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Friday, April 18, 2014

REVIEW: Defining Critical Animal Studies (2/2)

***This is the second half of the review ***
Please see the first half for a discussion of CAS as an alternative form of research and education than HAS and the Posthumanities.


VEGANISM as part of CAS
Veganism (and vegan education) is a critical component of CAS that most explicitly distinguishes CAS from HAS and the Posthumanities, wherein veganism draws sympathy, but, not uncommonly, also rolling eyes. So significant is veganism that Glasser and Roy recommend adding a twelfth principle of CAS to the original ten that (more-or-less) requires those in CAS to practice vegan in order to be accountable to their research subjects: "scholars must not abuse, injure, degrade, exploit, cage, denigrate, or kill humans, nonhuman, animals and the earth."(p. 100)

However, just because CAS appraises veganism does not mean it is (ironically) uncritical of the politics surrounding it. While editors call it a "moral baseline," they acknowledge that structural conditions such as a lack of geographic, financial, and educational access obstruct many people from practicing veganism (p. xx). Along these lines, Grubbs and Loadenthal also raise judgement of mainstream veganism, following Dr. Harper, as a “providence of a moneyed minority who can afford expensive foods in which "sizist, racist, and classist discourse [...] replace ideological critique with green capitalism" (p. 187).


In Chapter 4, Stephanie Jenkins and Vasile Stanescu likewise critique "vegan lifestyle" discourse which complicity operates within the neoliberal framework of privatizing moral problems through markets and placing full moral accountability on individuals rather than institutions and social structures:

Boycott veganism conflates conspicuous consumption with ethical action and political change… limiting activism to an economic boycott undercuts the moral force of veganism by reducing it to an individual lifestyle. (p. 78)
Richard White and Erika Cudworth alternatively conceptualize veganism as a micro-resistance, through French anarchist Elisee Reclus' theory of "microgeographies" which privileges practice in the "here and now" (p. 203). Jenkins and Stanescu call this "engaged veganism":

[E]ngaged veganism refuses complicity with and symbolically disrupts the instrumentalization and hierarchialization of animal life [necessitating] a micro-political revolution at the level of embodied perception, aesthetics, taste, and affective responses (p. 76)

Engaged veganism is thus similar to what I have previously called social veganism (as opposed to diet, lifestyle, boycott, pragmatic, and ethical veganism), an alternative to what I call consumption veganism.

I understand veganism as a social modality, an affiliation and solidarity with others beyond (species) boundaries, in which animal others are regarded as someones, not somethings... Exploiting animals may not terminate conversations absolutely, but enables and is enabled by an emotional [ignorance] to their resistance whenever it becomes inconvenient to using them.
In other words, veganism is an embodied perception of animals as fellow social creatures whom we have an inherent curiosity for and permeating compassion for through our nature as social beings. Veganism is a recognition of something already there, not an additive ideology or identity politics.

Critically, Adam Weitzenfeld and Melanie Joy state that the consumption of nonhuman animal bodies, far from a matter of personal choice, is at the heart of speciesist narratives and institutions:
Of all the ways humans are subject to speciesism, carnism—the unrecognized ideology that legitimates the killability and edibility of animal others—is arguably the deepest, most pervasive and catastrophic in modern Western cultures. Vegan praxis is one means of embodying critical animal theory and challenging the hegemony of speciesist institutions and anthropocentrist ideology that keep the human-animal binary and hierarchy alive. (p. 1-2)
As a result Weitzenfeld and Joy, recommend shedding light on flesh-consumption practices as not "normal, natural, and necessary," but a biased schema (a way of perceiving the world) in order to expose carnistic affects as social and political intuitions. While carnism is based upon post-hoc disavowals of animal subjectivity and personal accountability for the consequences of choices, veganism is "based on empathy, authenticity, reciprocity, justice, and integrity—the principles that underscore true freedom" for nonhumand and human animals (p.25).

Decolonization and CAS
As the above quote implies, Critical Animal Studies is not only committed to animal liberation, but human liberation. CAS scholars argue that one cannot be had without the other for both liberations are obstructed by the violent construction of human identity as "something superior and opposed to animals and animality" (p. 3).


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