your ontology is killing me.

this pig has boots.

this pig has boots.

This story was on the CBC  morning show yesterday.  It is an illustration of some of the evils of factory farming: animals are treated like emotionless product/cargo and often transported long distances without food or water, crammed in uncomfortably, and as the story specifically shows us, often without concern for whether or not the animals will fall out of the truck.

Feminists should care about factory farming because the way we as a society treat animals is an indication of the status of the patriarchy.  Violence against women and violence against animals is the result of the same ontology operating on society.  The ontology that places MAN above WOMAN and NATURE/ANIMALS in a hierarchical structure of understanding despite the interconnectedness of the well-being of all actors on the planet.  Obviously, feminism is quite concerned with ‘man’ being above ‘woman’ in this proliferate model, but concern for the other ‘other’ is slower coming.  As I see it though, systemic violence against nature/animals is not only linked to the health and well-being of all of our world system including people, but is a sign of a sick society that is yet to give up an ontology of hierarchy as one of its basic principles.

The struggle for animal rights has many similarities with the struggle for women’s rights.  For instance, there are systemic laws in place which normalize the oppression of animals and make it next to impossible for the average citizen of Canada to begin a process whereby we view animals as something for than a commodity.  Just as women in legal matters were mere property, animals, particularly food production animals, are legally  bound to be reduced to mere property.  The case of the little pig on the 401 is an example of this as the piglet, by virtue of being a ‘farm animal’, cannot legally be owned as a domestic pet.  Just as women were viewed as baby-making property, animals are still viewed merely as meat-making property and even if we wanted to reimagine the role of meat-producing animals in our lives, we can’t because of the laws restricting private ownership.   

These types of by-laws and laws normalize essential commdofication of animals, keeping them in the hands of mass producers as most cities in North America disallow city dwellers to own or raise animals such as chickens, despite the fact that most standard backyards are more than enough space to safely raise happy, well-cared-for chickens.  This also makes alternative food production, a move which could help reduce strain on the environment, difficult.

Like the current trends to focus on class and ethnicity as well as gender within feminist discourse, I think we also need to start looking at systemic models of animal oppression as indicators of the status of security and equality of women in our society.

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4 Comments

Filed under environment., feminism

4 responses to “your ontology is killing me.

  1. tottenbaum

    You should look into some of Peter Singer’s arguments for animal rights. He references some writer from the 19th century who wrote a piece about how giving rights to women would be as ridiculous as giving rights to animals. It was originally intended as an argument ad absurdum– Singer points out, of course, we do award rights to women on the same basis as these factors we all have in common with animals. E.g. – ability to feel pain and suffering… the “rational faculties” typically being discounted, etc.

  2. In this blog post I basically posted links to others’ writing — plus an image — about issues like these –
    Hierarchies

    One of the links is to a post about PETA.

  3. Here’s a snippet of writing about PETA that I have around –
    “It’s time for PETA to adopt a little PETW (People for the ethical treatment of women) Pimping womens bodies to prevent cruelty to animals is an injustice”
    (http://www.womanist-musings.com/2008/09/striptease-for-peta.html)

    This image reminds me of how PETA mixes paternalism with a pro- animal rights perspective –
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/32912172@N00/3165445840/in/set-72157608495482966/

  4. I recommend this blog post –
    http://globalsociology.edublogs.org/2009/02/03/simplifying-conflicts-animals-in-wars/

    I’ve posted links and a brief remark in comments there.

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