – which was deﬁned as exclusively human. How ever, as will be apparent in the pages that follow, some sociologists are attending to questions of species difference. There have been attempts to understand human-animal relations in terms of historical change, looking at animal ‘rights’ as a social movement, for example; or exam inations of changes in dominant forms of human-animal relations in modernity. Others have been interested in representations of animals in various cultural forms; or have examined the material contexts (such as industrialized agricultural production, or domesticated companion ship) in which animals are socially constituted.
I will argue here, that an adequate sociology of species must account for both the discursive and material placement of Other animals. It needs to map the institutional contexts and related practices of species relations, and consider the extent to which these change and/or recon stitute themselves over time. Working in a critical tradition of socio logical enquiry, I would add that we must imbue an analysis of species with an understanding of power. Sociology has contributed much to our understanding of the various forms of exclusions and inclusions
E. Cudworth, Social Lives with Other Animals © Erika Cudworth 2011
based on social differences – around ‘race’, ethnicity, region, class, gender, sexuality, age and so on. It has also made strong arguments for relations of oppression and exploitation constituted around these social differences. In animal studies, the concept of ‘speciesism’ has been of great importance in furthering the understanding of human relations with Other animals in terms of power relations based on dif ferences. However, there are limitations in the use of a concept based on a notion of discrimination. Speciesism, I will suggest, is not adequate for capturing the full range of our social relations with non-human animals.
The sections of this chapter focus on key elements I consider neces sary in the development of a sociology of species: social change, ques tions of epistemology and ontology, power relations, discourse and material practice. We begin with a consideration of the question of change in species relations, looking at the different constructions of animals and different social practices of species in relatively recent Western history. The chapter then moves on to a consideration of various epistemologies that are at work when animals are discussed. In the critiques made here I will suggest the need for a generally critical realist approach to understanding both non-human animals and our relations with them. Third, we consider the political question of rights, which importantly introduces an analysis of power into species rela tions. I subject the notion of speciesism to criticism both here, and in the section which follows on the analysis of speciesism in the history of ideas and in cultural texts. The chapter ends with a consideration of more sociological analyses of human relations with non-human animals. I have chosen these speciﬁcally because they relate to the case studies which come later in this book: the use of animals as food and the keep ing of animals as companions. They will hopefully enable me to make my case for a theorization of species which, whilst foregrounding the human domination of Other animals, is sensitive to differences in the kind and degree of human practices, and allows some consideration for agency that is not exclusively human.
Changing relations of species
Our relations with non-human animals are historically situated – they have shifted in terms of the social forms they assume and the pre dominant discourses which abound. Animals have played important roles in the making of human social institutions and practices through time, and as Erica Fudge notes, writing animals into history does not mean writing a history of animals, but ‘writing a more complete history of humanity…and…recognizing a change in humanities status and therefore challenging what “humanity” might mean’ (2008: 5–6). This kind of history also gives us a glimpse of shifting relations of species. There is a speculative pre-historical literature which suggests that homo sapiens did not see themselves as fundamentally different from and superior to other creatures or in a position of domination over them (Ingold, 1994; Noske, 1997). It is often held to be the fundamental transition from a nomadic to a settled form of existence with the develop ment of farming that enabled the systematic subjugation of non-human animals and the development of intimate knowledge about them (Serpell, 1996 ). Social organization has shifted dramatically with new prac tices, technologies and social forms casting different kinds of relations between human and other animals. There is quite a substantial literature documenting the shifting discursive regimes (from those broadly theo logical to those generally scientiﬁc) and material forms of human rela tions with non-human animals in Western modernity, and it is on this more certain terrain that we will focus here in thinking about changing patterns of human-animal relations.
Keith Thomas (1983), analysing changing attitudes towards animals in early modern England from the sixteenth to the end of the nineteenth centuries, sees some dramatic shifts in both popular perception and in the material treatment of animals. He articulates a common theme in the literature that attitudes to animals changed with the onset of the processes of economic, social and political modernization in the seven teenth century. According to Thomas (1983), in Tudor England most people lived a predominantly rural existence in close proximity to domestic animals with which in winter, they were often compelled to share accommodation. Animals were crucial to human ways of life, providing food, transport and labour power. Human relations towards Other animals were, in Thomas’s view, characterized by both con tingency and ‘anthropocentricity’ as according to Christian orthodoxy, humans had absolute rights to use animals as they saw ﬁt. Despite the immediacy of animals in people’s lives, Thomas paints a picture of complete indifference to the possible sufferings of non-human animals. Practices now often considered cruel, were normative – such as bear and bull baiting, and the stoning of dogs. The emergence of scientiﬁc knowledge undermined the previously theological view of the world and by the nineteenth century, had deﬁned humans as ‘mere’ animals amongst many, albeit at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder (1983: 166–7). Society grew less dependent on animal power with the advent
f mechanization, and the physical separation of humans from Other animals increased with the spread of urbanization. Thomas also sug- gests animals became increasingly sentimentalized as they decreased in utilitarian signiﬁcance, and in the eighteenth century, the practice
f pet keeping grew in urban areas. The sentimentalization and prox- imity to companion animals encouraged the notion that animals were individuals with personalities, and Thomas sees this as linked to the formation of urban based movements for animal welfare and debates about ‘animal rights’ at the turn of the nineteenth century (1983: 119). Thus for Thomas, dramatic social changes, such as those associated with urbanization, led to the discursive and material restructuring of human relations with animals. This was combined with boundaries placed on anthropocentrism with the development of scientiﬁc knowledge.
Adrian Franklin (1999) suggests however, that change was also pat-
terned with continuities. For example, animals continued to have util- itarian uses as transportation in urban areas. In addition, it is uncertain that contemporary discourses were homogeneous in the early modern period. As John Passmore (1980) argues, Christian thought is also char- acterized by a ‘stewardship tradition’ which sees non-human nature as a divine creation for which humans take responsibility, albeit that the anthropocentric discourse came to be predominant. In early modern Europe, Erica Fudge (2006) argues that alongside the inﬂuential version
f the ‘Great Chain of Being’ coming from Thomas Aquinas, there are contestationary discourses of compassion for other animals and human
bligations to them, exempliﬁed by Michael de Montaignes famous essay ‘Of cruelty’. Elsewhere, Fudge (2000) details the contradictory placement
f animals in Early Modern England. In English Law, animals were held to be without reason and intent, therefore incapable of committing a crime, whereas in France, animals were tried and, most usually, executed for their ‘crimes’. In England, animals were objects; and only owners of
bjects could be punished. There were ambiguities even in this seemingly clear legal position. Keith Tester (1991: 71) considers that Thomas places excessive emphasis on ‘pet keeping’ in altering sensibilities towards animals. Finally, such a process of sentimentalization has been seen as a peculiarly Western European and North American phenomenon. Pets
f pre-modern times, and non-Western spaces were understood very differently (Tuan, 1984: 112).
This consideration of cultural speciﬁcity and the spatialized qualities of
formations of human-animal relations is echoed by some ecofeminists who have examined historical links between formations of gender and human relations with animals. Vandana Shiva (1988) argues that in
precolonial India under the inﬂuence of Hindu philosophy, animals were understood as endowed with spirit. It was the colonial spread of scientiﬁc rationalism which deﬁned non-human animals, along with the rest of ‘nature’, as inert objects. In emphasizing the historically intersection alized constitution of the domination of non-human animals and of women, Carolyn Merchant (1980: 3–5) suggests that modern Western scientiﬁc culture established the notion of a hierarchy of species and legit imated human domination over animals. The ‘Great Chain of Being’, she suggests, was not only concerned with the moral compass of species, but with gender also for women were placed closer to animals. The discursive linking of women with animals is telling. As Fudge (2006: 105) also notes, contemporaries of Montaigne in the seventeenth century, dismissed his writings about animals as ‘womanish’. Interesting parallels have also been examined between the European fascination with the scientiﬁc class iﬁcation of classes, types and genealogies, and those of species. Discourses of racism, gender relations and class, as well as the social construction of ‘nature’, permeate scientiﬁc writings and theories about animals, parti cularly primates in the nineteenth century (Haraway, 1989). The class iﬁcation of ‘rare’ species from the Southern Hemisphere was part of the cultural process of colonialism and the constitution of Eurocentric notions of civilized and uncivilized places and spaces, including their human and animal populations (see Gregory, 2001).
Tester (1991) concentrates on the imposition of social relationships through regulation of human relations with other animals. He draws on the work of Norbert Elias in suggesting that the development of anti-cruelty legislation was part of the ‘civilizing process’ to discipline the working class (Tester, 1991: 68–88). The regulation of cruelty to animals was ‘a stick to beat social unruliness and “beastliness”’ of the lower social orders (1991: 88–9). Tester’s account is certainly anthro pocentric, yet it does seem that the nineteenth century discourses of animal rights and protection may have had more of a negative effect in disciplining working class communities than a beneﬁcial effect on animals. For example, the banning of certain practices, such as dogs pulling carts in nineteenth century London, did not lead to a lessening of suffering for those dogs involved – most were killed, being too costly to maintain (Fudge, 2002: 100). Tester argues that nineteenth century debates were fraught with disputes around demands for difference from and ‘similitude’ with non-human animals. The latter, which was an element of both scientiﬁc and political discourse held that many animals were seen as similar to humans in their capacity for happiness and pain, and that humans were themselves animals (Tester, 1991:
121–31). Certainly versions of these discourses percolate through debates in the politics of animal protection and rights, animal studies and the pages of this book.
Franklin (1999) considers that key changes in species relations have taken place very recently. At the end of the twentieth century people spend more time with animals, and do things involving animals more often than they did a century ago. The quality of our relationships with animals has changed signiﬁcantly, as the categorical boundary between human and other animal species has been challenged with ‘postmodernization’. In Franklin’s account, the social causes of such shifts in human-animal relations are ‘ontological insecurity’, risk, and misanthropy. Modernity deﬁned humans as rational, capable of self improvement and potential goodness, and established clear boundaries between humans and ‘other animals’. From the seventeenth to the twentieth century animals were treated primarily as a resource for human improvement, so that meat eating, the use of animals in research and so on, became standard practices. As we move towards postmodernity however, ‘misanthropy’ has become a feature of contemporary social life as we collectively reﬂect on our destruction of the natural world. Animals are also associated with a sense of ‘risk’; which can be seen in food scares, concerns about the preservation of ‘wildlife’, and more generally, growing anxieties about environmental pollution that conceptualize humans and animals as subject to a similar threat. Finally, individuals suffer ‘onto logical insecurity’ due to a depletion of family ties, sense of community and neighbourhood with changes in domestic relations (increased divorce rates and re-marriage) and patterns of employment (with ‘ﬂexible’ labour markets, higher unemployment and less job security). Con sequently, they look to relationships with pets to provide stability and a sense of permanence in their lives (1999: 36). Thus we are developing ‘increasingly empathetic and decentred relationships’ with other species and this can be evidenced across a range of sites of human-animal rela tions – from entertainment to food, pet keeping to hunting (1999: 35). This makes some signiﬁcant and empirically unsubstantiated sociological assumptions however; for example, that certain social changes (such as those in the structure of the family in the family) have led to certain practices (for example, more people keeping pets), and that the reasons people do so is to provide security.
Whilst human relations with animals have altered in Western societies over the last three hundred years, within each historical period there have been different and competing conceptions of how humans can relate to other animals and continuity and change in material practices. A picture of a process of increasing sentimentality ignores the contradictions embedded in our relations with animals and the ways different kinds of relations with different speciﬁc kinds of animals are co-constitutive of our relations with each other, and cross cut by formations of social hierarchy. Species relations alter historically in various ways and to different degrees. Whatever the questions raised by some of these accounts of changes in the discursive and material positioning of Other animals, they all empha size the embedding of species relations in human cultures, and problem atize humanocentrist history. They also attempt to account for ways in which species is cast and recast as a means of social distinction.
Ontologies of Other animals
These accounts above, and indeed all interventions in animal studies, are representative of different ontological and epistemological positions. Despite the obvious inaccuracies of typologies, I consider that broadly, there are three different kinds of accounts of human-animal relations – various kinds of social constructionism, deconstruction and critical realism. These positions are not necessarily tightly bound for individual theorists slip across the categories of any kind of taxonomy through dif ferent kinds of writing at different times. Notwithstanding this proviso however, I will argue here for a position of critical realism with respect to the concept of species, our knowledge of Other animals and our rela tions with them. I consider that this is compatible with, and in some ways similar to, the contingent foundationalism necessitated by com plexity inﬂected analysis, on which I draw in Chapter 3.
Constructing Other animals
For the sociologist Keith Tester (1991) whose historical account of animal rights we have just considered, animals do not have a nature or being in themselves, they only have whatever being we humans decide to give them. So:
A ﬁsh is only a ﬁsh if it is socially classiﬁed as one, and that class iﬁcation is only concerned with ﬁsh to the extent that scaly things living in the sea help society deﬁne itself. After all, the very word ‘ﬁsh’ is a product of the imposition of socially produced categories on nature…animals are…a blank paper which can be ascribed with any message, any symbolic meaning that the social wishes (1991: 46).
In this ontology of animals as symbols, animals only exist in the ways humans imagine them and this is a strong form of social constructionism in which all we can know about animals depends on social interpret ations. As Luke Martell (1994) has pointed out, this is a form of reduc tionism which overemphasizes the power of ‘society’ in determining the world. It is obvious that how we classify animals such as ﬁsh inevitably depends upon what kinds of classiﬁcations we humans have developed, but what we know about animals is also dependent on certain objective properties which pertain to animals. ‘Fish’ are not arbitrarily classiﬁed, but have certain characteristics (such as living in water and having scales) which we use to distinguish them from certain other sorts of creatures. Andrew Collier (1994) suggests that if we accept Tester’s characterization of animals as being whatever we would want them to be, then solving marine pollution would be easy: ‘we could reclassify lumps of untreated sewage as “ﬁsh”’! (Collier, 1994: 89).
For Tester, how we think about animals does not tell us about the ontological condition of animals, but about ourselves. So for example, the ethics of animal rights ‘is not a morality founded on the reality of animals, it is a morality about what it is to be an individual human who lives a social life’ (Tester, 1991: 16). Animal rights has nothing to do with any concern for sufferings humans may inﬂict upon animals, but is about humans making themselves feel ‘good’ as moral agents arguing for those who cannot argue for themselves (1991: 78). Some element of realism therefore seems a necessary foundation for argu ments for animal rights or welfare or for a more compassionate treat ment of Other species, for if animals cannot be seen as independent beings that are able to feel or ﬂourish, they cannot be ill-treated. Tester offers us an account of human-animal relations which is clearly socio logical but highly anthropocentric and of little help in considering the speciﬁcity of human relations with non-human animals; for animals, in this analysis could be replaced with any other marginalized social group.
Donna Haraway is slippery, moving between more and less strongly constructionist approaches both across and, sometimes (rather exasper atingly) within her work. In much of her writing of the 1990s she has a strong constructionist conceptualization of animals. With reference to scientiﬁc studies of primates for example, she contends that studies of animal behaviour tell us little about the animals themselves, but do tell us about the social locations and political opinions of the people who undertook the research (Haraway, 1989). Elsewhere, she adopts the extreme position of Tester and describes animals as ‘blank paper’ for human inscriptions (Haraway, 1991: 6). Famously of course, she contends modern societies are increasingly populated by ‘cyborgs’, resultant from the blurred and permeable boundaries of distinction between humans, nature (other animals and plant life) and machines. She has examined contemporary developments in and the represent ational regimes of corporate biotechnology and suggests for example, that the ‘OncoMouse’, the world’s ﬁrst patented mammal, born for research purposes with cancer-bearing genes, is an ‘interesting’ cyborg obviating a critique of the socially constituted power of species which enables mice to be bred as research tools (Haraway, 1997).
Problems with these strongly constructionist approaches do not mean that social constructionism can be dismissed as an approach; rather, it is crucial to any problematization of the status of non-human animals. Constructionism needs to be deployed critically however and with an acknowledgment of non-human being. As Leslie Irvine makes clear in her own usage: ‘I do not mean to say that individual animals themselves are social constructions…many canine and feline behaviours exist indepen dent of human ideas of them’ (2004: 34). In addition she argues, similarly to Shapiro (1990: 193), we experience individual animals through ‘com plex and sedimented’ layering of socially constituted categories, as well as through our lived histories with non-human animals and our engage ments with them. This more critical usage has been apparent in Haraway’s work since the early 2000s and her abandonment of the cyborg labora tory mouse, for the dog. She now suggests that the relationship between human and non-human animals is best served by the understandings of ‘companion species’. Dogs and humans do not predate their relation ship, in this view for ‘there have to be a least two to make one… I have a dog. My dog has a human’ (2003: 12). Thus, we are co-deﬁned and co constituted – ‘Every species is a multi-species crowd’ and we emerge as subjects, together with the mass of our inter-relationships, without species purity (2008: 165). The key to our relations with dogs, is training, which as Haraway does admit, is ‘committed to near total control in the interests of fulﬁlling human intensions’ (2003: 43–4). She argues however that the positive conversations we have with dogs as companions – games, laughter and jokes – can only be achieved through training because it is this which facilitates and enables the dog in what is, a human world (2003: 50). As such, she refers to the relations of companion species as a process of ‘becoming-with’ another species (Haraway, 2008: 3).
Haraway’s preferred ontology, that of ‘agential realism’ is based on real ities emergent through action in which we are ‘messmates’ and ‘com rades’ with animal companions (2008: 17). What it not acknowledged in this however, is that in the ‘human world’, the agency of species such as companion dogs, is limited compared to that of humans. Meetings between the species very often have most unhappy endings because social relations remain strongly hierarchical, and it is non-human ani mals who, predominantly are unmade by human social institutions and practices. Ultimately, whether talking of OncoMouse or the ‘dogs of her heart’ – Roland Dog and Ms Cayenne Pepper – Haraway’s analysis of the power of social institutions and practices in shaping the lives of animals is tenuous. Haraway is interested in using some complexity inﬂected con cepts in considering the relations between humans and Other animals, but the way in which she uses them is very different from my own, as will be seen in the next chapter. For example, Haraway uses symbio genesis but whilst this may be apposite for the bacteria so beloved of bio logist Lynn Margulis, it does not help much in tracking the social history of some of the species we are co-constituted with, such as farmed ani mals. Haraway hopes, she says, to have ‘met’ Carol Adams in her more recent work, but she still ‘protects the dominance that ontologizes ani mals as edible just as the sheepdogs she celebrates protect the ontologized “livestock”’ (Adams, 2006: 126). Here, animals exercise any agency they have in circumstances most unlikely to be of their own choosing and the different kinds of animal agency enabled by different social forms of species relations is a question to which we must later return.
Some work in animal studies has been very much inﬂuenced by a rather different articulation of the term ‘becoming’, the notion of ‘becoming animal’ from an essay by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. This does not suggest that we imitate or identify with animals as such, but that our understandings of the world might be transformed by an encounter, how ever ﬂeeting with non-human perspectives. Deleuze and Guattari identify three types of animals – ‘Oedipal’ animals who are individual, familiar and belong to us, such as companion animals, ‘state animals’ which are understood in taxonomic terms and ‘demonic animals’ which are understood primarily in terms of aesthetic collectivities of ‘wild’ animals. ‘Becomings’ are multiplicities – the dynamic sets of differences which characterize both human and non-human animals. Each animal can be a pack or a multiplicity, an assemblage, as are we, human animals and this enables the possibility of ‘afﬁnity’ in human-animal relationships, parti cularly with ‘exceptional animals’, anomalous members of a species. The project of ‘becoming-animal’ is, not, to my mind, ultimately about embod ied animals (be they human or non-human) very much at all. Rather, it concerns human fantasies of the self as an outsider, and is closer here to the kinds of arguments made by Tester than those of Haraway. While we might forgive Deleuze and Guattari for having little to say about actual animals, or human-animal relations in the world beyond the text, this does not make their work particularly useful in understanding histor ical and contemporary social forms of species relations.
However, where they do make assertions about certain kinds of relations in the world, such as those with ‘pets’, these are highly prob lematic, and for this, they may not be excused. Their scorn for ordinary lives and loving relations is clear:
….individuated animals, family pets, sentimental Oedipal animals each with its own petty history, ‘my cat’, ‘my dog’. These animals invite us to regress… Anyone who likes cats or dogs is a fool (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 240 original italics).
‘Becoming-animal’, they assert, ‘has nothing to do with a sentimental or domestic relation’ (1987: 244). They deserve Haraway’s venom here for no interpretive or reading strategies of this ambiguous and often contradictory work can avoid the fact that:
The old, female, small, dog- and-cat-loving: these are who and what must be vomited out by those who will become-animal. Despite the keen competition, I am not sure I can ﬁnd in philosophy a clearer display of misogyny, fear of aging, incuriosity about animals, and horror at the ordinariness of ﬂesh, here covered by the alibi of an anti-Oedipal and anti-capitalist project (Haraway, 2008: 30).
In Deleuze and Guattari’s defence, they do allow that we might be sur prised in our encounters with domestic pets, for example, even a cat or dog can ‘be treated in the mode of the pack or swarm’ (1987: 241, my emphasis). Even so, their account is more useful for cultural rather than sociological analysis. Deluzian theorists like art historian Steve Baker ﬁnd it useful because they adopt a strong form of social construc tionism and consider that non-human animals can only be understood as symbols. Baker (2000: 185) is therefore, amused and surprised when Jacques Derrida tries to speak of a ‘real’ animal, his cat, as an indi vidual. But Derrida’s understanding of ‘the animal’ is rather different to that of social constructionism. As we will now see, when it comes to non-human animals, I think Derrida’s deconstruction is also keeping it real – relatively so, of course.
Deconstructing the animal?
For Derrida, the intellectual task at hand is revealing the absurdity of ‘the animal’. This is the key to a re-articulation of human-animal relations and Derrida is interesting in that his writings make clear that the (real) suffering of animals calls for this most urgently. Whilst Derrida decon structs the human/animal binary, ‘animals’ in all their incredible diver sity are no blank paper.
For Derrida, the Western conception of the human as an autonomous, rational being able to make decisions and choices about actions has only developed alongside, and in contradistinction to, the ‘animal’. So when we speak of the human we inevitably also speak of ‘the animal’; and just as constructions of the ‘animal’ have often been fantastic, the ‘human’ is also a ‘fantasy ﬁgure’ (Wolfe, 2003b: 6). Derrida’s project is to prob lematize the classical formulations of the human-animal distinction in Western thought. In particular, there is a need to question the binary assumptions that undergird it, which are anthropocentric, or for Derrida, ‘anthropo-theomorphic’. This involves a decentring of human subject ivity and relatedly, the consideration that the Other we face is not always a human Other. Ultimately, Derrida argues for an abandonment of the concept of ‘the Animal’ (in the singular, with a capital ‘A’) because this is the word:
…that men have given themselves at the origin of humanity and that they have given themselves in order to identify themselves, in order to recognise themselves, with a view to being what they say they are, namely men (2002: 400).
The ‘animal’ is a meaningless generalization – a ‘catch-all concept… this vast encampment of the animal’ (2002: 399). The use of the general plural brings ‘the Animal’ up sharp against its namer – the Human. Here then, in exposing the Animal as a falsity, difference disappears, not only from the multiplicity of non-human animal species, but from the ‘Human’ too. I think however, that we need to expose the constructed politics of the designation ‘animal’ whilst hanging on the concepts of difference amongst humanimalia of various cultures, times and types and embedding these in our theorizations.
Derrida is also interested in the subjection of animals, and sees this as an increasing trend. He writes strongly here and is brave enough to offer a nuanced comparison between human genocide and the treat ment of animals – arguing in fact that not to do so is anthropocentric (Derrida, 2002: 395). He asks us to consider our treatment of particular animals in particular times and spaces and writes about the subjection associated with genetic manipulation, farming and meat production, animal experimentation and so on which have transformed the lives and conditions of possibility for non-human animals (2002: 394). Des pite Derrida’s obvious sympathies with animal rights philosophies and the politics of animal liberation, he suggests that arguing for rational ity and ethical consistency, and focusing on the abilities and sufferings of non-human animals, may not be the most effective way of address ing human exclusivity and animal abuse. Rather, Derrida posits that the vulnerability of other embodied animals, when faced with the con ditions of limitation and pain we impose on them, means that we can not but be affected by animal suffering (2002: 396). In the face of the animal Other, it is compassion and pity which has the power to trans form these relations of subjugation. But how can we know of the vulnerability and suffering of non-human species?
Derrida argues that a key problem is that anthropocentric dogma stands in for the sophisticated understandings of ethology, or even per sonal observation or experience with ‘animals’ (2003: 135). In these observations and relations, Derrida suggests that response is possible and this throws the question back at Lacan and his ‘Cartesian tradition of the animal-machine that exists without language and without the ability to respond’ (2003: 121). Derrida asks how our understandings of the world would be ruptured if we thought animals could communicate in ways similar to those in which humans do. Language is insufﬁcient as a means of response, for humans use all kinds of means – and if language is undone as an exclusive marker of ‘response’ then so is human power. He argues that many non-human animals do have the ability to respond, and that many non-human animals are aware of themselves in the world (Derrida, 2008: 153–60). As ethologists like Marc Bekoff have shown, many other mammals communicate with us ‘in their own ways, and if we make an effort to understand their communications, we can learn much about what they are saying. If Wittgenstein had actually gotten off his couch and watched animals, he might agree’ (2002: 38). Watching, looking at animals and the experience of being watched, is an important element. Derrida writes at length in ‘The Animal That Therefore I Am….’ about his ‘real cat, truly, believe me, a little cat. It isn’t the ﬁgure of a cat. It doesn’t silently enter the bedroom as an allegory for all the cats on the earth…’ (2002: 374, original emphasis) and ponders what the cat is thinking, on seeing him naked. In his discomfort, Derrida suggests the difﬁculty in abandoning human mastery and the self possession of ani mals, of the disjuncture we experience in engaging with ‘the point of view of the absolute other’ (Derrida, 2008: 57–62). Unfortunately, he steps back from the question of his actual relation with this real cat, and shies from a consideration of the speciﬁc qualities of this kind of domestic relationality.
In his ﬁne and generally sympathetic analysis and critique of Derrida’s work on the ‘question of the animal’, Matthew Calarco argues that Derrida ultimately cannot let the human-animal distinction go, but insists on reﬁning and reworking it (Calarco, 2008: 148–9). Calarco argues for the abolition of the ‘guardrails of the human-animal distinction’ and suggests that we invent new modes of living with non-human animals and of thinking about them (2008: 149). This is part of a new politics – one that is postliberal and posthumanist, which leaves the liberal humanist subject behind and embraces all species (2008: 6). I think however, this is a step too far, and that Derrida is right to be more cautious. Out there in the world, in the web of social practices and institutions which non-human animals (particularly those we have ‘domesticated’) are very much caught, species structures material practice. The political difference of species has real effects on the lives and deaths of non-human animals, and we can not lose hold of it. We need the highly problematic human-animal dis tinction as the theoretical basis of a politics that contests the social power of species and does not reduce non-human animals to sets of symbols. They are that, but they are also, more.
Keeping it (relatively) real
Certain lines of thought in animal studies have expended much effort on analysing the social constitution of the animal, or, problematizing categories and revealing our dichotomous simplicities. Another trajec tory has been to focus not only on our ideas and beliefs about animals, but to bring (real) animals back into the picture and talk more con cretely about differences and speciﬁcities of particular species.
An important source of such thinking has been animal ethology (the study of animal behaviour and cognition). The work of the biologist Marc Bekoff is well known, and Bekoff has done much to counter the critique of ‘anthropomorphism’ levied in the natural sciences against those who imagine the thinking’s and feelings of other animal species. He argues that:
If one is a good Darwinian, it is premature to claim that only humans can be empathetic and moral beings. By asking the question ‘What is it like to be another animal?’ we can discover rules of engagement that guide animals in their social encounters. When I study dogs, for exam ple, I try to be ‘dogocentrist’ and practice ‘dogomorphism’…I have suggested that we be ‘biocentrically anthropomorphic’ and that by doing so we do not necessarily lose the animal’s point of view… The way we describe and explain the behaviour of other animals is inﬂu enced and limited by the language we use to talk about things in
general. By engaging in anthropomorphism we make the world of other animals accessible to ourselves and to other human beings (Bekoff, 2007b: 71–3).
Bekoff has studied a range of species insisting on the complexity of animal behaviour and, importantly, the awareness and emotional lives of particular species and individuals considering grief, joy, love, play, depression and rivalry (see also Masson and McCarthy, 1996). He is keen to illustrate the similarities between humans and certain species (for example, the possession of a sense of self by non-human Great Apes and monkeys, future planning and morality in dogs). However, a more important line of inquiry for Bekoff is the particular physical and cognitive skills and capabilities that different species, and cultures within a species, possess; and relationship between individuals and their wider species communities (2002: 91–9; 120–8). For example, there are differ ences in hunting traditions amongst cetaceans and the young animals are socialized into these different traditions (2002: 13). Bekoff’s work showcases a wide variety of species as independent biological beings with their own physiological and psychological needs and their own social lives and relations. There is incredible species difference, but for Bekoff, and in my view, for a sociological account of human relations with Other animals, the question is ‘What difference makes a differ ence’ (2002: 138). Species is a difference, and manifests itself in differ ent kinds, types, behaviours and orientations to the world. Human social relations also shape the biology and sociality of other species in ways in which animals are incorporated into and co-constituted with, social institutions and practices.
The sociologist Ted Benton (1993) has sought to develop a theory of human-animal relations which incorporates certain ecological insights such as the concept of natural limits on resources, ethological work on sociality and culture amongst some non-human animals, alongside socialist and feminist theories of equality and rights. In doing so, Benton effectively draws on a range of biological and anthropological studies of the ‘social life of animals’ in order to argue that many species have over lapping forms of ‘species life’ with humans (also Birke, 1995: 39). Benton argues for a naturalistic understanding of human society in which humans are seen to be both biologically embodied, with certain animal needs (food, sex) and socially and ecologically embedded. He challenges the presumption of human separateness from ‘other’ animals, arguing that we should think about ‘differentiations’ rather than differences between animal species (1993: 45–57).
Differentiations of species, and particular social, economic and eco logical contexts give rise to different categories of human-animal rela tionship. Certain non-human animals may be labourers of various kinds (from guarding, carrying and pulling to sophisticated work such as guid ing visually impaired humans); some species will be food and resources (including for human clothing and shelter needs); a limited number may be companions; and many are ‘wild’ (that is, outside incorporation into human social practices, or in conditions of limited incorporation). In addi tion, Benton categorizes animals as human entertainment (in hunting, shooting, ﬁshing and ﬁghting, for example), as cultural symbols and as human ediﬁcation (for example in ‘wildlife’ documentaries) (Benton, 1993: 2–8). Benton uses these categories in arguing that humans and animals stand in social relationships to each other, that animals are con stitutive of human societies and that these relationships are incredibly varied across time and cultural space. These relationships are fundamental to the structuring of human societies, we are socially interdependent with animals and also ecologically interdependent (1993: 68–9). In arguing that animals are creatures with different constitutions, different species of which are in different social relationships with humans, Benton is advocating a position at odds with the idea that animal relationships are ideological constructions with purely ideological functions. Rather, he emphasizes the material co-dependency of humans and animals, albeit that these co-dependencies are constituted through dramatically iniqui tous relations of power. As we saw in the previous chapter, the relational typology developed by Kate Stewart and Matthew Cole (2009) emphasizes the extent to which the use and categorization of individual animals and collective species are contingent and socially constructed, as evidenced by cultural and historical variability. Mary Phillips has argued that these kinds of categories are enormously powerful in shaping material practices. Her interviews with laboratory scientists revealed that ‘The cat or dog in the lab is perceived by researchers as ontologically different from the pet dog or cat in the home’ (Phillips, 1994: 121, see also Birke, 1994). Thus the social location of species relations enables an understanding of the timealized and spatialized qualities of particular relations with particular species and their socially constituted realities.
Benton’s contribution places notions of animal rights in the context of social justice, and argues that the difﬁculty with the rights discourse is its inability to take account of the prevailing social structures and relations of certain places at certain historical junctures (1993: 210). He asserts that ‘under prevailing patterns of animal use and abuse’ rights are not likely to do much to alleviate animal suffering. Because animals are in and of human societies, ‘co-evolving’ (1993: 211) with them, we need fundamental changes in human social practices before we will see any shift in the treatment of animals. This is a vital point – human social practices constitute the power relations of species, and it is this which is so absent from rights based accounts of human-animal relations. As Benton suggests, for example, whilst the abolition of factory farming is a moral imperative, this will only be achieved through signiﬁcant changes in the economic relations of capitalist agriculture and the social organization of farming. Benton indicates the signiﬁcance of a socio logical contribution here in his understanding of human-animal relations as socially, culturally and spatially located and embedded, and as having species speciﬁc formations. Benton uses Marxist inﬂected sociology in order to focus, in the main, on the question of rights. As we will later see however, others have used such an approach to look in detail, speciﬁcally at the social formations in which certain animals are framed. Whilst therefore, it is essential to consider the social construction of ‘the animal’ in contradistinction to the human, and to trace the pro cesses through which animals are socially constructed, we cannot dis solve other species into their symbolic reference in human cultures. Non-human animals are a ﬁction, as Derrida suggests, but as he also acknowledges, they have their own reality. For many ‘animal’ species, their worlds are co-constituted with our own but they also have their own species being in addition to individual orientations to the world. It is not sufﬁcient however, for sociologists merely to say that animals are co-constitutive of human social arrangements. If the human-animal distinction is socially constituted and maintained over time, and non human animals are cast in relationships in which human interests prevail, then we need a political language to capture this.
Rights talk: power, difference and oppression
Peter Singer has been much feted as the ﬁrst to use the terminology of ‘liberation’, ‘oppression’ and ‘discrimination’ with reference to human relations with animals, and invoking Jeremy Bentham’s well-known utilitarian maxim with respect to animal suffering. The key concept underpinning Singer’s theorization is the concept of ‘speciesism’ (ﬁrst used by Richard Ryder in 1975) to describe a prejudicial attitude, which is parallel to racism or sexism and involves the judgement of an indi vidual or group on the basis of group membership and in terms of the hierarchical ranking of groups. Animals for Singer, are oppressed, exploited and discriminated against in a society that is ‘speciesist’. ‘Speciesism’ (a corollary to racism and sexism) is the belief humans are entitled to treat members of other species in ways in which it would be deemed morally wrong to treat other humans (see Rollin, 1981: 89–90). In short, speciesism is discrimination based upon species membership.
Singer (1990) and rights theorist Tom Regan (1988) base part of their case for a transformation in human relations with Other animals, on material drawn from the study of animal biology, which indicates con scious awareness in non-human animals. They contend animals have rights because they are ‘sentient’ that is, they are capable of experiencing pain, suffering and pleasure and have interests in avoiding pain and suffering. Mary Midgley concurs that we should extend the principle of moral worth from humans to other animals, and treat ‘all sentient beings as inside the moral community’ (1983: 89). Singer, Regan, Midgley and others tend to use an image of moral progress and improvement, thus as Ryder puts it ‘an ever-widening moral circle’ into which new ‘classes of sufferers…are drawn’ (Ryder, 2000: 3; Singer, 1985). Such theorists tackle the anthropocentric assumptions that animals are not entitled to rights because they do not have interests that can be expressed in speech or thought (as articulated for example, by Frey, 1983: 109, also Frey, 1980). Midgley draws on the ‘argument from marginal cases’ here in suggesting that we would also preclude rights to humans if they were babies, or had some form of difﬁculty communicating through speech (1983: 56–60). Gary Francione considers that the overwhelming use of animals by humans is unnecessary and ‘merely further the satisfaction of human pleasure, amusement or convenience’ at the expense of ‘an enormous amount of animal pain, suffering and death’ (Francione, 2000: 9).
However, expanding the ‘circle’ of ethical concern from different groups of suffering humans to non-human animals can be problematic, as it ignores the vast differences across the multivariate animal species (Cooper, 1995: 141). Singer argues that all vertebrate animal groups (that is, mammals, birds, ﬁsh, reptiles and amphibians) are ‘sentient’, and this is a sufﬁcient criterion for moral status. The distinction between sentient and non-sentient animals is an important distinction for Singer. Whilst many of those animals we use and kill (farmed animals, many of those, particularly mammals, used in experimentation) care about how they are used and killed, many other species don’t and thus in itself, animal use is not necessarily problematic. In Francione’s view however, the fact that a being is sentient necessarily means that the being has an interest in continued existence and he rejects the view that animals only have an interest in the speciﬁc ways in which we use them, rather than whether we use them at all.
Given the incredible difference across the range of ‘animal’ species, Regan has developed an even more limited conception of which animals deserve rights than Singer, but unlike Singer, has a broader understanding of what those rights might consist. He argues that in order to have rights, animals must be the ‘subjects of a life’ (1988: 367), and that this only applies to animals (speciﬁcally mammals) with certain similarities to humans. Through this preoccupation with similarities between certain species and human beings, the animal rights philosophy of Regan and Singer remains framed by humanism. Regan in particular, stresses the similarities between humans and mammals, particularly primates, all being ‘subjects of a life’ – conscious creatures with individual welfare needs, beliefs and preferences. Yet whatever the problems with Regan and Singer’s humanocentrism, they are paying attention to the differences within non-human animals that has received insufﬁcient attention. As Mary Midgley contends, arguing for rights for animals is different from arguing for the extension of rights claims from one group of humans for example, white, middle class men, to women of various social locations of class and race. This is because animals ‘are not just animals. They are elephants or amoebae, locusts or ﬁsh or deer’ (1983: 19; also 1992).
For Francione, an emphasis on ‘similar minds’ is too limiting. An enor mous variety of species may be anthropocentrically excluded from this limited extension of rights and it is a problem of our limited epistemo logy that we cannot understand the world from the perspective of so many lesser known and lesser liked species (2000: 99). The drawing and redrawing of lines between species and groups of species on the basis of similarities, is itself a form of speciesism (Bekoff, 2002: 47–50) and under plays both biological continuity and the complex nature of the question of difference. Much time and effort, for example, has been spent on the project of evaluating animal intelligence, but the organization of human power fundamentally shapes such attempts – we measure the extent to which animals do or do not approximate to human capabilities looking at the use of different kinds of human language (such as sign language) or the study of animal behaviours and sociality wherein for example with primatology, a ‘simian orientalism’ shaped much of that which is found (Haraway, 1989: 24). Different standards of evaluating sameness and dif ference are themselves speciesist, failing to understand that, for example, animals are ‘smart’ in their own species speciﬁc ways and have their own ways of life and being in the world – their own cultures (see Whiten et al, 1999: 682). However, it is easy to see why, in humanocentric political systems, arguing a case for redrawing boundaries to include the most ‘human-like’ animals is seen as most viable in practical political terms. I consider that taking proper account, as far and as reﬂexively as we are able, of the particularities of speciﬁc species and species groups is impera tive, and helps undermine the homogeneous category ‘animal’. Whether it is possible to appreciate difference and avoid humanocentric evalua tions is an important and cautionary question, but I think it needs to be attempted and may be less problematic if not articulated alongside claims for ‘rights’ for certain kinds of animals.
The discourse of animal liberation is also humanist in deploying the language of political extension. Singer, for example, continually makes comparisons between speciesism and intra-human forms of discrimination:
Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of their own race…Sexists violate the principle of equality by favoring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of mem bers of other species. The pattern is identical in each case (1990: 9, my emphasis).
He goes on to say that ‘Most human beings are speciesist’, and that by everyday practices, such as meat eating, most of us are complicit in animal abuse. However, as Midgley (1983: 104) argues we cannot tri vialize the differences between animals whereas undermining the dif ferences between human beings has been a crucial move in opposing sexism and racism. To imply discrimination against all animals by all humans does not account for intensity of cruelty inﬂicted, social location or species difference. Regan for example, criticizes the Inuit peoples use of fur because it is a business in addition to a means of sub sistence and cruelties against animals for proﬁt should not be sup ported (1988: 359). For Francione (1995) the deﬁnition of animals as property deﬁnes their status, and the only ‘right’ animals require is not to be deﬁned and treated as property.
The use of this language of rights, interests and discrimination sug gests an extension of the project of liberal humanism to encompass another Other, that of species. Calarco (2008: 7) argues that in deploy ing ‘rights-talk’ to gain a political voice, animal rights discourse is con strained to adopt the ‘language and strategies of identity politics’. There are two difﬁculties which attend this. First, Calarco suggests that identity politics encourages a competition for authenticity and a struggle for hierarchical positioning in a matrix of oppressions. Second, debates remain fundamentally centred on the human by emphasizing similarities between some species and humans in extending rights claims. The sub ject of modernity is a classed, gendered and racialized subject. But, and it is an important but, the experience of feminism for example, has been that it is insufﬁcient to elide the social difference of gender to another kind of categorization, such as class, if gender is to be fully implicated in analysis. I will argue in the next chapter that adopting complex systems theory to explain forms of social domination, including that of non human animals by humans, enables us to avoid both the trap of anthro pocentrism involved in the adoption of political humanism and the constraints of ‘identity politics’ when considering intersectionalized forms of domination.
A further strand of criticism made particularly of Singer and Regan is their gendered rationalism (see Singer, 1990: iii; Regan, 1988: 94). Critics argue that in developing interspecies justice, we need to practise ‘sym pathetic identiﬁcation’ with animals (Johnson, 1996: 166). Josephine Donovan claims that ‘womanish’ sentiment is being criticized in trivializ ing an emotional response to animal abuse (1993: 351). Together with Carol Adams (1996) she has developed an approach to animal rights rooted in the social context of women’s caring traditions. This is based on the notion of concern for sentient creatures rather than identifying ‘rights’ animals might have, rather like Derrida’s advocacy of compassion in our relations with Other animals. Unfortunately, Donovan and Adams do not account for different kinds and levels of treatment and care, con curring with Suzanne Kappeler that approaches establishing differences between species are in themselves ‘discourses of domination’ (1995: 331). Diane Antonio (1995) provides a useful intervention here by suggesting that an approach to human-animal relations rooted in a notion of ‘care’ should be supplemented by a respect for diversity and difference occur ring in the non-human natural world, including the speciﬁc and qual itative differences of species. So, we need to understand diversity and differentiation by species, and when we ‘care’ for animals, must ‘respect’ diversity and tailor our notions of appropriate human treatment to the situation of differing species. This has strong similarities with Bekoff’s notion of ‘minding’ animals (Bekoff, 2002). Ecofeminist writing about animals has also effectively critiqued positions on animals articulated by certain kinds of political ecologism (see Vance, 1995: 173–4). The ‘deep’ ecologist J. Baird Callicott (1980) for example, has described domesticated animals as ‘living artifacts’ of less authenticity than wild animals in ‘wild’ spaces and less in need for concern and certainly incapable of liberation. Yet this shows a profound disregard for the exploitation of domesticates and ignores the evidence that domesticated animals, even in intensive production systems, can revert to a behavioural repertoire consistent with wild animals of the same species (Nichol and Dawkins, cited Davis, 1995: 204). In addition, feminists have critiqued the notion that individual animals might be sacriﬁced to the good of a species and the gendered way in which arguments for the compassionate treatment of domesticates are trivialized (see Davis, 1995; Donovan, 1993).
The continued embededness of animals in human communities is the basis of Benton’s (1993) critique of animal rights politics, and indeed, much of the trajectory of recent work in animal studies, and a corner stone of animal concern within feminism for some time, has been to stress the operationalization of speciesism not as a form of discrimination (as suggested by Singer, Regan and Francione) but as a discourse of power. It is power which is primary and Ryder (1998) argues that the notion of speciesism implies that ‘we exploit other animals because we are more powerful than they are’. For sociologists such as Benton and Tester, anthropocentrism and humanism (respectively) frame political discourses of animal rights. As we saw earlier, Tester abandons the animal and holds fast to humanism – animals are nothing more than what we perceive them to be and anthropocentrism is inevitable. For Benton, this is ethi cally and intellectually impossible – we culturally frame other species and are embedded with them in our social practices. The cases made by Singer, Regan and Francione are important because they suggest that the biological differences of species are cast in terms of relations of domina tory power – the political differences of speciesism. Decades have passed since arguments were made for the sentience of animals and the irra tionality of the ways in which humans treat them. Fundamental changes in human relations with non-human animals have been negligible however. Our social relations may be so impervious to articulations of animal rights because they are constituted through animal rites – the dis course of species which constitutes our culture. It is this to which we now turn and as I will argue further below, the notion of speciesism itself, is again, found wanting.
Cultures of human exclusivity and intersectionalized oppression
For some, the politics of species difference is primarily culturally expressed and constituted. Giorgio Agamben’s work has been concerned with human ism inherent in Western political theorizing in which the animal nature of the human – or ‘bare life’, has been cast as fundamentally separate from political life. The social and the natural have been seen as distinctly constituted in a tradition of political thinking in which ‘man’ has been differentiated from animal by being seen as ‘the articulation and con junction of a body and a soul…of a natural (or animal) element, and a supernatural or social or divine element’ (Agamben, 2004: 16). Agamben uses the notion of the ‘anthropological machine’ to describe the symbolic regimes of anthropocentrism present in various kinds of scientiﬁc and political discourses that both include and exclude and thereby constitute the sets of distinctions which separate the human from the animal (2004: 37). There are two historical forms that the anthropological machine assumes: a premodern form which he tracks from Aristotle’s pol itics to the taxonomy of Linnaeus, and a modern variant which has been constituted post-Darwin. The two forms differ in their modus operandi. In its premodern form, the anthropological machine essentially humanizes animal life when attempting the demarcation between human and animal; whereas the modern form is preoccupied with the difﬁcult task of excluding the animal aspects of humans, from the concept of humanity. For Agamben, none of these kinds of distinction are a matter of neutral ontology:
Homo sapiens, then, is neither a clearly deﬁned species nor a sub stance; it is, rather, a machine or device for producing the recog nition of the human. In line with the taste of the epoch… It is an optical machine constructed of a series of mirrors in which man, looking at himself, sees his own image already deformed in the features of an ape. Homo is a constitutively ‘anthropomorphous’ animal…who must recognize himself in a non-man in order to be human (2004: 26–7).
This is political – for the distinction between humans and animals has a function of power that enables the exploitation of non-human animals; and is timealized and spatialized, reconﬁguring itself and reconstituting the difference between human and animal (2004: 75–7). Agamben’s solution is the abandonment – both philosophically and politically – of humanism and democracy and the creation of new understandings, modes and forms of political life. Not only is this utopian, despite itself it is anthropocentric in that Agamben focuses on the effects of the anthro pological machine on human beings and failing to explore the impact on animal life (Calarco, 2008: 102). I would add also that ‘the human’ in Agamben’s thought is not interpolated by gender, or indeed, any other kind of Othering.
More attendant to questions of interlocking oppressive discourse are those writing within cultural studies. The work of Cary Wolfe is an important innovation here. For Wolfe, speciesism is seen as a set of dis courses embedded in a range of texts of popular culture, and occasionally also challenged therein. The discourse of species understood through such texts ‘in turn reproduces the institution of speciesism’ (2003a: 2, ori ginal emphasis). The animal for Wolfe, as for Derrida, is a ‘ﬁgure’ con structed through the (contingent) systems of language and signiﬁcation, which is institutionalized in ‘speciﬁc modes and practices of material ization in the social sphere’ with asymmetrical effects on particular groups. Thus he writes:
Just as the discourse of sexism affects women disproportionately (even though it may be applied to any social other of whatever gender), so the violent effects of the discourse of speciesism fall overwhelmingly in institutional terms, on nonhuman animals (Wolfe 2003a: 6).
Here, Wolfe is making a well placed reference to what we now often speak of as social intersectionality (McCall, 2005). This questioning of the way in which overlapping discourses co-constitute forms of Othering has a long legacy in feminist and (post) colonial theory, and in parti cular in ecofeminist work. Wolfe is referencing a signiﬁcant literature here, and one which is surprisingly often marginalized in other con temporary writings in animal studies.
From the early 1970s ecofeminists suggested that patriarchal discourses carry gender dichotomous normalizations that feminize the environment and animalize women, constructing a dichotomy between women and ‘nature’, including the multifarious species of non-human animal, and male dominated human culture. The arguments presented often also draw on a form of standpoint epistemology: gender roles constituted through such discourses render women in closer material proximity and relation to the environment and Other animals. In early works, Connie Salamone (1982) claimed that women’s social practices of care mean they are more likely than men to oppose practices of harm against non-human animals. Norma Benny made the rather different case that women may empathize with the sufferings of animals as they have some common experiences, for example female domestic animals are most likely to be ‘oppressed’ via control of their sexuality and reproductive powers, involving vary ing degrees of physical violence and emotional deprivation (Benny, 1983: 142). In addition, popular culture is saturated with representational tropes which engender animals and also animalize humans in strongly gendered ways. Joan Dunayer (1995) has examined the speciesism of linguistic prac tices and the links between this and our gendered and racialized use of language; whilst others have looked at the interrelations between gender and the environmental and species impact of colonial practices his torically (Lee Shanchez, 1993; Shantu Riley, 1993). Carol Adams’ (1990, 2003) arguments that social practices such as meat eating are gendered and sexualized, and that popular culture is saturated with interpolations of gendered nature, and natured gender are well known. Thus some fem inists have considered that gendered and natured normalization captures animals and women, in some instances, within the same discursive regime, and may place women in a position of possible contestation. This ecofeminist writing has been incredibly inﬂuential in problem atizing human relations with other animals and alerting us to the inter sectionalized qualities of oppression. However, theoretically, there is often a tendency in this literature to homogenize by deploying an all encompassing systemic understanding of patriarchy as a system of ‘Other ing’. Adams and Donovan (1995: 3) for example, have contended that patriarchy is ‘prototypical for many other forms of abuse’, and Kappeler has asserted that patriarchy is ‘the pivot of all speciesism, racism, ethni cism, and nationalism’ (1995: 348, see also Collard, 1988; Gaard, 1993). These approaches provide a powerful analysis of the ways the social system of gender relations is co-constituted through ideas and practices around ‘nature’ and species relations. However, there is a tendency towards conﬂation in ecofeminist accounts, which can invite criticism for an under theorization of difference. As we will see below, this is even apparent in ecofeminist accounts which attempt so strenuously to avoid it. If we retain some notion of system (which most ecofeminists implicitly rather than explicitly do) but do not consider a multiplicity of systemic relations, what we are left with is a rather loose theory of patriarchy, which is presumed to account for a wide range of repressive relations. In order to embed an analysis of gender in investigations of the arenas of human engagement with Other animals, I will make the case, in Chapter 3, for a complex systems approach to co-constituted relations of domination.
For his part, Wolfe analytically foregrounds the discourse of species which:
When applied to social others of whatever sort, relies on ﬁrst taking for granted the institution of speciesism – that is, on the ethical accept ability of the systematic, institutionalized killing of non-human others… (Wolfe, 2003a: 43).
Wolfe does not suggest that speciesism is a priori, and is attentive to the ways in which the ‘discourse of animality [has] historically served as a crucial strategy in the oppression of humans by other humans’ (Wolfe, 2003b: xx), albeit that the consequences of this discourse fall overwhelmingly on non-human animals. In ﬂeshing out a conception of the discursive constitution of speciesism, Wolfe problematizes the importance of language as a means of distinction. Wolfe (2003c) draws on the complexity science of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (1980, 1987) in the area of cognition and the work of the sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1995) on speciﬁcally social systems. For Luhmann, social systems are systems of complex communication, and Wolfe argues that when social systems are conﬂated with the human use of language, other kinds of communication, including the languages (and thereby the subjectivity) of some species of non-human animals is excluded (Wolfe, 2003c: 39). He rightly suggests that we need to ‘dis articulate’ the categories of language and species (2003c: 38; also Wolfe, 2009: 22–6), but we must go further than this. As I will argue in the next chapter, social systems cannot be conceived of in Luhmannian terms – only in terms of communication. We need to articulate what an analysis of social systems that do include animals might look like, for non-human animals are utterly implicated in our social institutions, practices and processes, both materially and discursively.
As we have seen in Wolfe, the ‘discourse of species’ is intersected by other forms of Othering. This has been the emphasis of some feminist projects theorizing ‘nature’ and animals. Karen Warren considers a logic of domination which accounts for the linked dominations of race, class, gender and nature (1990: 132), whereas Val Plumwood con ceptualizes gender, nature, race, colonialism and class as interfacing in a ‘network’ of oppressive ‘dualisms’ (1993: 2). For Plumwood, these exist as separate (autonomous) entities but are also mutually reinforc ing in a ‘web’ of complex relations (1993: 194). This does not mean dif ferent forms of oppression are indistinguishable; they are relatively autonomous, distinct yet related. Although Plumwood argues oppres sions within the web have ‘distinct foci and strands’ and ‘some inde pendent movement’, she ultimately adopts a conﬂationary approach in arguing forms of domination have ‘a uniﬁed overall mode of opera tion, forming a single system’ with a ‘common structure and ideology’ (1994: 79, my emphasis; 1993: 81). A ‘common centric structure’ places an ‘omnipotent’ subject at the centre and constructs non-subjects as having various negative (often homogenized) qualities, justifying the exclusion of Otherized groups and their instrumental use (1997: 336). Plumwood understands these ‘centrisms’ as systems of dominatory rela tions, but as ideological frameworks. Wolfe has a rather similar position.
He stresses the need to counter ‘this humanist and speciesist structure of subjectivisation’ which enables the exploitation of non-human animals (Wolfe 2003a: 8, original emphasis).
Both Wolfe and Plumwood have an analysis of intersected discourses, but a crucial Foucauldian move is absent. We do not see how these ideas of separation, of human uniqueness and the animal as Other, are articu lated in historically and culturally located practices and inform what soci ologists would understand as structures – sets of relations with effects in the world, that can be seen to operate through social institutions and related practices. This is a gap, but it is not one I am necessarily criticizing Wolf or Plumwood, for failing to ﬁll. Plumwood engages in an extended philosophical reﬂection on the interlinked binaries that constitute the bedrock of Western philosophy. Wolfe’s undertakings are various: a post humanist critique of certain kinds of environmentalist thought and pos itions in animal rights theory, exploring the ways the discourse of species interacts with those around race, colonialism and gender illustrated through examples from popular ﬁlms, novels and art, and to suggest a mode of cultural interpretation ‘beyond’ humanism. It is time for socio logy to step up to the task of outlining the social institutions in which the discourse of species is embedded and to provide an analysis in terms of social relations.
Towards a critical sociology of species
We have already looked at the ways Ted Benton has drawn on Marxist sociology to argue against an understanding of animal rights which is divorced from social justice. Others using a similar (broadly) Marxian sociology have focused on the social structures and relations of species. It is here that I consider sociology has made its most useful contri bution so far in the understanding of human relations with Other animals. These approaches are not without their difﬁculties however, and in critiquing them here, I will also draw together the arguments made so far in outlining the elements for developing a critical sociology of species.
David Nibert (2002) explicitly uses the concept of oppression in rela tion to the historical development of human relations with non-human animals. He argues that the oppression of animals has structural causes that are socially and economically rooted as well as ideologically and cul turally expressed. We are socialized into reproducing the relations of the oppression of animals. Nibert is particularly critical of animal rights theo rists for ignoring the structural roots of animal oppression and failing to understand oppressive systems as operating as a combination of social institutions and belief systems as ‘social structural arrangements’ (2002: 7). He rightly takes the notion of speciesism to task, arguing that the way it has been articulated as a form of prejudice and discrimination, is socio logically wanting in terms of its conceptual individualism (2002: 9–10). Rather, social institutions are foundational for the oppression of animals – not individual attitudes and moral deﬁciencies.
Nibert isolates three elements in his model of the mutually reinforcing mechanisms of other non-human animal oppression. First there is the economic exploitation of the Other. Second, there is iniquitous social power which is politically reﬂected and reproduced by the state. Third, there is ideology which is emergent from and reproduces, economic rela tions. Applying this to animals, Nibert suggests that animals are exploited for human interests and tastes in food, fur and skin, entertainment, com panionship and health (medical experimentation, for example). Animals are deﬁned in law as property and thus open to exploitation with little limitation. Finally, this is legitimated by an ideology which naturalizes the oppression of animals in its many forms – we are immersed in a cul ture that devalues non-human animals and legitimates their exploitation. Surprisingly, Nibert ultimately wants to hang on to the term speciesism, which is ‘actually an ideology [as distinct from a prejudice], a belief system that legitimates and inspires prejudice and discrimination’ (2002: 17). It is here that we come to the difﬁculty with Nibert’s analysis. Deﬁning species ism as ‘an ideology’ that emerges from economic institutions, practices and relations of capitalism reduces and conﬁnes the oppression of non human animals to a set of intra-human oppressive relations. In justifying this, Nibert provides a rather thin account of the exploitative relations of early agricultural societies which he sets up as proto-capitalist (2002: 23–7). Despite the inevitably speculative qualities of such an account, Nibert makes some interesting links between different kinds of intra-human domination and the oppression of animals and the ways in which these are interlinked, but in ways that do not tie in easily to an analysis of capitalist commoditization. Whilst there is compelling evidence that the development of capitalism and the technologies of industrialism radically exacerbated the exploitation and oppression of non-human animals, the domination of the non-human lifeworld cannot be reduced to the systemic imperatives of capitalism.
The social reality of speciesism is constructed through a range of cul tural processes and institutional arenas though which animals are exploited and oppressed – zoos, circuses, baiting and ﬁghting, the breeding and keeping of pets, the breeding and ‘use’ of animals in research, hunting and trapping, farming and slaughter . These are explained in terms of proﬁt creation, corporate interest and the generation and sustaining of false needs. In turn, these relations of oppression are maintained by the central and local state, which is seen as, rightly in my view, incred ibly powerful but is also analysed reductively – in terms of the interests and imperative of capital. Despite this, Nibert sees the capitalist state as an avenue, albeit a difﬁcult and contradictory one, for progressive change in the interests of Other animals (2002: 188). It is without doubt that Nibert performs a vital task for us in understanding the ways the oppression of non-human animals is embedded in and existent through social relations, institutions and practices. However, explaining an ‘ideo logy’ of speciesism and oppressive practices against animals in terms of systemic imperatives of capitalism is insufﬁcient.
Bob Torres (2007) applies Nibert’s model of animal oppression to the case of highly industrialized capital-intensive agriculture in the global north. What starts to look like a socially intersected analysis of the oppression of animals, however, similarly becomes focused on one systemic cause:
If we’re to be successful in ﬁghting oppression – whether based on race, class, species or gender identity – we’re going to need to ﬁght the heart of the economic order that drives these oppressions. We’re going to have to ﬁght capitalism (2007: 11).
Torres allows that the histories of exploitative systems are different and differentiated (2007: 156), and that the oppression of animals can exist before and beyond capitalism. Yet capitalism is the crucial systemic explanation and ‘has deepened, extended and worsened our domination over animals and the natural world’ (2007: 3). Animals are largely under stood as labourers – producing commodities such as milk and eggs and becoming commodities such as meat and leather. Animal labour within capitalism is slave labour. In the commodities of meat, milk and eggs, complex chains and networks of productive forces and relations can be found (2007: 36–8). Animal labour is also alienated labour if we con sider the alienation from the products of labour, of breeder animals separated from their young, for example; and the alienation from pro ductive activity, for example in the dull existences of meat animals whose labour is to eat, in order to become meat. Animals are also alien ated from members of their species in the ways they are contained and separated, and alienated from their ‘species-life’ in being unable to fulﬁl natural behaviours such as foraging, play and nest building.
Relations of exploitation are the linchpin for Torres. Thus he argues strongly against the use of animals in agriculture however high standards of welfare might be for although ‘some forms of dominance are “nicer” than others, exploitation is still exploitation in the end’ (2007: 44). Ani mals are not exploited in the same way as human beings in the labour process however. Torres is concerned about the classed and racialized com position of the labour force in animal agriculture and the meat industry and of the alienated conditions of slaughterhouse labour (see 2007: 45–9). Animals demonstrate a different kind of embodied labour however. Their bodies not only are exploited by working for us in order to produce animal food products, their bodies are themselves commodities, as he puts it: ‘They are superexploited living commodities’ (2007: 58). Animal lives and bodies are a means to proﬁt creation within capitalism. In addition, animals are property, and this relationship of ownership over animal bodies is essen tial for the extraction of proﬁt. Torres analysis here is much inﬂuenced by anarchist writing, in particular the ideas of Proudhon and Kropotkin. The value created by labour and embodied in private property is not fully recognized – and in the case of animals, is not recognized at all. Animals as-property means that, in the case of animal agriculture for example, animals are ‘sensate living machines’ for the production of commodities (2007: 64). But the condition of animals is one of slavery – they can exer cise no choice in their lives and can never leave the place of production, unlike humans in the wage production system of capitalism.
For Torres, capitalism remains the key analytical device throughout. Nibert acknowledges his debt to ecofeminist writers and his under standing of the concept of oppression is very much inﬂuenced by its use in feminist theory (such as that of Iris Marion Young). Nibert appears to endorse a multiple systems model of ‘interlocking’ and ‘interacting’ systems of oppression:
…the oppression of various devalued groups in human societies is not independent and unrelated; rather, the arrangements that lead to various forms of oppression are integrated in such a way that the exploitation of one group frequently augments and compounds the mistreatment of
others (Nibert, 2002: 4, original italics).
Despite this, however, there is surprisingly little gender in Nibert’s analysis. As he puts it ‘The ideological entanglements between humans and other animals are fuelled by, and intertwined with, economic-based oppression – particularly under corporate capitalism’ (Nibert, 2002: xiii, my emphasis). The overriding thesis is that the human oppression of other animals is economically motivated and sustained, and is caused and reproduced by relations of capitalism (2002: 3). As we saw above, the work of those such as Wolfe and Plumwood is idealist – focusing analysis on cultural discourses. It is also however, very attentive to ques tions of interacting difference. Torres and Nibert, on the other hand, provide us with an analysis which is overwhelmingly materialist, but despite some promises of attending to social difference, reduces the oppression of animals to an economic cause, and elides it with the systemic imperatives of capitalism.
The cultural designation of certain species as human food has been the subject of feminist analysis and debate, and the precise nature of reproductive exploitation and denigration of farmed animals has been critiqued as a heavily gendered phenomenon (see Gruen, 1993: 72–4). In addition to gender, the historical sociology of the animal-industrial complex shows that cultures of colonialism and the forging of national identities have profoundly shaped the eating and production of ‘meat’ (Rifkin, 1994; Rogers, 2004). The concentration on social institutions and the use of a Marxist inﬂected sociology of oppressive relations is a forward step in the social theorization of species, but in our analyses of the social institutions and processes which constitute species relations, we need to retain sensitivity to social difference.
What is required is a full analysis of social intersectionality. The theorization of multiple, intersecting social inequalities has become a preoccupation in critical social theory (Walby, 2009). Theorists within feminism, postcolonial studies and Marxism/post-Marxism have been concerned with the impacts and effects of various forms of social inequal ity – from the well established concerns around the intersections of class, race and gender to newer interests in region and locality, nation, religion and ethnicities. In the chapter which follows I will argue that we need an analysis of social difference, inequality and domination in terms of rela tional systems of power. In so doing however, I argue for a reconceptual ization of the notion of system using concepts from ‘complexity theory’ and propose a complex systems analysis of relations of natured power which intersect with other socially constituted systems of race, gender and so on. I see complex systems approaches as enabling an analysis which incorporates both discursive and material aspects of species rela tions. In addition, I will argue that a reworking of systems theory through complexity allows us to integrate discussions of the thorny sociological question of structure and agency in the social relations of species. This is the ﬁnal element in my critique of Nibert and Torres – a lack of consideration of the agency of Other animals. As Chris Wilbert remarks, the understanding of agency in the social sciences has been as a purely human property. Yet around the globe, many people, such as those in rural areas in parts of the developing world, are very conscious of the danger animals pose, from example, from the everyday malarial mos quitoes to poisonous snakes and leopard attacks (Wilbert, 2006: 32). Even the Western media has shown an interest in attacks on Westerners by exoticized animals such as elephants, crocodiles and tigers and also by domesticates, such as dogs. In traditional Marxism, animals are part of the realm of necessity, and ‘are unfree in that their natural history is made for them’ (Noske, 1989: 77–80). In the Marxist inﬂected accounts of Nibert and Torres, animals are seen as subjects, but also primarily as victims of human abuse, trapped in the machinations of capital. For Francione, they are our property and for Regan they are not currently conceptualized as subjects-of-a-life. For Derrida, animals are placed toge ther as those without language and endure intense suffering at the hands of humans as a result. But, says Haraway: ‘…how much more promise is there in the questions, Can animals play? Or work?’ (Haraway, 2008: 22). Haraway sees her own contribution as ‘seeing what else is going on in instrumental human-animal world makings’ in addition to the exploit ation of animals, as outlined in particular, by feminist scholarship (2008: 74). Noting that relations are almost never those of equality, she wants to see what degrees of freedom and what possible non-human agency is exercised in companion species relations speciﬁcally.
Haraway argues that the analogues of instrument, surrogate and slave are ill-ﬁtting for the historical processes through which humans and dogs emerge as companion species, for domestication is a two-way process. Our domestication of non-human animals is constituted through our own domestication. This may even apply to other domesticates in that animals interact with the ‘natural’ world through productive activities and express conscious intentionality in this process (Ingold, 1983). Leslie Irvine argues that some few species, dogs and cats in particular are ‘uniquely suited to living with us’ (2004: 12). The work of Stephen Budiansky (1992) certainly suggests that some animals were agents in their own domestication and that in the case of dogs in particular; they aided the domestication of other species. Juliet Clutton-Brock argues that domes tication ensures that other species are ‘enfolded in the social structure of the human community’ (1995: 15). The physical manipulations of dogs by humans through selective breeding means that the perceptual world of a dog is radically different to that of a coyote, wolf or fox, but this does not necessarily imply an abuse by domination. Peter Messant and James Serpell go so far as to argue that the domestication of the dog was not primarily for the utilitarian consideration of hunting; albeit that this may have cemented and intensiﬁed the relationship (1981: 10). Rather, they suggest that social and biological similarities between humans and canids (such as a long primary socialization period, gregarious tem peraments, similar activity cycles and a preference for social play) were signiﬁcant factors. With cats, a symbiotic relationship (between those needing rodent control and those liking comfort) may explain their domestication, but the less strongly domesticated status of the felidae family many well be explained by their more solitary disposition (Irvine, 2004: 17). In these accounts then, some species have possibly exerted agency in the very process of domestication itself.
In her (rather beautiful) ethnography of an animal shelter and the processes of adopting abandoned companion animals, Irvine argues that we relate to animals as individuals with personalities and are able to share emotional states, and communicate desires and intensions . In the process, our interrelatings both reveal and extend the selves of both human and non-human animals, we develop, as she puts it ‘a sense of self-in-relation’ (2004: 148):
When interaction develops into a relationship, additional dimensions of animal selfhood become available as the animal’s intersubjective capacities become apparent…animals participate in the creation of our identities through many of the same processes that other humans do. They challenge our interactional abilities (2004: 3).
We develop these shared identities at ‘the level of the everyday and unremarkable’ (2004: 165) far away from the extra-ordinary ‘becoming’ of Deleuze and Guattari. Irvine uses a concept of ‘animal capital’ to describe the ‘resources that enable the development of meaningful, nonexploit ative companionship with animals’ (2004: 66). These include knowledge about animal behaviour, nutrition and health and an active interest in animal emotions and cognition, which enables a rapport to be estab lished across species. She suggests the kind of critical anthropomorphism associated with the ethology of those such as Bekoff, ‘aims to do for the understanding of animal life what the Verstehen perspective tries to capture in human life, which is to shed light on the meaningful, sub jective aspects of action’ (2004: 69, original italics). The close attention we pay to animals enables us to interpret behaviour and physical cues and to communicate at some level. In establishing rapport, the active engage ment of animals as subjects with opinions comes through clearly as Irvine details human stories of animal adoption and companion species lives, and records the encounters between animals and would be ‘adopters’ (see for example, 2004: 90–1). Similarly, Janet and Steven Alger’s work on human-feline relations emerging from their ethnography of a cat shelter has shown how cats interfere with human activities in order to make their preferences known, exercise choice (for example in where to eat and sleep) and display a wide range of emotional states (Alger and Alger, 2003).
Relations of inequality are the context of action for non-human animals and humans alike. Ti Fu Tuan (1984: 176) has argued, with particular reference to the ‘pet’, that domestication and intense mani pulation allows humans to manifest power over the ‘natural’ world. Whilst the domination of animals may be cruel, and produce victims, it may also take another form – combined with affection (1984: 2). Here, whilst we have power over animals, this does not necessarily lead to our abuse of other species. Certainly our historical and ecological situation is that we all live through and by the use of the bodies of other animals. In respecting this context, Haraway suggests that we need to develop a ‘multispecies responsibility’, which in essence, means we must learn to kill well. We cannot stand outside animal suffering but rather, need to be open to ‘shared pain and suffering’ (2008: 83). Haraway’s When Species Meet is undoubtedly more critically reﬂective on the nature of human power over non-human animals than, say, her positively light hearted treatment of laboratory mice (Haraway, 1997). Despite her acknowledgement of the ‘hyperexploited labouring bodies’ of animals destined for the table and the ‘terrifying global industry’ of which their lives and bodies are a part (see 2008: 272), the exploitation of animals does not feature analytically. Like Tuan, I consider that our relations with non-human animals are almost always ones of domination, but also that domination does not always mean that the kinds of relations are the same when different social formations of human-animal relationship are concerned. This does not foreclose the possibility of animals’ agency. Irvine is far more careful, and her reﬂections on agency are contextual ized by the understanding that ‘Whilst some species live comfortably in human households, the majority remain exploited and tortured for food, hide, entertainment, sport and research’ (2004: 76). Despite this context, she sees the development of animal capital as a way in which this might be challenged as both experts and non-experts seek to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of others who are not human. The mindfulness of animals and the ways in which we engage with them, and they engage with us in various kinds of material contexts helps us to argue that dominant dis courses and practices might be otherwise. In addition, it enables us to see how species relations are remade through encounters and struggles which cross species boundaries.
Understanding our relations with non-human species must tackle the questions of the agency of non-human systems and processes, of things, beings that engage with and shape human lives on their own terms. Given the ridiculously homogenizing quality of the concept ‘animal’, the kind of agency ‘animals’ might have is almost impossible to imagine. In sociology, agency has been attributed to beings with desires, intentions and wills. This deﬁnition certainly applies to some non-human species, and certainly to those animals within agricultural complexes and many of those kept as pets in the West. Many species, particularly domesticates, have a sense of selfhood. They can exercise choice and communicate with humans and other species (however much the content may be open to interpretation) as fellow agentic beings. In considering the agency of non-human animals, we cannot only examine agency where it is more obviously present, such as in relations with companions. As Adams and Proctor-Smith note, whilst animals ‘cannot ﬁght collectively against human oppression,…the lack of struggle cannot be taken as absence of resistance or acceptance of domination’ (1993: 309). Species is not only a difference, it is a system of power relations ontologized as natural, and in Haraway’s hybridized ontology of multiplicious connexions, this is lost.
We need an analysis of the social practices and institutions which constitute, reproduce and rearticulate the relations of species. In its attentiveness to questions of historical change, cultural speciﬁcity, the power of ideas and beliefs and the analysis of concrete social practices in addition to the vexing matters of ‘structure and agency’, the dis cipline of sociology has much to offer those who seek to understand our relationships with Other animals. In engaging with the themes and debates in this chapter, I have suggested that a critical sociology of species will attempt to account for species as discursively and mater ially constituted, as a system of power relations which is intersected by forms of intra-human difference and domination. As a system of social relations, species is also dynamic – constantly ordering and re-ordering. In seeking to develop a theory of species relations taking all these ele ments on board, the next chapter will draw on some concepts within ‘complexity theory’ and suggest that a complex systems approach enables us to grasp diversity, change and power, in our relations with Other animals.
Animal Sentience and Consciousness: a Certain Way of Knowing
But in keeping with the principle of evolutionary continuity, and in light of recent decades of scientific exploration of both human and animal minds, I would summarize it this way: all animals share a great many of the general features of living. Animals, including humans, have internal experiences of sensation, perception, feeling, thought, and intention (Panksepp, 2009). These internal experiences are responses to the external world we share, about which animals communicate with other animals. All animals, inclusive of humans, are members of an extended family, a notion that carries an important affective component. Yes, it is past time that we accept and teach this scientifically correct and affectively compelling notion, and that we allow it to motivate our behavior towards other animals. As C & H suggest, this shift to bringing the animal Other into our circle of concern may then have ripple effects in improving the lot of humans, nonhuman animals, and ecosystems alike (Freeman, 2012; Goodman, 2012).
Animal Sentience 2018.165: Benvenuti on Chapman & Huffman on Human Difference
Why look at sentience, consciousness and intelligence in this subject?
To read Western and Indigenous ways of knowing into these aspects of animals
To think about the ethics of what is needed to acquire this information and its implications
Much public policy and many decisions about animals are based on this research.
To assess if animals want know if they are intelligent and more intelligent than another group, for example, are Orcas smarter than Dolphins?
To see if conclusions based on improved knowledge of animal consciousness benefits humans
Can more money be made with more knowledge about animals; can animals be protected more effectively with more knowledge?
To what extent do humans need to know about the capacities of some animals because of the harm humans have done?
Should animals be harmed to find out the answers we seek about the capacities of animals?
Tim Ingold on Relationality
Tim Ingold on Relationality: Another Way of Knowing and Being
If genes interact with anything, it is with other constituents of the cell, which interacts with other cells in the organism, which interacts with other organisms in the world. It is out of this multilayered process that the capacities of living beings emerge. In other words, these capacities are outcomes of the whole developmental system comprised by the presence of the organism, with its particular genetic and cellular composition, in its environment (Lewontin 1983; Oyama 1985). Thus the forms and capacities of all organisms, human beings included, are not prefigured in any kind of specification, genetic or cultural, but are emergent properties of developmental systems.
At whatever stage in the life-cycle we may choose to identify a particular capacity – even at birth – a history of development already lies behind it (Dent 1990: 694). More importantly, people do not live their lives in a vacuum but in a world where they are surrounded by other people, objects and places, together making up what is usually known as the environment. Growing up in an environment largely shaped through the activities of their predecessors, human beings play their part, through their intentional activities, in fashioning the conditions of development for their successors. This is what we call history.
Ingold: ‘Beyond biology and culture. The meaning of evolution in a relational world, direct quotes.
Tim Ingold: Relational thinking
What we need, instead, is a quite different way of thinking about organisms and their environments. I call this ‘relational thinking’. It means treating the organism not as a discrete, pre-specified entity but as a particular locus of growth and development within a continuous field of relationships. It is a field that unfolds in the life activities of organisms and that is enfolded in their specific morphologies, powers of movement and capacities of awareness and response (Ingold 2002: 56–7).
Ways of knowing: the science of sentience
Sentient means to feel, to have the capacity to have feelings, to experience pain, suffering, grief, joy and gratitude.
Definition of ‘Sentience’
a sentient being is able to “evaluate the actions of others in relation to itself and third parties, to remember some of its own actions and their consequences, to assess risks and benefits, to have some feelings, and to have some degree of awareness.”
The agreed circle of sentience has expanded to include vertebrate animals (creatures with spines), and in particular parrots, dogs, pigs, cows, other farmed animals, and other companion animals. Studies of non-vertebrate animals, including octopus, squid, and cuttlefish, and decapod crustaceans (e.g. shrimp, lobsters, crayfish, and crabs), indicate that they too are probably sentient. Scientists have not yet conclusively determined whether spiders, other insects, and gastropods (e.g. slugs and snails) are sentient.
Video: Mic the Vegan
Why is sentience important to an animal?
It is required for life for many animals
Why is the sentience of other animals important to humans?
Basis of animal welfare claims
Basis of animal welfare legislation
Anchoring place of ethics
Element of policy development
Exclusion of farm animals, who are clearly sentient, from welfare legislation
Sentience connection to consciousness
To have consciousness a being must be sentient
its most basic, literal sense, to be conscious means to be awake and receptive to stimulus received from the surrounding environment
The next level of distinction is the capacity for rational thought and decision-making skills
The final measure of consciousness that denotes full human participation is contingent upon awareness of self.
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
‘The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus). ‘
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch. The Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Low, Edelman and Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK.
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
‘We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”’
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch. The Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Low, Edelman and Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK.
‘In conclusion, extensive behavioural and cognitive capacities that have until recently been thought to be exclusive to humans and some primates have been identified in non-primate animal species. Among the most elaborate capacities, there is evidence that animals have knowledge of their own state (bodily self). They have the capacity to know and deal with their own knowledge, and also to evaluate the psychological state of their conspecifics, potentially leading to some form of empathy. One important outcome of this work is that the present report may be used for designing future ways of rearing animals’
Suggested citation:Le Neindre P,Bernard E,Boissy A, Boivin X, Calandreau L,DelonN, Deputte B, Desmoulin-Canselier S, Dunier M, Faivre N, Giurfa M, Guichet J-L, LansadeL, Larrère R, Mormède P, Prunet P, Schaal B, ServièreJ, TerlouwC, 2017. Animal consciousness. EFSA supporting publication 2017:EN-1196. 165pp. doi:10.2903/sp.efsa.2017.EN-1196
Video: the mirror test
Are Bees Smart? Yes, Enough to Teach Other Bees How to Complete Tasks
An experiment conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London and published in 2017 showed that very clever bees can use tools and teach other bees to perform some tasks. Here is what the scientists had to say:
‘One hallmark of cognitive complexity is the ability to manipulate objects with a specific goal in mind. Such “tool use” at one time was ascribed to humans alone, but then to primates, next to marine mammals, and later to birds. Now we recognize that many species have the capacity to envision how a particular object might be used to achieve an end. Loukola et al. extend this insight to invertebrates. Bumblebees were trained to see that a ball could be used to produce a reward. These bees then spontaneously rolled the ball when given the chance. Instead of copying demonstrators moving balls over long distances, observers solved the task more efficiently, using the ball positioned closest to the target, even if it was of a different color than the one previously observed. Such unprecedented cognitive flexibility hints that entirely novel behaviors could emerge relatively swiftly in species whose lifestyle demands advanced learning abilities, should relevant ecological pressures arise.’
Is the research on the capacities of animals illustrative of Ingold, Western or Indigenous ways of knowing or none of these?
Symbolic interactionism and talking to animals
Defining and locating symbolic interactionism
Human to human
Micro and Macro Sociological Theory https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ce/62/91/ce6291dfef3b5e50a7548cf6c26d7593.jpg
Video: What is symbolic interactionism?
Summary of symbolic interactionism
Symbolic Interactionism for Humans
(1) Symbolic interactionism is a micro-level theoretical perspective in sociology that addresses the manner in which individuals create and maintain society through face-to-face, repeated, meaningful interactions.
(2) interaction occurs within a particular social and cultural context in which physical and social objects (persons), as well as situations, must be defined or categorized based on individual meanings;
(3) meanings emerge from interactions with other individuals and with society; and
(4) meanings are continuously created and recreated through interpreting processes during interaction with others (Blumer, 1969).
Symbolic interactionism Michael J Carter and Celene Fuller California State University, Northridge, USA .
Symbolic interactionism between humans and animals
Video: defining SI for human-animal relations
Point 1 is the main issue for using SI to understand human-animal relations
More traditional approaches to human-animal relationships in ia
Until recently, IA participants needed (because they could only be human):
Ability to plan to affect a response
,participants’ ability to actively negotiate and define interactive situations, developing shared interpretations of values, norms, or sentiments.’
Cerulo, K. (2009). Nonhumans in Social Interaction. Annual Review of Sociology, 35, 531-552
Assumed to be only human qualities
Cerlo’s article goes on to discuss other approaches to interaction between humans and animals:
Actor Network Theory
Time Perspective Theory
Theories of Technological Change
Assumed to be animal and human qualities
Definition of ‘sentience’:
a sentient being is able to “evaluate the actions of others in relation to itself and third parties, to remember some of its own actions and their consequences, to assess risks and benefits, to have some feelings, and to have some degree of awareness.”
Assumed to be animal and human qualities Animal consciousness
Animal consciousness: ‘In conclusion, extensive behavioural and cognitive capacities that have until recently been thought to be exclusive to humans and some primates have been identified in non-primate animal species. Among the most elaborate capacities, there is evidence that animals have knowledge of their own state (bodily self). They have the capacity to know and deal with their own knowledge, and also to evaluate the psychological state of their conspecifics, potentially leading to some form of empathy. One important outcome of this work is that the present report may be used for designing future ways of rearing animals’
‘The animal is a person in the sense that:
his or her perspective and feelings are knowable;
interaction is predictable;
and the shared relationship provides an experience of closeness, warmth, and pleasure.
In an important way, the distinction between relationships with humans and with animal-persons is central to the special character of the human–animal bond. Because they are not human relationships, those with companion animals are constant rather than contingent. The animal’s response to his or her companion does not depend on the latter’s appearance, age, economic fortunes, abilities, or the other vagaries that, for good or ill, constrain human-to-human relationships. (2003, p. 418)’.
ANTHROZOÖS VOLUME 25, SUPPLEMENTY EPRINTS Leslie Irvine
‘Alger and Alger have demonstrated animals’ capacity for intersubjectivity, I examine the capacities that animals must have in order to achieve this shared experience.’
From the tutorial reading by Leslie Irvine.
RETHINKING THE SELF
Observations of the interactions between people and animals in the adoption areas revealed three themes:
1 seeking relationships with the animals
2 the concern for animals’ well-being
3 increasing complexity of interaction.
From this week’s tute reading by Leslie Irvine
In sum, the structure of interaction between people and animals (seeking relationships with animals, demonstrating concern for their well-being, and engaging in increasingly complex interaction) revealed that animals mean something for the experience of selfhood. The question that arises has to do with how they “mean some-thing.” Related to this, how do animals differ from the other “objects” in our environment that contribute to our sense of self?
From the tutorial reading by Leslie Irvine.
The other’s subjective presence
The key, I argue, is the subjective presence of the Other. The interaction must seem to have a source, and we must see the Other as having a mind, beliefs, and de-sires, just as we do. This not only confirms the Other’s sense of self to us; it also con-firms our own. How do we sense an Other’s subjective presence?
From the tutorial reading by Leslie Irvine.
Subjective presence without language
If we can agree that factors beyond spoken language matter for the creation of the self, then animals can participate in the process. In the model of the self that I am using, in order for animals to do so, they must themselves be subjective Others. How can we sense their subjective presence? As with other people, we cannot observe subjectivity directly. We perceive it indirectly, during interaction.
‘The point of this article has been to show that there is something to animal selfhood and that this “something” becomes apparent during interaction. Our attributions of animals’ selves are not merely wishful anthropomorphic projection. Because animals have agency and the other dimensions of the core self, they can choose courses of action that do not always coincide with our projections of what they “should” be like. Humans and animals can share meanings and emotions, but that does not imply that they always will share them. Nevertheless, in much of human–animal interaction, the features of agency, coherence, self-history, and affectivity coalesce, with memory helping to integrate them. Together, these give the animal an organizing, subjective perspective, or a core self, and concurrently make core Others available.’
Using concepts to analyse human-animal relations as represented in Youtubes:
Teaching a killer whale to talk
Three snakes and a man with taped trousers.
human to animal, animal to human interactions
Minds without spines:
Evolutionarily inclusive animal ethics
Department of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology
Department of Philosophy, Boston University
Abstract: Invertebrate animals are frequently lumped into a single category and denied welfare protections despite their considerable cognitive, behavioral, and evolutionary diversity. Some ethical and policy inroads have been made for cephalopod molluscs and crustaceans, but the vast majority of arthropods, including the insects, remain excluded from moral consideration. We argue that this exclusion is unwarranted given the existing evidence. Anachronistic readings of evolution, which view invertebrates as lower in the scala naturae, continue to influence public policy and common morality. The assumption that small brains are unlikely to support cognition or sentience likewise persists, despite growing evidence that arthropods have converged on cognitive functions comparable to those found in vertebrates. The exclusion of invertebrates is also motivated by cognitive-affective biases that covertly influence moral judgment, as well as a flawed balancing of scientific uncertainty against moral risk. All these factors shape moral attitudes toward basal vertebrates too, but they are particularly acute in the arthropod context. Moral consistency dictates that the same standards of evidence and risk management that justify policy protections for vertebrates also support extending moral consideration to certain invertebrates. Moving beyond a vertebrate-centered conception of welfare can also clarify foundational moral concepts in their own right.
Irina Mikhalevich, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology, specializes in conceptual and methodological problems in comparative cognition science and their implications for the treatment of nonhuman animals. Website
Russell Powell, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Boston University, specializes in philosophical problems in evolutionary biology and bioethics. Website
Even though they are remarkably diverse behaviorally, cognitively, and evolutionarily, invertebrate animals are often lumped into a single category and excluded from welfare-based consideration. Where invertebrates are given ethical consideration in the regulation of research and in common morality, it is largely limited to considerations of conservation, where their value is assessed instrumentally in terms of the ecological services they provide within broader communities and ecosystems (Eisenhauer et al. 2019; Sánchez-Bayo & Wyckhuys 2019). Although the ecological approach to moral value makes sense for insentient animals (such as corals), it is inadequate for invertebrates with brains that could support rich forms of cognition and sentience, and thus a psychological welfare of their own. Major scientific funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), request information about proposed use only concerning vertebrate animals, explicitly encouraging scientists to replace vertebrates with invertebrates to promote ethically sounder research (Wilson-Sanders 2011, p. 127). Recently, some regulatory bodies in the European Union and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees in the United States have created an exception for cephalopod molluscs (coleoids [octopuses/squid/cuttlefish] + nautiloids), which have attained the status of ‘honorary vertebrates’ as their cognitive capacities have drawn widespread recognition (Directive 2010/63/EU 2010; Low et al. 2012). U.S. federal agencies, however, such as the USDA, continue to classify cephalopods along with all other invertebrates as mere ‘dissected tissue’ (Carere & Mather 2019).
Although these protections for coleoid cephalopod molluscs are encouraging, other invertebrate lineages with centralized nervous systems and flexible behaviors, such as arthropods (insects/crustaceans + arachnids + myriapods), continue to receive little to no welfare consideration even though they have been the subject of a systematic and wide-ranging empirical investigation indicating that they have mental capacities that could give rise to morally protectable interests. Prompted by Elwood’s (2011; see also Harvey-Clark 2011) research and lobbying, the EU did recently consider (though it ultimately rejected) granting protections to decapod crustaceans. We are aware of no such proposals for other arthropod groups, such as insects and spiders, which comprise the vast majority of arthropods found in nature and used in laboratories.
Much of the prevailing ethical thought on invertebrates took hold during a time when little was known about the cognitive capacities, neurological complexities, and flexible behaviors of certain invertebrate species. Over the last several decades, however, a growing body of research is pointing to sophisticated cognitive abilities in a number of invertebrate lineages. There is growing evidence that some molluscs and arthropods have the capacity for subjective experience (i.e., sentience: Klein & Barron 2016; Mather 2019a; Godfrey-Smith 2017). Nevertheless, with rare exceptions, such as the recent attention afforded to octopuses (Godfrey-Smith 2016), philosophers and policymakers have continued to operate on the basis of outdated information about invertebrate cognition and behavior. Philosophers who have engaged with invertebrate cognition and consciousness (e.g., Schwitzgebel 2018; Klein & Barron 2016; Feinberg & Mallatt 2016/2018; Tye 2016) have typically demurred on the ethical implications of these findings. (One exception is Carruthers (2007), whose view is discussed in §3.3, has taken a stance but a negative one.) Philosophical discussions of animal welfare, meanwhile, have focused on mammals and birds, extending only recently to basal vertebrates like fishes (see the commentary on Woodruff 2017). Although pioneering work on invertebrate welfare is found in scientific forums (see ILAR 2011; Carere & Mather 2019),
it has interacted little with philosophical ethics and has been met with resistance in public policy — although there are signs this landscape is beginning to change (Rethink Priorities 2019).
In this target article, we argue that the exclusion of certain invertebrates from bioethics and science policy is not warranted given the state of the evidence and plausible conceptions of moral standing. We attribute the exclusion of arthropods in general, and terrestrial arthropods in particular, to the following four factors:
(i) a lingering progressivist reading of evolution according to which invertebrates are lower in the scala naturae;
(ii) the a priori assumption that small brains are unlikely to support sophisticated cognition or sentience (which is contrary to the existing body of behavioral and neuroscientific evidence, principles of evolutionary continuity, and the potential for convergence on psychological functions);
(iii) human cognitive-affective biases that distort moral judgments and mental state attributions concerning unfamiliar, disgust-provoking beings;
(iv) an inappropriate balancing of scientific uncertainty and moral risk.
Although some or all of these problems are likely to shape moral attitudes and policy toward basal vertebrate lineages (such as fish and lizards), they are particularly acute in the arthropod context. Similarly, while uncertainties about the presence of sophisticated forms of cognition and sentience pervade all of comparative cognitive science, they are most pronounced in research on the minds of invertebrates, whose brains, behaviors, and life histories share few ancestral similarities with those of vertebrates. Appreciating the diverse forms of sentience found throughout the animal kingdom may not only lead to a more inclusive animal ethics, but it may also shed light on foundational moral concepts themselves. Making progress on these issues, however, requires that we engage with the formidable conceptual and methodological challenges that confront the scientific and moral study of ‘alien’ minds on Earth.
2. Challenging the Invertebrate Dogma
To understand the differential ethical treatment that has been accorded to vertebrates and invertebrates, it is useful to begin with the problematic nature of the distinction itself. The category ‘invertebrate’ does not represent a proper clade, since the groups included under this umbrella do not share a single common ancestor that is not also shared with vertebrates. Moreover, the vertebrate-invertebrate distinction lumps the immense diversity of invertebrate life into a single undifferentiated category, doing more to obscure morally relevant cognitive diversity among animals than to illuminate it. Worse still, the vertebrate-invertebrate dichotomy is a value-laden one, with invertebrates taken, either explicitly or implicitly, to occupy a lower rung in the scala naturae. Pre-Darwinian evolutionary iconography, such as Ernst Haeckel’s Pedigree of Man, depicts the history of life as an ‘ascent’ from monad to man with invertebrates occupying the second-lowest tier, just above protozoa but below non-mammalian vertebrates.
Whereas biology has long since jettisoned progressivist readings of evolutionary history, bioethics and policy remain very much encumbered by them. For instance, The NIH asks researchers who are proposing to use vertebrates in an experiment to explain why ‘less highly evolved’ animal models, such as invertebrates, could not be used instead. We are not
suggesting that this anachronistic evolutionary baggage fully explains the moral exclusion of invertebrates. Nor does it show that this treatment of invertebrates is indefensible in principle. However, in raising suspicions about the validity of attitudes and institutionalized practices toward invertebrates, it provides a launching point for a fuller explanation and evaluation.
The most plausible justification for the moral exclusion of invertebrates is that they lack the psychological properties that give rise to ‘moral standing,’ or the intrinsic value that places constraints on how a being may be treated. There is no consensus about the minimum psychological conditions necessary for a life that matters for its own sake (Buchanan 2009). Nor is there agreement about the psychological conditions above this minimum that give rise to higher moral statuses or, if one prefers, to weightier moral interests. There is, however, broad philosophical consensus that to have a welfare is to have a life that can go well or poorly for the subject of experience. What makes a life go well or poorly can be glossed in different ways, such as in terms of pleasure and pain, the fulfillment of desires, the pursuit of valuable personal projects, an ‘objective’ list of circumstances that would make one’s life go well irrespective of one’s actual desires, and so forth (Crisp 2017). At the center of all of these views, however, is an experiencing subject of a life that matters in its own right. If invertebrates do not have welfares, then they have no interests, preferences, or desires to take into account and hence they may be exploited as mere instruments to the ends of others. For these reasons, we operate on the assumption that welfare is a psychological property and that some form of mental life is a precondition for morally protectable interests. Some more expansive theories of moral standing would include entities whose insentience is uncontroversial, such as bacteria, forests, and rivers, but we will not address those views here (see Basl 2019 for a critical discussion).
We will refer to the notion that invertebrates are not loci of welfare — and hence that they may be excluded from ethical consideration in research, husbandry, agriculture, and human activities more broadly — as the ‘invertebrate dogma.’ In what follows, we will argue that the current state of comparative research on brains, behavior, consciousness, and emotion suggests that even small-brained invertebrates are likely to have welfares and hence moral standing. Many of the same experimental paradigms that have been used to establish the existence of sophisticated cognition and sentience in vertebrates have also been used —and their findings replicated — in research on invertebrate cognition. The case we will make, therefore, is one of consistency: the same empirical and philosophical basis for extending protections to all vertebrates calls for extending similar protections to some invertebrate clades.
2.1 Brains. One reason invertebrates with complex brains and behavior may be thought to lack the cognitive and affective properties that comprise a welfare is the high prior probability some assign to the notion that very small brains cannot (or are highly unlikely to) generate mental states. The idea is that there are minimum neuro-computational thresholds for mind that are not met by invertebrates. This is not a concern in the case of some coleoid molluscs, such as octopuses, whose neural densities and structural complexities rival those of mammals (even taking into account the distributed nature of coleoid nervous systems). However, the same cannot be said for other, small-brained invertebrates, such as arthropods, who comprise a large fraction of invertebrates used in research. The assumption that small brains are unlikely to support sentient life is problematic, however, for several reasons.
First, the neuro-computational thresholds needed to generate minimum mental capacities are unknown and cannot be determined from the armchair. Neural network analysis is helpful insofar as it allows us to experiment with minimal wiring solutions for specific cognitive functions, but these are highly idealized; independent evidence is needed to establish that the options selected by the model would have been available to natural selection. It is critical, therefore, that we investigate what small centralized nervous systems can actually do in the world. Just as important, we need to work out how they do these things (see Budaev et al. 2019 for further discussion). Behavioral data from carefully controlled experiments are indispensable for both these projects. Until we have a fully worked out and empirically corroborated theory of the relationships among neural tissue, cognitive processes, and phenomenology, we are not in a position to rule out or even deem unlikely the possibility that tiny brains can give rise to sentient lives with interests that merit moral protection.
Second, relative brain size is a better indicator of cognitive sophistication than absolute brain size, since (ceteris paribus) it indicates that there has been differential evolutionary investment in metabolically costly brain tissue that pays for itself through the cognitive functions that additional neuro-processing power provides. However, even relative brain-size analysis is too coarse-grained (Healy & Rowe 2006), especially across distantly related taxa (Logan et al. 2018), to allow for any definitive judgments about cognitive potential. More fine-grained features, such as total neuron number, neuron density, connectivity, metabolic rate, and modularity are better indicators of the cognitive capacities of brains (Chittka & Niven 2009; Chitkka & Farris 2012). Most of these features, however, do not scale linearly with size. A higher neuron number, for instance, might be achieved by increasing not brain volume but neuron density, and by shrinking the size of neurons (Olkowicz et al. 2016).1 Although arthropods have smaller neuron totals than coleoids and vertebrates, neural network models suggest that some forms of cognition may be computationally inexpensive and can be accomplished with small numbers of neurons (Logan et al. 2018). As with computers, bigger is not necessarily better. There is no reason to think that there are high minimum size thresholds for the presence of the kinds of mental states that factor into sentience.
1 Smaller brain size may actually confer advantages. For example, smaller brains tend to have shorter inter-neuronal distances; these shrink the distance that information has to travel and thus conduction delays. Arthropods also have multi-functional neurons that economize on available space and energy while preserving a range of functionalities. At the same time, miniaturization may force tradeoffs, such as between modularity (needed for functional specialization) and redundancy (needed for parallel processing). Miniaturization also imposes costs: for example, it restricts total neuron number and limits available energy by reducing space for mitochondria. (For comprehensive reviews, see Chittka & Niven 2009 and Niven & Farris 2012.)
More important than total computing power is how information is integrated in the brain and embodied in the organism, as inferred from the structure of brains and behavior. The brains of many insects, spiders, and coleoid molluscs have structural characteristics that could support sophisticated forms of cognition. In particular, they have central processing regions (the ‘mushroom bodies’ and central complex in arthropods and the vertical lobes in coleoids) that continuously receive, integrate, and exchange information with peripheral systems via ‘reentrant pathways’ (Giurfa 2013; Edelman & Gally 2013), permitting centralized coordination of multi-modal sensory information and executive (top-down)
control. The cognitive signatures of centralized information processing are reflected in the behavioral complexity of these animals, as we shall now see.
2.2 Behavior and cognition. Although some researchers were initially skeptical that flexible behaviors could be generated by tiny arthropod brains, the combined weight of the neuroscientific and behavioral evidence suggests that complex cognition may be much more broadly distributed in the tree of animal life than previously thought. It is now well known that coleoid molluscs (octopus, squid, and cuttlefish), who have large, hierarchically structured brains, have excellent spatial navigation and communication abilities, excel at problem-solving, and may even use rudimentary tools (Mather 2019a; Finn et al. 2009). Less widely appreciated is the substantial accumulation of experimental evidence, thanks in large part to the pioneering work of Lars Chittka and his collaborators, that some arthropods are capable of sophisticated cognitive feats that indicate the presence of a richer mental life than traditionally thought, one that may give rise to a welfare.
For example, among the insects, there is evidence that honeybees can learn abstract concepts (Chittka 2017; Howard et al. 2017) including same/different, larger/smaller, and above/below. They can also transfer these concepts across sensory modalities (e.g., from vision to olfaction). Honeybees can be taught addition and subtraction procedures (Howard et al. 2018/2019), appear to have the concept of ‘zero’ (Nieder 2018), and can learn to attend to global or local features of objects (Dyer et al. 2016). Bumblebees can not only learn complex and highly non-instinctive tasks, such as rolling a tiny ball (Loukola et al. 2017) or pulling a string to reel in a reward: they can transmit this information culturally (Alem et al. 2016). They can also recognize objects and patterns through one modality (e.g., touch, olfaction) that they previously encountered only in another modality (e.g., vision) (Solvi et al. 2020; Lawson et al. 2018). Bees and wasps can recognize human faces, although only wasps do so without prior training (Dyer et al. 2005; Chittka 2017). One study suggests that ants can pass the mirror self-recognition test (Cammaerts 2015), which human infants only pass at around 20 months of age. There is even tantalizing evidence of causal reasoning and means-end rationality in bees (Loukola et al. 2017) and transitive inference in paper wasps (Tibbetts et al. 2019).
Bees are excellent models for the study of invertebrate cognition because they are highly trainable, responsive to rewards, and neurologically complex. For these reasons, while bees may be model insects, they are not necessarily the best model for other insects. The extent to which findings in bees (or hymenopterans more broadly) generalize to other arthropods is unclear. However, flexible learning mechanisms and the neural correlates of attention have also been shown in flies, cockroaches, and other insect orders (for a review, see Greenspan & Swinderen 2004). Among arachnids, jumping spiders (salticids) have been shown to plan routes that include elaborate detours, deploy sophisticated ambush strategies, and switch flexibly among hunting techniques in order to overcome the defenses of unfamiliar prey types (Harland & Jackson 2000). Salticids have also demonstrated numerosity abilities at the level of human infants (Cross & Jackson 2017); many insects seem to have such capacities (Skorupski et al. 2018; Giurfa 2019). These findings are consistent with ‘thinking’ broadly construed and, taken in conjunction with comparative brain data, call the invertebrate dogma into question.
Many of the arthropod cognition studies are modelled on studies of vertebrate cognition, which were adapted from paradigms in human developmental psychology.
Although performance is not always comparable across invertebrate and vertebrate animals (see Abramson & Wells 2018 for examples and discussion), experiments that do show parallel results are instructive: Bees have been taught to distinguish between human painting styles (such as impressionism and cubism) using techniques and controls that were used to demonstrate the same ability in pigeons (Wu et al. 2013). Bees and wasps can learn to recognize faces and patterns holistically (Avarguès-Weber et al. 2010), with performance that approximates that of vertebrates trained to make the same sorts of discriminations (Marzluff et al. 2010). Bees were found to respond to ambiguous stimuli with decreased confidence and to opt out of difficult choices (Perry & Barron 2013) using the same uncertainty-monitoring paradigm that has been used to probe for this aspect of metacognition in a wide variety of vertebrates, from rats to dolphins (Foote & Crystal 2007; Smith & Washburn 2005). Tests of numerosity in jumping spiders use the same ‘looking time’ paradigm — measuring surprise and expectation — that is used to probe for belief-states in vertebrates including pre-linguistic humans. Honeybees were found to discriminate quantities containing up to six items on a delayed match-to-sample task (Gross et al. 2009), the same task that has been used productively with vertebrates such as dolphins and rhesus macaques (Killian et al. 2003; Brannon et al. 2000). Studies of affect in bees and flies use the same ‘cognitive bias’ paradigm as in studies of emotion in vertebrates (Mendl et al. 2009; more on this in §2.3).
The same behavior can have multiple cognitive realizations, so these findings might reflect evolutionary convergence on behavioral flexibility without convergence on the underlying cognitive mechanisms that produce that flexibility. Deflationary (simpler) cognitive explanations of impressive arthropod performance cannot be decisively ruled out. (On association-based explanations of abstract concept learning in insects, see Vasas & Chittka 2019; Cope et al. 2018.) However, and this is key, neither can deflationary cognitive explanations of vertebrate performance be ruled out, even in the case of very young human children. Moreover, complex cognitive explanations of invertebrate behavior may turn out to be less burdensome computationally and more parsimonious — and in these respects ‘simpler’ (see §4.1) — evolutionarily than their deflationary counterparts (Perry & Chittka 2019). Thus, in the absence of other assumptions that have yet to be articulated, the behavioral evidence does not justify the asymmetrical ethical treatment of vertebrates and invertebrates.
That said, it is not clear that the cognitive capacities probed in the above experiments are necessary conditions for moral standing, since creatures may be sentient even if they lack, say, numerosity, transitive inference, or problem-solving. Nor are these cognitive abilities clearly sufficient for moral standing: a system may be capable of sophisticated cognitive feats but lack the feeling that would ordinarily accompany them, as may be true of some AI and insentient robots. Nevertheless, these findings do point to the ability to classify the world into meaningful categories, to forge new associations among them, and to make these available for adaptive action. Such flexible learning abilities are probably underwritten, at least in naturally evolved organisms, by valenced states of pleasure and pain that motivate learned discriminations and configure sentient experience.
2.3 Sentience. The traditional idea that arthropods are incapable of flexible learning and do not form sophisticated representations of their world has been refuted by the body of research on invertebrate cognition summarized above. Nevertheless, one could try to salvage
the invertebrate dogma by arguing that even if small-brained invertebrates like arthropods are surprisingly sophisticated cognitively, they lack the felt experience and emotional capacities that make them matter morally.
2.3.1. Subjective experience. If a creature is incapable of experience — if there is nothing it feels like from the inside to be that creature (Nagel 1974) — then it cannot be a locus of pleasurable and aversive states, it has no interests that can be set back, and hence it can be neither harmed nor benefitted. In other words, there is no meaningful notion of psychological welfare for that system. Phenomenal consciousness is thus a precondition for moral standing (Kahane & Savulescu 2009).
Phenomenal consciousness was traditionally linked to human-like cortical structures, and hence it was widely assumed that animals who lack these structures (e.g., fishes, birds, and all invertebrates) are unlikely to be subjects of experience (Key 2016; Rose 2002). However, there are several clear limitations of this homology-based approach. First and most obviously, it overlooks the possibility that there has been evolutionary convergence on the neurofunctional organizations that give rise to experiencing subjects (Dinets 2016; Elwood 2016; Güntürkün 2012, Güntürkün & Bugnyar 2016; Low et al. 2012). Second, many cortical functions in humans were co-opted from more ancient brain structures that predated the evolution of the cortex. Third, the cortex-centric approach does not explain why vertebrates that lack the six-layered cortex found in mammals (such as birds, lizards, and fish) are commonly included in the research ethics calculus, whereas invertebrates are systematically excluded.
Furthermore, complex functional traits (sensory, locomotive, computational, metabolic, etc.) can not only be realized by disparate anatomical, developmental, and biomolecular bases — they are also generally continuous rather than discrete. Thus, one might expect phenomenal consciousness to be continuously distributed in the animal world with no clear cut-off between experiencers and those that are incapable of experience. The key unanswered question, of course, is what the lowest bounds of this spectrum might look like. On the other hand, some theorists (e.g., Carruthers 2019) contend that phenomenal consciousness is a discrete rather than continuous property: the lights are either on or off; there is no ‘dimmer switch.’ But even if the capacity for experience does not admit of degrees, this, too, leaves the minimal experience problem unresolved: how we identify the simplest or most primitive character states that give rise to conscious experience.
It has also been shown, however, that many cognitive and perceptual functions are carried out unconsciously in humans (for a review, see Boly et al. 2013). This decoupling has led some ethologists (Cartmill 2017) and philosophers (Allen-Hermanson 2008) to suggest that arthropods may be the closest that evolution has come to producing real-life examples of ‘philosophical zombies’ (Chalmers 1996) — logically conceivable creatures whose behavior is indistinguishable from that of conscious beings but for whom all is ‘dark on the inside.’ This case is strengthened by robots that replicate the behavior of nonhuman animals without, presumably, reproducing the experiential qualities that are normally thought to attend those behaviors. However, there is a large gap between the idea that some cognitive operations and behaviors are carried out unconsciously in humans or human artifacts and the notion that active, intentional, behaviorally flexible, and yet wholly non-conscious cognitive creatures actually exist in the world.
Alternatively, one might accept that some invertebrates are phenomenally conscious but deny they are moral patients on the grounds that they do not exceed the ‘richness’ threshold for the content of subjective experience that is necessary for moral standing (see, e.g., Frey 1983). No one has yet demonstrated precisely what such a threshold would look like, however, nor on what philosophical grounds it would be justified. Moreover, if arthropod behavioral experiments probe the cognitive content of conscious experience, then there is evidence for cognitively ‘rich’ experience in arthropods of the sort often used to justify extending protections to vertebrate animals in research and agricultural contexts.2
2 There is an ongoing philosophical debate over how to think about the relation between cognitive sophistication and moral considerability. Some understand moral considerability in terms of differences in moral statuses that are achieved when a certain threshold of mental capacity is met (such as sentience or rationality); others would describe moral considerability in terms of a single threshold for sentience beyond which there is a continuum of interests that are factors in different moral obligations (for discussions, see DeGrazia 2008; McMahan 2009). Our argument is compatible with both of these approaches. 3 Whether the presence of affect is an indicator of phenomenal consciousness depends on the theories of affect and consciousness that one chooses to adopt; it also depends on whether one conceives of valence in representational terms or rather as an intrinsic quality of evaluative experience (Carruthers 2018). If valence is an intrinsic quality of experience, then all phenomenally-conscious states are sentient states and all phenomenally-conscious creatures are sentient creatures.
2.3.2. Feeling. Phenomenal consciousness alone is not an adequate basis by which to establish the existence of a welfare. It is empirically inadequate because the concept of phenomenal consciousness is hotly contested and, on some definitions, impossible to measure. It is conceptually inadequate because, in addition to having experiences, a being must also care about what happens to it in some basic sense. And if things are to matter to an organism, it must be capable of experiencing states of affairs as pleasurable or aversive, even if it does not explicitly recognize them as such. We think this affective glossing of conscious experience is better captured by the term sentience.3
Unlike phenomenal consciousness, whose causal powers and evolutionary functions are unclear, affectively valenced states play a clearer role in adaptive behavior. The motivational force of emotions comes from the embodied feelings that attend a given appraisal (James 1890). Without the ability to attach feelings to actions and objects, animals (at least as they are constituted on Earth) would be incapable of complex action, decision-making, and learning (Damasio 1994). Some arthropods appear capable not only of perceiving objects as ‘bound’ wholes rather than non-integrated collections of local features, but capable also of classifying objects into appropriately valenced categories like ‘predator,’ ‘prey,’ ‘mate,’ ‘foraging item,’ ‘obstacle,’ etc., which in turn support sophisticated feats of learning, navigation, foraging, and cooperation.
The scientific study of affect among invertebrates is still fairly new, but evidence suggests that insects have convergently evolved ‘emotion-like’ states or embodied action tendencies that in some cases are mediated by the same neurotransmitters that modulate emotion in humans (Perry et al. 2016; Burke et al. 2012: see Baracchi et al. 2017 for careful review). For example, bumblebees tend to interpret ambiguous stimuli more optimistically after exposure to a pleasant stimulus, just as humans tend to do when they are happy or calm. Conversely, vigorously shaking bees appears to induce a pessimistic bias in odor discrimination tests. In these experiments, bees are first trained to associate one odor with a
sucrose reward and another with quinine punishment, and then they are presented with samples containing different ratios of each odor (Bateson et al. 2011). While Bateson et al. interpreted their results as indicating that bees have emotion-like states, Giurfa (2013) advanced an alternative deflationary explanation, which was subsequently cited favorably in a major review of pain in animals (Sneddon et al. 2014). According to Giurfa’s interpretation, the shaking may have triggered improved discrimination rather than inducing displeasure. However, if shaking had improved judgment, then shaken bees’ performance should have improved for all discriminations, including ambiguous odors toward the sucrose-rich (pleasant) end of the spectrum. Instead, Bateson’s results show a steady decline in the shaken bees’ willingness to sample any of the options, exactly as the pessimism hypothesis predicts.
2.3.3. Pain. Of all affectively valenced feelings, pain is perhaps most at the center of moral questions surrounding the treatment of nonhuman animals. The evidence for vertebrate-like pain in invertebrates is mixed and inconclusive. Many invertebrates have nociceptors, or specialized neural receptors that detect tissue damage. These specialized cells predate the split of bilaterally symmetric animals into deuterostomes (vertebrates and echinoderms) and protostomes (all other bilaterian invertebrates), and are hence present in bilaterians without centralized nervous systems (Smith & Lewin 2009). If we presume that pain perception requires a brain, then nociception is not sufficient for pain perception (Allen et al. 2005). While there is agreement that pain perception occurs downstream of nociceptor input (Tracey 2017), the nature of that downstream processing remains poorly understood.
Markers of traditional pain perception include the presence of endogenous opioids, responsiveness to anaesthetics and analgesics, grooming of injured body parts, a reduction in grooming behavior under analgesia, and ‘motivational tradeoffs’ such as when hermit crabs are willing to withstand a mild electric shock in order to obtain a more desirable shell (Elwood 2011/2012). Shrimps groom their antennae after sustaining an injury — a behavior reduced when given an analgesic (Barr et al. 2008). Coleoid molluscs show long-term nociceptive sensitization following moderate injury (Crooke et al. 2011), and a recent study showed that anaesthetic agents commonly used in research with octopuses and cuttlefish do not merely immobilize them, but actively suppress both afferent and efferent signals to and from the CNS, suggesting that these agents suppress not only nociception but also pain perception (Butler-Struben et al. 2018). On the other hand, some insects engage in normal feeding and mating behaviors even after sustaining severe injuries, such as dismemberment (Eisemann et al. 1984; Smith 1991). If confirmed, these findings would suggest either that these animals do not experience pain (Broom 2013), that they do not experience pain in the way that vertebrates do,4 or that the circumstances generating pain in these lineages differ from those in vertebrates.
4 There is also no reason to think that pain is more likely to have attendant subjective states than other cognitive and affective states. If we assume that unconscious affective states are possible, as some representationalist theories of mind allow (Carruthers 2019), pain ‘zombies’ may be just as conceivable as cognitively complex zombies. Although some would contend that pain is necessarily painful, research on a condition known as pain asymbolia calls this into question. Subjects with this condition report experiencing pain as pain but not as unpleasant or aversive, which suggests that the perception of pain and the experience of its aversiveness can come apart. There is some controversy over whether individuals with pain asymbolia actually experience pain as affectively neutral or whether they are simply indifferent to and unmotivated by the experience of pain (Klein 2015). In any case, as with unconscious cognition, the fact that pain states in a subset of humans with a dysfunctional condition are not experienced as painful does not establish that some sentient creatures are in fact pain-zombies.
Even if cognitively sophisticated invertebrates do not experience pain in the same way that mammals and other vertebrates do, this would not imply they have no morally protectable interests. A being may have a rich phenomenal and affective inner life, and hence a welfare of its own, even if it lacks vertebrate-like experiences in response to tissue damage. It is important to distinguish pain perception narrowly understood from a broader notion of suffering that includes stress, frustration, and other aversive states that flow from the inability to fulfill one’s desires. The presence or absence of vertebrate-like pain response is relevant to the question of what sorts of treatments are ethically permissible, but it should not be the focal point in our conception of moral standing. Nor are our moral obligations limited to providing environments that are free of pain broadly construed; they also require that we provide positive conditions in which sentient animals can flourish — environments in which they can experience greater amounts of pleasure and develop their natural range of abilities (Nussbaum 2009).
There are sound theoretical reasons to think that arthropods and some other invertebrates are capable of experiencing pleasurable and aversive states. The leading evolutionary explanation of pain is that pain facilitates instrumental learning, helping animals to avoid future exposure to dangerous or noxious agents. If pain is an adaptive mechanism through which animals learn which situations to avoid — and pleasure the same in reverse — then an animal that is capable of instrumental learning may also be capable of experiencing aversive and pleasurable states (Godfrey-Smith 2017). The presence of open-ended associative learning in a lineage — including the ability to attach valences to non-stereotypical action sequences — is thus potentially a useful indicator of sentience (Ginsburg & Jablonka 2019). As we have seen, there is evidence that some invertebrates, such as some molluscs and insects, are capable of instrumental learning. This is supported by the large body of research on invertebrate cognition discussed above, as well as experimental evidence of learning via negative reinforcement (Tedjakumala & Giurfa 2013; for a survey of associative learning in invertebrates, see Hawkins & Byrne 2015).
At the same time, however, there are reasons to be skeptical about arthropod pain. In their highly cited review of the animal pain literature, Sneddon et al. (2014) argue that the success of robotic models in simulating some aspects of pain behavior undercuts the case for pain in arthropods (see also Adamo 2016). Their reasoning is that pain behavior can be reproduced by systems that are clearly incapable of experiencing pain, and thus ‘insects, and possibly other animals, could use simple processing rules to produce pain-like behaviour, without any internal experience of pain’ (Sneddon et al. 2014). They go even further to suggest that there is currently no definitive evidence that insects have the cognitive and emotional capacities that could support aversive mental states.
But why single out insects in this regard? Indeed, one of the robotic models they cite is a robotic ‘rodent’ designed to reproduce vertebrate-like pain behavior. If robotic models drive a wedge between behavioural evidence and ascriptions of pain perception, they ought to do so for all animals — vertebrates included. Moreover, the requirement that evidence of pain perception be ‘definitive’ is at odds with prevailing evidentiary standards for any proposition in the field of comparative cognition, let alone for policies that are intended to
manage moral risk (see §4). Zombie hypotheses cannot be definitively ruled out; but this is as true for vertebrates, including other humans, as it is for invertebrates.
3. Cognitive-Affective Biases
Lingering progressivist readings of evolution (see Chapman & Huffman 2018) and dismissive views about the mental capacities of invertebrates are probably not the whole story behind the treatment of invertebrates. Historically, the pernicious moral exclusion of human groups has resulted from cognitive-affective biases that shape empirical beliefs and judgments about moral standing (Buchanan & Powell 2018; Powell et al. 2020). We are in no way equating the moral exclusion of invertebrates with the mistreatment of human beings; our point is simply that the treatment of invertebrates in policy, philosophy, and common morality may offer another illustration of moral exclusion driven by these distorting influences.
3.1 The empathy gap. Empathy is well known to modulate moral judgment: people tend to morally favor those they empathize with over those with whom they do not. And people tend to empathize with individuals who look more like them, who are judged to be more aesthetically attractive, who are potential reciprocating partners, and who are classified as members of one’s in-group. They tend to have less empathy for — and hence to pass more severe moral judgment upon or assign lower moral weight to — individuals who are less similar, less subjectively attractive, or belong to an out-group such as a disfavored race, ethnicity, or nationality (Prinz 2011; Hewstone 1990). Empathy also mediates attributions of mental states: empathy deficits are associated with dementalization (the wholesale denial of mind), decreased mentalization, and reduced sympathy for the victims of violence (for a review, see Kozak et al. 2006). At the same time, the ‘cuteness response’ (Sherman & Haidt 2011) — an emotional state directed at beings deemed to be cute — is associated with enhanced empathy and mental-state attribution and it increases prosocial engagement in ways that lead to moral inclusion.
The ‘alien-ness’ of invertebrate morphologies and lifeways makes the empathy gap difficult to bridge. The vast majority of invertebrates with complex brains, such as coleoid molluscs and many arthropods, are rarely considered attractive, cute, or cuddly, and their body plans, some of their behaviors, communications, forms of sociality, and life histories are very unfamiliar to humans. As a result, they do not tend to elicit empathy or to be accorded mental states; this in turn makes it more likely that their interests will be discounted in moral decision-making. There is also evidence that a timescale bias influences mind attribution: animals and robots that move at human-typical speeds are more likely to be attributed mental states than those that move at speeds unfamiliar to humans (Morewedge 2007) such as those typical for arthropods (fast) and molluscs (slow).
3.2 The disgust response. Perhaps more important than the lack of empathy-eliciting features in invertebrates is the outright disgust many of these animals trigger in a large fraction of the human population. The disgust reaction and associated ‘gape face’ is thought to have originally evolved as a mechanism for avoiding pathogens (Kelly 2011); however, disgust appears to have been co-opted to mediate social interactions and regulate moral judgment (Fischer 2016; Kumar 2017; May 2018). In modern humans, disgust plays an important role in driving morally exclusionary norms, attitudes, and behaviors. Using disgust to trigger dehumanization is a well-known tactic of would-be genocides and ethnic cleansers.
Nativist and racist propagandists draw explicitly on the disgust response toward nonhuman animals in portraying immigrants and other out-group races and ethnicities as disease-bearing vermin; insects like cockroaches, rats, or lice; or free-riding social parasites ‘leeching’ off the hard work of the ‘pure’ races (for reviews, see Haslam 2006; Navarrete & Fessler 2006). Whereas the cuteness response promotes increased social engagement with subjectively cute beings, disgust leads to avoidance and disengagement from disgust-eliciting beings (Sherman & Haidt 2011). Disgust can cause people to fail to attribute (or to under-attribute) not only intentional cognitive states but also experiential qualities such as pain perception (Waytz et al. 2010), leading to ‘moral disengagement’ (Bandura 2002).
If invertebrates — especially arthropods like insects and spiders — score very low on the empathy scale, they receive high marks on the scale of subjective disgust. Priming for disgust increases the moral derogation of human agents (Schnall et al. 2008; Eskine et al. 2011), and we might expect it to operate similarly, if not more acutely, when directed at beings who are the immediate objects of the disgust response. Many arthropods map generically onto ecological categories that are associated either with parasite threat or physical dangers such as stings and bites, even though few of them actually pose a threat to humans. A number of arthropod parasites prey directly on humans, and larval forms of certain insects are associated with rotting flesh, dung, and other disgust-triggering stimuli. Although these account for a small fraction of arthropods, they tend to provoke an overgeneralized aggression-avoidance response that is characteristic of antisocial attitudes under conditions of perceived parasite threat (Fincher & Thornhill 2012; Navarrete & Fessler 2006). Although negative attitudes toward invertebrates are to some degree culturally transmitted and ameliorated by exposure and education (Mather 2019b; Shipley et al. 2017), they are likely to emanate in part from an entrenched adaptive heuristic for managing risk in the Pleistocene and perhaps earlier in vertebrate-arthropod coevolution. It should not be surprising, therefore, that disgust-provoking animals like arthropods tend to be excluded from any institutionalized morality that relies on empathetic response.
3.3 Moral justification. In one of the rare substantive philosophical discussions of arthropod moral standing, philosopher of mind Peter Carruthers (2007) argues that although some arthropods are probably capable of having beliefs and desires that give rise to interests, we have no reason to care about their welfare and hence to afford them ethical protections:
It is a fixed point for me that invertebrates make no direct claims on us, despite possessing minds in the sense that makes sympathy and moral concern possible. Invertebrates believe things, want things, and make simple plans, and they are capable of having their plans thwarted and their desires frustrated. But it isn’t wrong to take no account of their suffering. Indeed, I would regard the contrary belief as a serious moral perversion. (p. 296)
Carruthers maintains, in effect, that invertebrates pose a ‘slippery slope’ problem for animal ethics: Either we must extend moral consideration to arthropods — which he takes to be patently absurd — or else we must reject welfarist accounts of animal moral standing in favor of some alternative account, such as a contractualist view which would limit moral standing to rational agents who can make and respond to moral claims.
If Carruthers’s argument were sound, it would remove nearly all nonhuman animals, vertebrates included, from moral consideration. It would not, therefore, single out
invertebrates for special exclusion, despite their being the central focus of his article. As we see it, the rhetorical role that invertebrate welfare plays in Carruthers’s argument is to show that the welfarist approach to moral standing leads to an absurd conclusion: namely, that we ought to care about the wellbeing of some invertebrates. However, this begs the very question at issue by simply asserting that extending moral consideration to some invertebrates is patently absurd — an intuition that Carruthers takes as ‘a fixed point,’ rather than one that is subject to critical revision in light of new empirical evidence or philosophical argument. Why should we reject a coherent, well-worked out, and highly corroborated theory of moral standing, rather than scrutinize a moral intuition that supposedly conflicts with it? Indeed, we should be suspicious of moral intuitions when there is reason to think they have been distorted by cognitive-affective biases (Clarke & Roache 2009), which, as we’ve seen, are especially pronounced in the arthropod context.
Although Carruthers does not subscribe to a rank speciesism or ‘phyla-ism,’ his view is fundamentally at odds with prevailing ‘subject-centered’ accounts of where moral obligations come from (Buchanan & Powell 2018). On these views, intrinsic moral worth is grounded not in an individual’s contingent ability to care about or cooperate with beings of a particular sort, but rather in that individual’s possession of certain morally relevant psychological properties. And there is wide agreement, not only among Utilitarians but also among contemporary Kantians (e.g., Korsgaard 2018), that it is sentience — not the capacity for reason — that sets the minimum bar for being a member of the moral community.
Carruthers also worries that the moral inclusion of invertebrates would require humans to sweep the floor before them like Jainist Monks, so as to avoid stepping on scurrying ants and beetles, to say nothing of changes to the global agricultural industry which relies heavily on pest management — a ridiculous requirement, he believes, for any secular morality. The concern that ‘moral standing creep’ could result in overly demanding restrictions on valuable human activities has also figured in the literature on fish welfare (e.g., Key 2016). There are several problems with this ‘overdemandingness’ objection as it relates to invertebrate inclusion. First, the fact that living up to our moral obligations is hard is a patently inadequate reason for failing to meet those obligations.
Second, the over-demanding line wrongly assumes that moral standing confers equally robust protections on all who have it. The fact that an individual meets the minimum threshold for moral standing does not entitle that individual to equal treatment (Singer 1974; DeGrazia 2008) or confer on them equal moral status (Buchanan 2009). Beings with different moral statuses may have different sets of rights, and some moral statuses may be accorded no ‘rights’ at all (conceived in terms of their inviolability) even if they entail interests that constrain the behavior of moral agents. Similarly, on a continuum of interests view, some types of interest (such as future-directed ones) may outweigh others when they come into conflict, which is frequently how experimentation on sentient beings who lack future-directed interests is justified (within the bounds of unnecessary suffering). Thus, even if some invertebrates have interests that are in conflict with our own, resolving these conflicts should take the same form as conflict-resolutions between humans and non-rational vertebrates in moral triage scenarios. Whether harm to a small number of vertebrate subjects is morally preferable to harm to a large number of invertebrate subjects is unclear. But such questions should be resolved through an analysis of interest conflicts, not by according some legitimate interests no weight at all.
Third, some apparent interest conflicts may disappear once we realize that what counts as a harm to human persons may not be a harm to many sentient animals. For example, while a painless death is a harm to persons because (e.g.) it frustrates their interest in a valuable future, death may not be a harm to animals who have no such future-directed interests (McMahan 2002). Thus, including some invertebrates in the moral community may not require that we shoulder unpalatable moral burdens, such as drastically altering our lifeways or the modes and fruits of scientific enterprise (but see Sebo 2018).
4. Managing Uncertainty in Science and Ethics
Thus far, we have argued that the evidence does not justify the asymmetrical treatment accorded to vertebrates and invertebrates, and we have suggested that a number of questionable empirical assumptions combined with cognitive-affective biases created this inconsistent state of affairs. We do not mean to give the impression that there are no significant uncertainties concerning the mental capacities of invertebrates. In this section, we will consider these scientific uncertainties and how they should interact with ethical science policy.
4.1 Error avoidance in comparative cognition. One general problem facing comparative cognitive science is that competing explanations often cannot be adjudicated through behavioral evidence alone. The field has typically responded to this ‘underdetermination’ challenge by adopting a policy of erring on the side of avoiding false positives: ascribing sophisticated mental states to animals who do not in fact have them. This methodological strategy is based on the assumption that, all else being equal, one should prefer the simplest hypothesis consistent with the evidence, where ‘simplest’ is typically taken to mean ‘least cognitively sophisticated’ (Shettleworth 2010; Heyes 2012). Simpler explanations can almost always be given, though, and where one fails, another will often rise to take its place. The preference for simplicity may be especially strong in the invertebrate context, where it is likely to interact with aspects of the invertebrate dogma, such as the belief that small brains are unlikely to generate sophisticated cognition. For example, some are likely to interpret the fact that bees replicate findings of cognitive research on mammals and birds not as evidence for the presence of sophisticated cognition in invertebrates, but as a reason to think that the underlying experiments are flawed or that the cognitive capacities being tested are simpler than typically thought — either in bees or generally in nonhuman animals. This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that, as noted earlier, simple neural networks and robots can recreate aspects of invertebrate behavior.
There is now a substantial literature arguing that the preference for simplicity is conceptually problematic, empirically unsubstantiated, and likely to lead comparative cognitive science away from rather than toward the truth (Mikhalevich et al. 2017; Mikhalevich 2015; see also Sober 1998; Fitzpatrick 2016; Dacey 2016). Because this problem applies to all of comparative cognition, we will not delve into it here. However, it is worth noting that some of the inferential strategies that might help resolve the underdetermination problem are inaccessible in the invertebrate research context. For example, one way of adjudicating competing cognitive hypotheses when they are underdetermined by behavioral observation is to bring other sources of evidence to bear on the adjudication, such as comparative brain data. If the same brain structures known to support complex cognition in
some animals are present in others due to their inheritance from a common ancestor, then this will add weight to the inference of sentience.
These homology-based strategies are generally not available in the invertebrate context, however. The centralized nervous systems of invertebrates exhibit little clear structural homology with vertebrates, since their brains evolved largely (or entirely) independently from vertebrates and from one another (for a discussion of the most likely nervous system structure of the last common bilaterian ancestor, see Ginsburg & Jablonka 2019; Powell 2020; Northcutt 2012; Erwin & Valentine 2011). Homologies at lower levels, such as cell-type and signaling molecules (deFur 2004), do not have any straightforward implications for sentience or cognitive sophistication. Therefore, if comparative brain data can be used to break the evidential impasse in the case of invertebrates, it will have to be mainly evidence of the functional, not historical, kind (Mikhalevich et al. 2017).
As we saw earlier, convergent brain macrostructures dedicated to central processing and integration appear to exist in some invertebrates and are corroborated by behavior elicited in experiments. Could the preferential treatment of vertebrates over invertebrates nevertheless be justified by the greater confidence that brain homology (similarity due to common descent) permits in ascribing sentience? There are several reasons to doubt this. First, without a well-worked out theory of sentience that tells us what sorts of functional configurations we should be looking for, we have no way of knowing what level of homology to target. If we take healthy adult humans as the prototypical case of sentience: we cannot know how phylogenetically deep the inference of homology should go (e.g., to all primates, mammals, tetrapods, vertebrates, etc.) unless we have already identified the structures in humans that give rise to sentience. Once we have done so, we can determine the distribution of those same characteristics in vertebrates more broadly. The trouble is that homologies must be delineated in part by their similarities in function, whether these are cashed out in terms of the causal (Amundson & Lauder 1994) or evolutionarily selected (Rosenberg & Neander 2009) roles they perform. In other words, homology hypotheses are used to explain and classify characters that have already been individuated using various functional metrics; if this is so, then homology hypotheses are not function-free and hence have no distinct advantages over functional analyses of convergent brains.
4.2 Error-avoidance in ethics and science policy. One effect of the simplicity preference in comparative cognition is that it results in a bias toward false negatives, or failing to attribute sentience and sophisticated cognition when in fact they are present. Whether or not the preference for false negatives is justified in this domain of research, in bioethical policy there are reasons to take the opposite approach: that is, to err on the side of avoiding false negatives, or scenarios in which we fail to identify a morally relevant cognitive property in nonhuman animals or margin-zone humans when they actually possess them. If the costs of falsely attributing sentience to animals are minor while the costs of false negatives are high (because, for instance, they result in a great deal of unnecessary suffering), then erring on the side of false positives is prima facie ethically preferable. How should we manage the moral risk that flows from scientific uncertainty about invertebrate welfares?
Ethicists and policy-makers often appeal to the ‘precautionary principle’ (PP), which on standard accounts holds that we need not await scientific certainty before taking precautionary measures to avoid harm to health or the environment (Sneddon et al. 2014). While this may sound like a reasonable approach, there is significant disagreement over how
the PP should be formulated, whether it is conceptually coherent, whether it is addressed to a regulatory straw man, and whether it provides concrete, rational guidance on matters of practical moral concern (Sunstein 2003; Powell 2010; Steele 2013). Birch (2017) proposes a version of PP that is specifically tailored to the animal welfare context, which he calls the Animal Sentience Precautionary Principle (ASPP). According to the ASPP, ‘where there are threats of serious, negative animal welfare outcomes, lack of full scientific certainty as to the sentience of the animals in question shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent those outcomes’ (Birch 2017, p. 3).
Birch’s account has two major virtues. The first is that it attempts to specify the relevant evidential threshold below scientific certainty at which precautionary measures should kick in. For Birch, the evidential bar for ethics and policy should be set at statistically significant and scientifically valid evidence of ‘at least one credible indicator of sentience’ in at least one species of an order, which may then be generalized to other species of that order. The second virtue relates to Birch’s proposed decision procedure, which is designed to kick in once a credible indicator of sentience is found. According to ASPP, rather than leading to irrational moral paralysis, wherever the epistemic criterion is met, animal subjects must be included in ethical regulatory regimes, but experimental research on those subjects can continue so long as minimal welfare requirements are met.
Birch’s analysis is a marked improvement over the traditionally vague language of precaution, but we believe it could be strengthened on several points. First, Birch cites pragmatic justifications for generalizing to the entire Linnaean order: it is not feasible to test all species of an order for sentience, he argues, and thus we may generalize from a single credible indicator of sentience in a single species to the entire order in which that species belongs. Although Birch does not state it explicitly, this justification can only be partly practical — the other part must be theoretical, grounded in a two-fold hypothesis about homology: first, that the last common ancestor of the ‘order’ (more accurately, the order-level clade) was sentient, and second, that the conservation of sentience is more likely than its loss in a given order. Both these assumptions need to be defended. The trouble is that the ‘polarity’ of a character (i.e., whether it is ancestral or derived) cannot be ascertained without examining how that character is distributed in a clade, which is precisely the problem at issue here and which Birch claims cannot feasibly be assessed. This point can be illustrated by applying the ASPP to language: The ASPP would have us infer from the fact that humans have language that all primates (including not only apes, but also monkeys and lemurs) have this trait. Yet there is overwhelming evidence that the last common primate ancestor — a shrew-like creature that branched off from other mammalian orders not long after the end-Cretaceous extinction — did not have so much as the rudiments of language, and thus the inference based on order-level homology is not justified. Other phylogenetic problems with the ASPP that stem from its anachronistic Linnaean formulation are discussed by Brown (2017) and Mallatt (2017).
Second, even if the strategy of inferring homology could be salvaged, the generalization only kicks in if a morally relevant mental capacity can be reliably attributed to at least one taxon within a given order. The problem is that some will reject the claim that a ‘credible indicator of sentience’ has been shown in cases where cognitive hypotheses are underdetermined by the behavioral evidence. It is not immediately obvious how the ASPP would (or should) handle cases of behavioral underdetermination, though one approach would be to factor in extra-experimental evidence (such as comparative brain data) and to
err moderately on the side of over-attribution in light of the biases discussed above and given the moral costs of getting it wrong. In addition, although Birch is operating with an appropriately broad notion of sentience that includes positive and aversive states, his analysis focuses almost entirely on traditional pain perception, which leaves him agnostic on the question of invertebrate (especially arthropod) moral standing. We have already seen the limits of pain-centered approaches, such as their failure to extend moral protections to beings with rich inner worlds that lack traditional markers of pain perception. We have also suggested that although pain perception may be a sufficient condition for moral standing, a broader range of cognitive and affective abilities should bear on the determination of sentience (see §3). The search for a credible indicator of sentience should avail itself of the full breadth of evidence, including not only behavioral experiments but also ecology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology; it should also probe for markers of sentience that go beyond familiar expressions of pain in response to tissue damage. All told, however, the precautionary spirit of Birch’s account could remain valid even if his generalization strategy were abandoned in favor of a broader evidence-based approach.
Finally, there is a normative problem with Birch’s discussion that it shares with much of the PP literature. Namely, it pays inadequate attention to the moral costs that could flow from acting out of precaution. Given the high costs of false negatives and the impracticalities of testing for sentience throughout the animal kingdom, why not simply generalize to all bilaterian animals, rather than (as Birch recommends) to all taxa within a given order? The answer, presumably, is that overgeneralization has moral costs. If these costs are likely to be substantial — for instance, because erring on the side of caution would significantly interfere with or constrain research designed to benefit humans or other sentient animals — then aspiring to more targeted judgments about the presence of morally relevant cognitive properties may be ethically preferable. If so, then we have strong moral incentives to get the attribution of sentience right; extreme positions that require either very high or very low levels of certainty ought to be rejected.
Summary and Conclusion
have argued that the nearly wholesale exclusion of invertebrates with central nervous systems from bioethics and science policy is not justified by the current state of the evidence. This exclusion is likely driven in part by outdated evolutionary ideas, stereotypes about the rigid instinctual behaviors of small-brained animals, cognitive biases that distort moral attitudes toward these deeply unfamiliar creatures, and flawed strategies for managing scientific and moral uncertainty. We have not offered any practical recommendations for changing the treatment of invertebrates. (For concrete policy proposals regarding a range of invertebrates, including arthropods, see Carere & Mather 2019; Rethink Priorities 2018; Crooke 2013; Horvath et al. 2013; and Cooper 2011.) Our goal here has not been to determine whether invertebrates can suffer under specific experimental conditions or live well in others; rather, we addressed a more foundational question: whether these animals are capable of suffering or flourishing at all. We have made a case for consistency in moral treatment: the same kinds of data and reasoning that justify moral protections for vertebrates favor extending similar protections to some invertebrates. Invertebrate brains comprise upwards of 99% of the brains that exist on Earth. Cognitive theorists have begun to appreciate the intellectual rewards of studying invertebrate cognition and sentience. It is time that ethicists and policy makers do the same.
Funding: The authors are grateful to Templeton World Charity Foundation grant # 0469 for support of this research.
Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Kristin Andrews, John Basl, Culum Brown, Roger Crisp, Adrian Currie, Tom Douglas, Stevan Harnad, Jennifer Mather, Janet Radcliffe-Richards, eight referees for Animal Sentience, and audiences at Williams College, Oxford University, and York University for generous and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
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What Makes A Being Sentient?
Being A Vegan Doesn’t Help
Andrew R. French
Jan 6, 2019·8 min read
Having conversations with nature is actually common, its just that we don’t know all the languages.
Most people assume that only mammals, out of all the animals that live on this planet, are truly sentient, because they have a nervous system with a brain just like us.
Some people will allow that birds and fish, and perhaps reptiles, are also sentient, mostly because their pain receptors and overall bicameral body shape is similar to ours.
Once we enter into the world of the invertebrates, which comprises most of the animal mass on the planet, we find a surprising indifference to their possible sentience.
this because of our own pragmatic nature? If we considered invertebrates sentient, how would it be possible for us to kill them by the trillions every year?
the definition of sentience is simply “an organism that experiences life through its senses,” is not all life sentient, in which case why even coin such a term?
what trophic level do we consider organisms to be sentient?
Are the decomposers, such as bacteria and fungi, sentient? Don’t they activate and operate via stimulis, such as the presence of moisture or sugar?
What the hell is sentience, and why should we care?
Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience life subjectively.
seems that most people ascribe sentience to animals that they like, but not to the vast majority of animals that seem alien to them. Thus an arachnophile believes their pet spiders are waving “good morning”, while an arachnophobe believes the spider in the corner of the bathroom is threatening to kill them.
general the idea of sentience is a value judgement that we create out of our own preferences, which are not strictly objective or rational.
Sentience is not a specific and scientific term.
Most people don’t assume plants have sentience, even though they do experience and react to the world around them through complex chemical signals in the soil and the air.
But, watching a plant grow, there is obvious intelligence there. It grows up and around objects, using the power of its senses, which utilize photons and molecules as the medium of plant communication.
As human beings, we are all in constant communication with the plants, animals, wind, and water all around us via a multitude of sensory pathways, including scent, which is the direct interchange of molecules from one limbic system to another.
Having conversations with nature is actually common, its just that we don’t know all the languages.
Instead of sentience as a narrow category for one type of consciousness, I believe it is a wide variety of “ways of being”, from the way that a worm interacts with and navigates through the soil, to the way that seaweed grows from the depths of the ocean toward the sunlit surface.
As humans we like to believe that there is a static reality, something that remains in one place in time and which is completely immutable. Physicists have discovered that this is really not the case, and yogis have known this all along.
Life is changing all the time. We are never in one spot for long. Nothing is. All is movement.
The same goes for sentience.
is not one thing, it is a set of changing perceptions that indicate that a living thing is aware of its surroundings. We can call this awareness intelligence, and when we acknowledge the intelligence of a living being we can realize that all living things are essentially the same.
are all the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.
And yet, for some pathological reason, we don’t seem to respect that.
feel the need to turn living things into commodities. Trees, kittens, algae, tuna fish — as humans we like to claim a monopoly on all life, and to manage the planet as owners. Religion, politics, science — they all tend to treat the natural world as something to be dominated, owned, used, abused, and discarded.
have proven, at least to ourselves, that we are actually quite bad at managing the planet, and our best efforts tend to have far-reaching negative consequences. Global climate change is affecting our atmosphere in a big way, and industrial farming is making a mess out of things here on the planets surface as well.
are sentient, but we may be less intelligent than every other living creature out there.
order to create a commodity out of a sentient being we need to ignore its sentience. By acknowledging our shared experience with another living being comes our own responsibility to treat that being with respect. But instead of embracing that responsibility, we have set it aside in order to pursue personal profit and gain.
have been slowly but inexorably shirking our duties as stewards of the planet in order to enjoy the ephemeral pleasures of pop-culture profanity and the pornographic excesses of cheap oil.
With the advent of easy petrol, our lives became extremely safe and convenient and we became distanced from a visceral life lived under the auspices of Nature with a capital N. The rise of factory farming coincided with an increase in vegetarianism and veganism, a gentrified but reasonable response to the commodification of sentient creatures.
Although they seem to be polar opposites, both factory farming and veganism live in a paradigm that is powered by cheap fossil fuels, and without the fountain of youth petroleum pump, they would both die out.
If we lost our cheap oil we would have to turn our fearful eyes back to our old partners, all the sentient beings that we worked with before the 1900s, in order to carve out our little human lives on this gargantuan planet.
Before skidsteers and tractors, we had to train horses and oxen to haul our wagons and plow into our fields to collect the harvest. Both herbivores were living, breathing sentient creatures that were absolutely integral to our day to day life, as any of our modern day petrol-powered equipment is now.
With the introduction of the machine-based steel and chemical cultural revolution, we didn’t need to get our hands dirty and work with animals, and now we’ve come to prefer washing grease off of our hands instead of shit.
Instead of relying on a corporation for parts and service, we had to nurse our own animals to health when they fell ill or were injured. Instead of producing dirty oil and noxious fumes, our partner animals fertilized our fields with copious amounts of their manure.
They breathed like we breathed. They procreated and pooped and farted and broke fences and ate our salad greens.
But they were sentient partners. Not mechanical slaves.
Without oil, choosing to be a farmer or homesteader who works with livestock is not just an option, it is a necessity.
the viewpoint of some of those who believe sentience is sacred, it is not ethical to cause pain and suffering to other sentient beings. And yet, we do end up causing suffering as we plow a field or cut down a tree. We end up creating suffering when we pave a road or construct a foundation for a house.
install a desert-scape of corn and soybean fields and replace the wildlife habitat of birds and bees, gophers and spiders, with beans and broccoli. We mow our lawns to look “well-kept” and reduce the habitat of all those creepy crawling things that are not like us, that we don’t consider sentient, but are absolutely crucial in the web of soil life.
“Sacred” comes from the Latin “sacer”, or “holy”. We make something holy by saying it is so, by agreeing with eachother that it is so.
It is our habit as humans to differentiate between all the parts of the universe and assign meaning and value to each part, according to our own individual pathologies and moralities. Then we spread those ideas out amongst the populace like a virus, and see which things stick.
The idea that Oil is God has stuck.
In the case of sentience, we assign it to those animals that are like us, and ignore the vast majority of animals that are not like us. A bear, pig, cow, or dog is sentient to us, but underneath our feet in the dark soil the invertebrates are considered alien and unreachable. Birds and fish, covered in scales and feathers, are considered sentient or not sentient depending on our own personal feelings. Trees, flower, fungi, and lichen are all considered simply mechanistic creations evolved to end up as feed.
But in the viewpoint of the indigenous, those humans who lived, and live now in pockets, in and on the land for tens of thousands of years before us civilized folk drilled our first oil well, All Life Is Sacred.
Perhaps our skewed viewpoints on the sacredness of some life over other life is just a macroscopic reflection of our skewed viewpoints on the sacredness of some humans over other humans.
Those we love and those closest to us are the ones we care about, and those we don’t know and those that may look different than us we are not concerned with.
“I choose these, but not these.”
With our complex brains we have the ability to come up with convoluted and imaginative reasoning to choose one thing over another, and in many ways that has been the key to our survival up until modern times. Our tribe was everything to us, it protected us and nurtured us. But now, as we retreat into our Amazon and Netflix induced technological comas, we don’t have the same need for these types of tribes. We find people of likemind on the internet and call them our tribes, even if we have never met in person.
The simple reality is that we have more in common with all sentient beings than we would like to admit. Our internet tribes and social media friends are just a fiction reinforced by a megalomaniac tech corporations invested in our addiction to screentime.
all share this intensely brilliant experience of living our lives here on the Planet Earth; being born, growing up, falling in love, eating, fucking, fighting, frolicking, fainting, and eventually, at some point down the yellow brick road, dying.
all experience this emotional journey though the wonderland of our senses, whether that be through nerve endings and a cerebellum, or through chemical molecules and a flower.
the end, sentience can and should be ascribed to all living things. And how we interact with our fellow sentient creatures is the key to creating a good life or a bad one.
A local experience of possible zoonosis
Leptospirosis: a Zoonotic Disease in Daceyville for $117.00
‘Leptospirosis is an infection in rodents and other wild and domesticated species. Rodents are implicated most often in human cases. The infection in man is contracted through skin abrasions and the mucosa of the nose, mouth and eyes. Exposure through water contaminated by urine from infected animals is the most common route of infection. Human-to-human transmission is rare.’
This is a bacteria not a virus.
The types of viral infection we have now that come from animals occurs because we invade the homes of wild animals and intensively farm domesticated animals ie it is largely our actions that create our illness and in the process harm many animals eg all the chickens, ducks, turkeys and others who were killed in the ‘bird flu’ outbreak.
The central point of the lecture
“[u]nlike the flow of capital, this virus seeks proliferation, not profit, and has, therefore, inadvertently, to some extent, reversed the direction of the flow. It has mocked immigration controls, biometrics, digital surveillance and every other kind of data analytics, and struck hardest — thus far —in the richest, most powerful nations of the world, bringing the engine of capitalism to a juddering halt. Temporarily perhaps, but at least long enough for us to examine its parts, make an assessment and decide whether we want to help fix it, or look for a better engine.”
‘the way infectious diseases have begun to come back shows that we remain caught in the web of life – permanently and irretrievably – no matter how clever we are at altering what we do not like, or how successful we become at displacing other species’ (1998 : 16).
DEBATE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF THE VIRUS
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. https://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/images.htm
Virus could not have come from lab in Wuhan
Three new studies on the origin of COVID-19 “absolutely” demonstrate the virus could not have come from a laboratory leak 30 kilometres from the Wuhan market that the virus spread from, according to Eddie Holmes, NSW’s 2020 scientist of the year and the winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in 2021.
An evolutionary scientist from Sydney University, Professor Holmes co-authored two multinational studies released as preprints over the weekend. He said they show the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the epicentre of the original COVID-19 outbreak that has now killed more than 5 million people.
Virus could not have come from lab in Wuhan
“What this [work] suggests is that the Huanan market is not the amplifier, it’s the starting point that began from multiple species jumps in that market, and it spread out of there,” Professor Holmes told The Australian Financial Review.
“What it absolutely excludes is there is no conceivable way you can get that pattern if the virus had escaped from a laboratory that’s located 30 kilometres away.
“I think the ship has sailed on the lab theory. I can’t see how you can explain those data with a lab leak from a lab that is some distance away.”
Virus could not have come from lab in Wuhan
“Together, these analyses provide dispositive evidence for the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 via the live wildlife trade and identify the Huanan market as the unambiguous epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a lead author of one of the international studies and corresponding author of the other, University of Arizona professor Michael Worobey.
Australia has been among a number of countries calling for a robust investigation into where and how the virus originated in Wuhan late 2019.
Without conclusive quality data and independent scientific research, there has been a voluble partisan group, mostly in the US, pushing a claim the pandemic started with a leak from a top-security biological lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located on the other side of the Yangtze River from the market.
Or could it?
Virologist Marion Koopmans, who was a member of the WHO expert team that travelled to China, said the study led by Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, provided “convincing evidence” that the market was, indeed, the place where it had all begun.
But Chan and other scientists say the papers made claims based on incomplete data and biased samplings. And for scientists tracing how the virus spread – especially in the early days – the dearth of data made available by China has proved particularly challenging.
Or could it?
Hoping to trace the pandemic to its start, last spring virologist Jesse Bloom at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle tried to lay his hands on the genetic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 from the earliest cases out of China – only to find the data had been removed from the open-access site maintained by the US National Institutes of Health, at the request of Chinese researchers. As the owners of the data, the scientists have the right to request its removal without having to give a reason.
Or could it?
Also, the widely shared observation that right from the start the virus has unique features that made it extremely adapted to infecting humans en masse continues to baffle even specialists on coronaviruses.
“Dispositive evidence for a natural origin of SARS1 and MERS had been quickly found despite less advanced technologies at the time. Yet, for SARS2, we still cannot find any infected animals that could’ve passed the virus to humans at the market and we have not obtained evidence to tell us when and how the virus was spreading in Wuhan before mid-December 2019,” Chan said.
Covid: the point
Regardless of whether the virus was transmitted by animals or via a lab, Rosemary McFarlane, assistant professor in public health at the University of Canberra, says a lot can be done to staunch the risk of the next outbreak.
That is because both scenarios point to the longstanding problems of how humans handle wild animals. Keeping them in close quarters in trade and transit has compounded the possibility of viruses jumping between animals and to humans.
“We can continue to debate the origin of this pandemic, but we need to understand what the risks are now, as the virus circulates amongst people with low access to vaccination, and amongst those in close proximity to animals. All of this provides opportunity for further virus evolution,” said McFarlane. This pandemic “is a wake-up call to the possibility of future risk”.
Race, Species, Nature and Power
Kim, CJ 2015, Dangerous Crossings: Race, Species, and Nature in a Multicultural Age, Cambridge University Press.
To the contrary, my argument is that our interpretive success depends on our ability and willingness to engage with these two taxonomies of power, race and species, at once – and to understand their connectedness. All three cases in this book are situated both in a narrative history of racial and cultural persecution and in a narrative history of human domination over the animal, and these two narratives are interwoven in important ways.
First premise of her argument
I begin with two theoretical premises. The i rst premise is that categories of difference – race, species, culture, sex – are historically and socially constructed rather than given by nature. Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s Racial Formation in the United States (1994) shaped a generation of scholarship with its insistence on viewing race as an “unstable and ‘decentered’ complex of social meanings constantly transformed by political struggle” (55) rather than as a i xed and heritable biological essence. Nature, of course, has always offered up a great deal of visible human variation by way of skin color, hair texture, facial features, and so forth, but “race” is a historically and culturally mediated way of reading, classifying, and ranking bodies, of assigning some more worth than others on the basis of physical variation. It is a means of producing and disciplining different and inferior bodies
My second theoretical premise is that differences are co-constituted or produced as effects of power in a profoundly interdependent way.
The concept of taxonomy
With this in mind, I propose two modest adjustments to the notion of “interlocking” dualisms. The first is that we think in terms of taxonomies rather than dualisms – complex classification systems instead of simple dyads. Race is not expressed as a binary of white over black (or white over nonwhite) but as a complex, fluid set of multiple positions (Kim 1999 , 2000 ). The taxonomy concept encourages us to ask questions about relationality, positionality, and multidimensionality that are obscured by the dualism concept – for example, how to move beyond the presumptive homogenization of nonwhite group experiences and toward an explanation of their differential proximity to and participation in racial power (Sexton 2010).
Oppressions as synergistical
The second modest adjustment is to think of forms of domination as synergistically related rather than “interlocking.” Anne McClintock ( 1995 ) admonishes us not to think of formative cultural categories as “armatures of Lego” (5) and urges us instead to consider how they “converge, merge and overdetermine each other in intricate and often contradictory ways” (61–2). Indeed, the mechanical language of “interlocking” predisposes us to think of axes of power as standardized, fungible units that i t together in some predetermined fashion. The dangers of this kind of mindless pluralism are profound: we may i nd ourselves casually presuming (as opposed to being able to demonstrate) a universal equivalence among various forms of domination, x=y=z (that they are all equally salient and of equal moral importance), and presuming that the dynamics of co-constitution are everywhere and at all times the same and predictable. If we think of oppressions as synergistically related rather than “interlocking” – that is, if we substitute an energy metaphor for an architectural one – we are less likely to fall into the trap of mindless pluralism and more likely to remain attuned to the unevenness, messiness, complexity, fluidity, and unpredictability that actually mark the dynamics of difference production
Single optic vision
The theoretical arguments, concepts, and arguments I advance here assume a context of (provisional) irresolvability. In the impassioned disputes examined here, each side embraces what I call single-optic vision, a way of seeing that foregrounds a particular form of injustice while backgrounding others. Looking through a single optic or lens – cruelty to animals, ecological harm, racism, or something else – these parties see but they also do not see, and these two facts are of course connected. Every act of illumination also obscures. For reasons having to do with economies of affect as well as institutional incentives, most social justice struggles mobilize around a single-optic frame of vision. The process of political conl ict then generates a zero-sum dynamic whereby single-optic vision leads predictably to what I call a posture of mutual disavowal – an explicit dismissal of and denial of connection with the other form of injustice being raised. This posture, I will argue, is both ethically and politically troubling.
Multi-optic vision encourages a reorientation toward an ethics of mutual avowal, or open and active acknowledgment of connection with other struggles (“This matters to me and relates to me” instead of “That has nothing to do with me.”) If disavowal is a closing off, a repudiation, a turning away from, avowal is an opening, a recognition, a turning toward. Developing such an ethics would not rule out the practice of critique – in fact, it might well generate or intensify critique aimed at countering particular manifestations of domination – but it would transform the contours and spirit of critique. If we develop an ethics of mutual avowal in relation to other justice struggles, we not only reduce the chance we will reinscribe other forms of oppression (even inadvertently), but also open ourselves to new ways of imagining ourselves in relation to others. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers, María Elena García advances a cosmopolitical approach that calls upon us to pay attention to other life worlds and be attentive to “a wider range of potentially intersecting i elds of subjectivities, power, and resistance” (2013, 507). I see this project, and specii cally the argument about disavowal and avowal, as moving in this direction .
Supremacies and neo-liberalism
An ethics of avowal is ultimately about constructing a reimagined “we” in resistance to the neoliberal elites waging war against racialized groups, animals, nature, and others. Race, species, and other taxonomies of power structure how we see, think, feel, and act, and as long as they remain intact, the dominative practices that grow out of them will l ourish. It may be that only use, available at, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of Impassioned Disputes a ruthless deconstruction of these synergistic taxonomies will move us in the direction of social justice and ecological salvation. We hear a lot about particularized forms of justice – justice for Black people, justice for women, justice for workers, justice for immigrants. But can we imagine a world wherein one form of supremacy has been eradicated but all other supremacies persist? Would we want to? The answer to neoliberalism’s destructive practices and values is not to marginally broaden the category of benei ciaries of this destructiveness but rather, through a critical and transformational politics, to radically restructure our relationships with each other, animals, and the earth outside of domination .
Star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata). Photo courtesy of Kenneth Catania.
Introduction to Being and Knowing
the Western Tradition and Australian Indigenous TraditionS
‘Our worldview provides us with an ordered sense of reality. Our worldview enables us to make sense of what we do and What we observe in the world and provides us with a sense of certainty and, to some degree at least, predictability. It gives us security because it enables us to interpret what happens in the world in terms of a mental framework that makes sense to us.’
An excerpt from ambelin Kwaymullina on country part one
‘For Aboriginal peoples, country is much more than a place. Rock, tree, river, hill, animal, human – all were formed of the same substance by the Ancestors who continue to live in land, water, sky. Country is filled with relations speaking language and following Law, no matter whether the shape of that relation is human, rock, crow, wattle. Country is loved, needed, and cared for, and country loves, needs, and cares for her peoples in turn. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self.
An excerpt from ambelin Kwaymullina on country part two
But this was not the country the invaders saw. They had left their Mother country far behind, and sought no new Mother here. They came to tame, conquer, subdue; not to be nurtured, taught, cared for. To them the continent was harsh, strange; empty of meaning except what they themselves brought to it; a place of which they were often afraid. These invaders – these strangers to country – could no longer feel their Mother’s heart as it beat beneath the green lands of their home. They tried to understand the world by breaking it apart. Without their Mother to guide them, they could not see how the parts fit together to make the whole, or that the whole was more than the parts. Their science told them that human reason could make small and known a vast and mysterious universe; their religion said that of all the life there was, only they had been made in their Creator’s image.’
An excerpt from ambelin Kwaymullina on country part three
Having called the long years of turning away from their Mother ‘progress’, the strangers named ‘primitive’ all peoples closer to the earth than they were. Those who are not as we are, they said, are less than we are. Those who do not learn as we learn, learn in ways inferior to ours; those who do not use land as we do make a less meaningful use than our own. The strangers spoke this so often that eventually they did not need to speak it at all. It became an assumption, a claim to territory. This denigration is upon which nations were built; not only the right to dispossess but the justification of it. This nation was founded on a claim of right born of the notion that Aboriginal peoples were ‘too low in the scale of social organization to be acknowledged as possessing rights and interests in land’.
— “Seeing the Light: Aboriginal Law, Learning and Sustainable Living in Country”  IndigLawB 27; (2005) 6(11) Indigenous Law Bulletin 12
Western/european ways of thinking
Yet another worldview
Ontology and Epistemology are core concepts in Western philosophy and have been since at least the ancient Greeks. They form part of our world view, for some of us, without us realising it ie they are not natural and neutral but are historical, cultural and political, especially now. The study of existence is done in particular ways and generally based in the scientific method, that is, the production of knowledge through observation, measurement and experiment. In biology and the theory of evolution life observed and classified, for example, the Linnaean classification has eight levels: domains, kingdoms, phyla, class, order, family, genus, and species.. Epistemology asks ‘how do I know’, amongst other questions. Knowing occurs through reason and is based in ‘truth, belief and justification, all of which is certain way of engaging with life.
Western Philosophic tradition: a particular worldview
Dualisms AS PART OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY
Producing meaning through dualisms is also part of Western epistemology. Simply put this is a power relation through domination of one term over anther, for example, reason/emotion, reason/culture, masculinity/femininity, human/animal, coloniser/colonised etc. The second term is the ‘less than’ or ‘other’ to the first term. Hawkins adopts Plumwood to elaborate on the characteristics of dualisms ‘according to Plumwood, in its demarcation of a superior “master” class from that of a colonized, subordinated “other,” dualism employs five characteristic features:
( 1 ) backgrounding or denial, whereby contributions of the other on which the master depends are denied or minimized;
(2) radical exclusion or hyperseparation, whereby an absolute discontinuity, a difference not of degree but of kind, is postulated between the master and the other;
(3) incorporation or relational definition, whereby the other is defined only in terms of the lack of some quality possessed by the master or, conversely, only in terms of qualities that can be incorporated into the master’s needs and desires;
(4) instrumentalism or objectification, whereby the other is recognized only as an object, resource or means for the master’s ends rather than as a subject with ends of its own; and
(5) homogenization or stereotyping, whereby all members of the oppressed class are seen as uniform and stereotypic, stripped of all individuality or within-class difference (plumwood 1993,48-55).’
hawkins volume13, issue1february 1998 pages 158-197. Above taken from Hawkins.
The point of the quick sketch above is to say Western ways of engaging with life are just that, Eurocentric, which have given much to humanity in general and some groups of humans in particular and have cost others a great deal including the annihilation of entire societies.
Val plumwood: human/nature dualism part one
‘I see human/nature dualism as a failing of my culture, time and history. Human/nature dualism is a Western-based cultural formation going back thousands of years that sees the essentially human as part of a radically separate order of reason, mind, or consciousness, set apart from the lower order that comprises the body, the animal and the pre-human. Inferior orders of humanity, such as women, slaves and ethnic Others (so-called ‘barbarians’), partake of this lower sphere to a greater degree, through their supposedly lesser participation in reason and greater participation in lower ‘animal’ elements such as embodiment and emotionality. Human/nature dualism conceives the human as not only superior to but as different in kind from the non-human, which as a lower sphere exists as a mere resource for the higher human one. This ideology has been functional for Western culture in enabling it to exploit nature with less constraint, but it also creates dangerous illusions by denying embeddedness in and dependency on nature. This can be seen in our denial of human inclusion in the food web and in our response to the ecological crisis.’
Chapter Title: Meeting the predatorBook Title: The Eye of the CrocodileBook Author(s): Val PlumwoodBook Editor(s): Lorraine ShannonPublished by: ANU PressStable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hcd2.5. Taken directly from Plumwood’s book.
Plumwood: human/nature part two
‘Re-envisaging ourselves as ecologically embodied beings akin to, rather than superior to, other animals is a major challenge for Western culture, as is recognising the elements of mind and culture present in animals and the non-human world. The double-sided character of human/nature dualism gives rise to two tasks that must be integrated. These are the tasks of situating human life in ecological terms and situating non-human life in ethical terms. Although, by definition, all ecologically embodied beings exist as food for some other beings, the human supremacist culture of the West makes a strong effort to deny human ecological embodiment by denying that we humans can be positioned in the food chain in the same way as other animals. Consequently, predators of humans have been execrated and largely eliminated.
EXAMPLE OF ABOVE IDEAS: WILDLIFE AND WESTERN CATEGORIES OF MEANING
Wildlife objectification and cruelty are everyday aspects of Australian society that eschew values of human kindness, empathy, and an understanding of the uniqueness and importance of non-human life in the natural world. Fostered by institutional failure, greed and selfishness, and the worst aspects of human disregard, the objectification of animals has its roots in longstanding Western anthropocentric philosophical perspectives, post colonialism, and a global uptake of neoliberal capitalism. Conservation, animal rights and welfare movements have been unable to stem the ever-growing abuse of wildlife, while ‘greenwash’ language such as ‘resource use’, ‘management’, ‘pests’, ‘over-abundance’, ‘conservation hunting’ and ‘ecology’ coat this violence with a respectable public veneer
Animals (Basel). 2011 Mar; 1(1): 161–175.Countering Brutality to Wildlife, Relationism and Ethics: Conservation, Welfare and the ‘Ecoversity’ Steve Garlick,1,2,* Julie Matthews,2 and Jennifer Carter
Derrida and ‘the animal’
For Derrida, the Western conception of the human as an autonomous, rational being able to make decisions and choices about actions has only developed alongside, and in contradistinction to, the ‘animal’. So when we speak of the human we inevitably also speak of ‘the animal’; and just as constructions of the ‘animal’ have often been fantastic, the ‘human’ is also a ‘fantasy figure’ (Wolfe, 2003b: 6). Derrida’s project is to problematize the classical formulations of the human-animal distinction in Western thought. In particular, there is a need to question the binary assumptions that undergird it, which are anthropocentric, or for Derrida, ‘anthropo-theomorphic’. This involves a decentring of human subjectivity and relatedly, the consideration that the Other we face is not always a human Other. Ultimately, Derrida argues for an abandonment of the concept of ‘the Animal’ (in the singular, with a capital ‘A’) because this is the word: …
..that men have given themselves at the origin of humanity and that they have given themselves in order to identify themselves, in order to recognise themselves, with a view to being what they say they are, namely men (2002: 400).The ‘animal’ is a meaningless generalization – a ‘catch-all concept…this vast encampment of the animal’ (2002: 399). The use of the general plural brings ‘the Animal’ up sharp against its namer – the Human. Here then, in exposing the Animal as a falsity, difference disappears, not only from the multiplicity of non-human animal species, but from the ‘Human’ too
E. Cudworth, Social Lives with Other Animals c2. Above notes taken from Cudworth
Derrida and ‘the animal’
that men have given themselves at the origin of humanity and that they have given themselves in order to identify themselves, in order to recognise themselves, with a view to being what they say they are, namely men (2002: 400). The ‘animal’ is a meaningless generalization – a ‘catch-all concept… this vast encampment of the animal’ (2002: 399).
The use of the general plural brings ‘the Animal’ up sharp against its namer – the Human. Here then, in exposing the Animal as a falsity, difference disappears, not only from the multiplicity of non-human animal species, but from the ‘Human’ too. I think however, that we need to expose the constructed politics of the designation ‘animal’ whilst hanging on the concepts of difference amongst humanimalia of various cultures, times and types and embedding these in our theorizations
Feminist philosophy: relationality
Feminist philosophers have also challenged the individualism that is central in the arguments for the moral status of animals. Rather than identifying intrinsic or innate properties that non-humans share with humans, some feminists have argued instead that we ought to understand moral status in relational terms given that moral recognition is invariably a social practice. As Elizabeth Anderson has written:
Moral considerability is not an intrinsic property of any creature, nor is it supervenient on only its intrinsic properties, such as its capacities. It depends, deeply, on the kind of relations they can have with us. (Anderson 2004: 289).
And these relationships needn’t be direct. The reach of human activity has expanded across the entire globe and humans are entangled with each other and other animals in myriad ways. We participate in activities and institutions that directly or indirectly harm others by creating negative experiences, depriving them of their well-being, or denying them opportunities to be who they are and pursue what they care about. Philosophers Elisa Aaltola and Lori Gruen have argued for refining our empathetic imagination in order to improve our relationships with each other and other animals.
of Philosophy, The Moral Status of Animals. Above notes taken from Stanford Encyclopedia
Video: Men Fishing as part of a certain approach to humans and animals
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