Having your cow and eating it
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,