Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Books for people who give a shit about animals Part 1: Zoopolis

Good Morning! 

So, even though I am supposed to be working on my thesis, and all my time is meant to be earmarked for reading things like Queering Bathrooms and The Location of Culture I just can't stop myself from opening up some of my old faithfuls now and again. There is nothing better to do in the morning than brew a fresh pot of coffee and sit back with a thought provoking book - something to really get those brain juices flowing. 

If you're looking for a book that will get you thinking (and will probably strike up some epic debates in your household), read Zoopolis. It's written by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka. Will Kymlicka is an amazing Canadian political philosopher out of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and while I am not on board with everything in this book, it presents animal rights, and animal issues in a whole new, politically important light. Rather than appealing only the mushy mushy stuff that a lot of ethical animal theory does, this book calls on us to view animals in three interesting new ways: domesticated animals as citizens; wild animals as sovereign; and liminal animals as denizens (pigeons, squirrels etc.). This would change A LOT. It would mean that domestic animals would have the right to share in public spaces, and it would also meant that harming a domestic animal would result in criminal charges, as with any other citizen, while wild animals would be allowed to live our their sovereignty - Sovereignty being  “a form of protection against external threats of annihilation, exploitation, or assimilation". Meanwhile liminal animals like squirrels and so forth that are normally seen as pests, would be given the right to live among up, rather than being subjected to mass extermination campaigns.

They present some damn good arguments against animal abuse and subjugation,  but what is really great about this book is the completely unique way that they understand animal life as politically important. Traditional Animal Rights Theory tends to ignore liminal animals altogether, and to advocate for the "live and let live" approach to wild animals. As for domestic animals, traditional ART tends to advocate for an approach to domestic animals that would lead to the annihilation of domestic species altogether in the long run. Donaldson and Kymlicka, on the other hand, are not your standard "Spay and Neuter Your Pets"  cheerleaders. Rather, they claim that these people do not take "seriously the legitimate interests of domesticated animals” by forcing them “not to reproduce." This is something that I had previously never considered, as a strong advocate for spaying and neutering my animal friends so that they do not have to go through the pains associated with bearing children and  raising them in the wild were they to run away and become pregnant. In the case of my rabbit friends, spaying was the healthy option for an animal that is at a high risk for uterine cancer if unbred after a certain age. They encourage readers to "experiment and learn about what animals would do if given greater control over their lives", an experiment that I am hesitant to start,  for fear of the ethical implications. But perhaps they are right that the domination and paternalistic attitude we have towards non-human reproduction is deeply problematic. When it comes down to it,  I am now not sure where  I stand on the spay and neuter issue.  As a  piece of socially directed political theory, this work has done its job - I predict a tonne of excellent debates in vegan circles over this issue stemming from Donaldson and Kymlicka's work in this book.

If you  give  a shit about animals, then this book will definitely give you something to think  about. If you don't  want to take this too seriously, and just came here to see a cute animal picture, here's one of George sitting like a person.

Happy Wednesday!


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