[Please note that this version of this text has been recovered from an early draft due to a server crash. There may be a few typos and even mistakes in the following]
[Scholars, philosophers, and leaders of the world] have convinced
themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all species, is the
crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide
him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation
to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal
Isaac Bashevis Singer, ‘The Letter Writer’,
from The Seance and Other Stories.
In the first years of the twenty-first century, animal rights advocates undoubtedly have a most substantial task ahead of them if they aspire to seriously convince people that they act just like Nazis toward nonhuman animals. The evidence presented in this thesis suggests that, for the vast majority, analogies between the fate of the human Jews in World War II and the plight of contemporary nonhumans will be regarded as utterly mystifying and outrageous: outrage will undoubtedly descend upon social historian Charles Patterson whose recent book, Eternal Treblinka: Our treatment of animals and the Holocaust, dares to make this very comparison (Patterson 2002).
The sociology of human-nonhuman relations suggests that the philosophical foundations of Western ‘civilisation’ would disallow such an analogy. Both ancient philosophers and jurists declared that nonhuman animals are on earth for ‘us’. The philosophical challenge to such views is a relatively recent phenomenon, while the legal challenge is younger still, having occurred only in the last decade or so. Furthermore, the sociology of human-nonhuman relations reveals that longstanding cultural constructions rule out such unwarranted and unwelcome comparisons. Moreover, this study shows that the conventional societal orientation sympathetic to the moral orthodoxy concerning human-nonhuman relations would also find the correlation appalling if not rather silly. In this welfarist view, how can a modern commitment to the strict regulation of ‘humane treatment’ be compared with the grotesque details of Nazi atrocities? Sociological analysis highlights how daily social practice suggests that the analogy must, for most, be ridiculous nonsense. How could such a monstrous analogy apply to, say, ‘animal loving’
? Don’t ‘we’ demonstrably care for
animals? Don’t ‘we’ animal lovers weep
if they get a disease or become ill? Britain
Given that the overarching theme of the present work has been engaged in identifying major social factors that create and maintain a speciesist orientation in human-nonhuman relations, then the evidence in the pages above suggests that the initially disturbing comparison with Nazism is not so far-fetched.
There has been a deliberate emphasis throughout this work on social process and processes, such as the socialisation processes. Understanding any society in which forms of exploitation are institutionalised, widely internalised, and seen as acceptable, is not to expect some demigod is present to charismatically suggest to all and sundry that this social attitude is to be favoured. Weber states that modern society becomes dominated by instrumental rationality over time. Societal attitudes and social practices evolve slowly over time, mediated by, and mediating, social norms and values which are shaped by sociopolitical and economic factors. The intention of this thesis throughout has been directed toward advancing the understanding of contemporary social attitudes concerning human-nonhuman relations. Examining firmly sedimented social belief about other animals this thesis serves to reveal how, by physically and systematically dominating and exploiting nonhumans for a range of instrumental and sentimental reasons, societies have sought to construct and maintain fundamental human superiority claims to justify both the socialised treatment of - and human views about - other animals.
As evidence presented here suggests, human-nonhuman relation claims are regarded as sufficiently meaningful, fixed and rudimentary even to the extent that individual human beings and whole communities can be conceptually stripped of their humanity; stripped, therefore, of the hope of being rightholders; stripped of being legal and social ‘persons’. When this occurs, when human beings as individuals or in groups are portrayed as mere ‘things’ just like nonhuman animals, then they are effectively placed in serious harm’s way. In effect, social orientations toward human-nonhuman relations can help end the alleged special protection humans are offered just by ‘being human’ (Bauman & May 2001: 75).
The preceding pages present evidence that methods exist – and are currently employed - that ‘reduce’ humans into ‘devalued’, ‘subhuman’, and ultimately ‘nonhuman’ categories. Clearly, in the social construction of other animals, ‘animal’ means ‘harmable’ or, more technically, nonhuman interests may be sacrificed to satisfy many human ones. Those who have exploited other human beings attempted to align individuals and groups alongside those already constructed as essentially existing to serve some human need or utilisation. Both dehumanisation and depersonalisation processes are regularly employed and organised in periods of war. They are systematically used in military training techniques, in many pornographic portrayals, and in general racist and sexist discourse. The processes employed rely heavily on widespread a-priori social understandings about nonhuman-human distinctions and associated moral worth. They draw on the various widespread social practices - Mason’s ‘rituals of dominionism’ - involving the human (mis)treatment of other animals, while maintaining the ideological message in which nonhumans occupy ‘natural’, or ‘God-given’, ‘devalued’, ‘lower-than’, and therefore ‘harmable’, ‘usable’, ‘exploitable’ and easily ‘killable’ categories of being.
Interrelated philosophy, theology, social practice, underlying ideology and social discourse serves as effective ‘constructors of sufficient difference’ which provides moral distance between humans and nonhumans. Indeed, over time humans seem to have often sought to mark any discernible differences, declare them as morally relevant, all in order to override the sentiency and subject-of-a-life status of billions of nonhumans, effectively undermining the evolutionary kinship between human animals and nonhuman ones.
Jasper (1999: 77) correctly suggests that modern humans hold on to the two exploitative orientations towards other animals. Both have been discussed in this thesis. The first orientation involves the qualified acceptance of the instrumental use of other animals as resources, while the other utilisation is mainly sentimental, although this second category seems also to contain a good deal of its own instrumental intent. Added to dominant non-animal rights philosophical and theological positions with regard to nonhuman animals and human beings, the self-serving and economically-driven ‘pro-use’ arguments seeking to maintain profitable orientations towards the moral status quo are encountered. Such groups, as seen in Guither’s work, have their own financial justifications for the continuation of the human exploitation of nonhuman animals.
As indicated above, substantial parts of this thesis have emphasised the vital ‘maintenance’ role played by the lifelong socialisation processes in the preservation of present attitudes about the ethical status of both human and nonhuman beings. While on-going and day-to-day experience bolster societywide orientations toward other animals, the professional socialisation of those whose livelihoods and identities are bound up with various forms of ‘using’ other animals provides this group with further incentives to support current welfarist conceptualisations of human-nonhuman relations. In the light of factors such as these, any sociological analysis cannot ignore overarching consequences of individuals - the vast majority in most modern societies - being socialised as ideological and practising speciesists. In a culture that routinely exploits other animals, the phrase ‘they know not what they do’ can be properly applied to its children. Daily, they experience beings they meet as meat; or know them as playthings and as personal or family possessions. In a great many aspects of their social learning, children are socialised from their earliest years within an overarching and deeply speciesist ideology to accept the human use of other animals in all its forms. The significance of this for animal rights advocates is clear. As Bauman has indicated, the simplest thing people do with regard to core social values is abide by them; indeed, just as many Nazis and Germans did. Since this is exactly what the unreflexive majority does with regard to dominant social values about human-nonhuman relations, supporters of animal rights must understand that their own personal transcendence of orthodox attitudes are exceptions to a widely kept rule. Most people, quite simply, ‘go with the flow’. Perhaps the degree to which animal advocates are thought to have broken away from prevailing ideology about human-nonhuman relations can be seen reflected in the extent to which animal welfarism remains a part of the animal protection movement’s central claims making relating to the treatment of other animals by human beings.
A full appreciation of the magnitude of the task before animal advocates, assuming a commitment to public education strategies rather than to the more militant examples of ‘direct action’, requires – in part at least, an acknowledgement of answers to the research questions posed throughout this thesis. Clearly spelt out in the pages above, described step-by-step, are elements of the construction and maintenance systems both creating and sustaining societywide speciesist social attitudes. The prevalence of various ‘us’ and ‘them’ categories, and the social construction of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ are seen to further the aims of the racist, the sexist, the homophobe and so on. Such categorical distinctions, however, are seen to be somewhat dependent on core speciesist attitudes, as Bauman indicates. There are social attitudes that feed into and rely upon orthodox views of nonhuman animals and conventional perceptions about human-nonhuman relations.
These attitudes that are built on and plug into firm social understandings of human supremacy claims, the significance of the ‘species barrier’, and the harmful uses which the notion of ‘the barrier’ accommodates. To the extent that exploitative relations among human beings are facilitated by dehumanisation processes, findings in this thesis suggest that opponents of such exploitation and advocates of human rights need to acknowledge central speciesist conceptualisations when humans exploit, harm, and kill each other as well as other ‘others’.
Human societies reveal their misothery by objectifying other animals, commodifying them, making them items of various types of consumption, retaining them as items of property and ‘legal things’ by law. In society, if humans ‘damage’ a nonhuman animal, including killing him or her, they may find themselves accused and charged with causing ‘criminal damage’; that is, causing damage to the ‘animal property’ of another human being. As with once legal forms of human slavery, such social forces maintain exploitative relations. These are further aspects of a speciesist world into which the young are routinely socialised and, therefore, children learn the norms and values of animal hating and animal loving societies. Into largely misotherous cultures most people are thrust: cast into societies that continually underlines the ideology that ‘‘Man’ is king’.
A world that remains characterised by racism and sexism declares over and over again that everything that exists in the world exists for human beings: each and everything other than fellow humans are ‘resources for the use of’.
Language reveals how humans hate and love other animals and animal life, as they continue to use traditional human-nonhuman orientations to maintain unequal human relations. It has been shown that to call someone an ‘animal’ is to confer upon them a truly negative label: human serial killers are not human according to the popular press: they cannot be allowed the glory of the label ‘human’, so they are named ‘animals’ instead. Such people, after all, ‘behave like animals’. Societies reserve this tag for the cruellest people they can think of. Mason says this is because modern humans see nonhuman animals and nature as vicious, base, and contemptible.
As shown in virtually every section of the present thesis, none of the above contradicts any of the principal premises of orthodox animal welfarism. Indeed, the foregone merely affirms for many the absolute need for the normative regulatory role of animal welfare practice and enforcement. Ideological animal welfarism reinforces the idea that theologians and philosophers were and are correct to construct a ‘ladder of being’ as a ‘natural’ order because no substantial bad should result from it. Indeed, much good accrues for both humans and nonhuman animals in present relations. A product of on-going and thoroughly institutionalised social processes, integral to humanity’s ‘agri-culture’, is the apparent difficulty that animal rights positions seem to have in their ability to challenge the settled orthodox views about the relations between humans and other animals. At the present time, and despite of (or because of) more than thirty years of rhetorical ‘animal rights’ advocacy in Britain, the conventional orthodoxy of animal welfarism continues to adequately provide for the vast majority a secure, multi-purpose, and apparently ever adaptable ideological framework supporting the prevailing industrialised systems of animal exploitation and other modes of animal ownership. Animal welfarism helps to preserve rather than expose or seriously question the exploitative rationality that firmly sediments both conventional instrumental and sentimental attitudes about nonhuman animals.
Taking an ‘insider’s’ view of the animal protection movement for a moment, it seems to be clear that rights views are presently engaged in a discursive relationship with orthodox positions both inside and outside the animal protection movement. Yet animal welfarism is so firmly entrenched, and so widespread and customary, that it appears that even many rights supporters have regular difficulty expressing, articulating and advocating the full animal rights - or any largely non-welfarist - agenda. As far as the latter point goes, of course, reluctance to advocate the whole ‘rights agenda’ has been traditionally seen in the animal movement as the result of strategic choices and issues of ‘framing’ (Yates 1998). However, this reluctance can also be seen as a reflection of the way animal welfarism succeeds in presenting rights views as views that go beyond those that are necessary for the well-being of nonhuman animals. A central ‘difficulty’ for rights views stems from the fact that the resilient orthodox outlook has preserved its authoritative ability to present its own position as entirely ‘normal’, ‘reasonable’, ‘rational’, and the self-evidently ‘correct’ perspective by which any reasonable person ought to evaluate human-nonhuman relations. For this reason, as seen in the present work to some extent, the orthodox position becomes the easy, confident, ‘non-extreme’ (and now more than ever, ‘non-terrorist’) means by which journalists, commentators, the majority of animal advocates, pro-use advocates and politicians talk about the treatment of nonhuman animals by humans.
From the outset, it was to be expected that the ideology of animal welfarism would figure strongly throughout this thesis. That said, its utter centrality to virtually every level of discourse about human-nonhuman relations is surprising. Whether exploring philosophical and theological accounts, pro-use statements, political pronouncements, economic dimensions, or journalistic orientations, animal welfarism appears solidly entrenched as the significant defining and discursive factor. It is not a bewilderment, therefore, to discover that the limited number of rights-aware contributors to recent animal email networks appear to appreciate more than ever that forms of animal welfarism can seem to stand as serious impediments to the articulation, advocacy, and realisation of genuine animal rights aspirations.
In a thoroughly frustrating way, animal welfarism seems to amount to a barrier or filter which effectively prevents, or at least serves to mediate, the public rendition of a genuine animal rights philosophy. Animal welfarism appears as a fog in which rights discourse regularly becomes lost, misrepresented and redirected. Animal rights advocates who wish to test the societal reception of their own views of human-nonhuman animals are apparently hindered at every turn by a deeply internalised welfarist consciousness in most of the audiences they seek to influence.
Over and above the prevalence of these continuing social realities, it can surely be of no surprise (and of little comfort to any social movement advocate) that many people are effectively afforded useful methods of ‘message avoidance’ and evasion. Indeed, this thesis outlines some of the sociological and social psychological evidence that suggests that a general evasive orientation can effectively shield a great many so-called ‘postmodern’ men and women from engagement in numerous social and political issues related or not with nonhuman animals and notions of animal rights. However, in relation to the treatment of other animals, it seems that institutionalised animal welfarism can assist in the process of the avoidance of authentic animal rights views. In other words, it is entirely feasible that those who wish to largely evade rights messages while not wanting to be seen as doing anything unwarranted toward many nonhumans find the certainty and centrality of traditional animal welfarism a comforting place of refuge. Given that welfarism is the ‘obvious’ lens for assessing human-nonhuman relations, it is possible to demonstrate socially-approved concern for other animals (the sentimental orientation) while effectively side-stepping ‘extreme’ abolitionist rights positions. Animal welfarism provides society with a remarkable means by which nonhuman animals can be used, killed, or owned - or in other ways exploited by humans - while simultaneously maintaining a persuasive ideological stance that declares that British society in particular is dotty about animals and nonhuman care.
Such a welfarist orientation simply would not be tenable in terms of human rights issues. If it were, groups such as Amnesty International may be found funding experiments on humans to discover ‘welfare-friendly’ methods of imprisonment and torture. Moreover, an orientation towards a ‘human welfare movement’ based on the animal welfare model would presumable result in ‘free-range’ equivalents of child pornography based on production involving no ‘unnecessary’ suffering or harm to those so used. Regan asks (1988) whether a human rights campaigner who declares an absolute opposition to rape, child abuse, sexual discrimination and the abuse of the elderly would be seen as holding an ‘extremist’ position. Regan states that, ‘the plain fact is, moral truth often is extreme, and must be, for when injustice is absolute, then one must oppose it - absolutely’.
Finally, Future Possibilities and Directions.
One relatively ‘new strand’ that has emerged within the evolution of ‘animal rights’ thinking in recent years has been the still growing academic interest in the issue. Some of this work may prove to be very important in the history of ‘animal rights’ thinking; and its importance is recognised in recent works by philosopher-advocates such as Regan and Ryder.