Hav­ing your cow and eat­ing it

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Brian Sher­man

IN Lov­ing An­i­mals, Amer­i­can fem­i­nist ethi­cist Kathy Rudy mounts a case for a new kind of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy, dis­tinct from wel­farism, an­i­mal rights or the util­i­tar­i­an­ism of writ­ers such as Peter Singer. It’s a no­ble as­pi­ra­tion: she wants the love many of us feel for our pets to be ex­tended to those an­i­mals that re­main at the mar­gins of public con­scious­ness.

In Rudy’s view, emo­tional con­nec­tion is a pow­er­ful plat­form for the pro­found cul­tural shift re­quired to im­prove the lives of the tens of bil­lions of an­i­mals en­dur­ing lives of pain and de­pri­va­tion in breed­ing mills, zoos, re­search fa­cil­i­ties and on fac­tory farms.

These sen­tient be­ings are ev­ery bit as cog­ni­tively and emo­tion­ally so­phis­ti­cated as our an­i­mal com­pan­ions, yet have few ad­vo­cates. Rudy en­vis­ages a world where com­mu­nity sen­ti­ment to­ward com­pan­ion an­i­mals is mo­bilised in sup­port of this ne­glected ma­jor­ity, and the sta­tus quo is changed. We should ‘‘ ex­trap­o­late’’ our re­la­tion­ships with our com­pan­ion an­i­mals to the 20 bil­lion or so ‘‘ who never see the sun­light or grass, never know the touch of a kind hand’’ and on this ba­sis ‘‘ build a con­tem­po­rary an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment’’ whose im­pe­tus is ‘‘ trans­for­ma­tive love’’.

It’s a nice the­ory. But the es­sen­tial pre­con­di­tion of this kind of love is prox­im­ity. It stems from close, per­sonal and re­peated in­ter­ac­tions with our an­i­mal com­pan­ions. It is sub­jec­tive and re­cip­ro­cal.

In­ten­sive an­i­mal agribusi­ness, the over­whelm­ingly dom­i­nant method of farm­ing to­day, is by con­trast built on a foun­da­tional sepa­ra­tion of hu­mans from an­i­mals. This dis­con­nec­tion ren­ders food an­i­mals anony­mous, voice­less and in­vis­i­ble, and re­duces them to units of pro­duc­tion. Fac­tory farmed an­i­mals are con­fined en masse in small,

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