Tag Archives: animal machines

The new animal machines

Imagine if this image, from a recent FT piece on a proposed Australian ‘camel cull’, included the average human footprint. Put aside for a moment that such an average would be all kinds of skewed because the bottom billion, the middle and top billions, and the uber-rich don’t inhabit anything resembling a normal curve (pace Hans Rosling). And never mind the Orwellian meaning of the word ‘cull’, which gives credence to the Journal of Animal Ethics‘ recent call for a more conscientious use of language, my qualms notwithstanding. Now imagine you could get carbon credits for eliminating human production units. Sounds creepy, right? It should. What’s being proposed with camels in Australia is similarly creepy, for similar reasons.

Our conceptions of other animals throughout history is complex and contested, but this plan represents the endpoint of the progression from Cartesian machine to anthropomorphized other to Taylorist production unit. You can see similar developments in the University of Guelph’s ‘enviropig’ project, which reimagines the pig as production unit. See also the New Scientist‘s recent piece arguing that companion animals’ (specifically, dogs. More specifically, big dogs.) ecological footprints rival those of Hummers.

None of which is to minimize the Anthropocene‘s threat on the planet’s biogeochemical and other systems, or to deny that animal and environmental interests can and do conflict. And such conflict is what a functioning, deliberating democracy on Dewey’s model of the fragmented public interest is meant to weigh and balance–whether such a balancing act is, in the age of Big Money, either realistic or sufficient, is another question, but I haven’t come across a robust vision of society that can replace liberal democracy (whether closer to socialism or capitalism in economic structure–both have their pros and cons).

Instead, we should caution against this kind of reductionist thinking whenever possible–my Honda Civic is pretty beat up, but it doesn’t care.