Animals, Capital, and the Law

The purpose of this Webinar series is to highlight new and creative research in the growing field of animal studies. This series will emphasize how Canadian scholars, jurists, and writers have played a disproportionately influential role in the development of this interdisciplinary subject. Ranging from Sue Donaldson's and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolis and Nicole Shukin’s Animal Capital through to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Canadians have broadened how we should think about our fraught relationship to other species. Moreover, the Canadian legal system has had to rule on contentious cases related to animal ethics, such as R. v. Krajnc (2017), and will soon have to evaluate Ontario’s new ‘ag-gag’ laws. This series, sponsored by the Canada Program at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Program, will host a monthly online lecture during the spring term. Each 40-minute talk will be followed by a ten minute critique by an invited discussant, to be followed by a Q+A with the audience.

All Webinars will be held during the last Tuesday of each month and run from 12-1:30 p.m. Registration is required for each event.

January 26
“Off-Animals, Creatures of an Exhausted Industrial Capitalism”
Alex Blanchette (Tufts University)
Discussant: Amy Fitzgerald (University of Windsor)
“Off-animals,” as they are called by some managers of North American pork production, are the biological refuse of agribusiness’s efforts to realize standardized hog life and death. Ranging from aged boars to misshapen pigs, recent attempts to industrially slaughter these creatures for meat has led to a shadow infrastructure of killing that underpins the world’s largest factory farms. Arching through and beyond Blanchette’s recent book, Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm (2020), this talk outlines an ethnography of these animals to offer new lines of sight onto the waning state of industrial labor and value in Canada and the United States today. 
Please register here

February 23
“Ag-Gag in Canada and the Constitutional Right to See”
Jodi Lazare (Dalhousie University)
Discussant: Maneesha Deckha (University of Victoria)
Recently adopted legislation in two Canadian provinces imposes severe penalties for trespassing on, or gaining entry under false pretenses, private property used for animal agriculture; it also restricts interfering with the transport of farmed animals to slaughter. These laws (dubbed “ag-gag” laws in the United States, where they were first introduced) respond to undercover investigations on farms, the peaceful occupation of farms, and the act of bearing witness to animals headed for slaughter. This presentation suggests that these laws constitute an unjustifiable limit on the right to freedom of expression as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does so by rejecting the traditional anthropocentric understanding of constitutional rights, according to which Charter protections are limited to the interests of humans and relations between them. Instead, by emphasizing the ethical and political aspects of animal rights advocacy, it places interspecies relations and the ethics of animal rights at the centre of the constitutional protections.
Please register here
March 30
“Co-Workers or Living Factories? Biotechnology and the Concept of Animal Labour”
Kenneth Fish (The Universith of Winnipeg)
Discussant: Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University)
In 2000 Nexia Biotechnologies of Montreal introduced its first BELE® goats, Peter and Webster. Genetically engineered with the DNA of an orb weaver spider, Peter and Webster would sire whole herds of spider-goats whose ‘silky milk’ could be processed into BioSteel® for use in everything from sporting equipment to bullet-proof vests. The goats became the new faces of a fledgling animal biotechnology industry whose potential to position transgenic animals as instruments of production seemed to confirm the greatest hopes and fears surrounding genetic engineering. Peter and Webster made headlines in Canada and abroad, and even found their way into Margaret Atwood’s dystopian science fiction novel Oryx and Crake. But perhaps these spider-goats and their transgenic kin, rather than instruments of production, might better be viewed as workers? The concept of animal labour has become popular in critical animal studies and is intended to grasp the role of non-humans in the production process in a way that avoids regarding them as passive objects of human manipulation. The example of transgenic animals highlights the analytical and political limitations of the concept of animal labour and presents an alternative rooted in Marx’s theorization of the labour process. I will argue that conceptualizing animals as ‘living factories’ better captures their role in the production process and raises a more fruitful set of questions concerning their alienation and the kinds of social transformations that might assist in their liberation.
Please register here

April 27
“Provisioning People and Other Animals Since the 18th Century”
Anya Zilberstein (Concordia University)
Discussant: John Clegg (The University of Chicago)
It is generally assumed that the first feedlots date to the late nineteenth century, but the rationale, practice, and debate on providing fodder to livestock in year-round confinement emerged much earlier in Europe and the colonial Americas on dairy, ranching, and breeding farms. In the eighteenth-century British empire, moreover, interest in new methods of feeding livestock contributed to broader policy and legislative debates about reforms to food welfare for destitute or dependent people such as orphans, sailors, hospital patients, prisoners, and the enslaved. These efforts culminated in statutes such as the Leeward Islands’ Amelioration Act of 1798 and Britain’s New Poor Law of 1834. Jeremy Bentham, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Malthus, and many others argued that dietary reformers should follow the lead of innovative husbandmen who minimized the expense of feeding their non-human charges. Even the same kinds of foods (mostly starchy vegetables such as potatoes, maize, barley, and oats) and their preparation for cattle, sheep, and horses, it was thought, could be used to provision low-status people. This interlinked history of food for people and for other animals presages several key features of industrial food and agriculture—from routine uses of laboratory animals as model organisms for human nutrition experiments to the ubiquity of corn and soy derivatives in processed foods formulated for human consumption and as farmed animal fodder.
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Animals Capitals and the Law



Image for Provisioning People and Other Animals