An article from this summer in Psychology Today by Katherine Compitus demonstrates how far critical social theories can take us if fully imbibed. In the article, Compitus attacks “speciesism,” which is “the concept that one species (usually human) considers themselves superior to other species.” No species is superior, just different, says Compitus. Instead, she prefers to relegate all species to the lowest common denominator: “We are all living beings.”
Compitus is horrified that some anachronistically minded people haven’t yet bought into this—the barbarians, if you can believe it, still use oppressive words like “master” and “owner” to “describe their superior position in relation to their pets.” This offends Compitus on principle because she has sanitized her memory of any real distinction between humans and other animals. But speciesism is all the more terrible because “Recent studies in the intersectionality of oppressed people and animals have shown how similarly marginalized humans are treated to non-human animals.” For example, there are “similarities between the way women are oppressed by society and how animals are dismissed, bullied, and oppressed by society.”
Speciesism is also a problem because it, and the “oppressive language” endemic to it, is tantamount to anti-black racism. Compitus looks to Benedicte Boisseron’s Afro-Dog: Blackness and the Animal Question (2018) which employs Critical Race Theory (CRT) to analyze how both people of color and “non-human animals” are marginalized and oppressed, and how (per intersectionality) the oppression of one by the dominant class (in this case, white humans) reinforces and compounds the oppression of the other and adversely affects the relationship between the two groups. (We will return to Boisseron later.)
To combat the racist implications of our language, and the “dominance theory” embedded therein, Compitus advises speaking of “including” the dog, not “using” it. We don’t own dogs; we are their “guardians,” not “masters.” We don’t discipline or “correct” or punish animals; that’s bullying.
“Some people use the anthropomorphized title of ‘pet parent,'” to refer to themselves, says Compitus, and she has no problem with that; “it’s very affectionate.” Compitus finds this a marked improvement form the oppressive titles mentioned above, but she cannot help but add that she prefers “the more formal ‘animal guardian’.” For her, even the word “pet” is “diminutive and has a negative connotation, as if the animal is beneath the status of the human.” Compitus goes on to plead with pet owners—sorry, guardians—to earn the respect of their pets. “We want our pets to respect us and to listen to our directions because they love us and want to behave. As with a human child, we want to have the well-being of both parties in mind.”
So why do humans act so detestably, so dominantly?
“Speciesism may reveal more about our vulnerabilities and fears as humans than anything about the animals we oppress and put down.” What we need to realize, she advises, is that the human-animal bond is a “mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors and considered essential to the health and well-being of both.” Here Compitus is quoting the American Veterinary Medical Association.
To combat the tyranny of speciesism, we must, we are told, flatten the distinctions—eradicate them, really—between human and “non-human animals.” We must realize the equality of value between the two species. We must consider the mutual benefit of both at all times. Compitus suggests, therefore, that we cleanse our language of our own narcissism and “Victorian Era terms like ‘master’ and ‘owner’ and ‘leader’ and instead speak to the mutual respect in this relationship.” “Can we truly ‘own’ another living being?” asks Compitus rhetorically. What we are permitted by Compitus is an “enriching and fruitful relationship with another living being, whether human, dog, cat, horse, rabbit, cow, or pig.”
Compitus may seem fringe, but she is working from the assumptions, and toward the aspirations, of a distinct critical social theory of relatively recent vintage (predictably) known as Critical Animal Studies (CAS). In 2012, the New York Times was already reporting on the advent of CAS at top universities, Dartmouth, NYU, Wesleyan, etc. Noting that animal studies emerged from Cultural Studies, the article continues, “Some scholars now ask: Why stop there? Why honor the uncertain boundary that separates one species from all others?” Let that sink in. That was 2012. That was before anyone outside of the academy was really talking about critical social theories. That was before Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo had captivated the popular imagination (and the Amazon bestsellers list). That was before Black Lives Matter played out the convictions of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in real time.
The article mentions the evident influence of Jacques Derrida, especially his long essay “The Animal that Therefore I Am,” on animal studies. There is some distance between animal studies (and CAS) and Peter Singer’s admittedly provocative proposals in Animal Liberation (1975), which nevertheless did influence the rise of animal studies. Singer questioned the justification of hurting animals and excluding them from moral consideration. Singer’s utilitarian ethics, rather than elevating animals to human status, tend to diminish humans to animal status, but he never quite suggests a complete erosion of the distinction as such.
More importantly, Singer’s flare for the outrageous never directly evidences any radical political motivation, unlike CAS (as we shall see). Singer’s Benthamite analysis of “speciesism” was a critique of what he saw as illogical and immoral brutality against animals (i.e., sentient beings). He therefore sought to morally erode the species divide. But as CAS scholars point out, Singer continues to operate from liberal assumptions (see below) whereby Homo sapiens—via our purported unique possession of reason, autonomy, and language—are elevated as the standard by which all other species are judged vis-a-vis their dignity and rights. CAS is certainly out to do no less than that (sans the presumptuous liberalism), but also endeavors to do much more, most notably, discarding the standard of rationality and autonomy all together.
Critical Animal Studies: Humans and the Others
The distinction between, and origins of, “posthumanism,” “animal studies,” and CAS is debatable, but rightly or wrongly, the three are often used interchangeably. We need not concern ourselves too much with such an inconsequential intramural debate but CAS, in particular, is in focus here. Put simply, CAS is especially focused on the “exploitative dimensions” of human-animal relationships “as well as social change.” It is also self-consciously intersectional.
Unsurprisingly, some CAS proponents castigate their more mainstream precursor of animal studies as “arid and shockingly detached” and as trading in little more than irrelevant “ivory tower thinking.” This is the type of criticism leveled by CAS’ers at armchair thinkers like Singer. Putting the “critical” in CAS requires aspirations for political action and structural change.
Maneesha Deckha—a law professor at the University of Victoria (Canada) who spends her time drumming up articles on “Veganism, Dairy, and Decolonization”—considers CAS a subset of posthumanist studies and animal studies, the latter two not being quite coterminous. Like the umbrella disciplines under which it sits, CAS questions at the outset the “traditional boundaries of the human subject” that has been “foundational to Western thought.”
CAS, like other critical disciplines, latches on to the Foucauldian idea of the dispersal of power, applying this, obviously, to human-animal relations, the former being the dominant group and the latter subdominant. Clearly, to even begin such analysis, the traditional distinction between the species must be replaced with the oppressor-oppressed dichotomy applied to other group dynamics. That is, animals simply become one dominated group among many. This examination of power is not limited to traditional sources of hierarchical power but, rather, includes language, narratives, cultural norms, and spaces inhabited (i.e., the cultural hegemony).
And, of course, there’s the “epistemological impact” of power relations. The dominant (in this case, human) ways of knowing must be decentered in order for the marginalized (in this case, animals) to be “relocated.” Animals must be realized as subjects with subjectivity (i.e., a perspective) rather than objects, and thereby be seen as “persons” worthy of dignity and (non-traditional) autonomy (i.e., markers of personhood). Wherever the contextualized cultural markers of personhood do not materialize, injustice is necessarily present.
One method of establishing animal subjectivity advocated by CAS thinkers is through centering animal perspectives in literature. Whereas most animal characters in stories (usually allegories like Orwell’s Animal Farm) merely serve as conduits for human expression (i.e., “aesthetic exploitation”) or as background props and scenery, CAS-minded writers seek to cultivate genuinely animal perspectives in their literature.
The denial of animal subjectivity by the dominant culture (i.e., humans) correlates to their status as “Other,” a Postcolonial Theory concept popularized by Edward Said’s Orientalism. As Said theorized, the dominant, colonist (Western) Self can only make sense of itself by “othering” another group against which distinctions can be made. An “Other” must always be present to act as the catalyst for the development of the colonizer’s identity. It is assumed that this dynamic conjured up by Said explains all components of dominant culture.
Law, for instance, is defined over and against whatever is deemed lawless by the dominant culture—more on that later. Likewise, that which is rational is determined by whatever is irrational. Civilized only exists in relation to uncivilized. And so on it goes. Note well that for those who accept Said’s characterization of these elements of culture, the development is purely negative, and for the sake of maintaining an us v. them conflict, that is, to marginalize through socially constructed (i.e., arbitrary) differences in order to subjugate.
As the reader might have guessed at this point, CAS puts Said’s theory to good use: human and humanity is defined as a matter of socially constructed difference over and against animal and animality. Society portrays animals as instinctual, violent, irrational, etc., in order to, as Deckha puts it, “distinguish and underscore that which we wish to claim for ourselves (rational, self-conscious, orderly, logical, tempered, deliberative, altruistic, etcetera) as uniquely human.” Human is an oppressive Western construct through which anyone deemed not quite human can be marginalized (i.e., animalized). That is its purpose in Western discourse and hegemonic, dualistic (Cartesian) narratives.
Within this postcolonial paradigm, humanity and animality (as political products and mechanisms of power) are never static. “Both humanity and animality are continuously produced but are never finished products. Moreover, both terms can be applied to humans and other animals in discursive acts—both humans and nonhuman animals can be subjects of animaling and humaning.” That is, each can be subjected to a socially mediated process of being identified as animal or human, respectively, with the attendant socially constructed stereotypes of what it means to be “animal” or “human” being the relevant object of interest.
To CAS scholars, speciesism is also a symptom of, and intricate to, western ways of knowing over and against indigenous (human) ways of knowing that (in some cases) present non-anthropocentric worldviews. The successful colonization of the indigenous mind, therefore, is partially—whether they can quite pinpoint how or describe exactly why does not deter them from pressing on—due to the establishment of speciesist distinctions. A deconstruction of said distinctions, then, leads to liberation not only of the animals in view, but of all colonized beings. Following the reasoning of Paulo Freire, CAS theorists also posit that the deconstruction of the species binary liberates the colonizer who is trapped in his own oppressive role, void of an emancipatory, utopian imagination.
All socially constructed distinctions, none of which (they believe) have any basis in biology or genetics, must be discarded in order to dismantle the hegemony of the dominant group—now white, male, cisheteronormative, humans. The allegedly artificial barrier between human and non-human animals is no exception. The connection drawn between species distinctions and sub-humanization of colonized groups by CAS scholars provides further ammunition for this effort.
Heteronormativity and Humanormativity
The use of Postcolonial concepts by CAS is neither coincidental nor inconsequential. Invoking the “self-Other” dichotomy of Said connects CAS to other critical disciplines, especially Postcolonial Theory itself but also to Critical Race Theory.
In a revealing passage on the necessity of working for social change, Deckha makes the connection between human subjugation of animals (via human-animal dualism) and colonist subjugation of the subaltern:
Undoing this entrenched self-Other relationship between humans and animals requires not only wide-scale social change but also an ongoing vigilance by those who wish to improve the conditions of the lives of animals to monitor and evaluate their representations. The existence of animals as humanity’s Other prompts CS scholars to caution how humans theorize about them even when an end to their exploitation is a theorist’s goal. Even with benevolent ends in mind, humans still shape how animals are represented in discourse and thus hold the epistemological power.
Moreover, beyond a certain level, an incommensurability arises, making it impossible for humans to fully ‘know’ animals. Indeed, to long to ‘know’ animals for many reasons—to be closer to them, to understand them better, to learn more about ourselves—mirrors colonial desires to ‘know’ the non-Western Other for the colonizer’s own purposes.
Later on, Deckha is even more explicit, noting that CAS scholars self-consciously identify parallels between “animal Othering and the Othering of marginalized humans,” and even suggests that “animal Otherness serves as an archetype for all forms of Otherness.” The exclusionary tool of the “Othering” is, it is thought, employed at will by the dominant group(s) to control those they wish to subjugate and define themselves by opposition thereto. The conception of the “Other” is infinitely malleable, governed only by the will of those who wield it.
So, for CAS theorists, limiting human personhood status to the possession of rational faculties, self-awareness, language, and moral sense is completely arbitrary, nothing but a power game to justify the “dismal treatment” and the “Othered status” of animals and unjustly elevate humans. Deckha says that the same characteristics that traditionally in Western society have been uniquely applied to humans can also be weaponized to “domesticate and police human groups that are troublesome to the hegemonic order.”
All of this is reinforced by CAS’s intersectionality. The discipline is not meant to stand alone or conceptualize human-animal relations separate from intra-human relations. “To the contrary, CAS views gender, race, ethnicity, class, and other axes of socially constructed difference as indelibly connected to the constitution, meaning, and impacts of species difference.”
Per Colleen Boggs, animalization as a form of othering is effective in its purpose of degradation only because of the predominate, Western logical of human exceptionalism. In the same way, Deckha claims that “The interlocking oppressions of racism, sexism, and homophobia… are driven by mechanisms of shame and violence related to animality.” In other words, those oppressions are made possible, in some way, by the presence of the human-animal dichotomy. Hence, addressing oppression (of any kind) with “anthropocentric concepts such as human rights” will only further entrench the hegemony; it is to fight oppression on the terms of the status quo. Instead, CAS advocates say that the human-animal boundary should be minimized at every turn and across all critical disciplines.
The work of Carmen Dell’Aversano demonstrates well this cross-pollination of CAS in other critical theories, in this case, Queer Theory. Dell’Aversano posits, inter alia, that just as heteronormativity deems heterosexuality (as well as monogamy) the norm and regulates dissenters accordingly, “humanormativity” dictates that humans must romantically and sexually relate only to members of their species. Dell’Aversano, of course, considers the human-animal distinction to be as much an oppressive social construct as the gender binary. Just as gender-non-conformist are socially and culturally punished for violating cisheteronormative norms, so too are humans who sexually transgress the human-animal boundary and violate anthropocentric codes.
Dell’Aversano also borrows Judith Butler’s idea of gender performance and argues that humans perform their species identity according to a cultural script which, in turn, determines not only how they treat each other but how they treat non-Homo sapiens. This is especially stifling for erotic expression. The merger of CAS and Queer Theory must, therefore, endeavor to liberate love across species lines. Deckha implores all critical theorists to realize that “human and animal interests can no longer be understood as mutually exclusive and separate concepts.” The anthropocentric lenses must be removed if all species are to experience true liberation—oppression exists, more or less, in the aggregate, remember. CAS literature constantly stresses the interconnectedness of all oppressions.
Members of the CAS brigade have not yet convinced all their fellow Crits to get on board with the integration of CAS into other critical disciplines. Richard Twine has lamented this stubbornness—once again, from the old guard feminists—at length. Critical scholars who refuse to recognize that the oppression of animals parallels and is interlocked with, for example, women’s oppression are simply behind the times and fail to realize the mutual benefits available through disciplinary integration. Feminism, says Twine, should embrace its kinship with posthumanism. Rejection of this merely perpetuates the status quo (i.e., human-animal hierarchy) that also oppresses other marginalized beings.
Speciesism and Racism
The same basic move made by some Queer Theorists and Critical Feminists is performed by Critical Race Theorists too. As Deckha demonstrates, it is the ambition of CAS practitioners for CAS to be integrated into all critical disciplines. Harlan Weaver suggests that CAS’s understanding of the intersection of human and animal identities has “the potential to change how we understand the relationships among the categories that define humans and nonhuman animals in a way that has important implications not only for animal studies but also for scholarship invested in critical race, feminist, and queer theories.”
It is this connection, the ability of CAS to become relevant for CRT, that should worry us most. The capacity for, and general gullibility toward, race issues amongst the American intelligentsia lately does not bode well in this regard. Seemingly any idea that is presented as relevant to the question of race in America is, at bare minimum, given a hearing, no matter how patently absurd. Since CAS theorists are intersectional in their thought and believe that (human) oppressions are not merely parallel to animal oppressions but are interconnected, it is easy to see how race is brought into the mix. Cary Wolfe even equivocates between speciesism as ethnocentricity. We dismissively laugh at the admittedly wild assertions of CAS scholars to our peril.
The work of Bénédicte Boisseron, mentioned earlier by Compitus, is one example of the potential for a merger between CRT and CAS. In an interview about her book Afro-Dog: Blackness and the Animal Question, Boisseron, a scholar of black diaspora studies and CAS, claims that black Americans do not just have a double consciousness, as W.E.B. DuBois claimed, but a triple consciousness because there is “something that is intrinsically animalized in the way that the African American is perceived in America.” For support, Boisseron points to the use of dogs against runaway slaves in the antebellum South and again by police against Civil Rights era demonstrators. She identifies an intersection between the dog and blackness in America, the investigation of which is the subject of her book.
Weaver is in substantial agreement with Boisseron, arguing that animal identities are shaped by their “connections with human-specific categories,” and that the “most prominent among these is race.” This goes both ways, of course. Animals are shaped by human categories and humans can be shaped by animal categories. Pit bulls in particular—which are usually designated a “dangerous breed,” what Weaver calls the “production” of the Pit bull identity—are frequently connected (explicitly and implicitly) with race (black or “white trash”) and criminalization. Practices involving animals deemed problematic (e.g., dogfighting) only occur in “racialized and marginalized places” such as ghetto areas. Dog breed-based legislation (e.g., confiscation and forced euthanizing of Pit bulls in municipalities) are always responsive, claims Weaver, to racialized incidents of criminality like the Michael Vick case. Dogs, just like people of color, are victims of racialization of norms, space, policy, etc. On the flipside, people of color are victims of the animalization of dogs. (Weaver also problematizes rescue efforts of “dangerous breeds” as an assertion of “tacit” whiteness, viz., the dogs are painted as having been corrupted by black environments.)
The basic argument of CAS theorists like Boisseron and Weaver is that the affiliation of black humans and animals has been intentionally reinforced by white humans throughout history so that black humans can be designated sub-human. The solution to this degradation of black humanity is not to simply elevate black people but to eliminate the allegedly arbitrary human-animal construct—to take away the oppressive weapon all together, as it were. If there is no distinction between human and animal, how can marginalized humans ever be dehumanized?
Like CRT, CAS recognizes the power of law and legal norms as part of the hegemonic apparatus. The human-animal binary will never be eliminated until western legal regimes are cleansed of all vestiges of its anthropocentric assumptions.
“Law is anthropocentric.”
Over the past couple of decades animal issues have enjoyed greater scholarly attention, and animals have been afforded more legal protections including pseudo-personhood. But CAS scholars think animal law, as a discipline, has some problems. It has not yet been liberated from the liberal paradigm of law which necessarily hampers the subversiveness of any advancements in animal rights. Indeed, it is their belief that even engaging in “rights discourses” effectively bends the knee to the liberal status quo in law. Activists for animal rights, in general, have not integrated a critical understanding of difference or the interconnectedness of oppressions. These oversights make it impossible to combat speciesism—”oppression based on cultivated social understandings of biological difference.”
As mentioned already, animal issues are not just parallel to human ones but interconnected. Deckha says bluntly that the guiding belief of CAS—viz., that “animal issues” extend into the community writ large and that the species divide is one of many “socially constructed differences” employed to subjugate the Other, thereby reinforcing the power of the dominant group—will benefit Social Justice efforts (for humans) if sufficiently integrated therewith. The interconnection of animal exploitation and human injustice will not only aid social justice efforts for humans but, it is the hope of Deckha, will “popularize animal issues” with the general public.
But first, the anthropocentric limits inherent in the liberal premises of Western legal regimes must be dealt with. This entails the rejection of Enlightenment liberalism’s two core values: 1) a premium on reason, and 2) casing the rational and autonomous agent as the central subject of law. “Sameness logic” (i.e. like cases decided alike) also hampers progress. Additionally, some scholars will add conceptions of sovereignty to this list.
Attacking these legal norms is nothing new for critical theories. “Trashing” Western legal proceduralism and values was the favorite pastime of the Critical Legal Studies movement. Criticism of legal formalism (or liberalism) is also a primary interest of Critical Race Theory. CAS has simply put its own spin on the practice, and for different ends.
Since the possession of reasoning capacity serves as threshold issues for personhood and human (legal) rights the posthumanist critique cannot consistently trade in said threshold issues in order to disrupt their anthropocentric exclusivity. They are themselves anthropocentric standards promulgated by humans to privilege humans. Under those standards, animals are necessarily associated with the realm of base, irrational emotions—the “animal soul” in classical metaphysical terms—an association that necessarily marginalizes animal subjectivity.
The threshold standard of autonomy in conjunction with rational agency in the liberal paradigm that dominates law presents a similar obstacle to recognition of animal subjectivity. To CAS perspectives, both the rationality and autonomy are fictions furthered by artificial dichotomies (i.e., reason/emotion, autonomy/dependence). No being is purely rational or purely autonomous. Such standards are therefore bunk.
Accordingly, CAS scholars advise animal law advocates to quit playing the liberal legalist game via reductive standards of rationality and autonomy. Arguments for animals to be treated like humans in a given area simply (i.e., honorary human status) entrenches the “core subject [i.e., the rational, autonomous human] and logic of sameness,” which are inherently hierarchical, within the Western legal regime’s theoretical basis. “To locate animal law within liberalism is to try to fit animals into a theory that neither values animals for who they are nor values the range of response that humans have to them.”
Instead, advocates must equivocate between humans and animals to erode the speciesist distinctions in law, thereby forsaking sameness logic. It is fundamentally offensive to CAS’ers that claims for equality, dignity, and personhood must proceed in liberal societies by such logic. Deckha laments, for instance, that same-sex marriage was forced to take this route. In the same way, she criticizes Peter Singer’s Great Ape Project for extending the right to life, freedom, and non-torture to apes through a “correspondence approach” (i.e., sameness) which “elevates a particular trait as the threshold criterion for moral worth and legal personhood.” This standard perpetuates human dominance over and against animal perspectives and experience.
To break the stranglehold of the liberal human hegemony, CAS scholars push theorizing ethical status for animals from an “animal-centric framework rather than a metric deemed important to humans,” and through “the valuation of difference, being-ness, and life in general.” CAS’s critique of law is, perhaps, its most insidious aspect. By eroding the basis of human (positive) law (i.e., the human being), law’s entire moral, pedagogical or normative, retributive, and ameliorative function immediately falls flat. The ability to analyze the just or unjust nature of law is diminished entirely.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King agrees with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” He then delineates the difference between the two, establishing the unique dignity of human beings as the bedrock of his analysis predicated on the logic of sameness. Following the classical tradition, King conceived of law, at root, as something discovered by man, not purely man-made (i.e., positive), and, therefore, as principles (like anatomy) based on human nature. Hence, because human nature is static, so too is corresponding principles of morality. Invoking Thomas Aquinas’ classic division of law, King writes,
An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority… segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.
CAS has no patience for this outdated sameness or correspondence logic, the perpetuation of archaic Western legal formalism. How could MLK be so backward? Surely committal of the sin of speciesism is enough to have him extinguished form the cultural memory.
End Game: The Abolition of Man
The final frontier of critical social theories is the blurring of species lines. The end game is the complete liberation of man through the abolition of his distinct status in nature. As CAS scholars themselves recognize, CAS threatens to deal Western thought, perhaps more than any other critical social theory, a severe, possibly fatal, blow. To depart from the heretofore assumed elevation of human beings over other living things on the basis of their unique rational faculties (i.e., intellect and will) is to completely destabilize all Western thought upon which civilization is based. Indeed, equality movements of the past two hundred years have been built upon this very assumption.
During the Civil Rights Movement, black demonstrators at the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike famously carried picket signs that read “I Am a Man!” The bid for equality, legal and otherwise, and dignity was predicated on their unique human status shared with white people. The argument was that they, as human beings, possessed all the requisite faculties and sensibilities to be deserving of rights and liberties afforded to humans in our society. Those protestors in Memphis did not advocate for the abolishment of the elevated standard of man in nature, but rather to be afforded the status of said standard which they had been unjustly and irrationally denied. They demanded humane treatment. The arguments of civil rights activists then were arguments from sameness and universalism, that is, the exact “liberal” thinking that CAS and its other critical theory cousins detests.
By contrast, CAS endeavors to lower all humans to animal status—maybe even to plant status—that is, to obliterate the distinctions on the basis of which the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s argued for suffrage and equality for black human beings. CAS evidences, yet again, that the ideology behind the critical social justice movement from which CAS itself springs is not a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement but a stark repudiation thereof—CAS, perhaps, most of all.
Conclusion: Animal Farm
CAS presents a truly frightening prospect: the elimination of the most basic foundation of Western civilization, the priority and unique status of human beings. The result is the relegation of all “living beings” to animal status. Ironically, where CAS theorists think that the elimination of species distinctions will eliminate the means of oppression, it will, in fact, almost certainly make it easier to dehumanize whoever the marginalized group happens to be. If we are all relegated to the lowest common denominator then whatever can be done to an amoeba can be done to a human person. Any argument otherwise would be arbitrary and capricious.
CAS has followed the same trend in the academy as other critical social theories: slowly transitioning from a niche discipline to being regularly featured on course schedules to making appearances in mainstream publications. The sheer absurdity of the discipline and its core assumptions should not induce us to sleep on it, as they say. We must recognize that if half-baked ideas like “white fragility” can so easily and quickly capture the public discourse then so too can ideas like “speciesism.” The same lazy logic and resentful worldview animates—to use a word no doubt offensive to CAS scholars—both.
The New York Times article quoted above relays arguments based on a human-centric standard. That is, if certain non-human animals use language and even possess an analog to our conception of morality, then is a distinction really as stark as we imagine? That was 2012. Things have progressed since. Now, the cutting-edge scholars detest such human-centric arguments. The human-animal binary is socially constructed and should be dismantled because it is oppressive, full stop. To allow some animals to qualify for legal rights or a diminished form of personhood only perpetuates the liberal status quo that centers humans and elevates rationality.
This signals a big shift in only a few years. Presumably, CAS theorists were making such arguments all along. The difference is that they are now quite comfortable openly expressing them to the public, and even more so in college classrooms. This development is even scarier when we survey the gullibility of the media and intellectual class, at the moment, for anything having to do with race. The connection made between the speciesist binary and racism makes CAS ripe for more mainstream reception. Look for it soon at a course list, think piece, and protest event near you! If CAS is fully imbibed—not an unlikely prospect given what we’ve seen so far—we will move rapidly from “four legs good, two legs better” to “four legs good, two legs just the same,” or, if you like, “all animals are equal, some are more equal than others,” to “all animals are equal, and we are all just animals.” We are all farm animals now.
Were the Grievance Studies team to attempt another hoax today they might have a more difficult time. The CAS literature is almost beyond parody. A specious connection between dog parks, misogyny, and rape culture is one that a publication like the Journal for Critical Animal Studies would almost certainly accept. The only question would be whether “Helen Wilson” could come up with a proposal that was radical enough.
1. See generally David Redmalm, An Animal Without an Animal Within: The Powers of Pet Keeping, Örebro Studies in Sociology 17 (Örebro University, 2013) (problematizing the pet-owner relationship).
2. See generally Anthony J. Nocella II, John Sorenson, Kim Socha, and Atsuko Matsuoka, “Introduction: The Emergence of Critical Animal Studies: The Rise of Intersectional Animal Liberation,” Counterpoints, vol. 448 (2014), pp. xix–xxxvi; The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: From the margins to the centre, Nik Taylor and Richard Twine (eds.) (New York: Routledge, 2014) (esp. pp. 1–16).
3. See generally Defining Critical Animal Studies—An Intersectional Social Justice Approach for Liberation, Anthony J. Nocella II, John Sorenson, Kim Socha, and Atsuko Matsuoka (eds.) (Peter Lang, 2014).
4. Maneesha Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), pp. 207–236, 212.
5. Intersectionality of Critical Animal Studies: A Historical Collection (Radical Animal Studies and Total Liberation, vol. 5), Anthony J. Nocella II and Amber E. George (eds.) (Peter Lang, 2019). See also Harlan Weaver, “‘Becoming in Kind’: Race, Class, Gender, and Nation in Cultures of Dog Rescue and Dogfighting,” American Quarterly, 65(3) (Sept. 2013), pp. 689–709, 691 (Noting how intersections between human and animal identities “reveal how relationships between humans and nonhuman animals provide the conditions of possibility for specific experiences of race, gender, class, sexuality, species, and breed.”).
6. Steven Best, “The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: Putting Theory into Action and Animal Liberation into Higher Education,” Journal for Critical Animal Studies, 7(1) (2009), p. 12 n. 9, available at http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/JCAS-VII-Issue-1-2009.pdf
7. Deckha “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), pp. 207–236, 213–214 (“The anti-exploitative and activist commitments are not defining features of human-animal studies as they are with CAS.”).
8. Deckha, “Veganism, Dairy, and Decolonization,” Journal of Human Rights and the Environment (2020).
9. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), pp. 207–236, 212. Cary Wolfe, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities,” PMLA, 124(2) (Mar., 2009), pp. 564–575, 565 (calling animal studies a branch of cultural studies).
10. Chloë Taylor, “Foucault and Critical Animal Studies: Genealogies of Agricultural Power,” Philosophy Compass, 8(6) (2013), pp. 539–551.
11. A good CAS scholar should also be dutifully aware of oppressive metaphors like, “herding cats.” See e.g., Cary Wolfe, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities,” PMLA, 124(2) (Mar., 2009), pp. 564–575.
12. See Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody (Pitchstone, 2020), pp. 67–88. See also Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (Bloomsbury, 2015), pp. 197–238 (examining Said’s thought).
13. See generally Vanessa Lemm, Nietzsche’s Animal Philosophy: Culture, Politics, and the Animality of the Human Being (Fordham University Press, 2009).
14. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 218. See also Kelly Oliver, Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human (Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 21 (identifying a conceptual dependence between animality and humanity such that to acknowledge the dependence of the latter on the former effectively undermines the latter’s self-image as autonomous, sovereign, and rational). Like Oliver, Harlan Weaver’s idea of “becoming in kind” espouses an interdependence of identities in animal-human relationships, a “becoming” through “togetherness”.
“Becoming in kind signals the deep imbrications of identity and being that many relationships between humans and nonhuman animals entail. Consider gender—as the above story reveals, Haley [Weaver’s Pitbull companion] helps make my gender expression possible, for my gender is shaped by the space between us, just as her experiences of species and breed are shaped by my race, class, and sexuality. The ‘kind’ of becoming in kind indexes the role of these identity categories in relationships between humans and nonhuman animals. ‘Becoming’ indicates the nonstatic, processual nature of these relationships, a sense of negotiating togetherness as an ongoing process”
“‘Becoming in Kind’: Race, Class,” p. 690.
15. Redmalm, An Animal Without an Animal Within, p. 54.
16. See e.g., Deckha, “Unsettling Anthropocentric Legal Systems: Reconciliation, Indigenous Laws, and Animal Personhood,” Journal of Intercultural Studies, 41(1) (2020), pp. 77–97.
17. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (50th Anniversary Ed., Bloomsbury, 2018).
18. Colonialism and Animality: Anti-Colonial Perspectives in Critical Animal Studies, Kelly Struthers Montford and Chloë Taylor (eds.) (Routledge, 2020).
19. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 218.
20. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 219.
21. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 219.
22. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 220.
23. Colleen Glenney Boggs,” American Bestiality: Sex, Animals, and the Construction of Subjectivity,” Cultural Critique, 76 (Fall 2010), pp. 98–125, 98–99. See also Boggs, Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity (Columbia University Press, 2013).
24. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 221.
25. “[P]ets occupy a special position as boundary creatures in the lives of humans, allowing humans to play with and thus reproduce dichotomies inherent to the contemporary Western worldview, such as human/animal, person/nonperson, subject/object, and friend/commodity.” Redmalm, An Animal Without an Animal Within, p. 5.
26. See e.g., Neel Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique in a Multispecies World,” PMLA, 124(2) (Mar., 2009), pp. 556–563.
27. Dell’Aversano, “The Love Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken: Queering the Human-Animal Bond,” Journal of Critical Animal Studies, 8(1/2) (2010), pp. 73–125.
28. See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, Chapman, & Hall, 1990).
29. Dell’Aversano, “The Love Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken: Queering the Human-Animal Bond,” Journal of Critical Animal Studies, 8(1/2) (2010), pp. 79–82.
30. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 223 (“The principal belief that oppressions are interconnected, coupled with the advocacy elements, leads CAS to promote a coalition ethic that seeks to connect animal advocacy efforts with social justice efforts broadly.”).
31. Twine, “Intersectional Disgust? Animals and (Eco)Feminism,” Feminism and Psychology, 20(3) (2010), pp. 397–406.
32. Weaver, “‘Becoming in Kind,'” p. 691 (Weaver maintains that this is especially true in the case of “dangerous dogs” because “they reflect social conflicts about identities” [e.g., “What constitutes danger and in which bodies should it be localized?”] in the same way that race, species, gender, breed, and nation do).
33. Cary Wolfe, “Human, All Too Human: ‘Animal Studies’ and the Humanities,” PMLA, 124(2) (Mar., 2009), pp. 564–575, 567.
34. Boisseron, “Afro-Dog,” Transition, 118 (2015), pp. 15–31.
35. Weaver, “‘Becoming in Kind,'” p. 693.
36. See also Harlan Weaver, “‘Becoming in Kind’: Race, Class, Gender, and Nation in Cultures of Dog Rescue and Dogfighting,” American Quarterly, 65(3) (Sept. 2013), pp. 689–709.
37. See e.g., The Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (2005), The Universal Charter of the Rights of Other Species (2000), and The Declaration of Animal Rights (2011).
38. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 225.
39. Dinesh Joseph Wadiwel, The War against Animals (Critical Animal Studies, vol. 3) (Brill, 2015), pp. 223–272.
40. See generally Roberto Mangabeira Unger, “The Critical Legal Studies Movement,” Harvard Law Review 96(3) (Jan., 1983), pp. 561–675.
41. See e.g., Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Race Liberalism and the Deradicalization of Racial Reform,” Harvard Law Review, 130 (2017), pp. 2298–2319. C.f. Jeffrey J. Pyle, “Race, Equality, and the Rule of Law: Critical Race Theory’s Attack on the Promises of Liberalism,” Boston College Law Review, 40 (1999), pp. 787–827.
42. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 231.
43. Deckha, “Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law,” Animal Law, 18 (2012), p. 233.
44. The priority of reason, human community (i.e. human sociability), and speech is inherent in the classical definition of law drawn from Thomas Aquinas, viz., “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.” Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 90, Art. 4.
45. See e.g., Karen L. F. Houle, “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics as Extension or Becoming? The Case of Becoming-Plant,” Journal for Critical Animal Studies, 9(1/2) (2001), pp. 89–116, available at http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/6.-Houle-KLF-2011-Issue-1-2Animal-Vegetable-Mineral-pp-89-116.pdf. See also Hasana Sharp, “Animal Affects: Spinoza and the Frontiers of the Human,” Journal for Critical Animal Studies, 9(1/2) (2011), pp. 48, 64.
46. Steven Best, “The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: Putting Theory into Action and Animal Liberation into Higher Education,” Journal for Critical Animal Studies, 7(1) (2009), p. 10.
There’s an inherent problem in “speciesism.”
That is, if human beings are the same as other animals, we cannot possibly have any special moral responsibility for any other. We don’t ask lions to “take care of” zebras morally, nor do we ask foxes to “establish equity relations ” with mice; why would we ask one animal to do something we expect of no other animal on earth? Human beings do what human beings do, in that case.
But “speciesism” as a concept, has to presuppose the unique moral burden of being human. Unlike all other species, it becomes man’s responsibilty to “take care of” the “rights” of other animals — “rights” they do not even know they can have!
The upshot is simple: if human beings are just animals, they cannot be morally culpable for anything they do or fail to do out of their own animal nature, which is all they can possibly have. But then, “speciesism” means nothing. But if “speciesism” is even a problem, it means that human beings are NOT “just animals,” but in some way special and elite in terms of holding moral responsibilities no other animal can have. But if humans are not just animals, then what more are they?
The “speciesism” SJW’s are talking out of both sides of their own mouths, and don’t know what they believe.
I could only get through a few paragraphs of the article under discussion before becoming too ill to continue. Obviously, judging by the reams of text I scrolled past to reach this comment box, people are trying to have an intelligent conversation. I apologize for not reading any of it.
Residing in the company of two male neutered cats for seven years, the accurate title for me (and my human mate) would be “servant,” or perhaps even “slave.” These two felines are like the lilies of the field. They toil not, nor do they spin. They sleep, stare out the windows, play, fight, and get up on and into stuff. Meanwhile the humans of the household labor endlessly to attend their every need. The most the cats do is wheedle, caterwaul and use other manipulative methods to make sure the humans in their charge perform their caretaking duties to their liking and in a timely manner.
The idea of being the master of a cat is ludicrous. It would, however, be interesting to see a CAS acolyte living with a horse, or maybe a large pit bull, that believes it even has a chance of being equal in status to this homosapien fool.
When a dog wants to lick your face it is trying to demonstrate it’s subservience in the hierarchy to you. Allowing it, I turn my face so the dog licks the side of my jaw, makes the dog feel secure since it’s status is not in question.
Woke people do not recognise obviously that such hierarchies exist in almost all higher animal species. Watch stags rutting. Male mice, full brothers, housed together will sometimes fight. They go after each other’s genitals. The one with the most intact genitals is top mouse, the one with the worst bottom.
Sometimes dogs fight, usually over disputed status. The loser will lick the victor under the chin in acknowledgement. Pups will lick their mother there to elicit attention which is where it comes from.
We don’t need critical theory to advocate for other species. One of the best critiques of how humans treat other species (specifically animal species) was “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy,” by Matthew Scully, a Christian and former speechwriter for George W. Bush. As Scully demonstrates, there are a myriad of moral arguments to be made for taking ourselves down off the pedestal we currently inhabit.
Cline makes all the right arguments against this iteration of critical theory, but let’s not confuse the weakness of critical theory’s arguments against anthropocentrism with the very real issue of anthropocentrism’s ethical problems. Anthropocentrism is a collective form of narcissim, generating all the hurt on a large scale that a narcissist generates on one smaller. And let’s be clear — unless we learn to co-exist with other species in ways that allow them to thrive along with us, we will at some point fail to thrive at all.
“Anthropocentrism is a collective form of narcissim…”
This is an abuse of psychological terms.
“unless we learn to co-exist with other species in ways that allow them to thrive along with us, we will at some point fail to thrive at all.”
This is hardly clear, and in fact requires some extraordinary proof to support beyond platitudes.
I call my cow a steak. Is that speciesist ?
No. It’s transphobic. Because your steak may have come from a steer.
The PT article has gotta be a hoax, right?
Thanks for your reply. I understand what you are saying. With all that in mind, if you could choose, what exactly would change in society? For example:
What statutes would be rewritten to reflect your ideas? What ideas would be a transgressive? How would humans need to alter their thoughts and behaviors?
In other words, how would you see your ideas operationalized?
I am genuinely curious. I look forward to your ideas.
Linnaeus is also identified as the originator of botanical binomial nomenclature. What then would your points be about plants’ rights and critical theory? I see no reason, based on your words, to not apply the same philosophy (CAS) you espouse to plants. Is that absurd? Jainists don’t think so–they won’t eat root vegetables because the roots are capable of producing life.
Plants are alive and communicate with other plants. They do, in fact, chemically communicate with, for example, the assistance of mycorrzhiae or fungi (a fungi is neither plant nor an animal). A notable body of research exists on this communication. Does this mean they have the same rights?
What I presented is a thought experiment of sorts. I genuinely would like to hear your responses.
Jainists are not scholars, so their relations and approaches to plants don’t really fit here (not at all to belittle them–I do not disagree or agree with their teachings and practices), to me at least. Moreover, Animal Studies and Plant Studies aren’t necessarily always about “rights.” There’s a good amount of scholarship around “rights” discourse vs. relationality between the human and the nonhuman. The way humans and nonhumans interact doesn’t always have to move toward “rights” of the nonhuman.
What I’m saying here is that Animal (and Plant) Studies scholarship does not always have to trend toward providing “rights” to the other than human, although some scholars might think this. This is part of my argument against Mr. Cline’s essay–taking certain theorists as the whole of a field and slapping rights discourse on all of Animal Studies really misunderstands and erases a lot of nuance.
Per your question in your thought experiment: Should more research be done on plant communication and should humanity try to redevelop their approaches to plants based on mycorrhizal network and Volatile Organic Compound communication in plants? I think so. There’s a lot of interesting work being done in a number of fields on these topics. Does this necessarily mean these approaches should trend toward rights of plants and rights of nature discourse? I’m not sure, but there is a good amount of robust literature on the subject that is very interesting.
I’m disappointed that this movement has infected clear philosophical thinking pertaining to animal rights, vegamism, and sentimentism.
Excellent point Chris. Infected is an excellent descriptor.
I transferred to NJ (a truly socially just, orthodox state or a prison for dissent and free thought). PA is just across the Delaware from me. On Saturdays, I sometimes buy food at the PA Farmer’s Market. I note angry vegans there on occasion scolding people for buying certain food items. So far, wool yarn escapes condemnation. Full disclosure: I know my observations do not represent the universe of possibilities–not all vegans and vegetarians are angry and scold others.
I also happen to be a vegetarian, but would never dream of telling anyone what they should eat and are bad if they don’t follow my rules. That’s not very tolerant. It’s fascinating to observe others who believe screaming at a non-believer will convert them.
I regret this, too. Despite my comment bitching about my cats, I’m in favor of wild animals being protected from illegal poaching and from encroachment upon and destruction of their habitats. Domestic pet animals should be protected from abuse, neglect and being allowed to overbreed. And we owe the animals we raise for food as comfortable a life as possible and a death free from fear and suffering.
gmmay70, Nicely articulated response.
Fundamentally, all CAS scholars– Linnaeus, Deckha, Cary Wolfe, Donna Haraway, Van Dooren, etc. argue for human/non-human equalization by repudiating and denying the metaphysically real essential defining faculties of human beings, i.e. reason and volition, that their evolutionary development serves to distinguish them from non-human animals.
That denial and repudiation of those faculties, which enable human beings to rise above mere physical survival and and thrive, and make human beings alone moral agents in comparison with non-human species, is, in essence, metaphysically, epistemologically, and ethically/morally indefensible.
This denial and repudiation is at the root of all CAS scholars and demonstrates why it is not necessary to communicate with all of them directly because they all start from the same flawed premises, just as one need not communicate directly with all proponents of the flat earth “theory”. To do so would be redundant, and pointless.
CAS proponents have erected a floating abstraction, build on a shifting foundation of mud and sand, buttressed by stolen concepts, context dropping, hypostatization, ad homines ( e.g. Stephen here) and other fallacies, and covered with a thin, cracking transparent veneer of misanthropy.
Again, the author fundamentally misunderstands Animal Studies in this “essay,” and it is evidenced by the authors that he draws from in order to make his point. He set out to describe the field and attack it, arguing that it seeks to flatten all creatures on Earth and make humans and all non humans equal players, so to speak. This is false. He also based it on, mainly, one article from a theorist that generally isn’t widely read. Maybe if I’m misunderstanding this you can take a crack at condescendingly explaining it to me. I hope you do better then the author and Col, though. If you, like the original author, do refuse to engage with Animal Studies, do your homework to understand its main authors and their ideas, and would rather plainly argue that the structure of my rebuttal is wrong, then again, much like I told Cal, I’ll see myself out. I shouldn’t have expected much critical engagement on a site such as this, where the authors themselves can’t do much but surface read a couple of theorists and take pot-shots at entire fields.
To address Col E, simply arguing that every Animal Studies theorist wants to flatten existences and ontologies is an incredibly reductive reading of the field (again, to be expected), and also, you’re describing Linnaeus as an Animal Studies scholar alongside Haraway and Wolfe.
Just so we’re all clear here, for those of you (including the author of this essay) who can’t be bothered to read any of the authors they’re “attacking,” Carl Linnaeus was an 18th Century zoologist who originated binomial nomenclature, the beginnings of the species concept. He was not a contemporary Animal Studies theorist. My original point regarding Linnaeus was that this essay’s author couldn’t even trace the beginnings of the concept in order to explain what Animal Theorists are engaging with today, and you’ve just shown that you have no clue who Animal Theorists are or what they believe. Perhaps your understanding of the field, its main thinkers, and its arguments are derived from… this “essay,” which again, displays a really poor understanding of the field mainly based on one essayist’s paper.
You are misunderstanding it, and I have already pointed out how. You failed to “rebut” a thing, for reasons I don’t care to repeat.
If you do not like the tone of the responses you’ve cultivated, perhaps some self-reflection is in order. If you had presented a structure beyond “These authors are all meanie-heads and nobody knows what they’re talking about, and read so-and-so”, there might be something substantive to engage with. As such, I don’t care to sift through your vitriol for the possibility of an actual argument buried in the muck.
But no, you what, thought that tossing a rhetorical hand-grenade in the room was somehow going to elicit engagement and scholarly argument? I refuse to believe you lack that much self-awareness.
So, what exactly were you expecting?
Stephen, your use of ad hominem and emotionalism are quite telling. It’s sort of like yelling at people. Yelling shows a loss of control, experience of threat, and absence of logic.
While I point out that Cline and Lindsay were not successful in their degree granting fields, and do in fact refer to them as morons in the context of their reading an entire field of study incorrectly, you’ll note that far before that I take specific umbrage with this article and the arguments/“research” presented therein. If you’d like to throw the baby out with the bath water because I called a spade a spade, so be it.
For the record, I stand by my comments about
1. This article, and most of Lindsay’s arguments against critical theory, as hamhandedly wrong, both on purpose and because he and those that write here have not done the necessary legwork to understand the theories they seek to “interpret.”
2. Not providing money to such snake oil salesmen taking advantage of tired and worn out arguments so that they can capitalize on increasing polarization. Especially when they’re already bankrolled by people like Michael O’Fallon over at Sovereign Nations.
3. Actually asking the researchers attacked on this website what they see their work doing and why they do their work, instead of taking it from people who do not engage in good-faith debate and do not seek to understand their research in the first place.
How familiar are you with the experimental method? Surely you understand that a theory is not a fact. A good example of a fact is that all living things eventually die.
It’s always interesting to observe people communicating with others. For example, assessments of wrongness and disagreement are not the same thing. Telling someone they are wrong on an idea suggests the speaker is unwilling to listen to a different viewpoint. Stating, “I disagree”, on the other hand, opens the door to discussion.
Finally, I still sense a lot of anger from your words and don’t understand your reasons for it.
Thank you for pedantically explaining what a fact is to me, and extrapolating what you “sense” in my replies. At no point have you engaged with my critique of Mr. Cline’s misunderstanding of Animal Studies.
If you’re ready to take on the actual critiques present in my original comment, then I’ll engage in a conversation (Cline is wrong in his attempted readings of animal studies as a field for many reasons, but specifically the ones I point out originally).
On the other hand, if you’d like to pontificate on my emotional state more, feel free to keep spinning your wheels without me.
Perhaps no one is engaging with your critique, such as it is, because it’s heavy on the insults and pseudo-intellectual posturing, and light on any actual substance. Like most ____ Studies acolytes, you seem to think that credentialism (in your case: name dropping) suffices for substance. And when a reader decides to dive down the rabbit hole of “literature” provided, they get mired in a self-referential loop.
Rather than take umbrage at an imagined offense – which prompts a tirade of demands that readers pay attention to you and not the article presented – try taking a moment to read for comprehension, then address the more narrow scope of the article, which does not purport to address the entire “field” of Animal Studies as you seem to think it does. Did you just skim until you were offended? Skimmed down to the citations?
Frankly, I can’t be sure what you think, because your attempt to communicate resembles more of a gale of petulance than a rational conversation.
This article might be more properly titled “To Boldly Go: Timon Cline’s Bone to Pick with a Law Professor after his JD didn’t Pan Out.”
It leans heavily on one professor (Maneesha Deckha), cited multiple times in order to inflate citation count, who is not a key figure in Animal Studies, and this essay itself doesn’t even begin to track species as a concept. Maneesha Deckha is not required or generally important reading in Animal Studies, so to have the entire article hinge on one author’s one paper is… Strange. Also, to not even cite Carl Linnaeus (many foundational Animal Studies texts do, as the concept of Species began with him) is a red flag for me in terms of the author’s study of, well, anything besides perhaps the field that his degree purports him to be an expert in (then again, the same could be said for James Lindsay, who doesn’t understand, well, anything he writes about).
At any rate, to only cite one marginal Cary Wolfe essay, zero Donna Haraway, Van Dooren, etc. signals to me that, like most of the drivel coming from the “writers” on this website, Cline has taken one article to represent the whole of an entire field and then imposed his own ideas on the field. It’s unsurprising, as it’s more of the same from Lindsay and his ill informed crew where they produce bunk about what THEY, THE PRIVELEGED ELITES IN THE ACADEMY, don’t want YOU TO KNOW. In short, it’s hamhanded bullshit but they dressed it up nice with footnotes and some surface level ideas about critiques of Cartesian Dualisms and Indigenous studies (understood here by the author as any Native American) without citing any Indigenous authors.
Just a final note here: Please do not offer these morons any financial compensation for misreading and misleading you about scholarship that people are working on. I am sure the majority of people doing work in critical theory fields would be happy to have an honest conversation with you, the reader of this website about their work, so that you don’t have to be lied to by James Lindsay et al. trying to make a buck off of an increasingly polarized period in history. Contact the people doing this actual work on twitter, through their personal website, or on their google scholar page and just ask what they’re up to and why they’re doing what they’re doing instead of letting a failed lawyer (here) and a failed math PhD (Lindsay) continue to feed you this idea about the “cultural marxism” boogeyman in the academy. It’s old, it’s tired, and it’s been a philosophy against academia for a very long time.
Dear Mr. Cline,
My 10 pound, blind, 15-year-old toy poodle was mauled by a pit bull.
I rushed him to emergency surgery. The vet said that the pit bull shook him and that’s why the skin was pulled away from his body.
I was called a “dog racist”.
I ended an old friendship because I pointed out that it was a Staffordshire Terrier that tried to kill my dog.
There were no laws against dog on dog attacks in my city so the owner and the pit bull got away. I went to a hearing about passing a law last year, and when I told the city council Sebastian was mauled by a pit bull some self-professed dog expert corrected me.
I loved my little Sebastian more than anything in this world, and he deserves to have the truth spoken out loud!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for bringing this issue to light!
You will never know just how much calling attention to this problem means to pit bull victims and their families.
I hope that none of you, your children, or your pets are ever mauled by a dangerous dog.
I’m having trouble following your argument. Between this statement:
“In phycology [sic] I am aware of Melany Joy, her work draws parallels of the mechanism of oppression and discusses speciesism. I believe it can be said that there are similarities in the mechanism of oppression.”
And this one:
“As far as I am aware no one in the animal rights advocates for equalisation, rather the ask is to recognise the negative rights of non human animals.”
I’m seeing a contradiction, or a failure to understand CT and its underlying ideology. CTs view human behavior almost solely through the oppressor/oppressed dynamic, and strive to equalize that through eliminating it.
You need not look far among animal rights advocates and activists to find a strong push for granting animals the same legal protections as humans. Ever heard the term “murder” used to refer to a non-human? This is inherently about “equalization”.
Your understanding seems to come from a place that CTs want complete equalization right now for all animals with humans. Conceptually, CTs use an incremental approach to great effect. The CT’s world is one without boundaries, which is why they continue to push for the next goal after achieving their previous ones.
thank you fo rreading my comment
Yes unfortunately my understanding of CT is not really clear, and I have not yet fully understood the scope of the terms oppression and equalisation under CT. my comment aims not to dismiss animal rights because of CT. And as such I understand that my comment might be slightly off topic. (spelling mistakes -dyslexia and typing on my mobile)
I had a thought of what incremental change with CT will look like at the end in terms of – humans will oppress other humans in order for animals to have equality through equity? So that society will have animals above humans because under CT the animals cannot oppress humans? – which will be achieved through incremental change as you point out. Because I understand the risk of animal rights being hijacked/misunderstood as CT- I decided to write the reply, to clarify, as many times in the past animal rights have also fallsy been used for welfare causes.
And because the majority does not know, or have time to look into it further than posts that come across that have strong words, appeal to emotion and occasionally have CT vocabulary “holding accountable” has started popping up. I decided to write some information to clarify and hopefully get some allies (for the animals right approach)
Animal rights approach is not based on equalisation or anthropomorphize animals. It recognises that animals have moral value but are not moral agents, and don’t have moral responsibility. The approach does ask us to recognize non-human animals as a human equal but to be considered as individuals.
Legally the closest we have in humans is babies (not equating). They have the right to legal representation, and also they have moral value and are not moral agents if they cause someone’s death they are not accountable for example. Not equating but pointing out that with a similar (or based on) approach in law we can treat non humans with respect, and not violate their (moral) rights. By all means I don’t have all the answers but I want to believe that society, lawmakers, science and philosophy will have to answer most over time.
Yes the use of words like murder, etc ( in social networks /posts etc) I think is a result of not having any better word when one comes across of footage (I’ll list some at the end). So one can play with the definition of murder i.e. a human killing a human without consent, an individual killing an individual without consent.
Consent is also important when looking at the relation between human and nonhuman animals.
One barrier when discussing animal rights compared to racism or human rights is that the majority accept that humans of different races/sex etc are of equally moral value. for the rights approac non-humans don’t have to be equally morally only to recognise that they have moral values and that are not objects (to be sold and traded).
Thank you for reading, all the best
I know it looks bad when people say read this and that, but will take the opportunity to support all the above with some references/evidence (Youtube videos unfortunately as i am not an academic).
Tom Regan an introduction to animal rights (50min lecture format, youtube)
Dominion (youtube-2hr), land of hope and glory (youtube-45min)- Graphic content, factory farming and free range respectively. I am not offering it for an appeal to emotion, if you manage to distance form the gore you can see the non-human animals expressing emotions and behavior as we similarly recognise in human behavior (equating emotional states) as evidence that are not objects.
Other from Netflix /YouTube: animal people (vivisection), blackfish, inside the tank (orcas in captivity)
*forgot to mention Simon Amstell: Carnage (2017) on BBC iplayer, a mockumentary, a more light hatred approach on the steps on how our society might change – mentioning it mainly because it starts with predicting a zoonotic disease at 2019…
Thank you for taking the time for what is undoubtedly a thoughtful response. However, I found some of the points you tried to make syntactically confusing enough that I don’t feel comfortable with my response for fear of having read you wrong.
The only thing that I can tell so far is that your argument seems to be largely semantic, in that you seem to assert that animal rights activists and “intellectuals” aren’t explicitly arguing for equality between humans and animals. The argument for animal “rights” (versus animal welfare) carries the implication of that very outcome. Your response, to me at least, seems to contain a few of these implicit arguments camouflaged in semantics.
Would the incremental approach place animals above humans? I have not suggested or implied it. The outcome of the animal rights advocates is ultimately to achieve equality between humans and animals before the law (why then the blurring of distinction between people and animals with “individuals”?). Would I feel oppressed because I could possibly be jailed for eating meat in the future? You betcha. So in that sense, I supposed CT would indeed be placing animal rights above my own rights as an omnivore.
Regarding the seeming No True Scotsman approach to animal rights advocacy that you and Stephen here seem to employ, a cursory search reveals any number of academic or political figures (Sherry Colb and Peter Tatchell as respective examples) who do, in fact, support equating humans and animals before the law.
If I have misread you, I apologize. And forgive me that I do not have the time, data, or inclination to watch Youtube videos on the subject. If you can point to an easily accessible transcript or document I can read, I’d be more than happy to.
thank you for your reply, unfortunately another long reply
Recognising the rights of non human animals does not mean complete equalization, i.e. for animals to have the right to vote, but to recognise that they are not objects. The basic moral right to be treated with respect. Subsequently if society agrees then this will also translate into the laws-which i believe can only happen if a large enough portion of the society agrees. So we might be a few generations away-unless the climate argument persuades people to change culturally. The moral argument, although stronger and more clearly stated, it does not have the marketable power of the environmental one at the moment.
I see the difference/disagreement, in what you describe as the right as an omnivore. To be consistent with this right you will have to be ok with wet markets, dog/cat farms, the killing of whales (e.g. faroe islands and in Japan ), dolphins- for food. And to accept the current animal industry killing and abusing/using of individuals- as what i understand as the right of an omnivore it violates their rights. In terms of oppression, an example of when their is a shift in what is considered morally right is slavery. Slavery was abolished, people gave up the privilege of owning other humans, they were not oppressed by not owning humans.
I should also point out the animal rights approach goes beyond our eating habits. And includes exploitation of animals for entertainment: circuses, sea parks, zoos, street performing primates and bears, dog fighting, dog racing, horse racing, fox hunting in uk, bullfighting in Spain, rodeos in US, rattlesnake roundings in US, ritual killing (Nepal hindu ritual 2019), use of horses in carriage (recently NY has band the use of them i think), for their fur,feathers and skin, Vivesection and other animal testing . Among others
I think the food industry is the industry that kills the most non-human animals (up to 77 billion yearly – form wikipedia they link FAOSTAT but couldn’t confirm ) and is directly linked to individual consumption.
I don’t see a No true scotsman approach. I am trying (unsuccessfully) to present Tom Reagan’s argument. To clarify I use individuals as subject-of-a-life as defined in his work “Like us they possess a variety of sensory, cognitive, conative, and volitional capacities. They see, hear believe and desire, remember and anticipate, plan and intent. Moreover what happens to them matters to them. Physical pleasure and pain-these they share with us. But also fear and contentment, anger and loneliness, frustration and satisfaction, cunning and imprudence, these and a host of other psychological states and dispositions collectively help define the mental life and relative well being of those subject-of-a-life we know better as racoons and rabbits, beaver and bison, chipmunks and chimpanzees, you and I”. so I don’t think i am blurring the lines rather recognising the similarities.
As in every movement they bound to have different ideas and approaches- and I think yes semantics is important as people tend to use definitions in the same context but meaning different things. Searching the names you suggested I found an article animal rights are humans rights- which immediately there is plenty of room for anyone to take the title and run with it to end up in an obscure conclusion.
You can read the prologue of tom Regan’s book Empty cages, 2005 in google books (hope it is available in all countries).
And I guess I should support the env. argument mentioned above:
Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers, J. Poore,T. Nemecek, (2018) DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0216
All the best
Voting rights is a bit of argument from absurdity, but we have several positions in the mainstream discourse today that most would have considered absurd only ten years ago. When I say equality before the law, I mean those who advocate for sentencing and criminalizing any killing of animals for food. And yes, those people exist in large numbers in the animal rights activist community.
” The basic moral right to be treated with respect. …. The moral argument, although stronger and more clearly stated…”
This is where you run into serious philosophical trouble. According to whom is this a “moral” right? A “basic” right? Or even a “right” at all? “Respect” is a highly subjective term, subject to multiple interpretations in different situations. For this argument to even gain traction, you first have to answer the question of whether or not objective morality exists, and what the basis for that morality is. There is nothing strong or clear about this argument.
To be consistent with my rights as an omnivore, I absolutely do not have to condone wet-markets, based purely upon health and sanitary issues. Dog/Cat farms don’t concern me in the slightest, as long as their welfare is a concern of the owners. I don’t concern myself with the killing of any non-endangered species. The slavery comparison is a false equivalence because humans owning humans is not the same as humans owning or eating animals, and owning another human has nothing to do with satisfying fundamental dietary requirements. For your position to be consistent with this poor analogy, can I assume that you advocate humans not be allowed to own animals at all?
I’m well aware of the various targets of animal rights activists, some of which are well-intentioned, but poorly thought-out or executed, and others of which are simply misguided (with the exception of animal fighting, as this easily violates basic health and welfare). But I have no wish to engage in that discussion as it exceeds the scope of this discussion.
I labeled your objections No True Scotsman because you were presenting your views on it as if they were held by everyone in the ARA community, and that people who didn’t advocate similar weren’t representative of the movement. A quick internet search, to bolster what I already know, tells me otherwise. I even provided two examples.
Blurring the lines is semantically the same as recognizing similarities. As for the use of “individual” in this context, I reject it. This use of the word places animals on the same plane as humans, which I reject outright. Reagan’s argument is an emotional one. We could go round and round about the similarities between any number of categories of things in this physical universe, but that doesn’t change the qualitative differences. I could compare Einstein with a worm because they both eat and defecate, but that doesn’t make the comparison meaningful. As I have gamed this all out long ago, I cannot see any intellectually consistent argument in favor of animal rights that does not recognize animals on par with human beings on every conceivable level, particularly given Reagan’s subjective criteria above. So if you do not believe that to be the case, where do you draw the line, and why? And there you will get into the crux of the entire debate.
As for the sources you refer to, if you only read the title of that particular essay and not the content, you’re missing the fact that the title is indeed accurate.
The Science article suffers from some debatable premises, as well as having too many references which I have neither the time nor inclination to assess the veracity. Suffice it to say, Climate Science ranks right around psychology and nutrition science in the current Replication Crisis engulfing so many fields, and one would be wise to be skeptical of any published literature outside of the hard sciences.
Regarding Reagan’s book, I had to start skimming when I saw it was basically just narrative story. My reading list is already on backlog, so I don’t have time for someone’s personal journey. Was there a particular argument he makes that’s not an appeal to emotion? I’m well aware of cases of obvious animal cruelty. As I see it, the issue between you and I (and most Westerners, I think) is not about whether or not animals should be treated humanely, on this I think we would all agree, but on where to draw the line in terms of animal protections. And on that, I’m quite sure that you and I will wildly disagree with little wiggle room.
thank you for your reply,
(I am replying to my connect as there is no reply option on your comment)
Unfortunately I cannot copy a 400 page book that discusses philosophy or cover all the . The case of animal rights is not a “journey” it goes one by one through the philosophical arguments. His later book at the one I sent which is a bit easier to read.
You say that it is based on emotion,his introduction is based on a personal story no doubt to an attempt to catch the reader, which obviously failed with you :). I ensure his philosophical arguments are not based on emotion.
Found one that tells a bit more about the case https://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/on-the-human/2011/05/regan-preface/
The example of slavery was on how society changes and i did not equate animals to humans, I compered the violation of rights. At the time enslaved humans were seen as not human but property if I am not wrong. Similarly we view non-humans as property -commodities that some make profit off. People made money also trading in enslaving humans. Hope you can distinguish the difference between equating humans to animals and the similarities of how society has exploited both by objectifying them.
So what does it matter if we don’t treat animals humanely- if they are not individuals? Why is “welfare” important? How is factory farming more humane than wet markets?
So if they are not individuals are they objects or mechanisms that react to stimuli? This argument is also answered by TRegan. In the case, I see no point copying his book in here –
A 7 min video- hopefully clarifying https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5RRLBC1S3w
The scientific consensus agree that animals have consciousness in 2012, a group of neuroscientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_consciousness#Cambridge_Declaration_on_Consciousness)
I am not equating Einstein with a worm, I don’t say we do that. not sure what point that makes.
if you deny climate science, not sure. The paper quantifies the emission and land use of animal agriculture.
I have provided evidence for all my views, and I don’t see any appeal to emotion. And after reviewed them I have come to the conclusion that animals are individuals. And to be consistent I have to consider their interest. And give dogs, pigs, cows similar moral consideration.
The only points I got from your reply is you cannot equate humans to animals — I don’t . it’s my right of an omnivore- well not sure what that even means- so i reject it in my case because i live in a city and there is no question on survival. Where we draw the line – I don’t know, but it is for sure below the domesticated animals and don’t find it necessary to define when speaking for cows and pigs. Not considering dogs property you found nonsensical- not sure where you base that but for me to be consistent I cannot claim ownership over someone. One can say it is our moral obligation to take care of our pets, but we have no right to use dogs in puppy mills to sell as property.
The more I find that the appeal to emotion works both ways. The majority of people are emotional about what they like to consume and animal products are culturally linked to celebrations. And for sure have an emotional response when they are challenged .
For the morals they are thoroughly discussed in T regan book and I am unable to convey all of his points over this short space. Discussing meta ethics will need even more space so will not go there.
We seem to run out of space, thank you for your replies and the time to review the information i send
All the best
Thank you for your response and continued civility.
The case of animal rights is not a “journey” it goes one by one through the philosophical arguments. His later book at the one I sent which is a bit easier to read.
I did not say the case of animal rights is a journey. You offered up the beginning of Regan’s book as a source and I found little within it that was useful, other than his personal journey, so I asked if you could pinpoint something more concrete or substantive.
“I ensure his philosophical arguments are not based on emotion.”
From what little I’ve read of him, I would agree. I would add that his arguments seem to be based upon a self-referential relativism. I could go into a much longer critique of the excerpt I read, but suffice it to say for now, “self-referential relativism” will have to do. Perhaps the chapters 5 and 7 (and I suspect will be riddled with fatal flaws that would simply demand the reader accept them to keep the edifice from crashing down) that he refers to in the humanities center link you provided will go into greater detail, but I found the rest of his dismissiveness toward legitimate criticism to be as off-putting as they were unpresuasive.
The crux of the dispute remains as I pointed out before: You must first demonstrate an objective morality, and then a basis for that morality. Until you do, this entire debate boils down to a simple, but verbose opinion, and what grants your opinion more validity over mine?
“The example of slavery was on how society changes and i did not equate animals to humans, I compered the violation of rights.”
I know what you were comparing, and I was pointing out the flawed comparison because it expects that which I reject: that animals are deserving of the same rights as humans. That’s implicit in your argument, though you seem not to realize it. Here, the very next passage makes the very same argument, almost explicitly, which you then claim is not what you just said:
“Similarly we view non-humans as property -commodities that some make profit off. People made money also trading in enslaving humans. Hope you can distinguish the difference between equating humans to animals and the similarities of how society has exploited both by objectifying them.”
For this argument to make any sense whatsoever, I must look at animals the same way I look at humans. I don’t. It is not “exploitation” for me to satisfy basic dietary needs by eating meat, but a biological necessity. It is no more exploitation to keep animals in a zoo for educational purposes than it is to keep a cat as a pet, or to own a service/therapy animal.
“So what does it matter if we don’t treat animals humanely- if they are not individuals? Why is “welfare” important? How is factory farming more humane than wet markets?”
I can easily promote animal welfare while not misleadingly labeling them as “individuals”. Welfare is important because cruelty and mistreatment cause needless suffering and unsafe environments for animals and humans alike. Physical injury and spread of pathogens are two very common results of inhumane treatment of animals. Regarding wet markets, there is generally no consideration given to food safety procedures commonly prescribed in first world countries and the notorious spread of pathogens result from it.
“So if they are not individuals are they objects or mechanisms that react to stimuli? This argument is also answered by TRegan. In the case, I see no point copying his book in here –”
They are neither individuals nor objects (outside of the broadest grammatical sense) nor “mechanisms”. They are animals. They can be food, pets, pests, etc, but they are accurately described as animals. I prefer simple, well-defined, and accurate terminology over tendentious efforts to redefine terms that have been in common use for thousands of years.
I apologize, but I lack the data on my plan for a 7 minute YT video that I would have to spend another few paragraphs dissecting.
“The scientific consensus agree that animals have consciousness in 2012, a group of neuroscientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness”
I’m not concerned with appeals to consensus. The Issue is not, nor has it ever been about animal consciousness.
“I am not equating Einstein with a worm, I don’t say we do that. not sure what point that makes.”
The point is that listing similarities between homo sapiens and lower order species is not a meaningful comparison. Would you grant animals the right to vote? No? Why? Is it something about their cognitive and moral capacity that clearly distinguishes them from humans?
“if you deny climate science, not sure. The paper quantifies the emission and land use of animal agriculture.”
I’m not sure what the first part of this was in reference to, but the paper was quantifying emission and land use on the premises of its effects on global climate.
“I have provided evidence for all my views, and I don’t see any appeal to emotion.”
I don’t think you’re appealing to emotion, but I do think your argument is based on it. Your evidence consists of someone else’s opinion that mirrors your own. Regan has not proved a thing. This is a moral or ethical argument, not a scientific one.
“And after reviewed them I have come to the conclusion that animals are individuals. And to be consistent I have to consider their interest. And give dogs, pigs, cows similar moral consideration.”
Excellent. I’m not trying to disabuse you of your opinion, but stating mine and the basis for it.
“The only points I got from your reply is you cannot equate humans to animals — I don’t.”
“it’s my right of an omnivore- well not sure what that even means- so i reject it in my case because i live in a city and there is no question on survival.”
What I mean by that is that humans are omnivores. I am a human, and I have the right to determine my nutritional needs based on the nutritional requirements of an omnivorous species. If choose otherwise, then great. I wholeheartedly support your choice to do with your body what you please.
But for all of this talk of “respect”, ARAs are not willing to return that respect for choice that I show you. ARAs advocate for measures that infringe upon my right to choose what food to put in my body. This is why I keep trying to point out to you that your position on this requires you to view animals and humans equally.
ARAs have no compunction about infringing upon my rights because they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They have assumed moral righteousness without having done the work of establishing why their morality is objective, or superior to anyone else’s.
“Where we draw the line – I don’t know, but it is for sure below the domesticated animals and don’t find it necessary to define when speaking for cows and pigs.”
This is both unclear and contradictory. You quite clearly draw a line right after saying you don’t know that line is. And as I read Regan, he doesn’t seem to make the distinctions among mammals that you make here. For the life of me, I can’t see how you can find some intellectual consistency here after this statement.
“Not considering dogs property you found nonsensical- not sure where you base that but for me to be consistent I cannot claim ownership over someone.”
Because to be intellectually consistent, if you say that animals are individuals because of all of these human-like traits they share with humans, then you cannot claim ownership over them either. Such an inconsistent view leads to such opinions that zoos are exploitative, but owning a cat isn’t.
“One can say it is our moral obligation to take care of our pets, but we have no right to use dogs in puppy mills to sell as property.”
Whose moral obligation? What moral system? What gives one moral system validity over another?
“The more I find that the appeal to emotion works both ways. The majority of people are emotional about what they like to consume and animal products are culturally linked to celebrations. And for sure have an emotional response when they are challenged.”
I’m sure you’re right, but this is not an argument I’ve made. However, the emotional response is likely due to such a challenge imposing their subjective morality upon another. Such self-righteous declarations tend to evoke emotional responses.
“For the morals they are thoroughly discussed in T regan book and I am unable to convey all of his points over this short space. Discussing meta ethics will need even more space so will not go there.”
Sadly that’s where crux of those whole debate lies, and this forum isn’t ideal for a thorough treatment of it. I could argue this from the more intellectually consistent, and extreme ARA viewpoint and give you a devil of a time, but it would highlight your own subjective moral criteria. What I’ve written will have to do.
This snarky article does not address speciesism adequately. For instance, to cut to the chase, it does not defend denying a great ape the moral status granted Terry Schiavo. The whole point of speciesism is that capacities, such as sentience or personhood, which adhere in an individual, justify moral status. An individual’s species membership is morally arbitrary; species-typical properties are irrelevant in the case of any given individual. I suspect, that as a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, the author’s actual view does not make this elementary mistake and he is simply doing a poor job of providing a secular justification for a conclusion grounded in theology: the belief that Terry Schiavo has an immaterial soul and a great ape does not. An honestly argued article would have been much better than throwing animals under the bus for the sake of anti-critical-theory coalition-building.
Did you guys run this by a philosophically literate editor? FFS, if you want to say that Terry Schiavo has greater moral status than a chimpanzee because she has an immaterial soul, then just say it.
I actually think this line of thinking, if pushed far enough, would open the pandoras box of normalizing any behavior that we exhibit as belonging to our ‘animal’ centered self. If they intend to blur the boundaries of procreative processes to make bestiality acceptable, then our innate hunting instincts and actions could by extension be made libratory. If the distinction between myself and a Wolf or Grizzly Bear is a social contruct, then I would be permissed to engage in predatory behavior of any stripe. In laymans terms, if they want to go that far, then so be it. Throw in some queer theory and I could self identify as a Bear who feeds off of the overpopulated herd of Wokes by their logic. This is yet more sign of the rotting from the inside of modern civilization.
It is also worth pointing out Tom Regan’s work. Tom Regan in his the case of animal rights (1983) makes the argument that non human animals have moral (negative) rights. And in turn recognises non human animals as right baearer to be treated with respect.
Which I think is closer to civil rights approach rather than critical theory as it recognises animals as individuals.
Think is worth mentioning
In contrast of P. Singer mentioned above, who does not believe in animal moral rights.
(Sadens me, that I had a big comment but got deleted – I assume because it had links?, also had more info on animal right it case someone wanted more info so not dismiss the concept of speceism and animal rights because of critical theory approach)
Sadly, this is NOT the final frontier. I can problematize this.
Speciesism is privileging living things over inanimate objects. We can only purge this kind of discrimination by realizing that a stone is equally as valuable as a human being. There, have I hit rock bottom yet? ;-D
Wait, I can take this a step further. We are privileging things that exist over things that are imaginary. How do we solve this bigotry?
This works as long as you can categorize one group as ‘oppressor’ and the other as ‘oppressed’. And if the CTists believe there is need for social change in a particular arena, they’ll go to work. I imagine a not-so-distant future when humans are oppressing robots as our new slave-labor and society must dismantle the manufacturing process to become more eco-centric.
But to be reasonable, animals feel pain, desire wellbeing, and have ends. We accept that humans ought to respect that in each other, why arbitrarily attach this moral consideration to our species alone.
You mean like ‘things’? Such as speakers and light sensors (in a music context). Then you are in agreement with the authors of the following article:
In this article, we offer an object-oriented ontological perspective to complement the diversity of sounding ontologies, challenging the human perspective as the only valid perspective and call for the necessity of including perspectives of objects such as a speakers, voices and light sensors.
We must look at one of the institutional roots of this madness: the current requirements for a PhD in the university system as a whole. The requirements for original research – particularly in the social “sciences” and humanities – is what drives many of these absurdities.
Reforming such a system would require going through the same gatekeepers who have enabled this nonsense. Of course, this would fall in the same category of reforming the entire education system to something more sane, so it has the proverbial snowball’s chance.
These pages are filled with plenty of diagnoses, but precious few prescriptions.
Just wanted to add a bit on the animal philosophy side (as I am not that knowledgeable on critical theory, but learning).
I don’t think the concept of speceism is presented accurately- it is rather than discrimination between human and non-human animals , is that human discriminate between species i.e. we treat dogs and pigs differently.
Peter Singer’s marginal cases invites us to think what is that characteristic that we value if not species. It should be noted that Peter Singer does not believe in non human animal (moral) rights
Tom Regan in 1983 in the case of animal rights, outlines the philosophical argument that non-human animal have moral rights. More specifically negative rights (right to life, bodily autonomy etc) ( T.Regan an introduction to animal rights: https://youtu.be/jGyCxnMdpUg )
In phycology I am aware of Melany Joy, her work draws parallels of the mechanism of oppression and discusses speciesism (not sure if it touches in sociology- https://youtu.be/N0PPE8-0hB4). I believe it can be said that there are similarities in the mechanism of oppression.
As far as I am aware no one in the animal rights advocates for equalisation, rather the ask is to recognise the negative rights of non human animals.
The legal implication would be non-human not to be referred to as property, and to be recognised as individuals by law- but I believe that will have socio-economic implications if done as things are currently. I think it first requires society to change.
I thought to mention the above although might be out of the main topic, but think useful to whoever would like to learn more about animal rights- as the more I look into critical theory it uses similar/familiar terms to mean completely different things- and would not want to be confused with animal rights.
It turned longer that I thought thanks for reading
All the best
Edit- not sure how to edit- the speceism part is represented accurately – I used wrong word, I wanted to point out that also refers to discrimination between non-human animals. (To better demonstrate speceism considering a thought experiment you have a boat with a human and dog and you have to choose- an anti-speceist would have to recognise that both lives have moral value- and have equal value to each individual?- seems I need to do more reading Or a 2nd thought experiment if you have to choose between the lives of 1000 dogs over 1 human. ) I understand not Critical theory related so a bit of topic, but find it important that the concept of speceism is not dismissed.
This shows so clearly that CSJ activism isn’t actually about empathizing and understanding an ‘oppressed’ group, rather it is about attacking ‘oppressors’. After all, even the most domesticated animal, a dog, does not care whether they are ‘owned’ vs ‘guarded’. They don’t see through oppressed/oppressor lenses. These concepts, from a human context, are meaningless to a pet. As much as I love my kitten, she doesn’t love me in a remotely similar way. While there’s a bond, it’s not similar from both sides. She needs/gets something very different from the relationship than I do and that’s okay. In this case, as in a lot of cases, doing unto others as you would have them do to you, is not the right answer.
Yet CSJ isn’t concerned with understanding the subject they are supposedly rescuing. And they certainly aren’t concerned with actually doing right by them. As long as they can attack the intended target in the name of some justice, they’ll roll on.
I’ve often suspected CSJ uses groups, whether it be a race, a gender, a sexuality, or any other intersection, simply as a stepping stone to achieve their actual goal of dismantling some system. “Speciesism” is obviously this.